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Aaron Chang Photography

Brent Frei, the co-founder of Smartsheet.com, a project and software management company, looks for people who are “mentally athletic and agile.” He prefers attitude and aptitude over experience. I like his perspective, a lot!

As a Sports Psychologist and Life Coach I constantly help people improve their mental game and develop a great attitude toward life and everything in it. This is not easy. Sometimes, as we all know, life has a way of knocking us down. That’s why good decision making and perseverance are so important. The more we learn from our mistakes, get tougher mentality, and learn to take consistent action toward our dreams and goals the greater the chance we will eventually succeed!

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Personal Responsibility

Roger Ferguson, C.E.O of TIAA-CREF, the retirement services provider, is a huge believer in personal responsibility. So am I! The first thing I do with a new client or business is to make sure they own everything in their lives regardless of how difficult that might be. Our parents and early environment may shape who we were but what we become rests upon taking ownership of who we are, our strengths, weaknesses and all the rest. Determining to change what we don’t like and develop ourselves by constantly learning and growing is how will become what we want.

Mr. Ferguson went to Harvard and scrubbed toilets for other students as part of his student aid package. He wasn’t the least bit resentful but did the job better than anyone else. Fortunately for him his father helped instill such values as hard work and doing things well. There is little substitute for a great attitude. With passion, creativity and common sense, so much more is possible!

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Great leadership skills

Brad Smith is the chief executive of Intuit, the software company. He learned leadership skills by becoming a black belt by age 18 and teaching 150 students soon after. There, he learned that “success is creating the environment where people can be their best selves and continue to grow and develop.” I love it! In my business I do likewise for the people I coach from athletes to entrepreneurs to adolescents trying to figure out life!

Mr. Smith, interviewed by Adam Bryant of the Corner Office, says that he learned from his father to: “never mistake kindness for weakness.” Again, I love it. Too few of us are truly kind. It takes courage to be kind. Anyone can be critical and judgmental. “Always be kind and generous but always stand your ground,” he states a core lesson from his father. Well said!

Mr. Smith also believes in the value of making mistakes, acknowledging your wrongdoing, learning and improving. When interviewing prospective hires he asks them to tell him about their biggest mistake and what the lesson they took away. In helping college students make career decisions he guides them to go for what excites them, to pursue their passion or what makes their heart beat faster, another lesson from his father!

I like Mr. Smith’s style and perspective; it’s positive, no-nonsense and progressive. With this kind of leadership, more corporate environments would be both humane and fulfilling!

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Dogs are very smart

I am a dog person. I playfully postulate that there are two basic sets of humans: dog people and non-dog people. If you are a dog lover then this article by David Hochman in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times is worth reading. The thesis is that dogs are far smarter and more capable than many people realize. For instance, a 9-year-old Border Collie in South Carolina may know up to a thousand words. Another dog in Japan is capable of detecting early stage colon cancer at an astounding 98 percent success rate! The next time you are tempted to believe your dog is stupid, you might want to put a little time, energy, and money into training him or her better. Much like humans, the more stimulation we give our pets in terms of memory and learning the better!

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The value of Communication

Adam Bryant interviews Jeff Lawson, the C.E.O of Twilio, a cloud communications company based in San Francisco in this week’s Corner Office section of the Sunday New York Times business section. An entrepreneur since age 12 when he started a video production business, Mr. Lawson discusses the value of communication and resolving conflict something his crew rarely did in his next enterprise, a dot.com company.

As both a psychologist and business coach , I teach communication at a very high level. My argument to business people is that whatever you learn and practice in your business life can be applied to your personal life and vice versa. Becoming proactive and engaged and learning to address issues head on instead of avoid them is absolutely important in every area of your life and will eventually help you become a much better parent too!

Communication skills, much like many other things in life, improve with patience, practice, and perseverance. If you want to become a better communicator, practice bringing things up. Over time, you will become more discerning and tactful. Remember: the more you practice, the better you get!