In the 90s I listened to The Ticket, a high-performing sports radio station, almost every day. When anyone called in, the first words out of their mouth was their affiliation. In keeping with that tradition, my affiliation is the Green Bay Packers. Since my youth, I have been a fan and remember Superbowl Packers starring in my early readers. As a devoted cheesehead, this blog is hard to write.
Aaron Rodgers is the best QB I have ever seen play. He and the Packers exemplify research findings such as the top 5% of the workforce produce 26% of the value, and that suggest “top performers produce 20 to 30 times more than the average employee in their fields.” The research is clear that when stars like Aaron are on the field, they are extremely valuable.
Since the 90s, Psynet Group has assessed a lot of stars and we’ve seen how organizations react to them.
High-Performers are Sometimes Sabotaged
Elizabeth Campbell of the University of Minnesota may have had Aaron in mind when she studied groups ranging from hair stylists to MBAs and found that high-performers are often negatively targeted and even sabotaged by the rest. The Greg Jennings interview with Colin Cowherd is one example that Aaron Rogers may have triggered a similar reaction.
Social comparisons to stars can compel average performers to bond and support each other in their mediocrity. In some business cases, this empathy toward others of similar status has led to inappropriate, unethical or even illegal behavior toward people viewed as stars. One Psynet client calls it organ rejection whenever she fails to integrate a high performer into her group.
And an Exception…Toxic Cultures Can Be Repaired
Not only have we assessed a lot of stars, we have repaired and healed several toxic cultures. This process almost always includes reworking an organization’s relationship with its stars.
Our goal is to fill organizations with stars but leverage them to make those around them better. This requires others in the organization to perceive four characteristics in their high- performers. We call them the four pillars of trust.
Psynet Group’s Four Pillars of Trust
Competency makes someone a star in the first place. You must be talented to be a star. Rudy of Notre Dame Fame may inspire but I doubt he is in the Notre Dame football hall of fame or record books. However, Aaron Rodgers is a guaranteed first ballot hall of famer.
It is Aaron’s competency that makes him a star. However, the remaining three pillars may explain how he triggered a toxic reaction in Green Bay.
Character is the blend of predictability and ethics. Stars with high character hold values that guide their behavior. Others can predict their behavior because they know what is important to them. Aaron Rodgers emphasized the importance of character recently on the final Kenny Mayne show when he said:
“Love the coaching staff, love my teammates, love the fan base in Green Bay. An incredible 16 years. It’s just kind of about a philosophy and maybe forgetting that it is about the people that make the thing go. It’s about character, it’s about culture, it’s about doing things the right way.”
Another player referred to Aaron in a report by Ty Dunne, saying, “You can’t live like that, man. The people who live like that end up getting f–ked over. …, but he’s so prideful and will never admit he’s wrong. Ever.”
Ethics are about values, and values differ. All values are prioritized and when those values are not aligned with others in the organization, the perception is that there is a character problem.
Despite Aaron’s emphasis on character, his values are not always aligned with his teammates. Even his brother Jordan suggested Aaron’s values were very different from others in his family. The lack of alignment with the Packers and his family is likely a key cause of the toxic reaction.
Likability and Culture Fit
These stars are genuinely interested in others. They smile often and know when to play and when to be serious. Aaron is famous for his playful antics that range from crashing fraternity mixers to photobombing the captain’s picture before games.
Of course, the Aaron Rodgers brand of goofiness is not for everyone. Sports Illustrated ran a story in 2015 about how confusing Aaron’s sense of humor can be for some teammates. For those who cannot relate to his humor, his likability and trust factor will suffer.
This is perhaps Aaron Rodgers’ greatest shortfall. CBS Sports quoted several of Aaron Rodgers’ teammates who were critical of him in this area, including Jermichael Finley, who said, “He doesn’t get vocal. He goes into his little shell. He’s not a guy who hangs out with the fellas. He’s really self-centered.” A google search leads to much more criticism than praise when it comes to Aaron’s team-focused behaviors.
Aaron Rodgers may be a star because he is highly competent — and toxic because some teammates perceive a misalignment of values, can’t relate to him, and perceive that he focuses on his personal stats more than team success.
I suspect Aaron would have similar issues in any professional sports locker room.
However, there are cultures where he could be reformed and would fit. I think one of those cultures may be Psynet Group:
- His values of excellence and belief that “it is about the people that make the thing go” would align well.
- Our team loves to laugh, and each of us has a quirky side, similar to Aaron. We even love “The Princess Bride.”
- Aaron has a history of playing through pain to benefit the Green Bay Packers. My perception is that he would do what he could for our team as well.
As for competence as a consultant? We know he is smart after his stint hosting Jeopardy.
Aaron, on the slight chance you are reading this — if Shaquille O’Neal can get a PhD., so can you. We’ll help you study for the GRE and have plenty of data for your dissertation. We would love to have Dr. Aaron Rogers* on the Psynet Group team.
About the Author: Dave Popple, PhD is founder and president of Psynet Group
* All Psynet Group consultants hold a PhD in Psychology