HeadTrash: Cleaning Out the Junk that Stands Between You and Success

HeadTrash: Cleaning Out the Junk that Stands Between You and Success

by Tish Squillaro

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Why do executives get stuck? Why do leaders sometimes find themselves pushing hard but not gaining traction? Frequently it’s because they’re working against themselves, defeating their best efforts with their own problematical thoughts and emotions.

In this book, we refer to thought patterns and emotional tendencies that hinder your ability to

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Why do executives get stuck? Why do leaders sometimes find themselves pushing hard but not gaining traction? Frequently it’s because they’re working against themselves, defeating their best efforts with their own problematical thoughts and emotions.

In this book, we refer to thought patterns and emotional tendencies that hinder your ability to respond to business issues in a productive and professional way as HeadTrash. Put another way, HeadTrash is the negative voice of your subconscious, engaging you in a deadly inner dialogue that only you hear, consciously or subconsciously, but which affects everything you say and do and everyone around you. HeadTrash is any pattern of self-defeating feelings and thoughts that leads you into trouble and keeps you stuck there. Even worse, depending on your level of responsibility and authority, the rest of your team or company can get stuck too.

Based on their work with thousands of leaders, authors Tish Squillaro and Timothy I. Thomas discovered that some forms of HeadTrash can even produce symptoms in organizations that mirror the symptoms experienced by company leaders. Learn to probe beyond symptoms to identify the forms of HeadTrash you need to address. This book will show you how to change your behavior and become a better leader?for yourself, your business, your employees, and your family.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Management consultants Squillaro and Thomas offer a framework to break free of “HeadTrash”—the pattern of self-defeating and unproductive emotions and fears that undermine effectiveness. HeadTrash takes seven forms, according the authors: fear, arrogance, guilt, paranoia, anger, control, and insecurity, and they often present themselves in pairs. The authors dedicate chapters to each, identifying several ways in which HeadTrash can manifest itself. For example, the authors examine two kinds of fear: of being wrong and of speaking up. They provide a useful comparison checklist to point out differences between fearful and courageous leaders as well as a quiz to help assess whether fear HeadTrash is present. They also offer seven recommendations to overcome fear, such as gradually building up to big decisions, expecting to make mistakes, and accepting that reality isn’t always pretty. Another plus of the book is the easy, relaxed tone and the unique, open design that includes cartoons, shaded call-out boxes, and bulleted lists. Because HeadTrash, as defined, would seem to be a nearly a universal condition, this book may empower many readers to kick their mental garbage to the curb. (May)
Brian Tracy - Author

“Wow! This wonderful, insightful book shows you how to get out of your own way, conquer your biggest enemy (yourself), and accomplish more than you ever thought possible.”
~Brian Tracy – Author, No Excuses and The Power of Self Discipline
Brian Tracy
“Wow! This wonderful, insightful book shows you how to get out of your own way, conquer your biggest enemy (yourself), and accomplish more than you ever thought possible.”
~Brian Tracy – Author, No Excuses and The Power of Self Discipline
Brian Tracy – Author

“Wow! This wonderful, insightful book shows you how to get out of your own way, conquer your biggest enemy (yourself), and accomplish more than you ever thought possible.”
~Brian Tracy – Author, No Excuses and The Power of Self Discipline
Author, No Excuses and The Power of Self Discipline - Brian Tracy
�Wow! This wonderful, insightful book shows you how to get out of your own way, conquer your biggest enemy (yourself), and accomplish more than you ever thought possible.�

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Product Details

Emerald Book Company
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

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Cleaning Out the Junk That Stands Between You and Success

By Tish Squillaro, Timothy I. Thomas

Emerald Book Company

Copyright © 2013HeadTrash, LLC
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-937110-51-2



Fear— Moving Forward Despite It

"I don't know how my colleagues do it. Personally, I think they're usually too quick to make decisions. I like to gather all the data and sit with it for a bit before pulling the trigger, especially on a big call. A lot of times while I'm analyzing, a new piece of information comes in, and I'm glad I wasn't so hasty. I can study all the evidence, pro and con, and then decide what's best. I've been criticized for delaying on some tough issues, but I don't want to do the wrong thing. My only thought is what's best for everyone involved."

—A Leader with Fear HeadTrash

Everyone can tell that Steve is in over his head. He's been a bad fit for the new role pretty much since the day you promoted him. You've been meaning to talk to him about it, to have the difficult conversation and make a personnel change. But there's no putting it off now. The latest person to have concluded the obvious is your largest client.

You just got off the phone, and her words are still ringing in your ears: "Nothing personal, but I'd be happier if Steve were not running my account."

This is a sequential failure, a fiasco on two fronts that began with your refusal to deal with a difficult problem when it first arose, and then to make a tough decision. The no-decision decision led to irritating a major client. You still have a problem with Steve. And now you have a threat to your business as well.

Yet even now you can't bring yourself to have the talk, let alone switch a new person into the role.

What exactly is going on here? You might want to label it benevolence, being a humane boss and looking out for Steve's best interests. Or you might call it practical, not wanting to fire someone without a person of equal experience to replace him. But let's call it what it really is: fear.

And then, let's be honest about fear. It's prevalent, perhaps even omnipresent, in business because it plays such a big role in human experience and comes in so many forms. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary captures the wide spectrum of fear as follows:

fear noun 1 a: an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger. b (1): an instance of this emotion (2): a state marked by this emotion

2: anxious concern : SOLICITUDE

3: profound reverence and awe especially toward God

4: reason for alarm : DANGER

Why did Steve's manager wait so long to address an issue that was obvious to everyone, including him? It was because of fear— fear of being seen as the bad guy. The manager did not make the proper business move because Steve, a likeable, long-standing employee, would be devastated by the feedback that he was not performing well on the account. The manager's fear of having the difficult conversation has put the company in jeopardy.

Fear versus Caution: Reflexive Flight versus Thoughtful Action

Fear is so hard to overcome because we humans are hardwired for it. Fear, after all, is the survival instinct, the impulse that prompted our ancient ancestors to flee when ugly creatures with big claws and teeth began picturing them as entrées. What could be more sensible than feeling fear when pondering an important personnel change, a major investment, a big presentation? The stakes are high, and fear in these circumstances is just common sense, right? Well, not exactly. Extreme fear often stops executives and managers cold. It's not a speed bump; it's a brick wall. It can render people incapable of taking action because they're too worried about the downsides. So nothing changes. Nothing improves. Nothing gets done.

Compare that with fear's nobler cousin, caution. In its third definition of caution, Merriam-Webster describes it as "prudent forethought to minimize risk."

Caution, in other words, recognizes that there really are risks to what we do in business—often large ones. It admits that there are many potential consequences to an action and that not all of them may be good. But caution takes a proactive point of view, considering the whole picture and how to minimize the hazards without losing sight of the upsides.

The expression "proceed with caution" generally captures the best way to handle fear, taking action with an appropriate level of respect for the potential negative outcomes. But before we can learn how to proceed with caution, we need to understand more about the two most common fears in business: fear of making the wrong decision and fear of having a difficult conversation.

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear— not absence of fear."

—Mark Twain

Fear of Making Decisions: "What If I'm Wrong?"

Decision anxiety is not a phobia or a delusion. It's a normal and often valid response to reasonable concerns about how your judgments and actions can impact your business or career. Typically, these fears line up in three categories:

Fear of risk, worrying that if things don't go well, you could lose a lot, including your reputation;

Fear of the unknown, doubting that you have enough information to act; and

Fear of admitting ignorance, the inability to admit you are not sure what to do.

As a leader you're charged with making decisions and following through on them. You're the one the rest of the staff turns to for guidance, direction, and strategy. Yes, the team provides information, feedback, input, and recommendations. But it's you, the leader, who must offer the vision and then encourage the team to go where they've never gone before.

Who wants to march into new territory behind an indecisive leader? No one rushes to line up behind the captain who says in a timid voice, "This is where we probably need to go, maybe." Or says nothing at all.

Fear of making the wrong decision can paralyze leaders into making no decision, taking a "safe" approach, which usually is no approach. Sadly, many leaders would rather stand still than risk making a move—even if staying put means losing sales, tolerating inefficiency, and bypassing opportunities. But in today's fast-paced world, if you're not evolving and getting better, you're probably getting worse.

Fear of Speaking Up: "I Can't Say THAT!"

If you're like most leaders, people problems are the ones that keep you up at night. And the most dreaded people problem of all is when an employee—especially one in a critical role—has to be confronted about unacceptable behavior or poor performance.

Fearful leaders have many tactics to avoid a difficult conversation:

Do nothing and hope the problem will resolve itself. The most popular choice, but the least effective. Few personnel problems ever go away on their own.

Delegate the dirty deed to someone else. Can you say "cop out"?

Issue a general reprimand to the group. For example, rather than confront Ted on his lack of collaboration, his manager calls a general meeting or sends a team-wide e-mail urging everyone to collaborate more effectively. The results of such a move usually take three directions.

1. Most people know exactly what's going on—and resent the public scolding for something they didn't do. Further, they're angry that the manager has not addressed the problem directly with the offender, Ted.

2. A minority of people mistakenly think they're to blame, and they become worried and anxious.

3. Oblivious to the indirect rebuke, Ted does not change his behavior.

Soften the conversation too much. Then there are the times when the fearful leader actually gets up the nerve and calls in an employee for a talk. But then the leader dances around the issue, minimizing it with such oblique, veiled language that the employee has no idea he or she has done anything wrong.


We once encountered a classic case of the "soft approach" when working with a global manufacturer of medical devices that was installing new customer relationship management (CRM) software in its sales organization. The company had just acquired three companies in Europe and needed more transparency and consistency in their sales data and communication across the combined operations. Installing the CRM represented a major change for the company, as they had never had such a formal sales and relationship management system. The complicating factor in instituting this change was that the vice president for sales had long been friends with one of her direct reports. The two of them had been together with the company from its inception, which made it difficult when this manager ignored the software and didn't insist on its use on his team. We recommended that the VP confront the issue head on. She agreed to do so.

A few days later, Tim followed up with the manager. The conversation went something like this:

Tim: "How's that new sales tool going?"

Manager: "Oh, fine!"

Tim: "I spoke with the VP earlier, and she was concerned because your group wasn't using it as planned. It seems that your people haven't really bought in to it. Did she chat with you about it?"

Manager: "Oh, she was a little annoyed with me, but I said my staff and I would use it once a week, and she said that was fine."

Now, in point of fact, the VP was more than a little annoyed. She was downright furious! It was not okay for the sales CRM software to be used just once a week. So Tim went back to the VP and told her, "Either I've lost my mind, or you have not delivered the message you said you'd like to deliver. You've clearly softened the message so that this manager doesn't realize the importance of using this software daily. Your conversation left this manager thinking, 'It's no big deal.' You need to address the severity of the issue directly with this manager." Sadly, it took multiple conversations before the VP gave the manager the appropriate feedback without softening it so much that it was ineffectual. This cost the company significant time, effort, and money.

Once the message had been delivered directly enough, however, the desired sales behaviors ensued. Consistent and disciplined use of the software provided accurate data that allowed for more realistic pipeline and forecasting reports, a deeper understanding of current client needs, and a higher visibility for all team members of sales activities with prospects and clients. Ultimately, the organization began to hit its marks in a much more efficient, effective, and profitable way for the company.

If you checked "often" or "always" three or more times, you probably suffer from fear HeadTrash.

No Decision Is Usually the Worst Decision

If you still think it's better to do nothing rather than to risk a catastrophically wrong decision, consider this. Indecision is potentially the most catastrophic decision you can ever make. When a leader consistently refuses to take action, it sets up a triple whammy. The leader:

1. Loses respect. People no longer trust his or her judgement.

2. Loses credibility. People no longer trust his or her competence to lead the company.

3. Loses trust. People no longer believe that he or she can deliver on promises.

Getting others to follow your lead productively depends on continuing respect, credibility, and trust. When leaders lose these assets, their ability to take any effective action is in doubt.

Good leaders set boundaries, engaged employees welcome them.

Think about what great leaders do on a daily basis:

• Establish a strategic vision and plan for achieving it,

• Set expectations and hold people accountable,

• Communicate the amount of risk taking that is desired and acceptable,

• Model how crisis situations are to be handled.

These are all different ways of establishing the boundaries within which the business operates. They require a leader to make decisions and to enforce them when necessary. If that happens consistently, people know where they stand, trust where they're going, and strive to get there. The leader's decisions and example channel their employees' energy like a swiftly flowing river.

But when a leader avoids making important decisions or setting necessary guidelines, energy sooner or later dissipates. Like water overflowing a river's banks, energy spills out wastefully or destructively. Employees then become:

Aimless. Because management avoids strategic decisions, productivity grinds to a halt.

Frustrated. People become desperate for any decision to be made—and care less and less about what the decision is. They just want some direction.

Disengaged. With no direction or motivation, employees become clock-punchers. They show up, but that's it. Productivity plummets.

Complacency and Your Competition

It won't surprise you that aimless, frustrated, and disengaged employees often don't stick around. In fact, the best employees— the smart, talented, experienced, and ambitious players you were hoping to promote—are usually the first out the door.

The ones who do stay slowly become numb. With no decisions being made, nothing ever changes. Complacency sets in, and the next sound you hear is the death knell of your business.

Surprise! You probably know what to do.


The irony about fear is that in most cases paralyzed leaders actually know what needs to be done. It's not confusion or ignorance holding them back, it's just fear. As the following example demonstrates, withholding painful but honest and appropriate feedback helps no one, including the employee.

We once worked with a senior director at a call center for a mid-sized distribution company, whom we will call Frank. Frank had a diverse team of four people working for him. Frank worked very well with two of them because he had been in their roles before hiring them. The other two employees he pretty much ignored because he was not as familiar with their area of the business and feared that interacting with them might expose his lack of knowledge. As a result, Frank provided very little direction to these employees and their performance suffered. At the time, we were working with Frank's manager, Julia. We argued that Frank was really losing the value of the two people he was ignoring, and that it would be best to split up the four people under him, let Frank keep the two he worked well with, and reassign the other two to a new manager.

But Julia resisted this move for six months. She had a long history with Frank, and didn't want to hurt him by confronting him on the issue and making the reassignment. We told Julia, "Frank is going to fail because his behavior is hurting the productivity of the entire group, and someone—like your boss—is going to make the decision for you to move the team around or possibly fire Frank. So what would you rather have happen? Do you want to be proactive and realign the team, or do you want someone else to make that decision?"

Ultimately, Julia's boss made the decision for her and restructured the team, taking the two direct reports ignored by Frank and assigning them to another manager in the department where they received direction that enabled them to thrive and increase their work output. As usual when leaders fail to address their HeadTrash, Julia's inability to resolve her fear of having the difficult conversation resulted in a cascade of unintended consequences. It negatively affected the two direct reports Frank was ignoring, until they were reassigned. It did Frank no favors with Julia's boss and left him twisting in the wind while his team continued to underperform. And it damaged her own credibility as a leader.

Re: Fear

From the desks of: Phil Clemens, Chairman and CEO Hatfield Quality Meats and Tim Myers, Liquid Hub Lead Partner, Financial Services and Insurance

According to Phil Clemens and Tim Myers, two corporate leaders who pretty much have seen it all while successfully guiding large companies for decades, fear wears a lot of disguises in business.


Excerpted from HeadTrash by Tish Squillaro. Copyright © 2013 by HeadTrash, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Emerald Book Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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