Most people who read this site know that I am a full-fledged Green Bay Packer fan. Moving from Wisconsin to Illinois (to have to put up with the Bears!), I specifically selected DirecTV because I could buy all NFL games during the season. Including the Packers. Moving to Seattle-land allowed me to join the 300-strong Northwest Packer Backers. Yeah, green and gold flow through my veins…
In March, Brett Favre, the distinguished Green Bay quarterback, retired. I recorded his entire retirement press conference and shed a few tears with him. I recorded and watched, through the magic of TiVo, his NFL Network highlights show and the Super Bowl that he won.
It was the only way I knew how to both celebrate, and, yes, grieve his retirement after 18 years in the NFL. Despite all the back and forth about his retirement in previous years, almost a ritual in Wisconsin, it was clear to me that this was a retirement. Not because he no longer had the skills, but because the grind and the mental discipline were taking too much of a toll to do the job.
There are many lessons for Cubicle Warriors in this tale.
I admired the way Brett left the game. He and his wife, Deanna, were going to take a year off from events. Money was not an issue (and shouldn’t be, given what quarterbacks make and how long he played). He was going to work his ranch in Mississippi and figure out what to do next in his life. Not many people get the chance to go out admired — or adored — by their work.
Brett did. And then he blew it.
This past weekend, he publicly announced that he wanted an unconditional release by the Packers because, to Brett, the Packers didn’t want him to return. This would allow Brett to negotiate with other teams, without compensation to the Packers, and play.
This, although he said he retired. Then, just weeks after the retirement press conference in March, Brett had second thoughts. The Packer management said fine and set up a chartered jet to bring him back. But before that happened, Brett said no again and stayed retired.
Packer management moved on. They needed to because they needed to plan and organize the team without the Hall of Fame quarterback. They drafted quarterbacks. They adapted the offense. They worked the leadership of Aaron Rogers, who has been the backup to Brett for three years.
The Packer management team is taking many hits the last few days by not unconditionally releasing Brett. They are taking heat because they said the team has moved on and if he came back he would not be the starting quarterback. They are being polite, but firm. You can only go through so many hoops with a person who has “the (retirement) decisiveness of a squirrel on a freeway.”
The lesson for Cubicle Warriors?
You build a reputation one play at a time. Judged by what you do with a team. You have ups and downs, but work with people enough times so they work with your strengths. You build integrity and then leadership. You build a following that makes people want to go where you go.
You then take people on an emotional roller coaster ride, blowing all that up by making those heart-wrenching emotions of March now feel cheap. Combine that with the betrayal of integrity and you’ll lose everything you built about your reputation.
Brett has now become a huge distraction on a group of people who have jobs to play on a football team that was one game away from the Super Bowl.
It is a sobering lesson on Personal Branding for Cubicle Warriors.