Posts Tagged ‘overcoming obstacles’

Effective Leaders are Authentic, Positive & Bold

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Recently, I was honored to be a guest on The Iron Jen Show, a radio program dedicated to helping leaders overcome adversity.

We talked about several examples I provided in my book, Secrets of A Strong Mind. Among the topics we discussed during the interview were the roles of authenticity, faith, positive thinking, and boldness in effective leadership.

This is a transcript of that interview:

http://blogtalk.vo.llnwd.net/o23/show/4/961/show_4961913.mp3

 

You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LaRaeQuy

Read my book Secrets of a Strong Mind, and Mental Toughness For Women Leaders, both available now on Amazon.

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4 Ways To Remove Obstacles

Monday, April 29th, 2013

I learned how to remove obstacles on our cattle ranch by saddling up a horse and riding through cow herds to get them to greener pastures. If a lazy cow did not want to move, it was my job to push her along until the entire herd was together.

My Dad taught me to saddle and ride horses, rope steers, and herd cattle when I was in grade school. So no one was more surprised than me when Dad brought home a couple of four-wheel ATVs a few years ago and used them, instead of horses, to check on the cattle.

The ATV looked much easier to ride than a horse when I first saw it and I was anxious to try it out! Dad took off first and I followed. The terrain on our ranch is mountainous, however, so I soon found myself sideways on a steep hill and in danger of tipping over. Suddenly, this huge motorcycle on four wheels looked more dangerous than any horse I’d ever ridden.

To go headfirst down the steep hill and over the cliff appeared even more dangerous, so I continued to inch my way down sideways—it seemed the safer router. By now, Dad had stopped his ATV and was running toward me.

“Turn your wheels straight downhill,” he shouted. “Only by facing it head-on can you get safely down the cliff,” he said. Slowly, I turned the wheels straight down the steep embankment ahead of me, and the ATV started to move forward. I made it safely to the bottom.

Turns out that leaning into the unknown is the best way to remove obstacles. While in new agent’s class at the FBI Academy, our instructors continually placed us in training situations where we were required to remove obstacles. For many of us, our first reaction was to either pull back or take circuitous routes around the obstacle. But the message by our instructors was this: Only by moving into the unknown are we be able to explore it.

To increase safety, move toward the unknown.

To increase chances for success, move toward the challenge.

The closer we get to the unknown, the more we can educate ourselves about it. The steps to follow and actions to take may not reveal themselves to us until we have moved closer to the situation. Mountain climbers understand that it’s impossible to know where to place fingers and feet by looking at a mountain from the bottom. Only by getting close enough to explore the cracks and crevices can they find places of safety.

A great deal of my FBI training was learning how to lean into the unknown so we could remove obstacles. Entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders can do the same.

Here are four ways:

1. DEVELOP HABITS

When you are in the middle of a crisis, it is not the time to learn how to remove obstacles. Go into training so that before obstacles present themselves you have cultivated courage, confidence, and discipline.

When you make yourself aware of certain difficulties that are inevitable, you can prepare yourself mentally for confronting them head-on. Soldiers, warriors, and athletes appreciate the preparation it takes to mentally and physically meet the challenges ahead of them. They know it can be ugly, daunting, and grueling, but they are equipped.

2. CREATE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE

Most barriers are internal, not external. Internal lack of confidence can create the external challenges.

The U.S. Army is using research that has shown most people, when confronted with adversity and the need to remove obstacles, will experience initial feelings of fear, frustration, and paralysis. Given sufficient amounts of time, however, they recover and continue to perform at the same level they were performing before the adversity.

At one end of the continuum there are a small percentage of people who do not bounce back and remain unable to cope with their circumstances without assistance. They often need counseling and can experience breakdowns.

On the other end of the continuum, however, are those with strong minds who not only survive adverse and traumatic situations, but also thrive and grow. They key is having the right attitude. People who have affirming thoughts about themselves and their abilities are more likely to survive the intense pressure of obstacles and adversity.

3. BUILD A SUPPORT SYSTEM

When we need to remove obstacles, we all benefit from feeling connected with others. Sometimes just talking things through with someone who has had a similar experience can help guide you through a difficult time.

At the FBI Academy in Quantico, we were not allowed to leave the Marine Corps base for the first three weeks of our training. We were to use this time to bond and build relationships with other members of our new agent’s class. Humans are social creatures and we need emotional support from friends and family members. When confronting obstacles, having people you can trust by your side can make all the difference.

4. THINK SMALL

A truly daunting task can produce discouragement in the toughest. The trick is to focus on the little piece that is right in front of you. If you are bogged down with a huge task, break it down into small enough pieces so that you can set goals or markers of achievement for yourself. Then focus on your attention on that.

When confronted with changing environments and the need to remove obstacles, you may need to leave your place of safety and press forward with the willpower of a strong mind. Nothing is impossible. It’s up to you to find a way. Even the most prepared and effective people can find themselves facing adversity and will need to find ways of turning obstacles into opportunities for growth.

How have you turned adversity into an opportunity?

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

 

6 Ways To Get Through Adversity

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Many homesteaders sold whiskey illegally during Prohibition in the 1930’s to get through adversity and financial hardship. 

When my brother and I were kids, Dad pointed out a still used to brew whiskey on our Wyoming ranch. We were on horseback and rode past a few barrel rings and a wall of rocks. Tucked into a steep draw, it was surrounded by aspen trees and a little cow trail that led to the bottom of the canyon near our house.

At that time, my brother and I collected antique glassware as a hobby. We planned to go back to the whiskey still and look around for old bottles. It should be easy enough to find, we thought. So after school we told our parents we were going out to play and would be back in time for supper. We walked up the canyon, and when we saw a draw that looked familiar, we started up.

Our ranch was located in the scatterings of the Snowy Mountain Range at an altitude of 7,000 feet. Summers are short in that country. The green aspen trees that looked lush and cozy when we rode past them a few months before, were now barren and cold.

Night fell much earlier in the winter months and dusk had begun to set in. We could not find the whiskey still but continued on until we reached the top of the draw. When we saw Laramie Peak in a distance, we knew we had climbed over 2,000 feet out of the canyon bottom.

We had climbed up the wrong draw, night was coming, and we had no flashlights. The rattlesnakes had hibernated for the winter, but conditions were still adverse. It was dark, the terrain was steep and rocky. The temperature had begun to drop at an alarming rate.

At the ages of ten and eleven, my younger brother and I learned young to how to get through adversity.

Here are 6 ways that will help you get through adversity as well:

1. Muster Confidence 

We were too young to rely on pep talks or motivational speeches to provide the determination we needed to get through adversity. We had climbed over 2,000 feet out of the canyon in daylight. Now we had to be confident enough in our ourselves that we could repeat our performance downhill in the darkness.

The lessons I learned to get down the mountain stayed with me the rest of my life. In my book Secrets of A Strong Mind, I talk about the four months I spent at the FBI Academy in new agent’s training. We trained hard day in and day out, no matter the weather conditions—in snow, wind, rain, or heat. Those experiences drilled confidence in ourselves.

Whenever I thought I couldn’t push myself any further, I remembered that cold night climbing back down a mountain when I was eleven years old. I was confident I had what it took to get through adversity facing me now.

TIP: If we perform well when faced with adversity in the past, we have the self-assurance that we can beat the odds in the future.

2. Remain Persistent

My brother and I were not sure how to get back home before we found ourselves in complete darkness and freezing temperatures. We decided that if we stayed with the cow trail it would ultimately lead us to our destination. The trail was lost but we hopped over rocks and fallen trees to find it. We knew that as long we were headed downhill we were headed in the right direction. But the draw had many smaller ones that meandered over the sides of the canyon. Time was important and we knew the quickest way down was the way we came up. We persisted and found the cow path again.

As an FBI agent, there were many times when I needed to remember that dedication and blind persistence are two different things. We can work hard, but not always smart.

TIP: To get through adversity, attack the problem from a different angle if it doesn’t work. Learn to pivot when needed. Where there is a will, there is a way.

3. Keep A Lid On Emotions

While neither my brother or I panicked, we were scared—but we never let negativity set in. We acknowledged our fears but remained confident in our ability to get home safely.

I have drawn my weapon while making an arrest. I was scared and afraid of what I would need to do if the person resisted. When I leaned into my training, I regained my confidence and managed my emotions.

TIP: It’s always important to acknowledge emotions, but to get through adversity you need to remind yourself that you have the mental toughness to manage the negative ones. You may not be able to change the conditions but you can change the way you deal with them. It’s possible to have self-control in an out-of-control environment.

4. Accept Responsibility

We had no one to blame but ourselves. This was no game we were playing and we had to have the strength to look at our adversity realistically and take responsibility for getting ourselves back home. Our parents had no idea we had headed out to find the whiskey still because we hadn’t told them.

As an FBI agent, I found that self-examination would be one of the most important ways I could become a more effective leader and achieve my goals. When I confronted obstacles and adversity, I was not afraid to question my thinking. Often, this self-examination uncovered biases or assumptions I had made that either contributed to the obstacle or stood in my way of overcoming it.

TIP: A self-examination includes a regular review of traits, desires, and fears. This honest assessment can lead to a reinvention of goals and beliefs.

5. Pace Yourself

My brother and I both knew that if we stopped, we’d freeze to death before morning. On the other hand, if we depleted our resources, we’d be unable to continue.

I learned it was important to pace myself while running obstacle courses at the FBI Academy. I was not a strong runner, and while I enthusiastically charged out the gate, I knew I’d need to pace myself to last the entire obstacle course.

The same logic applied to my investigations: if I depleted my resources, ran myself to exhaustion, and then needed to respond to a fast-moving break in the case, I was in serious trouble.

TIP: Read the chapter on the 20 mile march in Great by Choice by Jim Collins.

6. Create Community

My brother and I were a team and we worked together to get back down the hill. We provided moral support for one another. We jumped across waterfalls and mucked through inches of mud to follow the meandering cow path.

The personal leadership skill of camaraderie is one of the first lessons taught at the FBI Academy. For the first three weeks, new agents are not allowed to leave the Marine Corp base. Instead, we were expected to develop a supportive community that would be needed during our four months of training.

The ability to relate to others was one of the most effective skills I developed in my career as a counterintelligence agent. Everyone has the need to be heard, and the need for information that can be put into action. The listener is a essential role because even very successful leaders need people who are allied to their cause.

My brother and I made is safely home that night to parents who were very worried.

TIP: If you learn how to get through adversity, it will help you turn underachievement into superior achievement. As long as you can stay alive, you are still in the game.

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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