Sorry You Did It or Sorry You Got Caught?

behavior diversity ethics inclusion leadership morals standards teams Aug 11, 2020

Originally shared in A Daily Dose Of Leadership on July 23, 2020.

I closed the last blog by promising to share an example of a large organization that developed a very specific rule to force compliance on what had become a significant issue and how it’s become a bit of a joke for many outside that organization in years since. We’ll get to that shortly…I also left you with something to consider so let me paint a picture around that for you.

Those of us who have children have all, with the small exception of those who are raising saints, had to discipline them for unacceptable behavior. That’s just part of being a parent… In most cases, our child apologizes for their actions, we enforce whatever the punishment is, and we move on. Sometimes the behavior is corrected, but there are also times where it pops back up; possibly a month or more later, but maybe far sooner…

When that behavior is being repeated, and the child continues to offer the same apology, don’t we tend to feel like they’re more sorry we caught them than for actually doing what they’ve done? I know Matt and I had that conversation more than a few times over the years! (In regards to Matt though, I’ll share here that I’m incredibly proud of the man he’s grown into and super excited to see him get married next Saturday!)

So it’s one thing when the apology is half-hearted from a child who’s learning right from wrong, but it’s a completely different story when it’s coming from an executive in a major corporation that was caught with their hand in the wrong cookie jar!

At the risk of ruffling some feathers, let’s take a look at that specific scenario I referenced as we closed last time. 

In the National Football League, there’s something that’s commonly referred to as “The Rooney Rule” which requires every team with a head coaching vacancy to interview at least one minority candidate for the position. Unfortunately, the message that’s often sent to that one candidate is that there’s no real consideration being given to them for the position, it’s just a function of checking a box – whether that’s in the NFL or any other organization that’s started enforcing something of the sort.

I can speak firsthand to the difficulties in developing a diverse workforce when candidates with the requisite skills necessary for the job are primarily white men. In working to fill literally hundreds of skilled and semi-skilled trades positions in the Shenandoah Valley over the last decade, an area that’s not been incredibly diverse until recently anyway, you have to be very creative to build a truly diverse workforce. (Don’t mistake my reference to diverse here as simply different shades of skin; diverse opinions, skill sets, and thought processes are just as necessary in building a strong team – but that’s a topic for another time…)

Here’s what jumps out at me about the NFL putting this rule in place. According to Wikipedia, at the start of the 2014 season 68% of the league’s players were black, and only 28% were white (that’s the farthest back I could find specific stats…). But even with that Rooney Rule in place, there’s still only 3 black head coaches in that same league today. I’m confused… If nearly 70% of the best players on the planet are from one demographic, regardless of skin color or anything else the EEOC addresses, how can there possibly be only around 10% of the head coaches that are from that same demographic – especially in an organization that’s mandated specific considerations during the interview process? I’m certainly not a football expert but I don’t understand why the number of head coaching candidates wouldn’t closely match the demographic of those who are the best players in the game.

In ANY other profession, Rooney Rule or not, this would be appalling and stick out like a sore thumb. So here’s my question, is simply writing a policy that mandates compliance rather than looking into the root cause really any different than saying “I’m sorry I got caught but not sorry for what I did”? That seems to be the exact message Snyder is sending with response to the allegations against him and the others in that current mess. And while I’m using the NFL in this example, this issue certainly isn’t exclusive to the sports world!

In the next blog, we’ll close this loop by looking at how some companies actually set specific numbers stating a percentage of unacceptable practices they’re willing to invest in. Seriously… They actually set a number for how much can go in support of what they deem unacceptable!