It all seemed to take place in slow motion. The hit, the pain, the realization, the collapse — the entire sequence of Aaron Rodgers’ season-ending injury took an excruciating twenty seconds to unfold, plenty of time for the consequences of it all to set in for Rodgers and for the millions of fans watching.
5 Business Lessons from Aaron Rodgers’ Season-Ending Injury
- Businesses cannot depend on one person alone. It takes a team.
- Every company needs contingency plans to deal with failure and change.
- Bench strength, particularly in management, is essential.
- Adaptability and resiliency are crucial to success.
- Strategies need to be examined and re-evaluated constantly.
First game of the season, four plays in. Not the debut anyone expected.
Business is no different. A company can create tremendous momentum behind a new leader, product, merger, expansion or any other type of change, only to watch the desired result slip away.
So what can businesses learn from Rodgers’ season-ending injury?
Teams Have Many Players
Whether you are leading a football team, a hospital, a manufacturing company or any other kind of organization, staking the outcome of your growth and profitability on one or a few individuals is a big risk.
In professional sports as in business, success requires a strong team, and strong teams are built on many elements moving in a synchronized manner.
There is a delicate balance between positioning a leader to become the face of an organization and creating a perception that the individual and the organization are one and the same. Rodgers hardly had enough time with the team to become the new face of the Jets, but his arrival garnered enough attention for him to become the face of their predicted salvation.
A founder of an organization or a key business leader may become the visible part of an organization, but the heart and soul remain with the team as a whole.
In recent years, personal or executive branding has become the expectation rather than the exception. This is due in part to the rise of high-engagement media platforms and the need for brands to maintain a two-way conversation with their audience.
And while it is easier to connect with a person than a company, organizations are wise to avoid allowing the reputation of any one person to carry customer expectations.
You Need a Strong Bench
Strategies based on key players (or products) are inherently risky. Winning teams have a strong bench of talent and are less prone to debilitating setbacks if individual players get injured.
Businesses should groom potential leaders and equip them with the necessary skills and experience to step into bigger roles when needed. The depth of an organization’s talent and the continual development of its leaders at every level are critical components of highly successful organizations.
Implementing a hybrid leadership model that combines internally developed and externally sourced talent can strike a balance between new perspectives and a stable organizational culture.
But even when you have tremendous talent within your team, finding the right combinations and making it work takes time and commitment.
Have a Contingency Plan
Sports teams, like other organizations, are built on a coordinated plan that showcases the strengths of the organization. In football, the quarterback plays a key role in the overall approach the team takes. The skills of the individual can dictate the game strategy, player selection and recruiting designs of the organization.
Following a setback, do those left on the field, in the factory or in the boardroom continue to execute the strategy using a structured and proactive approach? Or do they stumble, unable to resume the coordinated dynamics when a change in direction or a change in leadership is required?
By planning ahead and having contingency plans for both expected and unexpected outcomes, transitions are smoother and the impact on operations is minimized.
Change is inevitable. Sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it’s negative. Even smart planning can fail when faced with the inevitable difficulties of execution.
Great organizations are inherently more resilient than their competitors. They have people depth and built-in redundancy, and they’re also able to pivot when required.
Part of the reason for this is that they’re synchronized in their actions through effective performance management systems. From the head office to the field, the information their management uses to guide the organization is aligned and responsive to variances that modify the initial plans.
As I discuss in detail in my new book, processes, performance systems and management skills must work together for organizations to succeed over time. It’s the key to building an enterprise that continuously improves.
Re-evaluate Your Strategy
We often don’t know what the full impact of an injury, a failure or a flop will be. Sometimes the biggest failures can lead us to our greatest strengths.
With any luck, Aaron Rodgers’ injury will heal quickly, but the short term presents some very real challenges to the organization’s planning. The Jets will require a responsive pivot and a solid overall results strategy focused on its core strengths if the organization is to emerge stronger after this setback.
While the twenty seconds of Rodgers’ Achilles injury may become the most memorable of the Jets’ season, or at least the most talked about, it’s all the moments that follow that will make or break the dynamics of the team.