What Can People Running Businesses Learn From Tim Tebow?

Tim Tebow QB imageEven the media is having a hard time figuring it out these days.  The mystique of Tim Tebow.  He’s a collection of attributes that falls so far beyond the mold for what we expect in star quality professional athletes that we question his persona.  Particularly as an NFL quarterback!  He simply doesn’t match the model that sports fans across the country have come to expect from our precedents in his role.

Yet there is something important that business owners can extract from the disturbance he’s created in the NFL.  Something that may be difficult to translate at the surface, but is applicable to business leaders and managers all the same.

So, how is Tim Tebow most different from what we’d expect?

  1. Mechanics: Awkward throwing motion
  2. Consistency: Cycles between great and and terrible moments in games
  3. Commitment: Football is not the center of his life
  4. Drive: Winning is not everything, it is being his best
  5. High Profile: Humble
  6. Obsessive: Emotionally centered

Because of all this, he’s the talk the news, and not just sports news.  The proclaimed boy leader of a group of grizzled veterans whose toughness you’d be hard pressed to match off the gridiron, he inspires a confidence in those around him that defies our conventional logic.  Criticisms, even after the dismal post-season loss to the Patriots, don’t stick.

How would you like to be the Tim Tebow in your business?  If the answer isn’t yes , stop reading now.

But for those of you still with me, here’s what it’s all about.  It’s a way of thinking about one’s self, more of a code of conscience, that’s been around for a very long time.  But a code that our highest visibility sports icons of the past 40 years not only have left behind, but also seem to have purposely buried through excessive behaviors. What the fervor around the “oddness” of Tebow says is that the traits of the old code are still fundamentally sound — in sports and in business.  They’ve just been overshadowed in our cultures — business and non-business  alike — for a while.

To explain it best, I’m going to borrow from a list penned by a Scotsman, Professor Henry Drummond of the University of Edinburgh, for a lecture entitled “The Greatest Thing in the World” that he delivered to a remote outpost in Africa in 1883.  In it he outlined exactly what mystifies us about Tim Tebow.  A code that’s available to us all, simply as a matter of will.  Good, old fashioned will.

Professor Drummond’s list included:

  1. Patience:  Unlike most of us in our roles as leaders of businesses, Tebow sees his life as a logical progression of unfolding, which brings him opportunities he works to understand and to capture, but in a time frame that makes sense to him — not someone else.
  2. Kindness:  He’s continually conscious about making others — his family, his friends, his teammates, his fans and the kids whose lives he invests in through his foundation — feel better.
  3. Generosity: Here we’re talking about generosity of spirit more than gifting people with material objects.  We’re yet to seen him deride a teammate, an opponent or talk behind a back.  Vociferously encourage, yes, but denigrate, no.
  4. Courtesy:  This is like kindness, above, but in tiny applications.  “Thank you.” “Please”.  “Yes, you’re probably right.  I hadn’t thought about it that way.”  All of these  come from an unconscious caring about how others feel in your presence, and about how you can contribute to moments of happiness when they’re with you.
  5. Humility:  Seeing yourself second.  Giving the victories to others.  Never seeking the center of attention.  And when it does catch up with you, being gracious and coming across as being just as happy if it hadn’t.
  6. Unselfishness: Angling everything you do toward the benefit of others.  And knowing that if you carry this attitude, everything you need for yourself will come your way.
  7. Good Humor:  Even after in bitter dejection, passing it along with a smile and an “I’ll try to do better next time.”  Rejecting fear, shame discord, feelings of want and subjection.
  8. Guilelessness: No suspicion for the intentions of suspicious people.  We’ve never seen Tebow criticize, even someone who considers him their worst rival or threat.
  9. Sincerity:  Finally, Tim Tebow has a way of wrapping up all the other attributes into a package of unquestionable authenticity.

So, how does all of this relate to your job as someone running a company, a division, a group or a team?

Simply write down these nine attributes on a card.  Read it every morning.  Put it on your desk so you can see it during the day.  Then take 5 minutes after closing up shop to think about your day with your card in hand.

Subtly, it will begin to make a difference in how you feel and act.  But the first and most glowing recognitions are likely to come from others you touch.

Just like they do for Tim Tebow.

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