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Tebow, The Christ: All Rights Reserved

Really? Really, Tim Tebow (said in my best Seth Myers voice during his “Really” segment on Saturday Night Live). Newsday was the first to report Tebow has a trademark. Yes, you guessed it; his ubiquitous “tebowing” now deserves an all rights reserved by NY Giants attribution when done hence now and forever more. The copyright was issued on October 9th, 2012. So, what does this actually mean? Will it now be illegal to tebow if you are not a Giant? Or if you are not Tebow? Can you still genuflect if you hold Buddah as the almighty? Or is it only if you hold Christ as your king? More than that, this trademark signals the slippery slope of declaring a brand that is not only aspirational but that is unsustainable. I present to you the cementing of “Tebow: The Christ” as Tim Tebow’s official brand.  Insert last nail in coffin.

No, wait, hear me out; this is only a thought exercise about branding Tebow, the Christ and not a literal critique of Tebow, the man. The mere suggestion that the two could actually be different things might puzzle and confuse some people and if it has confused you, I have already lost you. But for the rest of you, join me on this thought exercise. There is the immaculate conception, virginity, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, missions across the globe, and preaching to lost souls. These are all activities Christ and Tebow share. (Maybe, there was no true immaculate conception in Tebow’s case but he is a strong pro-life advocate because his mom was told to get an abortion by a doctor when she was pregnant with him and she did not. As such, she considers him a “miracle baby”).  Still, though he does not himself strike the comparison directly, Tebow is not shy about touting these parallels implicitly. He has in essence propped himself up on a pedestal and many in the media have leveraged this self-labeling and branding for their own commercial benefit. Encouraging hero worship in the general population sells books and newspapers and draws people’s attention.

Not sure how such photos encourage teens away from sexual activity, but I guess if you “Tebow” before and after such warm embraces, it might work.

Don’t get me wrong. In a world of oversexed, overindulgent, spendthrifts parading themselves as celebrities and even — if they are more unwise than they appear — as role models, Tebow’s brand appears refreshing on the surface. However, most people — especially the millions of teenagers (boys AND girls) that look up to him — are not prone to being able to resist the less than sanctimonious life he apparently lives.  So, the question then becomes: what do these kids do when they actually have sex? What do they do when they may become more pluralistic about faith after taking their first religion or theology course in 10th grade? Do they abandon any conception of morality because they aren’t perfect? Hey, these are just questions.

My hope is that Tebow never falls, never waivers, and never goes against any of the central values he upholds. However,  if he does, I hope he does what I would encourage anyone that has a leadership role to do: tell the truth. The worst thing anyone can do is lie after it is determined they have been dishonest — especially a person we liken to a deity. Even though Christians are taught to forgive, it is hard for them to do so in reality and even harder for them to forget. A deity’s transgression can forever tarnish a brand and even a legacy. (see Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Barry Bonds, and Mark McGwire for a few references here and they weren’t making any allusions to Christ). So, when crafting your leadership brand make sure you allow a bit of room for your own humanity, because selling yourself as a deity is though strangely sexy an unsustainable pursuit. Vote for a more authentic leadership brand (where transparency and humanity are king), and this way you never have to backpedal (or relinquish trademarks).

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The Alex Rodriguez Effect

Alex Rodriguez has been a force to be reckoned with since his entry into professional baseball in 1993.  His stats are undeniable. Rodriguez is considered one of the best all-around baseball players of all time. He is the youngest player ever to hit 500 home runs, breaking the record Jimmie Foxx set in 1939, and the youngest to hit 600, besting Babe Ruth’s record by over a year. Rodriguez has fourteen 100-RBI seasons in his career, more than any other player in history. On September 24, 2010, Rodriguez hit two home runs, surpassing Sammy Sosa’s mark of 609 home runs, and became the all-time leader in home runs by a player of Hispanic descent. But whether or not you agree with the calls for his ouster behind his declining performance and most recently his antics flirting with a fan in the stands, Rodriguez reminds us that perception is important.

A leader understands that it’s not all about me. A leader understands that the team needs me as a member of the unit. A leader gets that, yes, there are people on the team that perform better and that may get more attention but it is how that star performer deals with the extra attention that could help or hurt the morale and inevitably the performance of the team. A-Rod, as he is affectionately known as, has vacillated when it comes to understanding these leadership precepts. No one is perfect or infallible. However, when your team needs you, it might help if you can keep your eye on the ball and nothing else. Or at least give us the impression that you are doing so. Because one thing you can never fault Steve Jobs for is letting you think that even in the midst of cancer he was yet capable of winning — winning more share of market, winning more share of consumers’ affinity for his company’s products, and even winning his battle against pancreatic cancer. I personally thought he was a superhero and totally capable of taking cancer down like he does his competition.

Though Jobs eventually succumbed to the disease, his winning streak still lives on in his legacy and TEAM APPLE’s performance. A-Rod may need to use his iPad and crack open Jobs’ memoir and see through Jobs’ example that though image is not everything it sure does matter when you are the leader of a team.


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Your Compass

by Patrick Parks

YOUR DREAMS serve as your personal compass

when you are your most uninhibited

when you have no fear

when you are not able to get in your own way

you fly, you move forward, you are triumphant

you are able to give completely

without a notion that winning is not possible

when you awaken

what makes you lose this gravitational pull to your greatness…

i know

i am going to tell you

if you ask

i will help you find your compass again


More than anything coaching is about a few things:

1. Insight (self-insight and the insight of others that support you in your journey that function as an accountability system )

2. clarity of vision

3. action planning / actionable intelligence

4. execution

5. course correction

6. refueling and resting

7. arriving at your destination

8. charting a new course (and starting again)

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Honey Boo Boo, move over: Here comes Malala Yousafzai – A Leader on the Rise

“You better redneck-ognize.” Said with such sass and fervor, the now ubiquitous Honey Boo Boo is everywhere I turn around. Access Hollywood. Jimmy Kimmell. Red carpets.  The White House. Well, not just yet, but she might as well be. In any case, you cannot be mad at the little girl because she is just being herself and enjoying the ride — all the way to Toys R Us. And though, I admit that I have watched Sugar Bear and Momma Boo Boo on and episode or two, I want to put the spotlight on a young girl not much older than HBB. Malala Yousafzai is a leader on the rise and a role model to the world.
Malala is not even 16 years old yet and has been an outspoken activist for change in her native Pakistan since she was 11. She has been so courageous and vocal about her beliefs, values, and political stances that she almost became a martyr this month for her causes — chief among them being a woman’s right to an education. Though I am not as politically well-read as I used to be during my CIA days, I keep up with global issues just to have a general sense of what is happening in the world. To know that some women are denied or being intimidated aggressively when it comes to pursuing an education pains me. However, to know that it took a little girl under 16 years old to truly champion the causes emphatically enough to garner a sufficient level of international attention hurts deeper.
It hurts deeper because it signals a dearth of leadership in her community. Yes, there are many oppressive strongholds and entities that seek to keep people from rising up against Taliban forces in Pakistan but how is it that a 16 year old girl has more courage and force of life than anyone in her immediate environs. Even still, Honey Boo Boo needs to take a few hints from Malala. We all do. Malala shows us that courage, vision, a hope for the future, and a fire in your soul can mobilize a team, a community, a nation, a continent, and even a world. That is what leadership is all about. But don’t get me wrong, I do not want to take the fun out of everything and tell HBB to get off the air. No, No, No. Why I’d never. However, I would like TLC’s next reality tv show to be “Malala: A Leader on the Rise.” Wait, who am I foolin; HBB is on Leno right now. Gotta go.

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Upon first meeting someone, people generally follow this line of questioning: What is your name? Where are you from? What do you do? ….When I answer that last question with “I am a leadership coach” most people’s next question is “what exactly is that?”

Many people have heard of an executive coach or leadership coach but have never met one in the flesh. I liken the look on people’s faces when I tell them my profession to that of a person that has just seen a unicorn. Still, the question remains “What exactly is a leadership coach?” Well, the answer to that question is both simple and complex all at once. Put simply, a leadership coach is a person that coaches people on being a better leader. Ground breaking definition it is not but that is the simple answer.

The more convoluted answer is in how the individual coach approaches that objective of making the person a better leader. Most often, the best leadership coaches have a strong understanding of behavior. Therefore, someone trained in psychology is best suited for this role. However, experience in leadership roles can definitely augment and sometimes take the place of that academic training. But just because a person was a top performer doesn’t make them a good leadership coach. Leadership involves enlisting and enrolling others to accomplish a goal or set of objectives not just enlisting one’s own skills and capabilities. Similarly, if a person can’t tell you why or how they were effective then its not likely they can tell you why  you are or are not effective. Still, what maketh a great leadership coach is as variable as the answer to the question of what maketh a great leader — it depends. But once you have found a coach you feel you can trust and that demonstrates a deep understanding of behavior, the next step is defining why you need a coach?

There is no one reason why people get a coach? Similarly, the types of coaches  (leadership, executive, business, life, relationship/marriage, etc.) create more specificity and directional focus on the answer to this question. Still, if you desire coaching as it relates to your job or career, here are just a few reasons why a person might get a coach?

  • My boss tells me I have untapped potential but he or she has given me little to no guidance on just what that means.
  • I know I have barriers blocking me from doing better in my current role but I would like more guidance on codifying what those opportunity areas are.
  • For some reason, I cannot get past a certain role or level; I just can’t make director/partner/VP/SVP/CEO
  • I am in a leadership role and sense  that I could be doing better if I had more understanding of how to create change in others.
  • I am a first time leader and know I need help.
  • I feel like I would be better starting my own company than working “here.”
  • I don’t know why my job is making me unhappy.
  • I don’t know what my passion is? Am I in the wrong career?
  • I want to make a cross-functional move but fear it could be career suicide.
  • Am I as good as my functional peers?
  • Am I as strong of a leader as I think I am?
  • My team is not delivering the results I know they can deliver – is it me, them, or both?
  • I am not leading my life in the way I want to?

Most importantly, I advocate people getting coaches if they a) want to gain better awareness as to why they are not creating the impact they want, and b) most importantly if you actually are willing to change to get to your desired result or destination. In short, do not seek coaching if you are not open to change. Because what I know for sure is that if after answering the questions “What do you do?” and  “What is a leadership coach,” and the person’s next question is “do you think you can help me?;” I think the person asking me that last question is already halfway there on their way to the results they desire.

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FALLING FASTER THAN THE SPEED OF SOUND: Three Simple Ways to Find Your Inner Felix Baumgartner

If you were anywhere but under a rock this morning, you have heard about Felix Baumgartner. If you haven’t heard about or seen Felix yet on the news, well, you will as soon as you turn on your television. Felix just set a world record. The Red Bull YouTube channel reports:

“After flying to an altitude of 39,045 meters (128,100 feet) in a helium-filled balloon, Felix Baumgartner completed a record-breaking jump for the ages from the edge of space, exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier flying in an experimental rocket-powered airplane. Felix reached a maximum of speed of 1,342.8 km/h (833mph) through the near vacuum of the stratosphere before being slowed by the atmosphere later during his 4:20minute long freefall. The 43-year-old Austrian skydiving expert also broke two other world records (highest freefall, highest manned balloon flight), leaving the one for the longest freefall to project mentor Col. Joe Kittinger.”

No doubt RedBull and Felix will be able to capitalize off of this historic jump well until he drinks his last RedBull. But, I would like to use his jump and preparation therein as a metaphor for how any change we undertake requires these three things (at a minimum):

1. VISION: Where do you want to be? Where do you see yourself in “X” days/weeks/ months/years/decades from now? What is the vision you have for yourself? Have you written your vision and made it plain?

2. A PLAN: How have you prepared yourself and what is your plan? Is there a plan B? Plan C? What will you do if something comes up that you did not predict? Have you prepared yourself to handle unforeseen obstacles or unforeseen reward?

3. SUPPORT: “I will be there to catch you when you fall.”  You need others to hold you accountable to your goals along the way. Just as much as you need others to be there when you fall to help you get back up. Further, and maybe the less obvious support you need, is your own personal parachute. How can you create reinforcing systems within yourself to make sure you are not only staying on course but to know how to recover when the “crazy spin” of life happens to find a smooth patch of air before reaching your destination. You will need self-correcting systems. Such systems could include journaling, making video diaries, meditating, and any other form of reflexive activity that you can use to track the ebbs and flows of your journey. Comparing and contrasting your progress overtime will no doubt help you course correct quicker than if you weren’t looking for patterns and trends in your own behavior.

So where is my inner Felix? Well, I often tell people about a time when I was interviewing for a job in 2007. I knew one of the big requirements of the job would include weekly travel on a plane, and I was literally petrified to fly. So much so, that while I was at Harvard in grad school I would take the bus 36 hours to Memphis, TN — my hometown — to avoid getting on a plane during our holiday breaks. Even still, I interviewed for  the job and received an offer. However, I did not reply back immediately. I prayed. I called a few friends (and maybe even my mother if I am honest). I had to think to myself: “This is a dream job…am I going to let my fear (of flying) stand in the way of saying yes.” Needless to say, I took the job. It changed the trajectory of my life. And now, I have been an Executive Platinum or Platinum frequent flyer on American Airlines since 2007. I have reached that status so many times consecutively that the airlines invited me to their “George Clooney” conceirge key club. And like clock-work,  if I have not already met the agent that meets me when I get off the plane to shuttle me to my connecting flights on their golf  cart he or she will say “You are Mr. Parks? I was looking for someone much older.”

I guess that’s evidence that I am setting my own records. Though it’s not quite in Felix’s rarified air just yet, I can see my inner Felix shining through each and every time I take flight.

Watch Felix Baumgartner’s historic fall and get inspiration to chart your dreams today.