The craze sweeping the nation this winter comes from the National Football League. Of course I’m referring to Tebowing, originated by Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, and you either love him or hate him. Removing religious beliefs from the equation, Tim Tebow along with the Broncos have strung together a series of remarkable comebacks before recently bowing to the superior Brady Bunch and the New England Patriots. Denver was left for dead on multiple occasions through three quarters plus in games, only to rise like Lazarus to overcome the football Reaper and stand in victory.
Is there a leadership lesson in this over-hyped story for small business owners, entrepreneurs and corporate execs?
Tebow’s type of play has been derided as unsustainable, tagged as downright ugly, and lampooned on Saturday Night Live. It’s also been praised by evangelicals, adopted by presidential candidates, and embraced by middle-America. Yet the most remarkable thing this phenomenon demonstrates is clutch performance, doing your best when it’s all on the line, and it has been on display in sports throughout the decades in names like Reggie, Jordan, Montana and Gretski. Tebow is the latest, albeit more unconventional representation of clutch performance in crunch time. But is it sudden, divine intervention, or a predictable formula?
Game Plan to Your Talent
If you’ve caught any of these Bronco games, you know that a few weeks ago, John Fox and the Denver coaching staff kept if very simple, dumbing down the playbook, or so it seemed, so Tebow could survive. In a pass-happy, copycat league that is the NFL, Denver went almost strictly to a game plan of running the ball and clamping down on defense. With a few exceptions, it worked. The coaching staff made the unconventional conventional, shortened the games, and stayed within striking distance.
Tebow isn’t Peyton Manning or Drew Breese, and their offense wasn’t built that way with the players surrounding the quarterback. Tebow is a gritty, strong, contact-loving athlete who thus far relies more on a big heart and effort than traditional passing skills.
How many ways are there to skin a cat? More than one!
As a leader in business, you may not have elite level talent or the mix of people on your team bus that you may have wanted. So what? Take inventory not only of what human assets you have and what they’re good at, but of the strengths you may have in plant and equipment, intellectual property and patents, pricing, operating systems and capital. This is basic SWOT analysis with a capital S folks. Be aware of your weaknesses and look to mitigate them right now by playing to your strengths. Nothing kills a business faster than trying to be what it isn’t.
Give Yourself a Chance
The Denver game plan is playing to the strength of a running game that grinds on the other team, shortens the game by sapping the clock, and keeps the Broncos within striking distance at the end. It’s this crunch time when Tebow magic happens, but that magic is almost predictable. The other team is tired, frustrated that this bible-thumping character is even close after being statistically dominated for three quarters, and just a bit afraid of being another statistic on the Tebow legend wall. Persistence wears down resistance like water in a stream smoothes over the rocks.
In business if you have a goal, focus on it like a laser, and keep trying again and again, success is inevitable provided you believe it. Top performing sales people know this when trying to crack the biggest accounts. Manufacturers demonstrate this every day by building things smaller, lighter, faster and cheaper that do things we didn’t think possible five years earlier. Set a business goal, develop a plan that minimizes risk and moves you steadily toward it, and seize the opportunity when it eventually comes.
Raise Other People’s Performance
Now this is the leadership goal we all have, to raise the game of everyone in the organization. Easier said than done.
I’ve heard dozens of analysts in recent weeks excuse the Tebow success.
“He’s not the one kicking 59 yard field goals.”
“He’s not playing great defense.”
“He’s not making great catches on poorly thrown balls.”
Wow! That Tim Tebow–he’s a really lucky guy. Let me ask you this, do you think the fact that all of those other players are stepping up is a fortunate coincidence? Before the coaches put Tebow in as a starter, the defense was allowing a lot of points, the kicker was missing field goals, and wide receivers had their share of drops and then some. So what happened?
Leadership by example happened. Nothing fires up the defensive side of the ball better than seeing their second-year quarterback trying to run over linebackers, and actually doing it. Tebow’s not a diva. He gets dirty and bloody, playing more like an offensive lineman than a quarterback. The last thing anyone else on that team wants is to be shown up by this kid in the effort department, and suddenly, the whole team is leagues ahead of where it was to start the year.
How do you lead by example in your business? The ways you can are too numerous to list. Do the things you ask employees to do, or be willing to when a key employee calls in sick. Pay vendors on a timely basis and watch the company ethics improve. Reward superior performance without being asked and everyone starts improving on the job. You are the leader of the company, and everything you do is being watched and emulated. Be aware of it and you’ll raise the performance of your team like Tebow does.
The Strategy of Conviction
The Tebowing process of falling to one knee in prayer or thanks, the humble pep talks in the huddle, and the poise under pressure are the body language not of hope, but of belief. When belief is followed by action, it becomes conviction, and that is contagious and hard to stop.
One of the biggest business clichés going is that Hope is Not a Strategy. Well here is the strategy of conviction, the absolute certainty that things will work out as good as they can, and when they don’t, something even better will come out of the temporary setback.
How would you run your business if you really believe you couldn’t fail? What product lines would you grow? What people would you hire? The reality is that worry over possible outcomes put more stress on us than when the worst actually happens. I’m not advocating being risky or foolish with your money or time. What I am saying is that if you have absolute conviction in your course of action, you’ll begin to do the other three things we’ve talked about: you’ll focus on your strengths, keep persistently progressing toward your goal, and improve the performance of your employees and business partners.
Each of these four elements tends to feed the other, and suddenly you’ll find out that your success is more formulaic than divinely inspired, although a little bit of providence never hurts.
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