The Butler Way—Key to Organizational Success

With March Madness soon upon us, the Butler Bulldogs will once again have the opportunity to captivate the attention of college basketball sports fans across the country. While the true answer to Butler’s success remains a mystery, the impact legendary Paul “Tony” Hinkle had on the Butler program goes beyond just wins and losses. Under his leadership, Butler developed not only a true culture of success in sports, but among modern day organizations as we know.

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, Tony Hinkle, served as head coach for various football, basketball, and baseball teams at the university from the late 1920s to the early 1980s. Hinkle Fieldhouse—the greatest basketball arena ever built and made famous in the movie Hoosiers—is named in Coach Hinkle’s honor. His legacy goes beyond the elegant barn that bears his name, it is a culture he established—The Butler Way—that lives on today.

The Butler Way demands commitment, denies selfishness and accepts reality, yet seeks constant improvement while putting the team above self.

Mission statements rarely inspire; to be affective they ultimately require personal accountability and buy in from an organization’s members. Thus, leaders in all organizations can apply the same three following actions that created belief in the philosophy that shaped Butler University.

  1. Be transparent: Provide an honest assessment of individual and group performance within the organization to all team members. Key performance metrics for departments should be established, measured, and tracked. Success should not be a secret. KPIs should be delivered at least monthly for all team members to compare themselves to peers. Peer performance monitoring and reporting is the best way to impact physician education and performance. The Hawthorne Effect suggests that people’s performance improves when work is being measured. For more ideas read The True Cost of Talent.
  2. Motivate: The best motivation is a black and white path to incentives, both individual and team. Financial incentives for meeting key performance metrics in a period work well. If the organization is unable to reward financially, the goal of the mission statement should be to not only provide direction and purpose, but to also outline how this will enrich the individual beyond the organization and for the long term.
  3. Provide consistent feedback: Accepting reality and seeking improvement require knowing where you stand. How does our organization rank regionally, nationally, against similar institutions? What specific areas of performance can we improve and how will it impact overall ranking? People want to be proud of their individual performance and their team. Providing consistent non-biased feedback is crucial.

Tony Hinkle’s vision and the continued application by Butler University leaders has led to an environment of personal accountability that has thrived for generations. The Butler Way does not require supreme talent or a transcendent leader. Butler teams are often underdogs. Yet the consistent application of The Butler Way has fostered an environment where players constantly evaluate themselves and seek improvement. At Harmony Healthcare, The Butler Way is provided to every new Harmony employee in their first week of training and has been instrumental in Harmony’s growth and achievements. Key to organizational success is building a successful culture—the principles that make up The Butler Way can help not only coaches, but business leaders do just that.

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