I witnessed something that had me chuckling this week. On the day following our Houston Texans winning their first division title and our New Orleans Saints clinching a playoff spot as well (my family claims 2 teams), my football-crazed younger son wore an orange #15 Tebow tee-shirt to school.
And we’re a Drew Brees house! Blasphemy!
There have been few things I’ve found more entertaining over the past two months than the hyperventilating over the Tim Tebow phenomenon. My running line has been one I’ve used about certain politicians. If for no other reason, I like some people because they make all of the right people angry.
And in a world in which sport stars are forgiven just about every felonious act you can list, you can physically trip over the hypocrisy of some folks who are “turned off” by Tebow. But that’s a story for another outlet and another day.
I give credit to ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer for pointing out something insightful after Tebow’s press conference following the Chicago game. Dilfer smiled while shaking his head and told parents that they should get a recording or transcript of that press conference. He said, “Tell your kids that this is how to handle yourself when given praise.”
I smiled hearing that because I was thinking a similar thing. But I wasn’t thinking of kids. I was thinking of managers. Mr. Tebow consistently deflects praise from himself to his teammates.
In the middle of hysteria, when even snarky reporters are now saying “Tebow Time” in a non-pejorative manner; when most humans would be soaking up the praise (Remember that he was demoted to 4th string in the preseason), he refuses to take the credit for his team’s success.
At most, he’ll talk about his role and how his teammates “make him look better than he is.” Perfect.
Smart leaders realize that their personal success is dependent on the efforts and accomplishments of their teams. They tend to accept responsibility for failure and shift praise to their teams when successful.
Teams will give everything they have for leaders who publicly acknowledge their efforts in good times and also “have their backs” when times are tougher.
Make a point this week to acknowledge the teammates helping you move the ball down the field.
Taking a knee and bowing your head are optional.
The book I’m currently reading has been a pleasant surprise. Truth be told, I purchased it for less than scholarly reasons.
I was preparing for an 8+ hour flight and hoped to sleep on the plane. I figured a thick book written by an economist had to be a sure sleep-inducer. I picked up “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman and prepared for a nap. Surprisingly, the book didn’t make me sleepy. (The movie “Horrible Bosses” did. But I digress.)
Kahneman helps readers understand how our brains take in information and how we make decisions. One chapter that I found myself rereading is titled, “The Associative Machine.”
Kahneman discusses the impact “priming” has on us. When folks were asked to work on puzzles that included words associated with old age, they later moved and walked more slowly to their next station when compared to other control groups whose puzzles did not include those words.
When other groups were asked to walk at a slower pace than their norm for 5 minutes and then given word recognition tests, they were more adept at identifying words linked to old age like “forgetful,” “old”, and “lonely.”
Another study had students give their opinions on the humor level of Gary Larson’s “The Far Side” cartoons. When students held pencils horizontally in their mouths (simulating a smile), they found the cartoons funnier. When they held a pencil with the eraser in their mouths (producing a frown), they found the cartoons less humorous.
These examples had me smiling and reflecting on how contradictory we things called “humans” can be. On one hand, we are the most sophisticated and complicated vertebrates on the planet.
On the other, we can have our cognitive abilities and emotional landscapes influenced by the angle in which we hold a pencil in our mouths.
Okay, I wouldn’t suggest a new management edict that we keep horizontal pencils in our mouths while interacting with customers and each other.
But we all just might benefit from recognizing how everything from the things we choose to read to the body language we choose to exhibit influences our very perceptions of the world around us.
I’ve long advised that folks keep a “Be Nice” note on their desks and near their phones.
I may add “Smile” and “Pick Up Your Step” notes as well.