Seahawks on Diversity

Posted by B.J. Gonzalvo, PhD on Saturday, January 31, 2015 Under: Org Psychology

The Seattle Seahawks are back in the Super Bowl again, something that rarely happens and is not easy to do in the NFL.  So what makes this football team successful?  Well, there are a number of things.  But one thing that stands out, especially for an HR professional, is their diversity statement on their website.

The Seahawks organization is guided by overall principles of acceptance and understanding that help us create a culture of respect, equality and inclusiveness both on and off the field.

It might sound like a typical diversity statement that many companies include in their HR policies but for the Seahawks, these principles are more than just words.  The principles manifest on and off the field and often result in wins.  HR research studies found that simply having a diverse organizational culture does not necessarily lead to improved organizational performance.  Your performers have to actually embrace diversity.  And if you follow the Seahawks players, not only do they have a diverse set of talent and personalities but they actually embrace one another’s individual differences.  And what a wide range of individual differences and personalities they have on this team.  On one end of the spectrum of personalities, there is Marshawn Lynch on who doesn’t like to speak much and then the other end of the spectrum is the very vocal Richard Sherman.  And in between these two opposite spectra are so many other different (and strong) personalities leaving one to wonder just exactly how they all get along at all.   The week leading up to the Super Bowl actually highlighted one of the organizational factors that seem to work for the Seahawks and that is the respect as stated in their diversity statement.  The players recognize and respect one another’s personality differences.  Marshawn Lynch has been in the spotlight this last couple of days because of his usual response (or really non-response) to the media.  But still, when Coach Pete Carroll was asked about Marshawn’s actions, he had this to say: “He’s a very serious, very private person. He has a way about him. And we respect the heck out of that around here.”  Marshawn’s teammates actually say that he is a trusted adviser in the locker room.  There is a lot of respect going around on and off the field for this Seahawks team.  One TV commentator once said that as a championship team, you’ll never hear the Seahawks blame one another when they make mistakes.  You often hear these guys say that they play for one another and that they have each other’s backs.  They all know what each of their teammates is capable of and they strongly believe in one another. They accept each other's individual talents and individual personalities regardless of what they might be. This is the same team that created the opportunity for NFL’s first deaf offensive player, Derrick Coleman, to be part of a Super Bowl winning team.  The Seahawks embraced his talents along with his deafness.  During huddles, Russell Wilson would remove his mouthpiece just so that Derrick can read his lips and know what play he is calling.  It is a small gesture for Wilson to make sure Derrick gets included in the plays but the payback is priceless because Derrick made plays all season long for the Seahawks all the way to the Super Bowl.  

The lesson for HR essentially is: Incorporate diversity policies; they are often regulatory requirements. But successful  organizations do more than just incorporate them.  Have a strategy to make your performers embrace diversity and leverage that diversity to improve organizational performance.  

In : Org Psychology 

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