I’ve always been interested in how people think, in relationships. Everything is about relationships. The grocery store I go to is about the relationship I have with people there and how they treat me.
Growing up, I was in a very big family, with six brothers and sisters, lived in the country and enjoyed every opportunity to connect with people at school. I knew when I went to college I wanted to do something related to people, though I wasn’t quite sure what. After changing my major a million times I ended up getting my undergraduate degree in nursing. I didn’t really want to be a nurse, but I thought, well it’s a way to deal with people.
I treated some people in the psychiatric and mental health areas and that captured my attention because I found I was really interested in what motivated people and how they think, the ways they make choices and how they optimized the talent they have. I became a public health nurse working with individuals and then went to graduate school and taught at the University of Wisconsin for awhile.
I decided I wanted to be clinically focused so I went into psychotherapy as a mental health clinician. I started working with mentally ill people through the Brown County mental health system and worked there for 10 years. I was very committed to finding ways to help people optimize even when they had serious illnesses.
As time went on, I decided I wanted to do more with a healthy population and went into private practice, and I started to see some players from the Green Bay Packers. That’s very confidential information, but Green Bay is a small town, so pretty soon Mike Holmgren knew that I was seeing a few of his guys. We had a couple of conversations during which I would share nothing with him and eventually he asked if I would be willing to see them here. I said sure, but I’m still not going to tell you anything, and that’s how it began. This will now be my 18th season working with the Packers in some way.
Then two key things lined up in a way that caused me to have a giant shift in my career. One, the stadium referendum passed and so the venue needed to go to a 365-day operation. At almost the same time, my husband of 20 years developed colon cancer. I took some time off to take care of my husband until he died. As I came back to the Packers, John Jones, who was president at that time, said they would like to use me more to help the organization get up to warp speed with this much larger kind of operation. When Mark Murphy came in as president and was doing some strategic planning, he asked me to work with him on that. We developed a strategic alignment process around how we pursue excellence and how we cascade that throughout the organization.
My role now is to help align people with our true north, being guided by our values. Everything we do has to align to that and everyone in the organization needs to understand what role they play toward achieving that. We have five core objectives that everyone in the organization knows. It takes a lot more energy to reach the end goal if everyone is going in his or her own direction. Cascading that into the organization is working with all the people in the organization, every layer, and helping them understand how they individually contribute. That’s easy to see if you’re a coach, but maybe not so obvious if you’re one of the people responsible for the facilities area. You make the big core objectives real by translating that down to what each person is doing to contribute to that.
It takes all of us to do it, it takes leadership and commitment. Is everyone giving the best of what they have and are we tapping into the best of what they have – have we assessed their talents? We have to hold ourselves accountable for driving that peak performance, on and off the field, because our business is more than what happens on the field.