Baylor athletic director gives plan to reshape culture

Mack Rhoades speaks on Wednesday in 250 Foster as a part of the First Wednesday series, which is sponsored by the Professional Development program. Photo credit: Penelope Shirey

By Megan Rule | Staff Writer

The three most important things for reshaping and rebuilding culture are investing in people, defining expectations and casting a vision, Mack Rhoades, vice president and director of Baylor athletics, said in a presentation Wednesday evening.

“Every place that I’ve been, I’ve had this unbelievable opportunity to come in and reshape and rebuild culture,” Rhoades said. “And Baylor, yeah, we have work to do, and I’m so excited about it. I keep continuing to say this- that our best days lie ahead in terms of Baylor athletics.”

At 5 p.m. Wednesday in 250 Foster Campus for Business and Innovation, Rhoades spoke as a part of the First Wednesday series held by the Professional Development Program. This takes place on the first Wednesday event every month and brings in speakers from various backgrounds to speak to business students. Members of the Professional Development Program are each assigned a month to organize a speaker, and events are designed to build student confidence and give exposure to different career fields, according to the website. Westlake junior Haley Hundely, a member of the Professional Development Program, reached out to Rhoades to speak during the month of April.

“The Professional Development Program wants to really exemplify what the business students should be, and Rhoades will be speaking about the value of rebuilding and reshaping culture,” Hundely said. “That’s basically the foundation of what we want to build also.”

The first thing Rhoades emphasized for reshaping and rebuilding culture was investing in people. Rhoades said the best way to invest in people is to get to know them and pay attention to detail. When asked by a member of the audience how he does this with such a busy schedule, Rhoades said he carves out time for communication with his co-workers because it is important to continue to engage and follow through with the people surrounding him. In order to emphasize this point, Rhoades had the audience close their eyes and think about the people who have influenced them.

“I would bet that those people you thought about, one of the reasons that they were able to influence you and make an impact in your life is because they invest in you,” Rhoades said.

Defining expectations was the second point Rhoades said would be important for reshaping and rebuilding culture, and this can be done by constantly communicating values. Rhoades emphasized the mission statements of both the school and athletics, as it is important to be clear of what the expectations are. From the first day Rhoades came in, he began drilling the mission statements in to the minds of the athletic department and handed out a plaques to everyone to keep in their offices, Rhodes said. The plaques read, “There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t mind who gets the credit.” Rhoades said change will only come with rebuilding culture.

“If you’re going to change culture, you’ve got to be relentless in doing this,” Rhoades said.

The final point Rhoades brought up was casting a vision. This means looking at where one is headed and being a leader, Rhodes said. Making a vision, having a plan for that vision and having accountability for that plan is what makes a leader, Rhoades said. There is a bigger emphasis on the process than the trophy because the trophy doesn’t come without a great process each day, Rhoades said. The vision he is casting for the Baylor athletics department includes academic achievement of student athletes, athletic success, social responsibility and spiritual growth.

“We talk about this a lot in terms of camaraderie,” Rhoades said. “If we’ve got this vision, we’ve got to have great togetherness, great camaraderie. If we’re going to accomplish that, we’ve got to have mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together.”

Moving forward, this plan can be implemented through being genuine, consistent and patient, Rhoades said. Athletic success will come from everyone understanding that this is a togetherness process, Rhoades said. Given a metaphor used early in the presentation of monkey bars and letting go in order to move forward, Rhoades said this can be applied thinking about the recent sexual assault scandal.

“In terms of letting go, it certainly is not letting go of the victims- moving forward does not mean that we forget about the victims,” Rhoades said. “I hope moving forward means that we will always in our hearts, prayers and thoughts keep the victims. I think in terms of letting go, I think some of it for us is more psychological. It’s more about this resentment that athletics was panned with such a bad picture, that broad brush has been painted across the entire athletics program. For us to move forward to heal, we’ve got to let go of that. We can’t control that — control the things you can control.”