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Tim Tebow

When Everyone is Watching…
The truly Great embrace the idea of being a role model.

Quick Disclaimer: I live in Tallahassee and, though I didn’t attend the school, I long ago became a fan of Florida State. And any supporter will tell you it is tough to offer praise of your fiercest rival. That makes this all the more difficult. But while celebrating the opening of college football this weekend, it was impossible not to recognize a person who exhibits so many traits of Greatness down in Gainesville: Quarterback Tim Tebow.

The Florida Gators’ championship season in 2008 didn’t start out as a promising one. They struggled in early wins and then lost, 31-30, to unranked conference rival Mississippi; but the team turned a corner after Tim Tebow made what is now known simply as “The Podium Speech” in which he made a promise that changed their season.

It wasn’t Joe Namath predicting an upset. It wasn’t Tim Tebow guaranteeing a National Championship. It was a leader apologizing to fans and teammates for his poor play, then stating: “A lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country who will play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season.” (View full video)

Apply this Characteristic: "Watch your emotions. If you allow a situation to be perceived as a threat - instead of seeing an opportunity - it releases very powerful adrenal hormones. It changes your focus immediately. You quickly jump to the future. And suddenly, the emotions destabilize your ability to focus." - Jim Loehr, renowned sports psychologistAt that moment, Tebow wasn’t just the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. He was a junior quarterback who was 6-5 as a starter in SEC games and bowl play. It is hard to remember now that before Tebow stood at that podium and laid himself on the line, there were rumblings that he was an overrated collegiate star who had great individual statistics, but couldn’t lead his team.

What changed from that moment at the podium was the Greatness of a leader taking responsibility. The key to what makes Tebow so highly respected now is that when the team failed, he publicly and promptly invited additional attention to himself for the failure and set expectations for change. Because he understood his role as a team leader, he made himself accountable on behalf of his team…and then, as he promised, he Mississippi Rebels v Florida Gatorsbrought the team along with him. All the way to the National Championship.

While I selfishly hope Tebow gets the chance to make another Podium Speech after Florida State’s visit to Gainesville this November, his work on and off the field make him a true study in Greatness.

Tips from the Great Ones

The 2008 season ended with several teams claiming they should play for the National Championship. Several one-loss teams that lost to opponents on the road claimed that they should have gotten a chance before Florida, who lost to Mississippi at home. But Tebow’s Podium Speech resonated with pollsters, who watched Florida run the table the rest of the season and rewarded the Gators with a shot at a second national championship in three years.

tebow4Who knows if Mark Sanchez at USC had done the same thing after the Trojans’ lone loss to Oregon State or if Colt McCoy of Texas had done the same thing after their only loss if their teams would have been in the BCS game at the end of the season instead of the Gators. But they didn’t … and Tebow did, offering a post-game promise unlike anything most college sports reporters had ever seen. As a result, his team was part of the discussion every week until the end of the season. The great ones understand that personal accountability commands respect and inspires confidence.

What are the professional challenges that you are facing with your team right now? Even if you have suffered losses or set-backs, you should never accept defeat. By stepping up and publicly acknowledging your absolute dedication to improvement, you can earn the respect of even your staunchest critics.

Try it today within your work team. If your performance has been lacking, don’t be afraid to say so. But also reassure your colleagues of your commitment to them, to your company, and to your clients. By accepting responsibility, you can create a culture of accountability within your organization and put yourself in a place to lead your team to its peak. It’s what Tebow did, and it inspired his team to a National Championship.

What can you do in pursuit of Greatness?

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About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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