Home Grown Talent – 3 Lessons from the Green Bay Packers

I heard a statistic that piqued my interest last week. 50 of the 53 players on the Green Bay Packers roster have only ever played for the Green Bay Packers. Isn’t that outstanding?! In fact, in doing more research, they have been over 85% “home grown” (applying the Approximate Value metric developed by Pro-Football-Reference.com) since at least 2008. They are by far the leader in homegrown talent in the NFL, and their winning record reflects that. Only two teams in the top 10 ranked “Percent Homegrown” in 2014 had a losing record, when 7 of the bottom 10 teams had a losing record. Even without doing more detailed statistical analysis, the numbers talk. What lessons can an organization learn from one of the leading teams in the NFL?

  1. Draft Well. Aaron Rodgers was passed over 23 times before the Green Bay Packers selected him as the 24th draft pick in the 2005 NFL draft. Look at him now! The Green Bay Packers and Ted Thompson have traditionally played it conservatively and drafted for the long term. They resist trading up and blowing their budget on high ranked players and focus on maximizing their picks to fill their immediate needs as well as needs they know they will have within the next few years. I wish I could read Ted Thompson’s mind; if I could, I would guess that he is looking at a player’s past performance statistics as well as whether he believes he can represent the Green Bay Packers well and be an effective member of the team.

    The Lesson: Do a good job of defining your needs before you start recruiting and consider using a job benchmarking process to fully understand the behaviors, motivators, and competencies an individual needs to perform well and be an effective team member. Select employees that can grow with the organization, have the right behaviors, and a foundation of skills that can be built upon with specific job training. Be cautious when selecting the most highly ranked talent – the goal is to have a high performing team vs. a group of high performing individuals.


  2. Focus on Retention of Top Talent. According to ESPN.com, the Green Bay Packers are the top team in retaining offensive talent – retaining 95% of their offensive snaps made in 2014. In other words, they recognize when they’ve got a good thing going and work to keep it. Sometimes that might mean making some tough decisions at the other end of the talent spectrum – either by paying some lower salaries or by making cuts altogether. While Aaron Rodgers signed a 5-year contract at the draft, you can bet they had a strong message and retention strategy for him to keep him engaged and committed even though he wouldn’t be the team’s starting QB until 3 years later.

    The Lesson: Find out what motivates your top performers. Not everyone is looking for more money. Some may be motivated by being asked to lead a team or special project, a title change, or improvements made to their offices. Create an environment of ownership and empowerment so that they feel connected to the overall goals of the organization, and that they can impact the organization’s success.

  3. Develop for the Future. Randall Cobb only had 25 receptions for 375 yards in 2011, his first year with the Packers. Compare that to 91 receptions for 1,287 yards in 2014, and being named as an alternate in the 2014 Pro Bowl. Jordy Nelson had a similar story with 33 receptions for 366 yards in 2008, compared to 98 receptions for 1,519 yards in 2014. Jordy’s first 1,000+ yard season was in 2011, 3 years after he was drafted. Aaron Rodgers wasn’t the starting QB until 3 years after he was drafted. These are just a few examples. What was happening with these players during the first few years on the team? They were learning the plays and techniques, training their brains and their bodies, and being mentored by some of the best in the league. They were not the all-star pro-bowl players they are now – they made their share of mistakes, and they had good mentors, coaches, trainers, and teammates to help them grow.

    The Lesson: Development, development, development. Provide learning opportunities by letting them play a smaller role in a bigger project. Give them more responsibility as time goes by. Encourage formal and informal mentoring relationships. Teach them the right plays. What are the techniques, skills, behaviors, knowledge and experiences they need to grow into the future leaders of your organization? Take a focused and intentional approach to developing your team.

The Green Bay Packers have had a strong start to the 2015 season at 4-0 so far, even with some key injuries. Their bench strength is proving to be strong despite those injuries, in large part due to their draft, retention, and development strategies.


Wood Consulting Group, LLC’s mission is to partner with organizations to help them achieve their best results by developing their people and creating great workplaces. This will be achieved through training and development, strategic planning processes, employee engagement, succession management, organizational design, team development, performance management, coaching, and supplemental human resource activities. We believe in the power of understanding our own behavior and helping others understand theirs as a foundation for most of our business activities and have partnered with TTI Success Insights to provide the power of DISC, motivator, and competency assessments to our client organizations.


Spring Into Action


We’ve had an amazing few days of mild temps and sunshine here in south central Wisconsin, and the forecast ahead is looking pretty nice too! We don’t usually get to say this in early-mid March, but spring has definitely sprung! For me, spring is a time of renewed energy and focus. I usually feel some pressure to get stuff done before summer comes with long weekends, camping, motorcycle riding, just wanting to be outside spending time with friends and family, and not wanting to work any more than I have to! It’s a time to “spring into action”, so to speak: shake off the winter doldrums, dust off your desk and your strategic plan, revisit your goals and take a fresh, reinvigorated approach.

Dust Off Your Strategic Plan
Whether it was just written in January or has been on the shelf for months or years, this is the perfect time to pull it back out for review. Do a gut check. Is the strategy still relevant? Have you drifted from it – and if so, is that good or not-so-good? Does it need to be updated?

Going through this review always has a way of motivating and inspiring me. If it’s “all good” – that’s great! Now, what progress have you made towards achieving your strategy? Take a few minutes to review, document and celebrate your achievements as well as ask yourself what may be holding you back from achieving more. If you haven’t made progress, ask yourself “why?” Is it uninspiring? Intimidating? Reword it, break it down into smaller chunks, or seek out a coach or mentor to help you.

Don’t have a strategic plan? What better time to look ahead and put some structure to the direction you are taking your business. After all, what gets documented gets done.

Refresh Your Short- and Long-Term Goals
If you are like me, you start off the year optimistically, setting some strong (and perhaps overly optimistic) goals for yourself and your business to achieve in the months and years to come.

  • Do they all relate back to achieving your strategy in some way? If not, then why are they on your radar? If they are important, it’s a sign that the strategy may need to be revised. If they aren’t, maybe it’s time to find someone else to do them or strike them so they aren’t there hanging over your head, weighing you down when it’s time to spring into action.
  • It’s been a few months now – enough time to have a sense for whether they are realistic stretch goals. I mean, it’s a goal, not a gimme, so it should take some effort. Are you and your team prepared to do the work required? Do you need some additional resources?
  • Are they SMART goals? I know, this is often easier said than done, especially the “measurable” step. I have found this exercise to be a valuable one. If I can’t measure my progress in some way, then is it really a goal I should be working towards, or is it just a day-to-day part of getting stuff done?


Do Some Spring Cleaning
I like to take a 5S approach to this, and it can be applied to many areas of your business: your inbox, your staff, your work space, even your services/products and customers.

1. Sort: Only keep what you need, where you need it.When in doubt, get it out. You can always bring it back in later if you realize you do need it.

  • Inbox: Set aside an afternoon and delete, file or archive those old emails! Keep only those you need immediate reference to in your inbox.
  • Staff: Evaluate your staff. Address performance issues. Keeping poor performers or allowing marginal performance only results in holding the rest of the team and the business back from achieving exceptional results.
  • Work space: Keep the things you need to do your job every day within arm’s reach, the things you need once a week in a nearby closet, drawer, or shelf, the things you need monthly in a closet or cabinet, and the things you need less than that can be in another area completely. The goal is to remove clutter, distractions and potential safety hazards.
  • Services/Products/Customers: Joseph Juran’s 80/20 Rule / Pareto Principle states that 20% of your employees/customers/products/services usually account for 80% of your results, revenue and profits. Take a look at your own business – is this true? How much are you investing in marketing and development of the other 80%? As the story goes, you should be spending about 80% of your time further developing that 20% that is working well for you. Are there any products/services/customers that just haven’t proven to be worth the investment? Is there a way to cut them, or at least cut the amount of time you spend on them?

2. Set In Order: A place for everything, and everything in its place. This step is all about making things easy to find, and easy to put back in their place.

  • Inbox: Decide on an email filing system that works for you. How do you normally search for things? By sender/key words/flags/subject? Set up folders that are easy to drag and drop into once you’ve read the email (if you can’t delete it – delete should always be the first consideration!). What works for me is utilizing the “follow-up flags” in outlook to flag messages that need some further attention – this also adds a task to my list to check off. Set up rules to automatically delete “junk” emails and file newsletters or coupons into a designated folder that you can review later when you have the time.
  • Staff: Look at job titles and responsibilities – is this clear for everyone? Are people working on the things they do best? Are they doing work that really should be done by someone else that is the “master” in that particular area?
  • Work space: Label your drawers, files, cabinets, toolboxes, etc. Think shadow boards for items that frequently walk away so it’s obvious if something is missing and where to put it back when you get back into the area. It should be easy for someone not familiar with the area to come into it and find what they need – and put it away when they are done. It saves you time by having to show them and also protects your privacy – who wants people rifling through drawers, papers, etc.?
  • Services/Products/Customers: Is it easy for your customers to see what you have to offer? Can you group like things together in a way that makes sense and helps customers gravitate towards your higher-profit products? Is your website easy to navigate?

3. Shine: Clean and repair! The clutter should have disappeared in the first step, now you can really see where dust, grime, etc. collects. This step is about creating pride in the workplace and making it sparkle!

  • Inbox: Inevitably, there will be some items daily that make it through the steps put in place in the Sort and Set In Order steps. Make some time each day or week to go through your inbox and delete or file those emails.
  • Staff: OK, this might be a stretch, but bear with me. Evaluate your dress code and grooming standards. Are they appropriate for your workplace and the customers you are serving? What about their behavior? If not, take steps to correct this. Coach individual employees or put some clear standards in place.
  • Workspace: As you are cleaning, inspect for damage and repair/replace items as you go. Paint walls and add lighting to brighten up the space. This will all make it easier to see when something is out of order or broken in the future. It’s much easier to see leaks, broken parts, or dripping grease on equipment that is clean and freshly painted.
  • Services/Products/Customers: If you have a storefront, are your products displayed in a clean and bright way where it’s easy to see what you have? Can you further clean up your customer list? Are your marketing materials clear and concise?

4. Standardize: Make it a habit! Set some standards and processes to maintain the progress made with the first three steps.

  • Inbox: Did you know you can color code emails as they come in? That way it’s easy to identify the messages from your manager, employees, or key customers that may need attention more quickly than some others.
  • Staff: Are your job descriptions and employee handbooks up to date? Do you have a good performance management system in place, that makes it easy for employees to know how their performance is evaluated?
  • Workspace: If you haven’t already implemented shadow boards, it also fits here in the Standardize step – it really makes maintaining an organized workspace easier. Implement daily or weekly checklists to review the first three steps or set aside 15 minutes at the beginning or end of each day / 30 minutes at the beginning or end of each week to keep things organized.
  • Services/Products/Customers: Consider implementing a process to evaluate new products, services, and customers as well as periodically evaluating existing products, services, and customers for their potential value to avoid creep in these areas.

5. Sustain: What gets measured gets done. Set up periodic audits to ensure that everyone is sticking to the standards set in step 4. Additionally, review the standards periodically and as changes occur in the business to ensure that they are still relevant and accurate.

Give In To Spring Fever – Have Some Fun!
Everyone around here has spring fever right now, and if we can acknowledge it and channel that energy it’s so much more effective than trying to ignore it and trying to continue business as usual. It’s the perfect time to pull your team together, head outside, do some team building, and have a little fun celebrating where you are and where you are going. Do what make sense for your team and business.

At one of my former employers, we eagerly watched the forecast – sometimes for weeks on end, to find the first sunny day over 55 degrees and quickly pull together a “break in the weather” party. All that involved was heading out to the patio, grilling the first brats and burgers of the season, pulling out the lawn games, and just spending an hour or two together not working. We all went back to work with more energy and focus since we had the opportunity to blow off some steam.

Understanding that this isn’t realistic for everyone, maybe it looks more like starting up a walking club at lunchtime, granting everyone an extra hour or two of paid leave to be used before June at a time that’s convenient for them (and the business of course), or even implementing a “spring into action” challenge or contest related to business targets.

Now, are you and your team ready to spring into action? Feeling renewed and re-energized and refocused? Go knock those goals out of the ballpark before the dog days of summer and vacation season begins! Pick just one of the suggestions in this article, and tell me about your experience in the comments!

Wood Consulting Group‘s mission is to partner with small to mid-sized businesses and non-profits to help them stand out of from the pack and optimize their workforces through training and development, strategic planning processes, employee engagement, succession management, performance management, coaching, and supplemental human resource activities

Addressing the “Jerk Problem”

Recently, Jack and Suzy Welch posted an article on LinkedIn titled “Do You Have a Jerk Problem?” In the article, they talk about 4 types of employees relative to their performance and behaviors, one of them being the “Jerk.” The article stops just short of what managers can do to address the “Jerk Problem.” The Welches define “performance” as delivering results, and this is one point on which I will respectfully disagree with this article. Performance is as much what you achieve (results) as how you achieve it (behaviors). This key belief is one that will help managers address their jerks. Jerk Problem

As stated in the Welch article, the Jerks all too often go unscathed, while continuing to negatively affect those around them. We accept bad behavior because they consistently deliver results. We fail to call them on their jerkiness, often to the detriment of impacting the engagement level, and yes, the ability, of others to deliver results. We do this because we were all trained to link behavioral problems back to business results – and because they are delivering consistently, it’s really tough to do this.

Case in point: I was talking with one of my friends over the weekend about a situation at her workplace, made up of a close knit team of six employees. They finally let someone go, affectionately known as “Eeyore” to her co-workers. Eeyore’s results were always really good, but her behavior was really negative. She worked there for EIGHT YEARS – with the same behavior. She was finally terminated for attendance a couple of weeks ago, and my friend has noticed a marked difference in her workplace. She said that it’s been a much more positive work environment, other co-workers have let her know that they have noticed a positive difference, everyone is happily pitching in to cover the work in the short term (the delivery driver is even filing!), and my friend said that she doesn’t dread going in to work anymore.

So, what’s a good manager to do? As the Welch article states, you just can’t look the other way, but it stops short of offering advice on what to really do about it. I’m going to go out on a limb and say: “It’s OK not to allow bad behavior in the workplace!” It’s OK, as long as you do this consistently for all employees. It’s OK as long as those standards of behavior are clear, and when they are you can treat them as poor performance, just as you do when someone isn’t delivering business results.

Most businesses have a set of core values that define how you’ll do business. Wood Consulting’s core values are growth, partnership, and making a difference. Now, as a sole proprietorship, I have a big problem if I’m not behaving consistently with my values. I think it’s fair to say that all kinds of jerky behavior can be linked to being in conflict with core values. Salesperson being rude or arrogant to the customer service rep or shipping department? That’s a failure to demonstrate partnership. Production refusing to listen to marketing’s explanation of the changing needs of the customers? Failure to demonstrate partnership, failure to grow individually through learning and failure to support the growth of the organization. Maintenance tech refusing to share what he knows about how to fix a particular piece of equipment with other techs? Failure to support growth of others and the organization, failure to display partnership, and failure to make a difference on the long term success and sustainability of the organization!

By failing to address bad behavior, managers are sending mixed messages to the rest of their team and setting the tone that the values of the organization are just words on paper. Those impacted by the jerk’s bad behavior feel that they are not valued by the manager or the organization in general. Employees that don’t feel valued often stop delivering results to their full potential, and depending on the reach of the jerk’s interaction with others, that could be a significant impact on the overall success of the organization.

The bottom line is, jerks need to be addressed. You can’t afford not to!

Wood Consulting Group‘s mission is to partner with small to mid-sized businesses and non-profits to help them stand out of from the pack and optimize their workforces through training and development, strategic planning processes, employee engagement, succession management, performance management, coaching, and supplemental human resource activities.

Workforce Optimization. Organizational Differentiation.

Wood Consulting was formed upon realizing a link between the founders’ passion for making a difference in organizations and communities and the need for personalized support for small and mid-sized businesses and non-profits. Our vision is to be a true partner that helps organizations identify and achieve their goals more quickly, reaching higher levels of success.

What’s in a name?

Wood Consulting represents the last name of the founders, Jennifer and Ed Wood. It also represents their passion for workforce optimization and organizational differentiation.

Workforce optimization is really just that – getting the absolute best effort and results from the workforce of the organization – whether that means improving engagement levels, analyzing recruiting processes to ensure the best fit from the get-go, enhancing their skills through training and coaching, or evaluating the organizational structure.

Organizational differentiation means helping organizations be the best and stand out from the crowd in ways that are meaningful and important to achieving their specific goals. This will take on a different meaning for different organizations – based on the market within which they are competing, existing culture and values, and strategic direction for the organization.

All of the services that Wood Consulting offers tie back to these two basic principles in some way. Contact us by email at woodconsultgroup@gmail.com or phone at (608) 921-2223 to learn more about any of the services offered.