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Sports Psychologist Bob Rotella just released his book How Champions Think. In it, he shares the “virtuous cycle,” which is the winning formula for success in any field that enables you to serve the world with the gift you’ve been granted. His formula? Optimism + Confidence + Persistence = Success
Exceptional people engage in helpful frames of mind. They go beyond the “Little Train Engine That Could” — which repeated his mantra of “I think I can” — to “I know I can.” These thoughts include:
- Visualization. Our imagination is an invaluable tool many of us left in the sandbox. For visualization to work, it must be vividly detailed and intense. It must entail the senses: sights, sounds, touch, and smells of the experience. Rotella: A vivid, sensual detailed visualization helps convince the subconscious that the experience is actually happening. (pg 51)
Be limitless. Rotella believes that if Jack Nicklaus had won 25 majors and Tiger Woods had set out to surpass him, Tiger would have won 20 majors by now (instead of 19 & 14, respectively). Much like breaking a plank of wood in karate, aim for what’s behind the wood; not the plank itself. Aiming high enables your chance to be great; it will make your failure be better than most people’s best.
- Re-framing. Exceptional people respond to perceived failures/misfortunes and react to the events in their lives as lessons to draw from, then they forget the negative aspects. Rotella: There’s a difference between learning from failure and wallowing in it. (pg 178) Bulls coach Dean Smith told Michael Jordan to give himself no more than 10-20 mins to reflect on an undesirable performance, if he ever wanted to reach his personal vision. Think and remember in ways that will keep a positive outlook.
- Positive Self-Talk. Exceptional people thrive off of positive input; however, the cost of greatness entails getting knocked down a lot. Be confident in your ability. Doubt and fear ruin performance. Jack Nicklaus: You have to be a legend in your own mind before you can be a legend in your own time.
Exceptional people gain confidence from their optimistic outlook. This feeling is fueled by passion for loving what they do. Healthy feelings include:
- Enthusiasm. Exceptional people live for their wins. They build on their successes. They find it every day. They get into the flow of being good at something they love doing. Ralph Waldo Emerson: Nothing great has ever been accomplished without enthusiasm.
- Patience. Exceptional people show enormous patience (and perseverance) when they have an improvement process in place. Setbacks do not take them off-track from their quest for excellence. Rotella: You’re unstoppable if you’re unflappable. (pg. 161)
- Humility. Exceptional people keep their ego in check, despite the level and ranking attained. They do not feel as though they are better or more entitled than anyone else.
It is not enough to internalize success. Exceptional people create action plans. Practices include:
- Network. Exceptional people surround themselves with and listen to, people who will help them be great. Optimism and confidence are contagions; and success is not a journey for the sole traveler. These are people who support and encourage without going so far as to pander. These people are “straight shooters” – ones who will tell you what you need to hear in order for you to move forward towards your vision; even when it may be information you would not like to hear. We learn from those who can see what we are capable of achieving; oftentimes more than we can see for ourselves. There is wisdom to be gained from people who believe in us.
- Accountability. Exceptional people never blame failures on others. They are fully functional adults who constantly ask themselves, “What more can I do?” Most people are not capable of self-evaluating, but exceptional are. They set their own performance bars.
Exceptional people also know when to evaluate themselves. They suspend evaluation until post-performance so as not to distract their natural ability and get in their own way. Overthinking can result in “analysis paralysis;” it is best to allow the subconscious to control the moment (and not introduce the conscious to hi-jack your performance), since evaluation is a function of the conscious brain. Course corrections can come later.
- Mindfulness. Exceptional people hold onto favorable memories, and let the rest go. Then, there is only the present moment to enjoy and build upon. Focus on the shot, and do not think about the consequences of the shot.
Call it “The Secret,” learned effectiveness, your vision board, or whatever you choose…one thing is for sure: Exceptional people maintain a vision and dream big—of excellent performances, of a beautiful life, of a stellar career, of a great something.
Rotella: “When you retire, you’ll like the face you see in the mirror. On your last day, you’ll look back and think how lucky you were to have lived the life you did.”
Create your own reality.
Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is an optimistic Global Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners. We increase retention. Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.
© Rossina Gil, 2015
Bearing the “Duchenne smile” is the healthiest way to work. In the mid-19th century, French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne identified two types of smiles:
1) what we today call the Botox smile – just the CORNERS of the mouth rise;
2) and what has become known as the Duchenne smile – not only do the CORNERS of the mouth rise, but also the CHEEKS; while the eyes SQUINT – and/or form crow’s feet, if you have wrinkles.
The former smile is known as a fake smile, while the latter is recognized as a more honest display of joy.
What is interesting about smiling, fake or real, is that one can physiologically trick him/herself into a better mood/disposition by simply smiling. The facial muscles trigger the brain to react chemically and produce positive emotions, thereby creating a better outcome to your day.
Another way of looking at this concept of controlling your immediate destiny is to engage in Method Acting at work. Method Acting is a technique which actors use to create more lifelike performances. Instead of mimicking behaviors and merely recounting lines from a script, actors attempt to internally re-produce the feelings and thoughts of the characters they portray. (Note: This technique has led to a lot of dual on- & off-screen romances.)
When you allow your day to be disrupted by the words and actions of others, you relinquish your power, and subsequently your pleasure. Emotionally Intelligent people manage to stay focused on feeling good about something. Tap into that feeling, memory, person, or thing. Negativity exists around you daily, and your mind has the ability to shield itself from much of it.
This is not to say you can easily become impervious to how others think of you. As human beings (a.k.a. social animals), we are all susceptible to having “down feelings” projected by toxic co-workers and bosses. You just have to remember that their words bear just as much weight, if not more, on themselves, as they do for you. Any criticism can be delivered with grace, diplomacy, or compassion. Real leaders know how to do this well.
Most importantly: Self-worth can only come from within. Positive self-talk is critical, and positive emotions will keep you focused, productive, and influential. You are the master of your own happiness.
Above all, choose work you love to do; that’ll make it a Duchenne smile.
“When you change the frame, you change the game.”
― William Thomas, Bridgestone executive
Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, with a Cheshire cat smile, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners. We increase retention. Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.
© Rossina Gil, 2015
As an external contractor to EY (Ernst & Young) and former college tri-athlete (run, bike, swim), I am pleased to see EY’s latest global survey conducted on female leadership.*
52% of the C-Suite women played a sport at the university level, compared to 39% of women at other management levels. (Only 3% of C- suite women said they had never played a sport).
These high-level executive women have learned to “stay in the game” by keeping their “eye on the ball.” In other words, athletic executives know how to work on the task with talented colleagues by focusing on their colleagues’ capabilities; not their personality. This leads to goal achievement and project completion. Emotional pettiness is pushed to the sidelines.
Athleticism Leads to Positive Role Models
EY’s findings follow much of the Top 10 leadership traits of positive thinkers in business. Based on Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s work in positivity, Scott Ventrella wrote, “Positive thinkers are tough-minded, reality-based people who blast through problems with energy and zeal.”
Here’s a quick review:
- Optimism. EY found that when the pressure is on, athletes will not be let down.
- Enthusiasm. EY found that athletes demonstrate greater abilities in motivating others.
- Belief. EY found that athletes’ belief in themselves show as ambition and drive. See Michael Jordan’s road to success in 30 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JA7G7AV-LT8
- Integrity. EY found athletic executives demonstrate a strong “work ethic.” Their word and readiness to “play fair” is uncompromising in the quest to gain a true victory. Former President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on…a football field…or in an office.”
- Courage. EY found that 74% describe “competitive” as an asset to their leadership style. From the battle of brain versus brawn, in David & Goliath, to the modern-day conference meeting, it takes courage to compete and enter an arena where you know there are higher-ranked “players” &/or you are out-numbered by “combatants.”
- Confidence. EY found that the executive women surveyed considered the most important contributors to their current career success included confidence.
- Determination. EY found that athletes are seen as inspiring because of their hard work and determination.
- Patience. EY found that team building and communication skills were developed by sport. These processes require patience as the Initiator acquires the skill to enable these, and the teammate recognizes the intent behind the approach as the Initiator finesses her leadership.
- Calmness. EY found that most executives believe sport helps them “unwind.” Losing the mounting pressures from the day by loosening the tightened muscles provides a sense of calmness.
- Focus. EY found that 37% say sport helps them focus on their work.
- (I add) Curiosity. EY found “superior problem-solving ability” to be among their athletic executives. A curious mind leads to an agile mind.
Two Personal Lessons from Sports
- High School. There were not enough girls interested in varsity volleyball or basketball (my two favorite team sports) to form two teams. So, I asked our sole Physical Education (P.E.) Coach if I could try out for boys’ varsity. He told me no. I deliberately asked, “Are you saying that I can’t be on varsity, even if I’m better than some of the guys?” Yes. TRANSLATION TO WORKPLACE: Sometimes you may be the best person for the job, and the position will go to someone else.
- College. We were required to take a co-ed Health course, which included a two-mile run. Given that running was my strength, I was at the head of the pack – not the first, but in the top 5. Upon completion, while those who cleared the finish were hacking and my breath rate was fairly normal, a male classmate approached me and shared, “Here I was running as hard as I could, thinking that I was doing well, and when I looked ahead and saw a woman several runners ahead of me, I thought, ‘Hey! I have to beat her!’” I replied, “Why not beat the person ahead of you? The head of the pack? Your own best personal time?” (The next closest female classmate, who was mid-pack, shared the same sentiment to me later). TRANSLATION TO WORKPLACE: Sometimes people will use you as a benchmark for their success, to affirm their own identity and out of whatever other subjective reasons.
The ball’s in your court now.
Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners. We increase retention. Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.
©Rossina Gil, 2014
Ventrella, Scott, The Power of Positive Thinking in Business.
*”The research report, Making the connection: women, sport and leadership, based on a global online survey of 400 women executives, was conducted by Longitude Research across Europe, the Americas and Asia-Pacific, with the top five responding countries being Brazil, Canada, China, the UK and the United States. Half (49%) of those surveyed were in the C-suite, meaning that they serve on the board of directors at a company or in another C-level position, such as CEO, CFO or COO. The remaining 51% surveyed were in other management positions.”
À la Ventrella (i.e. Scott Ventrella), who built his work, The Power of Positive Thinking in Business, upon the foundation of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s work, he states that “Positive thinkers are tough-minded reality-based people who blast through problems with energy and zeal.” Cynics and skeptics do not change the world.
Ventrella lists the 10 traits of a positive thinker as the following: 1. Optimism, 2. Enthusiasm, 3. Belief, 4. Integrity, 5. Courage, 6. Confidence, 7. Determination, 8. Patience, 9. Calmness, 10. Focus.
This blog addresses Optimism in Leadership. The next 9 traits will be addressed in my weekly postings. If you can answer “yes” to the following questions, you may be a leader who exhibits optimism…
- Do I meet challenges with a sense of control?
- Do I act with a sense of hope about what lies ahead?
- Do I work to minimize the impact of my doubts and fears?
- Do I keep my spirits up even when things aren’t going well?
- Do I gear myself to be positively hopeful in my attitudes and expectations?
The “Law of Positive Expectancy” (or the Power of Projection) can be defined by the story the “Little Engine That Could.” Through hard work and optimism the Little Engine achieved what it expected to achieve, which is what we can do for ourselves as humans. We also achieve what others expect us to achieve – such as parents, role models, teachers, coaches, etc. – and, conversely, we may not establish “stretch goals” for ourselves nor attempt to achieve what we project to be possible, or thwart any intentions to achieve something, if others deem our ideas as impossible.
In the workplace, optimistic leaders gain a competitive edge on others because they have…
- Self-Enhancement – Decision-Makers can control their anxiety better with optimism, which allows wiser judgment.
- Self-Presentation – Leaders who present themselves in an optimistic manner and more positive light are generally more accepted than those who are negative.
- Perceived Control – Leaders in control (or perceived control) tend to rely heavily on direct action and responsibility of situations.
Most of us are sporadic pessimists. This means that we occasionally get triggered by situations that tend to contribute towards making us FEEL, THINK, or ACT less optimistically. Below are four itemized categories of areas that may dim your optimism in the workplace.
- Receiving (or not receiving) performance reviews/feedback.
- Being left out of decisions or plans.
- Not being recognized or rewarded for performance.
- Difference in personal and/or managerial styles.
- Lack of communication with my manager on work progress, issues, opportunities.
- Giving performance reviews or feedback to others.
- Having to deal with conflicts among others.
- Dealing with style differences among employees.
- Being kept “out of the loop” on important issues, problems or decisions. (See blog Workplace Xenophobia)
- Having to deal with personal problems.
Organization & Culture
- Company politics and game playing.
- Policies, processes, or systems that hinder progress, new ideas, or exceptions to the norm.
- Reorganization, reengineering, downsizing, and so on.
- Bureaucratic structures, reporting relationships, layers.
- Insufficient communication and dialogue about what is happening and why.
Peer & Customer Relationships
- Company gossip or the “grapevine.”
- Opinions or feedback on my performance that goes to others, not me.
- Feeling or knowing that I am being lied to, blamed, or patronized.
- Not being able to negotiate over projects, deadlines, requests.
- Being left out of decisions or problem solving that affects me and/or my employees. (See blog The Corporate Bully)
Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator. CorporateLookingGlass.com.
Scott Ventrella, The Power of Positive Thinking in Business (New York, NY: Fireside), 2001. (pp. 15, 69-71, 112-113).
©Rossina Gil, 2013