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Posted: December 01, 2011

Crazy like a Fox

Leadership lessons from the coach and Tebow

TC North

Who'd a thunk it? After starting the season with one win and four losses, the Denver Broncos are now 6-5 and in contention to win the division. Head coach John Fox is proving to be both a courageous and strategically mindful leader. Fox replaced Kyle Orton, a statistically accurate quarterback, with the unproven and inaccurate passing quarterback Tim Tebow-to the rapturous joy of some fans and the chagrin of others.

There's an old adage in sports: "Play your strengths and practice your weaknesses." Fox is playing his strengths. He didn't just change quarterbacks; he changed his whole offense to fit the strengths of his new quarterback.

Fox's new offense to maximize the use of Tebow's physical skills and insert him in a leadership position makes use of his greatest strengths. His mind. His beliefs. How he thinks. He has the same belief that John Elway had: If the game is close in the fourth quarter, it's their game to win. And for both of these men, their belief was so strong that the whole team believed it with them.

There is much we can learn from Tebow's mindset. But first, I'd like to recognize the business lessons we can learn from Fox:

1. Be courageous. Fox had the courage to change quarterbacks and to change the whole offense to fit his new quarterback.

2. Be willing to change a short-term strategy when your current strategy is failing. So often in business, we just work harder at implementing a failing strategy.

3. Remove underperformers from a team, even when you like them. From what I know, Kyle Orton was a consummate professional who was liked and respected. But he seemed to lack the intangibles-the mental and emotional characteristics-to lead the Broncos to become a winning team.

4. If you cut an underperformer who has good character, help him find a new job aligned with his strengths. The Broncos did this by releasing Orton rather than keeping him as a third-string quarterback. This was good for both the Broncos and for Orton, who is now playing with the Kansas City Chiefs.

5. Recognize the intangibles in people. What are the intangibles in managing and leading in business? Everything that raises the passion, commitment, courage and confidence of individuals and teams, resulting in higher performance. Tebow has poor throwing mechanics but has inspired his whole team and raised its level of play. His attitude and his belief in the team's ability to win have infected everyone-players and coaches and even the fans. Emotional intelligence is one of the great intangibles of business; it separates great managers and leaders from the rest. In business, look for people with emotional intelligence, they can excel.

What are the characteristics that make Tebow a great leader?

• Belief the team will win.
• Work ethic. It's been reported he works harder than anyone on the team.
• Higher consciousness. He demonstrates this in two ways. One, he is the consummate team player, and two, he knows football is a game, and he has a higher purpose in life.
• Undousable fire. He has a fire, a passion that burns so hot that it affects everyone on the team.

We in business talk about using our people's strengths (I hear the phrase "Have the right people in the right seats on the bus" bantered about often), but for the most part, we put people into a box on the organizational chart. Fox put Tebow in the organizational chart's box labeled "quarterback," but when he did, he dramatically changed the role and expectations. How often do we really do that in business?

We are now finding that emotional intelligence is a critical success factor in being a highly effective manager or leader. In fact, the higher you climb the corporate ladder, the more important emotional intelligence becomes, until it actually overtakes technical knowledge as a success factor.

So, Broncos fans, let's enjoy the quandary of the team's success, and let's learn the value of the intangibles from Fox and Tebow- emotional intelligence in business.
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Dr. TC North is co-author of the Amazon bestseller Fearless Leaders. For 28 years, he has been a high-performance executive coach and speaker who helps individuals and organizations identify and attain their visions and dreams. He also has coached professional and Olympic athletes in the art of creating thoughts and emotions that maximize success. He’s a professional speaker on “Fearless Leaders” and “Master Fear.” Dr. North’s work has been featured on TV and radio and in business and scientific journals. Learn more at Contact Dr. North at 303-665-8920 or, or connect on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.





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Readers Respond

Hi Carol, it's great to hear from my mentor of so many years ago. Would love to see you. You can copy this link and send it in an email I hope you are well. Please feel free to email me directly! By TC North on 2011 12 07
very well done,TC. wish I knew how to email it to my businessman son , who is also a football fanatic. I'll figure it out, but could you add a print email share button to this site so your words of fun and wisdom can be easily shared? Or is that hard to do? By carolschneider on 2011 12 07
Debbie, thanks for your comment! Did you hear coach Fox after the game yesterday? During his post game interview he said something like, "I'm a believer [in Tebow as a quarterback]!" And Tebow had a quarterback rating of 149 ... not bad for a guy that's still learning, eh? He's a leader ... By TC North on 2011 12 05
I agree - in these times it is often the intangible qualities that can overcome challenges in business orlife when you work hard and practice hard at the tangible. Great energy and belief outranks everything! Thanks TC! By Debbie Hindman on 2011 12 04
Thanks, Aimee! Glad you enjoyed the analogy and the insights! By TC North on 2011 12 01

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