Is Your Culture Accelerating Toward A Slippery Slope

slippery-slope-640How does a culture get out of whack?  Does it happen all at once or does it happen more over time?  We think it tends to happen gradually.   A small thing left uncorrected may lead to another, and then bigger things.  Consider if this culture is getting out of whack.

There was an incident last week at Texas A&M University.  A&M is a top national university, with a strong history of military training and leadership, as well as being known for having a friendly “Howdy” culture among students.  The incident involved visiting high-school students from Uplift Hampton Preparatory being harassed with racial slurs by current students.  Luckily the situation did not escalate (thanks to the high school students not rising to the slurs).  The university is reviewing the incident in attempts to hold students accountable for their behavior.  Does this student behavior really fit with Texas A&M’s image?  Or was this an isolated incident? 

Prior to that incident, Kyle Allen who was a starting quarterback for the football team recently revealed why he left A&M in December, later signing with the University of Houston.  He said it was because of the Johnny Manziel-led culture – the “I can do whatever the hell I want and win on Saturday”.  Is Kyle Allen another isolated incident at A&M or is a pattern forming?

For another example, this time much more egregious, let’s take Baylor University’s leadership and the football programs’ handling of the Sam Ukwauchu sexual assault case.  As noted by Joe Nocera, writing in The New York Times, “Baylor seemed mainly interested in protecting its football player… having cleared Ukwauchu after conducting a few cursory interviews”;  however, Ukwauchu was later sentenced to jail by the courts, showing that Baylor didn’t treat the situation, much less the other student victim with the appropriate level of concern.  Were the actions in this case an isolated incident by the university, or a sign that something may be seriously wrong with the leadership and culture of Baylor?  Small incidents tend to lead to larger ones?  Were there signs that might have been overlooked?

These occurrences may be symptoms on the road to failure.  Or could they be the warning signs that give you the opportunity to take an alternate route and change the direction your culture is taking?  If the warnings aren’t heeded, you may be accelerating towards that slippery slope of a culture going downhill.