Thursday, March 05, 2009

Terrell Owens: Peak Performance Case Study


Should any NFL team take a chance on Terrell Owens, the recently released wide-receiver of the NFL Dallas Cowboys? Should the Cowboys have released him? Should the Cowboys have ever signed him as a free-agent in the first place?

The Peak Performance System provides us with a useful model to assess Terrell Owens professional equity and value as a performer; past, present and future. Let's take a look.

First of all, the definition of peak performance is the ability of a individual, team or organization to attain a consistent and sustainable high-level of performance over a long period of time. The seven components of what specific behaviors make a peak performer are described below:

1. VISION(ing)-- the over-arching process by which individuals, teams and organizations determine their desired upper-level big-picture, high-impact final result.


What is Terrell Owens' vision? What does he find most important?

T.O. has proven that he clearly values glowing individual statistics, opportunities to showcase his talents, displaying his superior trash talking and opportunities to taunt opponents with post-touchdown rituals and dances. He focuses on personal attention-getting behaviors regardless of their negative impact on the Cowboys. It is all about him rather than his team. Football is a team sport and success is measured by winning and by championships, not individual statistics. T.O. does not have a vision that corresponds to the team or organizational goals of many if any NFL team in the league. He has short-term, individual goals in mind. GRADE: F

2. FAST-FORWARDING-- the ability of individuals, teams, and organizations to identify likely significant barriers to achieving their vision.


Terrell Owens not only lacks skill in his ability to see what barriers are likely to be encountered in achieving team goals; he also seems to have a short-range view of the attainment of his individual goals. He places a much higher priority on his individual goals, but rarely understands the barriers that may hinder him or the team from achieving their long range goals of winning championships. He has yet to take responsibility for his role in the failures of his teams to win the Super Bowl. GRADE: F

3. MENTAL MINDSET-- the ability to consistently remain positive, productive, proactive and focused on team and organizational goals as well as the ability to control his emotions for the good of the whole group.


Terrell Owens has been described as a cancer in the locker room of each team for whom he has played. He has lost the support of every front office, head coach and quarterback for whom he has competed. He has lost his temper and composure while undermining the team at every juncture of his career. Additionally, his reported suicide attempt through drug overdose can hardly be seen as a sign of mental/emotional stability. None of his teams have reached nor won the Super Bowl, the dream of every NFL team.

4. GAME PLAN-- the end product of brainstorming sessions, strategic and tactical discussion that focus on the building of successful behavioral steps required to attain the vision. Game plans require massive amounts of honesty, openness, constructive feedback, communication and cooperation.


Although, Terrell Owens is consistently able to prepare himself physically, he has only periodically been able to follow or support the team game plan. He expends excessive energy questioning the game plan before and during games. He insists instead on having the offense revolve around him in order to maximize the number of catches and touchdowns for whom he is given credit. GRADE: D

5. PREPARATION/REHEARSAL--This refers to the ability to get ready to perform through structured and deliberate behavioral practice and repetition.

On the surface it appears that this is T.O.'s strength. By and large, he demonstrates an ability to prepare and perform at an individual level that is quite high. However, the media circus and series of distractions that surround him can often be more of a distraction than it is worth to the rest of the team. GRADE: C

6. EXECUTION-- This refers to the ability of a team to perform the game plan as designed and to the best of their ability.


Once again, on the surface, T.O.'s star quality, exciting plays and touchdowns can mask his toxic need to be the center of attention. His primary interest is to get the ball in his hands and to prove that he is a great receiver. He prefers to excel individually and to prove that he is the focal point of the team. He is willing to sacrifice team performance for individual star value. GRADE: D

7. REVIEW-- This refers to a winning, competitive mentality that values continuous improvement and learning through the evaluation and re-evaluation of performance for the purpose of eliminating errors and mistakes.


Terrell Owens has demonstrated an inability to learn from his mistakes. His tenure with each NFL team has been amazingly similar with initial periods of good behavior followed by disruptions, temper tantrums, emotional outbursts, and, finally, the inevitable erosion of team chemistry and harmony. GRADE: F


Should Terrell Owens have been signed by the Dallas Cowboys? The signs are clear that the Cowboys have regretably damaged their championship window of opportunity and will have to rebuild their team due to taking a gamble on a troubled, yet supremely talented wide receiver.

Should Terrell Owens be signed by another team? Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. So, I think the answer is clear. No team should take chance on T.O. without accepting the risks and expecting a short period of performance followed by a quick decline of the entire team.
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