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Tampa Bay Partnership CEO Bemetra Simmons: ‘Do You Have a Coachable Spirit?’

In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, Don Yaeger sits down with Tampa Bay Partnership president and CEO Bemetra Simmons to discuss the growth mindset in basketball and business. 

When Bemetra Simmons and her twin sister Demetra were young, their parents told them they were natural leaders, but added an interesting caveat. In Bemetra’s words, her parents said, “You are smart, pretty and funny, but not the smartest, the prettiest or the funniest.” 

So, in other words, plan to work hard and aim high when you compare yourselves against whoever is where you want to be in your personal and professional lives. For Bemetra, this kind of honest self-assessment was sharpened through her participation in sports, especially basketball, a sport she played well enough to earn a scholarship to Christian Brothers University. 

“I’m an athlete at heart so I’m always trying to get better and to be the best,” Simmons noted in the podcast. “And the true competitors aren’t actually trying to beat someone else. They’re trying to be the best that they can be, and the byproduct is that they beat other people because they’re assessing themselves against where they want to be.” As a business leader, Simmons has assessed herself against good enough competition to become an executive at United Way Suncoast and enjoy a lucrative career as a banking executive at Wells Fargo and BB&T before landing at Tampa Bay Partnership, where she serves as president and CEO of the business leadership network.

Simmons says that an important part of being a good athlete or business leader is to cultivate a “coachable spirit” that seeks out opportunities to grow by setting annual goals and reviewing progress on them every year. Simmons takes the self-improvement ethos to an even higher level by finding accountability partners for the different areas of her life. At different times, these areas may include professional advancement, financial matters, health and fitness.

“Having a good accountability partner is also a way to give yourself some grace, because there are some areas where you’ll be killing it and others where you’re coming up short,” she pointed out. In the podcast, Simmons offers tips and insights designed nurture that coachable spirit, including:

• The single most important trait you can strengthen to become more successful.

• The annual conversation she has with each one of her direct reports that’s not about work.

• Why it’s important to discipline yourself not to get too high … or too low.

“As I like to tell people, there are days that I played in the game and I stole the ball from someone at half court, and we won,” said Simmons, who served on the advisory committee for the 2019 NCAA Women’s Final Four. “And then there were other games in which the ball got stolen from me at half court, and we lost. And either way, I learned to tune out the external noise and stay confident.”


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