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January 5, 2012

Tebowing Your Small Business: Clutch Performance

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The craze sweeping the nation this winter season comes from the NFL. Of course I’m talking about Tebowing, originated by Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, and you either love him or hate him. Purging religious beliefs from the equation, Tim Tebow along with the Broncos have strung together a series of impressive comebacks before recently bowing 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 management lesson in this over-hyped story for small company owners, executives and corporate officers?

Tebow’s type of play has been derided as unsustainable, tagged as downright ugly, and parodied on Saturday Night Live. It’s also been applauded by evangelicals, adopted by presidential candidates, and embraced by middle-America. Yet the most exceptional thing that this phenomenon 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 Gretsky. Tebow is the latest, albeit more unconventional representation of clutch production in crunch time. But is it abrupt, divine intervention, or a predictable strategy?

Fit Your 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 coaching staff kept it very simple, dumbing down the playbook, or so it seemed, so Tebow could get by. In a pass-happy, copycat league that is the NFL, Denver went almost wholly to a game plan of running the ball and clamping down on defense. With a few deviations, it worked. The coaching staff made the unconventional routine, shortened 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 and hard work than traditional passing talents.

There is more than one way to succeed!

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 human 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, operating systems and capital. This is standard SWOT analysis with a capital S folks. Be aware of your weaknesses and seek to soften them right now by playing to your strengths. Nothing derails a business faster than trying to be what it isn’t.

Keep in the Game Until the 4th Quarter

The Denver game plan is playing to the strength of a running game that wears on the other team, shortens the game by exhausting 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 predictable. The other team is exhausted, discouraged that this bible-thumping personality is even close after being statistically dominated for three quarters, and just a bit worried of being another fact on the Tebow legend wall. Perseverance wears down opposition like water in a stream smoothes over the stones.

In business if you have a goal, focus on it like a laser, and keep attempting again and again, success is inevitable as long as you believe it. Top performing sales persons know this when trying to crack the biggest accounts. Manufacturers demonstrate this every day by making things smaller, lighter, quicker and cheaper that do things we didn’t think feasible five years earlier. Set a business goal, create a plan that minimizes risk and moves you continuously toward it, and seize the opportunity when it eventually comes.

Elevate Your Team

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 apologize for 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.”

Amazing! That Tim Tebow– he’s a really fortunate 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 kicks, and receivers had their share of lapses and then some. So what happened?

Leadership by example happened. Nothing sparks the defensive side of the ball more than seeing their second-year passer trying to run over linebackers, and literally 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 hard work department, and suddenly, the whole team is leagues ahead of where it was to open the year.

How do you lead by example in your company? The ways you can are too countless to list. Do whatever it is you ask employees to do, or be ready to when a key employee calls in ill. Pay vendors on a timely basis and watch the company ethics improve. Reward first-rate performance without being asked and everyone starts improving on the job. You are the commander 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 blind optimism, 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 clichés 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 greater will come out of the temporary setback.

How would you run your business if you really believed you couldn’t lose? What product lines would you grow? What people would you hire? The basic fact is that worry over possible results put more stress on us than when the worst actually occurs. I’m not advocating being risky or silly 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 3 things we’ve described: you’ll focus on your strengths, keep regularly progressing toward your goal, and improve the effectiveness of your employees and business partners.

Each of these 4 elements tends to feed the other, and suddenly you’ll find out that your success is more predictable than divinely inspired, although a little bit of providence never hurts.


Karl 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 SiteProNews 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.

4 Responses to “Tebowing Your Small Business: Clutch Performance

    Ha! This is the best title of any article I have read this year, although a bit dangerous in light of the recent performance of Mr. Tim Tebow. I suppose a playoff win might change all of that, but I digress.

    I wanted to comment on what you wrote having confidence and absolute conviction. In general, I agree with this, but I think that a nice warning about absolute conviction is that at time it can lead you to be blind to needed change.

    I agree most of all with your third point – Losers have hope, Winners have conviction. So often I hear people talking about how they hope for this or that to happen, and yet you never really hear winners say something like that. Instead, they go out and make it happen, and you were exactly right when you said it is because of their conviction. Nice article, and again, great title!

    I resemble those remarks. Thanks! The idea of “what would a winner say” is a nice barometer. It can be applied to our politicians.

    That is so true Karl Walinskas. As an author and business man, I can relate to how you said “Tebow is the latest, albeit more unconventional representation of clutch production in crunch time”.I hope more people discover your blog because you really know what you’re talking about. Can’t wait to read more from you!

    Thanks for the kind words Daniel. I present a lot of info here on Site Pro News, but you can also find different stuff back on my blog too.

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