Interview With Mental Performance Coach Jack Llewellyn
jack-llewellynJack Llewellyn, Ph.D., is a world-renowned sports psychology consultant, author, professor, business coach and motivational speaker. He is the founder of The Center for Winning Performance - a “mental training’ organisation dedicated to helping athletes and other high performers develop and keep a winning attitude to fully reach their potential, both professionally and personally.

Dr. Jack Llewellyn helps clients use the same approach and strategies used by world famous athletes to properly assess their abilities, correctly focus on the right processes to reach goals, thrive on stress and recover quickly from adversity in order to become top performers.

Jack gives more than 40 speeches each year, working with some of the country’s most prestigious companies, and is a frequent news contributor on sports psychology, appearing regularly on CNN and in major newspapers across the country.

So without further ado, allow me to introduce today's guest, Dr. Jack Llewellyn.

Hi Jack, it's great to have you here on Activia's expert insights. When did you realise the value of ‘mental preparedness’, and that you could help others improve this?

Having been an athlete through college, followed by three years of college coaching, it became obvious to me that when athletes of equal talent compete, the athlete with stronger mental development will win most of the time.

During my PhD program at Florida State University in motor learning and sport psychology, I realized that mental develop ment was a neglected discipline in sport at all levels. I actually started sport psychology programs in three universities before founding the Center for Winning Performance in 1982 after having worked with athletes for 10 years.

Your new book, Commonsense Leadership: No Nonsense Rules for Improving Your Mental Game and Increasing Your Team's Performance, has just been released. Could you tell us a bit more about it?

After writing 5 books related to sport psychology, I decided to write a book for the corporate world, applying sport psychology principles to business. The same principles apply to every level of business. With most of my clients, I feel that commonsense is missing. We tend to gravitate toward theory as opposed to using commonsense. A commonsense approach can solve most seemingly complex issues.

commonsense-leadershipHow is this book different from your previous five books?

My previous books targeted athletes and sales groups. This book applies sport psychology principles to the corporate environment.

How has your background in sports psychology influenced your approach to leadership?

During my 45 years in sport psychology, I realized that leaders are most often players on the team, not coaches or managers. Too often we tab corporate officers as company leaders, when, in fact, officers establish an environment in which the leaders on the team can lead.

Good leadership is essential when it comes to sports. How can we transfer these skills into a business environment?

Unlike the corporate environment, sport recognizes that leadership comes from within the team. Traditionally, we describe corporate officers as leaders. This perception may be true in regard to strategic planning and company direction, but the team below the officer level must make the strategy work.

Therefore, it is commonsense the the leaders must emerge from within the team.

You have worked with a number of elite athletes, as well as some of the country’s most prestigious organisations. What common leadership mistakes do you see across every industry?

Industry must place accountability on the team. But more importantly, industry officers must recognize positive things that happen within the team. Industry is still quick to point out mistakes, which is necessary, but reluctant to provide positive reinforcement. This approach develops "coach-conscious" employees. An environment in which employees are playing to not lose, and to not make mistakes, is an environment which will become, at best, a haven for survivors. Zero tolerance for mistakes is detrimental to a winning attitude. If mistakes are not made, then productivity is not very high.

How do soft skills such as communication and assertiveness affect your leadership abilities?

The most important soft skills are recognizing individual assets and liabilities, and learning how to recover quicker from adversity. Team leaders are critical to helping individuals with these tasks. Of course, good old-fashioned communication is necessary within the team, talking with each other.

We have a misconception that social media is a communication tool. Social media is an efficient way to transmit information, but not an effective communication tool. If 60% of communication is non-verbal, then we need to encourage employees to talk face-to-face. Reading body language is a critical tool for leaders. We must recognize that emotion as a supplement to talent separates winners from survivors, whereas negative emotion creates survivors.

Out of all the tips you provide in your book, Commonsense Leadership, which ones do you personally find the most useful?

There are four tips which I structure all my programs around, both in sport and in industry.

a.  Recognize your assets and liabilities and build your mental development around your assets. Don't spend time and energy worrying about your liabilities. Flaunt your assets. Control what you can control, and let the rest go.

b.  Learn to recover quicker from adversity. Adversity is a part of life and business. Winners recover quickly; survivors carry adversity baggage.

c.  As a leader, create a positive, motivating environment for your team. Don't waste time and money trying to motivate individuals. If players are not motivated to be on your team, they should not be on the team.

d.  Stay balanced in your life. Don't put your life into your work. Work is what you do; it is not your life.

Why should everyone work to improve their ‘mental game’?

Very simply because mental development separates you from others who have the same talent as you have. Mental development makes average talent better and good talent great.

In your opinion, what makes a strong leader?

A good leader puts players in an environment to facilitate success.

A good leader creates a positive physical and mental environment for the team.

A good leader promotes risk taking and is always available to help players recover from adversity, which surely comes with taking risks.

A good leader helps players understand that if you don't play to win every day, then you should not play.

What is the one main lesson you would like people to learn from reading Commonsense Leadership?

As the title states, commonsense is the foundation for effective leadership.

Dr. Jack Llewellyn's book, Commonsense Leadership: No Nonsense Rules for Improving Your Mental Game and Increasing Your Team's Performance, is available to order now on Amazon. If you'd like to connect with Jack, you can find him on Twitter at @Center4Winning.