Say what you will about Tim Tebow, believe what you want to believe about him because I am not here to sell you on him. I am here to talk about a lesson that became painfully apparent for those watching when he was cut by the New York Jets this off season. It is a lesson to which those of us in the corporate world should pay close attention.
Tim didn’t have the best NFL arm or accuracy, and it ultimately doomed him. But he did have heart, he had hustle, and he was an undeniable leader. When given the chance to play his game, he led my favorite NFL team, the Denver Broncos, to an 8-8 record and entry into the 2011 NFL post season. It was not always pretty but he found a way to win in every game he played. For me as a die-hard Broncos fan for over 25 years, it was great that he made my team fun to watch again since the great #7, John Elway retired. But the idea of being lucky is better than being good led to the end of his time with the Broncos. He was traded in the off season to the Jets.
Rumor has it that he reported to Jets training camp in 2012, after the trade, in the best shape of his life. He had worked all off season on his throwing mechanics and arm motion. Apparently he was the first into the facilities every morning and the last to leave. He worked hard and according to an ESPN report, he had started to build a group of followers and believers inside the Jets locker room by his work ethic. Despite all of this, and perhaps because of his growing support by other veteran players in the locker room, he was cut from the team before this season even got started.
As someone who sees parallels to talent management everywhere, this is a lesson in life and career. To be fair, his time with the Jets was tumultuous. The organization was not ready for the “Tebowmania” that ensued. And with the drafting last week of quarterback, Geno Smith, the Jets put a stake in the ground and ushered in a new era. And Tim Tebow, a good leader, a hard worker, and by all accounts a good person … was unceremoniously sent packing.
Tebow had what can be called signature strengths … an unyielding work ethic, servant leadership, and tenacity under fire. But, he also had critical weaknesses. Weaknesses that ultimately became his derailer. His throwing mechanics, and his arm strength were just not there. He forced teams to change to fit his strengths, because despite all he did he could not change his weaknesses. The result was a chasm that was too wide for him to overcome. His strengths were not enough for the Jets to overlook his weaknesses. And he finally landed on a team that would not change to meet his strengths. He landed on a team where the media hype could not cover up his playing hype.
I have heard some in our profession say that you need to make your weaknesses competently average. And to do that, you need to really emphasize your strengths. Well, we cannot be great at everything. But we do need to honestly look at our weaknesses and decide which of them could be a potential derailer for us. From there, we should ask ourselves, what can we do to get to a minimum level of proficiency in our deficient areas so that these weaknesses do not impact our career opportunities.
The lesson to this story? Hard work, a great personality, a cult-like following, an unbreakable spirit, and flashes of success are sometimes just not enough. No matter how nice you are as a person, if you cannot do the job, or you force others to change the game so that you can play … you may be cut from the team.