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Ep 253: How Diversity and Inclusion Can Drive Team Performance – Workology

Diversity and inclusion are not new ideas in the HR and corporate arena, but in recent months the importance and significance of D&I in the workplace has gotten leaders throughout corporate America to think about what doing the right thing in our community looks like. For many of us in HR, this means we’re not taking our D&I initiatives to stakeholders – they’re coming to us looking for answers. And we must be ready to respond.

Episode 253 – How Diversity and Inclusion Can Drive Team Performance with Jim Rooney (@JimRooney)

I talk with Jim Rooney, business owner, national public speaker, consultant, and author of A Different Way to Win: Dan Rooney’s Story from the Super Bowl to the Rooney Rule. Jim is the son of Dan Rooney, former owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and his book talks about his dad and the work he did in the areas of diversity and inclusion for the NFL. 

Jim’s father, Dan Rooney, took the Steelers from the worst team in the league to one of the most successful. He drafted some of the first black players and was seen as an innovator because of his approach. Dan Rooney was also the league’s diversity committee chairman and the requirement to interview a minority candidate for coaching and executive position bears his name. I asked Jim (for those of us who haven’t heard of it)to describe the “Rooney Rule.”

Jim explains that “The Rooney Rule requires that, when there is an opening for a head coach or general manager position, that there are at least two minority candidates in your final pool of interviewees. This is important to have a diverse slate of hiring, forcing people to bring in folks who may not have had the same experience. Social science demonstrates that having two diverse candidates in the pool starts to break down biases. The league has updated the rule to include assistant coach positions and the VP roles within the organization at the office level.”

Recent events in the United States have shed a lot of light on the topic of racism and equality. I asked Jim for his thoughts on where this leads us and what workplace leaders should be doing that we haven’t done. Jim said, “my father initially started the idea of integrating the team more, but it became apparent that we also need to put more diversity into leadership positions. We need to commit to making a decision to put diverse people in leadership so they can really have the ability to change the organization, to bring others in behind them, and to reshape the culture of the organization. Marketplaces are becoming more and more diverse. The idea of me as a white man can understand the nuances of a customer base that doesn’t look like me or have the same experiences I have is a foolish business decision.”

How to Start with Having Conversations About Diversity and Inclusion with Leadership

Conversations about leadership and culture are extremely important – and we need to have more of them because those conversations spark change. As HR leaders, we can support our company leaders with resources and training that can open up your D&I initiatives in a way that sets your company up for long-term success while also setting an example of what “doing the right thing” looks like.

Jim said, “You arrive. You have to step into challenging situations.” I love this approach and point of view, and I think this quote is something that we can hold onto in our work and life and especially what’s going on in the world right now. You have to step into challenging situations. Otherwise, your situation and the others in your circle of influence won’t change. 

Thank you for joining the Workology Podcast sponsored by Workology. This podcast is for the disruptive workplace leader who’s tired of the status quo. This is Jessica Miller-Merrell. Until next time, visit to listen to all our episodes of the Workology podcast.

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