The Big Question: How do you build a culture of success?

The Big Question: How do you build a culture of success?

By Cindy Murphy McMahon, BA’74

Everybody wants to be successful, right? Many in the Creighton community, in addition to being successful themselves, are in the business of fostering success in others. Creighton magazine interviewed two standouts in their respective fields to learn their motivations and insights.

Kirsten Bernthal Booth, head volleyball coach, finished her 15th season 317-160, and led Creighton to its fourth straight BIG EAST regular-season and tournament titles, as well as a seventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament, making her one of only four head coaches in Bluejay history to lead seven NCAA Tournament teams. In 2016, she was VolleyballMag.com National Coach of the Year, BIG EAST Coach of the Year and AVCA East Region Coach of the Year. For the third time in four years, her recruiting class has been named one of the nation’s top 25 classes by PrepVolleyball.com.

Gen. Anthony Zinni, MS’15, retired U.S. Marine Corps general, served all over the world and has received a vast array of military and civilian awards, including the Purple Heart. Since retiring from active duty, he has participated in presidential and State Department diplomatic missions. He is a published author and holds three master’s degrees, including an MS in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution from Creighton, and is pursuing his doctorate in interdisciplinary leadership, also at Creighton.

Booth and Zinni obviously have led quite different types of teams. But in putting together winning units, they have similar approaches in the qualities they look for.

“They have to be gifted athletes to be on our radar,” says Booth. “However, if we know a player has a bad attitude or low character, that is a deal breaker, regardless of talent.

“We talk about playing for others and selflessness during the recruiting process, so they know if they don’t think they’ll like that environment, this isn’t the place for them.”

Congruently, Zinni says he looks for five primary qualities in his recruits: integrity, honesty, competency, moral values and commitment. He adds that it’s important to remember, “Everybody you are privileged to lead is a story. Take the time and interest to learn that story.”

Are there qualities people can develop in themselves to be more successful?

“You have to work hard even when you don’t want to,” Booth says. “We are fortunate to have a culture on the volleyball team where this is the expectation, but we know we can never take good culture for granted and must work daily to cultivate it.”

At a basic level, success is simply being a good person, Booth believes. “I know it sounds trite, but live by the golden rule, treating others as you would like to be treated — and that means people below, equal and above you in the pecking order. That can take you a long way.”

Zinni says people can work to develop their self-confidence, sense of curiosity, self-awareness, humility and ability to communi-cate. And he highly prizes the continual act of learning. “When you stop learning, or have no interest anymore in learning, you start intellectually dying. The brain, similar to a muscle, needs to be continually worked out and developed.”

Is it always obvious when one has reached success? Zinni says merely achieving the mission is not enough. “It should be accomplished in a moral and just manner, that brings a sense of pride and accomplishment to your team, and contributes to the greater good.”

“We don’t talk much about winning — we talk about the process,” Booth says. “What steps do we need to take to be our best? If we take the right steps to be great, good things likely will happen. And if they don’t, we can at least look back with pride on the journey we took.”

And what about failure? “Failure teaches us what does not work,” Zinni believes, but, he added, “More is to be learned from observing success and understanding why it succeeded.”

“Failure is part of everything we do in life,” says Booth. “Those who understand this and use it as a driver to be better are the ones to get ahead.”