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Self-Leadership Challenge #8: How Your Thoughts Impact Success

When Victoria showed up for her executive coaching session with me, she looked forward to focusing on three behaviors that she had identified as holding her back in her career progression. Here’s what she had written down:

  1. I need to speak up more in meetings, particularly with senior leaders.
  2. I need to stand up to pushy clients.
  3. I need to become more comfortable promoting myself to top management.

But during our session together, it quickly became clear that the issue for Victoria wasn’t necessarily these behaviors. Instead, it was her underlying mind management driving those limiting behaviors.

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It isn’t unusual for a potential coaching client to show up for a trial session with a change-in-behavior objective, and then realize that their thoughts are actually at the heart of the challenge.

In Victoria’s case, through our discussion, she discovered that she had been quietly talking herself out of embracing the very behaviors she wanted to embody. She had been listening to that little voice inside her head that says, “If I speak up, I’ll probably be wrong and make a fool of myself.” Or: “Even if I don’t agree with a client, I don’t want to rock the boat, so I just go along with it.” Or: “I’ve never been any good at self-promotion, so my chances of getting anywhere in this job are slim.”

Does Victoria’s dilemma ring true for you, too? These kinds of limiting thoughts can pass through your mind so quickly that you don’t even consciously realize it. But these thoughts are incredibly powerful and can have a dramatic effect, causing you to postpone actions and make all sorts of excuses for not initiating positive change.

What’s at the heart of it all? One of the worst enemies of self-leadership is a fear of failure, and it plagues even the most high-ranking executives.

Here’s another example: Sarah is a woman who helped start up a successful high-tech company. Previously a strong individual, full of energy and excitement, she and her fellow leaders grew the company from a dozen employees to a thriving organization of several hundred.

By that time, Sarah had become a mother, with one child already born and a second one on the way. She found herself struggling to balance the demands of work and home and realized that her family was getting the short end of the stick. So, after serious consideration, she decided to leave the work world for a few years to focus on raising her kids. Those “few years” turned into more than 10 years of being out of the corporate environment.

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That’s when Sarah arrived at my office for coaching. “I thought I could just pick up my career where I left off,” she said, “but I realize I was being naïve. What was I thinking?”

She then proceeded to tell me about how she was certain she had completely blown her recent interview for a new position. “You won’t believe what I said, Brenda,” she told me. “What an idiot! How stupid can I be? Some of the answers I gave to questions were ridiculous, the more I think about them.”

I looked at her and quickly changed my demeanor. “I can’t believe you did that either, Sarah! What were you thinking? You really are an idiot, you know that? How stupid can you be! Your answers were completely ridiculous!”

Sarah looked at me with shock on her face, clearly taken aback by my words. But it only took her a moment to understand my purpose. When I saw the recognition register on her face, I returned to my normal tone of voice and asked, “Now, if I were your boss, Sarah, and I spoke to you that way, would you work for me?”

“No!” she said, “Of course, not! That would be the worst boss in the world!”

I responded, “But, all I did was mirror back to you exactly what you’ve been saying to yourself. My point is: You have been listening to the worst boss in the world—and it’s that nasty little voice in your head.”

The Power of That Nasty Little Voice

When it comes to mind management—a foundational element of self-leadership—it’s absolutely critical to watch the little voice inside your head … like a hawk. Many executives deal with the same problem, so much so that author Seth Godin even wrote a blog post about this very issue called, “The World’s Worst Boss.”

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If you think about it, that inner voice is the one that talks to you the most (no matter how chatty your spouse or others in your life might be). So, it’s fundamental to pay attention in order to get clear about what that voice is saying to you morning, noon, and night. Simply by paying attention, you can bring these thoughts to the surface and change the dialogue you have with yourself.

Remember: That voice has no right to treat you in a way that you wouldn’t allow others to treat you. It’s your choice which voice in your head you listen to—the one that tells you that you are ready to handle any job/challenge that comes your way … or the one that will defeat you.

Great self-leaders recognize the power of their thoughts. How will you begin to change your inner dialogue today?

Want to learn more? My book, Leading YOU™: The power of Self-Leadership to build your executive brand and drive career success,” includes many more tips and tools to help strengthen your mind management for greater self-leadership success.

We’re celebrating! Find out why…

This past Saturday, April 1st, 2017 was a big day for us here at BDA. Not just because it’s April Fools’ Day (although we do have a lot of fun with that) but because 15 years ago on that date, our company, Brand Development Associates (BDA) International, was born!

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In this blog, I share more about this very personal brand-building journey.

And, to add to the 15-year anniversary excitement, I was also humbled to learn that I have been recognized as one of the Top 25 Global Coaching Gurus and one of the Top 20 Global Branding Gurus for 2017! And, to honor these exciting milestones, we are offering great prizes to 15 lucky winners – you’ll want to check out the details below!

Looking Back to Look Forward – Our Entrepreneurship Story

It feels like April 1, 2002 was only yesterday. I sat in my new office – well, at that time, it was actually a converted small bedroom in our home – and thought with such excitement, “I did it! I started my own business!” After almost two decades of working in big companies, I felt an incredible sense of freedom to go out on my own.

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But it didn’t take long before fear seeped in, with questions like, “I’ve given up the comfort of a high-paying corporate job with all the perks. I’m starting from scratch with nothing! What have I done?”

In fact, I jokingly say I chose April Fools’ Day to start the business because if it didn’t work out, I could always go running back to the corporate world and say, “Just kidding!”

In all seriousness, though, I was determined to make it work. I had some savings, but I knew I had to spend funds wisely if my business was going to survive. I had to get smart – fast – about how to do that.

Faced with this dilemma, I took a deep breath and gathered up all the tips, tools, and techniques I had learned during those many years of big-brand management. I began applying them diligently to building my own brand – but this time, in ways that didn’t cost much. I kept my eye on the target – on the brand I wanted to build – and that brand became the North Star to guide every day-to-day decision I made. In other words, I focused on what I did have, rather than what I didn’t have.

In the process, slowly but surely, I uncovered hundreds of ways to build my brand using the same methods I had employed with household name brands, but without the need for the deep pockets I had in the corporate world. Then, I was able to take what I learned and teach other business owners how to do the same. I started out showing them how to master corporate and product branding, and my focus eventually evolved into leadership branding – how to help individuals, executives, and leaders build brands for themselves.

Looking back 15 years later, I can honestly say this journey has been the most amazing ride, and I’m grateful for every minute of the experience. Five years into the company, Daniel Jackman joined our team, and that’s when the magic really kicked in!  The business grew and grew to the point where, today, it’s been enormously rewarding to serve as a professional speaker, corporate trainer, and senior executive coach to dozens of the most recognized companies in the world.

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Currently, BDA International has had the honor of working with clients across six continents and 70 industries, and people often ask us how we achieved that. In fact, such a large number of clients and other individuals ask about how to become a successful entrepreneur that I decided to write a short book in which I share the top 15 lessons I’ve learned from 15 years of running my own business. Watch for the release date – it will be out in a few months!

Do YOU Have What it Takes, Too?

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you two of my favorite articles about what it takes to make it as an entrepreneur. It’s an active, engaging topic, as more and more people decide to take the plunge and start a business. What are the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur, and … if it’s appropriate for you, do YOU have them?

10 Traits All Successful Entrepreneurs Share

8 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal the Best Business Advice They Ever Got

Don’t think this topic applies to you? Think again: Even if you work “inside” a company, are you an “intra”preneur, using your entrepreneurial skills within the organization to get faster, better, and more innovative results? Those skills will help you both inside or outside the corporate world.

Thank You!

As we celebrate our 15-year milestone, I want to say thank you to all of our fantastic clients – both corporate and individual – and all of our blog readers who have followed us all these years and been so supportive. If it weren’t for you, this company would be nothing, and we are incredibly grateful to you every single day. Thank you for the incredible support you have offered our company over the years!

Self-Leadership: Important for Entrepreneurs and “Intra”Preneurs, Too!

During my years of coaching senior executives, I came to understand that self-leadership is the most important – and most overlooked – driver of overall success. It’s a key part of being a successful entrepreneur – and a successful “intra”preneur, too. Self-leadership allows you to lead yourself to reach both “doing” goals – (Executive Presence, speaking up, effectively addressing conflict, etc.) and “being” goals (strengthening confidence, staying calm when facing tough situations, making difficult decisions, etc.)

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As a coach, I was able to pinpoint the 15 most damaging self-leadership behaviors, which became the basis of my latest book: Leading YOU™: The power of SELF-LEADERSHIP to build your executive brand and drive career success. As always, I’ve filled the book with lots of practical ways to correct these behaviors in your world, along with real-life executive coaching case studies that illustrate how these tools and techniques can help you become a markedly better leader.

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This book picks up where Would YOU Want to Work For YOU™? left off, providing what I believe is the missing link for most executives and entrepreneurs across the globe.

I’m excited to share that the book is receiving positive feedback and impacting leaders around the world! Here are just a few of the comments that people have shared with me after reading the book:

“I recommend Leading YOU™ to anyone who is a leader – or aspires to be. As I look at myself and others in my profession, I can see that author Brenda Bence is right: Self-leadership is the missing piece for most of us. Brenda has been invaluable to me at critical points in my career, helping me bridge my current role with my aspirations. A decade later, I continue to view my work with Brenda as a true breakthrough moment.”
Andrew Padovano – Managing Director, Citibank New York

“This book closes on the value of coaching to help you implement changes. I can personally attest to this. I was fortunate enough to enlist Brenda as my coach 6 years ago, and I estimate she has added well over US$150,000 to my compensation since that time.”
Marion McDonald – Chief Strategy Officer, Ogilvy PR, Asia Pacific

“Almost every leader focuses on leading others. [In this book], Brenda shows that self-leadership is just as important – maybe even more important – because it’s the foundation of all leadership.”
Dale A. Martin – CEO, Siemens Hungary

“Many practical tips in this easy read as Brenda uses many real-life scenarios as illustrations. It spoke to me in so many ways – I highly recommend this book!”
Angelia Kay – Regional Director, Garlock Asia Pacific

“Just what I was looking for! Brenda cuts right through the confusion on this topic and she provides a clear pathway for career development. I highly recommend Leading YOU™ to anyone looking to find the right balance and direction in their career.”
— Reid Velo – Consultant, Trust Edge Leadership Institute, Minneapolis

See You in Thailand!

“Please let me know when you’ll be speaking at a public event!”  This is a phrase I hear often because I normally only present at private corporate meetings, conventions, and conferences.

However, next month, I will be speaking at a regional coaching conference in Bangkok, Thailand on May 26 – and it’s open to the public!  At that conference, I will be presenting material from my upcoming book, The Choice, where I reveal a simple yet powerful choice that every leader has before them – whether focused on leading self or leading others.

I would be delighted if you would come join me!  Click on the visual below to find out more.  I hope to see you there!

Which of these self-leadership mistakes have you made?

Author Anais Nin is quoted as saying, “My ideas usually come not at my desk writing, but in the midst of living.”

Of all the books I’ve written, both Leading YOU™ and its companion book, Would YOU Want to Work for YOU? are the two for which this quote holds most true.

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More than a decade of work and thousands of hours of coaching have brought Leading YOU™ into existence. Packed with real-life Executive Coaching case studies from around the globe, Leading YOU™ reveals the 15 most damaging self-leadership behaviors I regularly see in my coaching practice, and it offers dozens of tips and techniques you can immediate apply to correct or improve these behaviors.

Here are just a few of the self-leadership mistakes and solutions revealed in this book:

 

Top Self-Leadership Mistakes:
Selected Chapter Titles

 

In Leading YOU™,
Learn How to…

Believing You’re a Victim at Work Quit acting like a victim of your calendar, your time, and “the system”
Not Managing Your Mind Take control of powerful mind management techniques to stop limiting behaviors
Underestimating the Significance of Self-Promotion and Visibility Promote yourself without bragging, to help you gain the visibility you need and get the job you want
Not Knowing How to Influence Without Authority Successfully influence others even if you don’t have an official title or authority
Struggling with Tough Decisions Make even the most difficult decisions with ease
Saying “Yes” When You Want to Say “No” Say “no” with calm self-assurance
Failing to Address Conflict When It Arises Manage conflict in a way that strengthens relationships
Getting Stuck in Back-and-White Thinking Avoid black-and-white thinking and get comfortable living in the grey

And several more key self-leadership topics!

Click here to find out more!

An Excerpt From My Next Book, Leading YOU™

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My new book, Leading YOU™, will be released before year’s end. You may have read another one of my books, Would You Want to Work For YOU™?” which focused on the top 15 damaging behaviors I see when coaching leaders of others. Well, this new book – Leading YOU™ – outlines the 15 damaging self-leadership behaviors I regularly see and offers tried-and-true tips, tools, and techniques to help correct them.

One key skill that almost all of the world’s top leaders have in common is powerful self-leadership. They have learned how to rein in their least effective traits and harness their best attributes to their advantage. After all, great success isn’t just about leading others. It’s first and foremost about leading yourself.

To give you a taste of what’s to come, read the excerpt below!

“Keeping Your Eye on the Target: What’s Your End Game?”

“If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”
-Laurence J. Peter, author of The Peter Principle

These are interesting times in the lives of business leaders. Technology is changing the game every day, finding a new job can be difficult, and the international economic climate is as fickle as the weather in London. If you are like most executives, it’s hard to find the time to sit down and contemplate where your career is going. But how can you be a good self-leader if you don’t know exactly where you are leading yourself to?

It takes time and conscious effort to focus on your future, and most executives I’ve worked with have found that it’s just easier to live from one moment to the next rather than make any kind of plan. But the truth is, if you don’t make the time to determine your future, who will?

You’re no longer at a level where you can leave your fate to “the powers that be” at headquarters or to your immediate boss. If you wait for something outside of your control to change, you could end up waiting a very long time. So, in reality, there is nobody better than you to look at the big picture and set the direction for the next move within your career.

Take my client, Scott, as an example. A very successful lawyer in a large multi-national firm, Scott hadn’t taken the time to look at his career in a “big picture” way. Don’t get me wrong – he was progressing up the ladder, and quite nicely at that – but not in a strategic way. He was simply moving along from job to job. He had no long-term perspective because he had gotten too caught up in each position’s “specific set of responsibilities” and only focusing on how to move forward to the next one. He had never thought about how each job could actually position him for much longer-term success.

Scott said to me (and I hear this a lot), “The truth is, Brenda, I’ve just been lucky all my career. The companies and opportunities have simply come to me; I didn’t need to plan or strategize.”

If this sounds familiar to you, I understand why. Early in your career, it isn’t unusual for the next opportunity to just land in your lap. You produce, you deliver, and that results in more jobs, opportunities, and choices that appear on the horizon.

But as you move up the ladder to increasingly senior positions, the sheer number of jobs at that level diminishes. It becomes important to shift from being reactive – simply choosing from among the various positions that come your way – to being proactive. When you’re proactive, you ask yourself important questions that can change the trajectory of your professional life for the better: What do I want long-term? Is my current position likely to lead me there? In order to reach my long-term goal, what makes the most strategic sense for my career short-term, medium-term, and long-term?

Click here to read more.

Celebrate International Coaching Week with Me in Person!

If you’re in Singapore, come to the International Coaching Week events which will be taking place May 16-20! I’ll be giving the keynote speech to kick off the all-day Symposium on the morning of Wednesday, May 18 – “Value in Coaching: The Choice is Yours” – followed by a full day of enlightening presentations. The evening ends with a dinner with Marshall Goldsmith (who endorsed my book Would YOU Want to Work for YOU?). It should be a great event!

To find out more and buy tickets, visit this site, and choose “Wednesday May 18” in the drop-down box.

I hope to see you there!

If you like the reality TV show “The Voice…”

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… then you might want to attend the finale of “The Speech” which will be held in  Singapore later this month!

Back in November of 2015, budding professional speakers auditioned for a mentor at a meeting of the Asia Pacific Speakers association in Singapore.  Just like on the reality TV Show “The Voice,” the mentors “competed” for which speaker/mentor they wanted to work with, and mentors and mentees were paired.

Fast forward to four months later, and now the mentees are taking their learnings from the last few months and competing in the final round, where the audience gets to vote on which finalist delivers the best speech!  I will be serving as a panelist, since I have been mentoring one of the competitors.

This is a great opportunity to experience being an active audience member in a fun show, while also getting to enjoy some great speeches by budding professional speakers.

The Finale will be held Tuesday, March 29 2016, at Sheraton Towers Hotel, from 6 p.m. – 9.30 p.m.  If you want to join the fun, purchase tickets at: http://www.eventbrite.sg/e/the-speech-the-speaking-competition-not-to-be-missed-tickets-22636529469.

See you there!

Don’t Just Sit There!

SITTING is big news – well, at least the detrimental effects of too much sitting, that is. The scientific community has coined a new phrase to label it — “sitting disease.”  In short, as a friend of mine says, “Sitting is the new smoking.”

But as leaders, our jobs often require that we sit for many hours in a day, working on our computers, attending meetings, and talking on the phone. In fact, my executive coaching clients often tell me they spend so many hours working (and sitting) that they often don’t have time to fit exercise into their schedule.

The harsh truth is that too much sitting is killing us – slowly, but literally.

A few hard facts:

  • According to a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, sitting most of the day makes our risk of heart attack the same as for people who smoke.
  • James Levine, M.D. puts it this way, “Today, our bodies are breaking down from obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, depression, and the cascade of health ills and everyday malaise that come from what scientists have named sitting disease.”
  • An American Cancer Society study found that women who were inactive and sat over six hours a day were 94% more likely to die during the time period studied than those who were physically active and sat less than 3 hours a day. For men, the statistic isn’t nearly as bad, but it’s still dire at 48% more likely to die. And the physical activity levels of the individuals didn’t matter!
  • A study at the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health in Australia found that we are 40% at greater risk of death if we sit for long periods. They also found that prolonged sitting disrupts metabolic function and decreases insulin sensitivity, causing blood sugar problems.

Walk While You Work

So, what’s the solution? Since exercising more may not even counter the number of hours we sit, you can either stand more while you work or do what I’m doing now – combine work time with exercise! You can improve your health without the need to find time in your calendar to write “go to the gym.” All you need is my new productivity tool – a Treadmill Desk!

I’ve wanted one for a really long time, but they weren’t available in Singapore. Then, we finally found a company that could offer one. Now, when I would normally have to sit at my desk to do work, I just hop on the treadmill and get in a good walk. I love it! I’m burning calories, staying active, and still accomplishing my “to do” list. It feels great!

“Sounds expensive?” you say? We were pleasantly surprised to find out that the treadmill desk I chose wasn’t as expensive as we thought it would be. In fact, if you are Singapore based, I can get you a good deal. Just email me at Brenda@brendabence.com if you’re interested, and get yourself moving!

 

Open, Closed, and Numbers Questions

As a leader of others, the type of questions you ask can make a big difference in how well those questions empower and help team members grow.

First and foremost, think in terms of “open” instead of “closed” questions.

Open questions lead to answers filled with information. Beginning with words such as “who, what, when, where, and how,” open-ended questions are crafted in ways that encourage direct reports to open up and share answers in depth. An example would be, “How would you describe our company’s culture?”

Closed questions can only be answered directly with a word or two, such as “Do you like the culture here?” This limiting question, calling for either a “yes” or “no” answer. This kind of answer doesn’t lead you very far, and it certainly doesn’t kick-start a dialogue.

Use Numbers! Our brains love questions with a number in them! They’re great for stimulating creativity, focusing thoughts, and providing a simple framework within which to work. If you find a team member getting stuck with a particular problem, pose a numbers question, and see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised how well it opens up a dialogue and creates a breakthrough.

Here are some examples:

“What are the three major challenges preventing us from reaching our goals?”

“What are the top four approaches we could pursue for the XYZ project …?”

“Let’s brainstorm the five most powerful ways we could …”

“What are the three most important steps we could take to achieve …?”

Brenda Bence Bio

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