The movie contained many valuable lessons on Diversity & Inclusion (D&I). Here are just a few:
- Broaden your definition of diversity. For nearly 50 years MLB thought it had diversity. It had players from different ethnic backgrounds – from different states – with different skill sets – playing different positions – with different physiques. But, Brooklyn Dodger GM, Branch Rickey, challenged and broadened the definition to include race. Many organizations today also have very limited definitions of diversity with only things that can be easily measured. What other important “differences” would enhance your organization’s workforce, brand, culture, and overall performance?
- Increasing diversity does not mean inclusion. When Robinson put on the Brooklyn Dodger uniform his team had a new level of diversity but it was far from inclusive. In fact, many of his teammates started a petition to refuse to play with an African American on their team. Robinson sat by himself on the bench and even waited to shower until all his teammates were done. He was ‘on’ the team but not ‘included in’ the team. How many of your employees feel that way?
- Make simple, but powerful behavior changes. In the movie “42” Robinson did not feel part of the team until simple behaviors changed: like an encouraging word after a tough at-bat; a congratulatory hand shake; a smile, laugh, or joke between teammates; or teammates defending you after being hit in the head by a pitch. Simply put – actions spoke louder than words. What simple behaviors make your employees feel included? Excluded?
- Establish new tolerance levels of behavior. There is a shocking scene in “42”, early in Robinson’s rookie year, with Philadelphia Phillies manager - Ben Chapman. Each time Robinson came up to bat, Chapman emerged from the dugout and overtly berated and made vicious racial slurs. The umpires, coaches, players, sport writers, and fans all heard and saw the brutal attack. Initially they did nothing – they tolerated it. But, ultimately the Baseball Commissioner and National League President both warned Chapman that the racial ‘baiting’ must stop. He complied. New tolerance levels of behavior were established. What behaviors in your organization need to move from simple compliance to true commitment?
- Let talent on the field do the talking. Jackie Robinson showed tremendous restraint by not reacting to the endless prejudices and attacks. He won over teammates and fans and silenced critics with his play on the field. Sometimes well intended diversity and inclusion initiatives inadvertently ‘force’ or ‘push through’ individuals who have not yet shown their talent on the field. Is your organization facing any resistance to D&I because some employees want to first see successful play on the business field?
“42” has a wonderful tag line - “In a game divided by color, he made us see greatness.” Leverage these important lessons in your D&I efforts to engage high performance. Be great!