Tebowing Your Small Business: Clutch Performance

The craze sweeping the nation this winter season comes from the NFL. Of course I’m describing Tebowing, originated by Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, and you either love him or hate him. Removing religiousity (my word) from the equation, Tim Tebow along with the Broncos have strung together a series of amazing comebacks before recently succumbing to the superior Brady Bunch and the Patriots. Denver was left for dead on multiple occasions through three quarters plus in games, only to rise up like Lazarus to overcome the football Reaper and stand in victory.

Is there a leadership lesson in this over-hyped story for small business managers, entrepreneurs and corporate officers?

Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow - business lessons you can learn from his football career

Tebow’s style of play has been derided as unsustainable, tagged as downright ugly, and parodied on Saturday Night Live. It’s also been lauded by evangelicals, adopted by presidential candidates, and accepted by middle-America. Yet the most remarkable thing this sensation demonstrates is clutch behavior, 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 unusual representation of clutch performance in crunch time. But is it sudden, divine intervention, or a predictable method?

Focus on What You Do Well

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 basic, dumbing down the playbook, or so it seemed, so Tebow could survive. In a pass-happy, copycat organization that is the NFL, Denver went almost wholly to a game plan of running the ball and shutting down on defense. With a few exceptions, it worked. The coaching staff made the unconventional conventional, cut short the games, and stayed within striking distance.

Tebow isn’t Manning or Drew Breese, and their offense wasn’t built that way with the players around the quarterback. Tebow is a rough, solid, contact-loving athlete who thus far relies more on a big heart andhard work than traditional passing skills.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat!

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 stock not only of what individual resources you have and what they’re good at, but of the strengths you may have in plant and machinery, intellectual property and patents, pricing, systems and financing. This is basic SWOT analysis with a capital S folks. Be aware of your weak spots and seek to soften them right now by playing to your strengths. Nothing wipes out a business faster than attempting to be what it isn’t.

Give Yourself a Chance

The Denver game plan is playing to the strength of a running game that wears on the other team, shrinks the game by sapping the clock, and keeps the Broncos within winning distance at the end. It’s this clutch time when Tebow magic happens, but that magic is almost expected. The other team is exhausted, discouraged that this bible-thumping personality is even close after being thoroughly dominated for three quarters, and just a bit afraid of being another fact on the Tebow legend wall. Persistence wears down resistance like water in a brook smoothes over the rocks.

In business if you have a purpose, focus on it like a laser, and keep trying again and again, success is inevitable provided you believe it. Top performing sales persons 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, establish a plan that limits risk and moves you gradually toward it, and seize the opportunity when it ultimately 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 experts 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 blessed 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 receivers had their share of lapses and then some. So what happened?

Leadership by example happened. Nothing rouses the defensive side of the ball better than seeing their second-year passer trying to run over linebackers, and actually doing it. Tebow’s not a queen. 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 squad is leagues ahead of where it was to begin the year.

How do you lead by example in your business? The ways you can are too countless to list. Do whatevers it is 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 virtues improve. Reward exceptional 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 game of your team like Tebow does.

Losers Have Hope – Winners Have Conviction

The Tebowing process of falling to one knee in prayer or thanks, the self-effacing pep talks in the huddle, and the poise under strain are the body language not of hope, but of belief. When belief is followed by action, it becomes conviction, and that is infectious and hard to stop.

One of the biggest business cliches going is that Hope is Not a Strategy. Well here is the procedure 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 momentary setback.

How would you run your company if you really believe you couldn’t lose? What product lines would you expand? What people would you hire? The reality is that worry over possible results put more strain on us than when the worst actually occurs. I’m not proposing being risky or silly with your money or time. What I am saying is that if you have absolute conviction in your actions, you ‘ll begin to do the other three things we’ve discussed: you ‘ll focus on your strengths, keep regularly progressing toward your target, and improve the effectiveness of your employees and business partners.

Each of these four aspects 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.

Image: Jeffrey Beall / Flickr

About the Author:
Karl WalinskasKarl Walinskas is the CEO of Smart Company Growth, a business development firm that helps small to mid-size professional service firms build competitive advantage in an online world of sameness. His Smart Blog covers leadership, business communication, sales & service, public speaking and virtual business, and was recently named by Buyerzone as one of the Top 20 Business Blogs of 2011. He is the author of Getting Connected Through Exceptional Leadership, available in the SmartShop and Amazon.com, and has been a featured expert for Inc.com with articles published in Selling Power, America Online, and Site Pro News to name a few. Get your FREE LinkedIn Profile Optimization eBook & video course, Video Marketing video and course, or Mastermind Groups e-course & video now.