While fans of Tim Tebow will likely vehemently disagree, I’d have to put Denver Broncos GM John Elway in the running for manager of the year. And not just NFL manager of the year — anybody’s manager of the year. Let me be the first to acknowledge that I enjoyed Tebowmania and Tebow Time as much as anyone. As I wrote here during football season, I thought Tebow and his coach Jon Fox did a masterful job of figuring out how to use his skillset to maximum advantage. For most of their run together, Elway came across as the wet blanket at the party. He was polite but sparing in his praise for Tebow because he couldn’t see a long-term plan for winning with the guy. Elway may have been right or wrong on that call. We won’t know how it plays out for the Broncos on that front because Elway went out and got himself Peyton Manning this week.
In moving Tebow aside for Manning, Elway did what a lot of managers have to do or at least should do. In his assessment, he had a good guy working for him that he didn’t think was going to work out over the long run. Especially with the pressure from Tebow fans in Denver and across the country, it would have been easy for Elway to keep Tim, let it ride and see what happened. After all, things could get better. (How many times have you heard that in performance management discussions?) Instead, Elway decided to make the move and go out and get the best quarterback available for his team.
Here are three lessons from Elway that I think managers should keep in mind for the next time they face a talent management dilemma:
- Stay True to Your Standards: In his role as Broncos GM, Elway is the guy charged with ensuring the long-term success of his team. You can agree or disagree with how he wants to build the team, but it’s his call and he stayed true to his standards when there was a lot of pressure to fold on them.
- Take the Extra Steps: As reported on ESPN and elsewhere, Elway flew to see Peyton Manning rather than the other way around. Of all the NFL GMs who wanted Manning, Elway was apparently the only one who made the trip to see Peyton. It’s a relatively small thing, but Manning noticed. When you’re recruiting top talent you’re selling yourself to them at least as much as they’re selling themselves to you. Elway understood that.
- Show Some Grace and Class: Elway’s Manning/Tebow switch was one of those classic it’s not personal, it’s business situations. As reported by Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel, Elway went out of his way to communicate directly with Tebow and to say only the best things about him. “He is a great kid, ” Elway said. “If there is one guy I want to marry my daughter it’s him.” That said, your son-in-law doesn’t have to be your starting quarterback. In a difficult situation for Tebow, Elway did what he could to show respect for him. That’s worth remembering the next time you have to replace someone because the standards for the job don’t match up with their abilities.