Culture and success
Posted on November 17, 2008
I’ve just returned from watching our men’s soccer team lose its NCAA Tournament game to Lowell 2 to 1. While that outcome was disappointing, this was a remarkable turnaround season for the team that saw it go from a 9-7-5 record to a 15-2-4 record, ending the season as Northeast-10 Conference Champions. Junior Adrian Shippers was named East Regional Player of the Year and our first year coach Marc Hubbard was named NE-10 Coach of the Year.
What’s been most interesting to me has been to watch the way Marc, a young first-time head coach, created a culture that made such success possible. Sure, having players like Adrian and Matt Delaney and others is critical, but lots of teams with good performers do less well than they should. Others perform better than they should on paper.
The intangibles that lead to success are situated in culture, I think. Culture is where expectations are set and enacted, where players demand more from each other, where communication is established, and where the chemistry of the whole is created and then supersedes (and usually shapes) the behavior of the individual. The Patriots ability to take malcontents on other teams (think Corey Dillon or Randy Moss) and make them excellent teammates has to do with the culture of the team.
Most universities have the same basic attributes: excellent faculty members, interesting courses, attractive campuses, and more. What makes them different from one another is the culture they create. As we embark on a new strategic plan, all the things we will seek to improve and measure and alter will be less important than the culture within which those changes take place.
At SNHU the culture is most strongly oriented to serving students. Our faculty and staff will go to extraordinary lengths to work with students who need help, whether that be with an assignment, with advice or mentoring, or a pragmatic question around financial aid or housing. Most institutions say they do this for students, but I know enough other universities to know that what happens at SNHU is exceptional.
This service ethos is not enough of course. We are expanding and improving programs, working to make our administrative systems easier to navigate, trying to better support research and scholarship, and more. But I remain convinced that the culture of success here is fueled by a rare institutional devotion to student success.