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How To Be Mediocre: Featuring The Universities and Colleges of Canada

It’s true that the majority of universities (and colleges) in Canada have an organizational culture that is, at best, mediocre.

So many passionate and hard working people work in these institutions. So how, and why, are so many of them not achieving their full potential? Read on to see the top three ways post secondary culture demonstrates our mediocrity, and why this occurred in the first place.

The Athletics Symptom The Marketing Symptom The Education Symptom The Underlying Cause

mediocre Canadian schools

The Athletics Symptom

The reality is that there are some stellar athletics programs across our home and native land.

However, there are many that drive the bar for general performance down every day. Based on our work in post secondary institutions, we can identify one major factor that leads to this and no, it’s not money.

The single biggest factor leading to mediocrity in athletics is a lack of high performance culture.

It was easy for us to see attitudes towards high performance culture by looking at the walls in the athletic departments we visited and seeing the words written there. We also heard these words spoken in the (far too many) meetings that these departments hold.

However, when it comes to high performance BEHAVIOURS, from the leadership onward, there is a serious gap from what is being said and written. See the following non-high performance behaviours below:

  • Meetings that cost money and accomplish very little. Department meetings in athletics are very expensive and should be minimized.
  • Coaches who don’t practice high performance standards by bettering themselves.
  • Coaches with teams that don’t win year over year due to the poor performance practices in their day to day who are not terminated or put on performance improvement plans by the AD.
  • Complacent Athletic Directors who don’t drive performance by pursuing constant improvement, improving funding opportunities, and holding coaches accountable.
  • Upper Administration that allow Athletic Directors to do the above without being terminated or put on a performance improvement plan.
  • Ego driven Athletic Directors who require everything run through them, don’t encourage new idea sharing, and lack trust in their administrative support/coaches.

The Marketing Symptom

mediocrity in marketing in universities

The reality is that most post-secondary schools have a marketing department that is far overpaid, and overstaffed for 2022 and beyond.

This impacts culture at the highest level and it is being completely ignored in many situations. This department touches everything on your campus, but yet many run less efficiently than any other department and have attitudes towards growth worse than other departments.

The ease of using programs like Canva and Adobe allow less skilled staff to do much more work. In addition, the departments tend to have BEHAVIOURS that are more fixed mindset based on our work as our Culture Analytics software regularly captures negative growth traits in marketing.

These departments tend to take a long time to complete tasks, rate less receptive to feedback, and don’t align their execution with guidelines given as often as other departments.

The reality is that it is time to course correct in the marketing world.

Outsourcing or performance training is required in order to set a higher bar.

The Education Symptom

Perhaps the primary concern should be that many educators are more concerned with making courses more difficult than they are with building high competency in their subject matter and supporting student mental health. In fact, there are institutions that verbalize to faculty that an A+ should be unattainable because “nobody is perfect” which is neither a high performance attitude OR a mental health positive one.

This appears to have a significant gap based on educator age based on our data as well.

Educators age 48 and over tend to have courses that our Culture Analytics have shown to be more focused on challenging assessments than on proficiency in content than those 47 and younger.

High performance does not mean hard assessments. The culture of a SCHOOL should be based around proficiency and wellness…not around survival.

The Underlying Cause

This comes down to how we measure success and failure in post secondary institutions in Canada. Many schools in Canada are publicly funded, but in both public and private institutions the degree of funding that they receive is rarely based on data that is accurate, objective, AND measurable.

If they aren’t being measured and held accountable based on:

-How proficient our students are.

-How well our teams perform (wins).

-How high the overall ROI is.

Why would they improve culture and overall performance?

If you really want to improve your culture of your school, look at the symptoms of poor culture and treat them.

If we really want to have world leading universities and colleges, we need to hold them more accountable with objective measurement, reward them for excelling, and support them through struggle.


**This article omits the challenges faced on university and college campuses when it comes to mental health as we are currently working on a project for Mental Health Action Day on May.19th that is specific to this. Stay tuned to our Instagram for more.

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