I have known and admired Nido Qubein for years, but that respect has only increased as a result of my recent trip to High Point University (http://www.highpoint.edu) with other members of the Speakers Roundtable (http://www.speakersroundtable.com). High Point University is a private liberal arts university located in High Point, North Carolina with approximately 3000 undergraduate and graduate students.
In late August, I joined some of America's top professional speakers in walking around the HPU campus in awe of the transformation that is underway. In less than two years as HPU President, Nido Qubein has made an amazing difference. The investment of capital to renovate existing facilities and expand others is unprecedented. Nido's emphasis on improving the education students receive and the options they have for learning is behind all he is doing. But above and beyond that obvious changes, there is something WOW that deserves mention in this post.
Nido confided something every change leader should keep in mind, "You can't make incremental change and transform a culture. You need big results or they wont' see or appreciate the changes. If it takes too long to see change, they will give up before they even get started. I had to create WOW changes fast and continually." Through Nido's leadership, the university is investing $82 million of the newly committed donations of $100 million in the first year to create impact on the university and its culture. When people can see the vision taking shape, more people want to join the party! Donations continue to come in.
With new students just arriving at HPU, Nido and his team knew how frustrating that first day could be. He worked at changing that, "Positive experiences create brand. We want people to have a positive experience every three minutes when they first bring their kids to the university. We had bands playing music, free food and drinks at the kiosks around the grounds, free ice cream from our ice cream truck, and people ready to help with carts to carry luggage and boxes." Nido was there walking the grounds, shaking hands, giving high-fives, talking to parents and students. The faculty and staff at the university joined in to make the WOW experience!
Nido realizes that initial experiences need to be sustained and institutionalized in a hundred different ways. Nido shared, "We have a Director of WOW at High Point University. Their job is to find the un-WOW and make it WOW. When a student first visits a campus, you have three minutes to make an impression. For the average student, it's either 'I feel at home' or 'Get me out of here!' Since mothers are truly in charge, we focus on 'What would momma say?' Momma wants nice people, good food and a safe campus." Nido has instituted WOW cards that people can give to anyone who provides a WOW experience. He and his team are committed to leaving a trail of tangibles that reinforce the HPU brand. The HPU Promise is contagious--"At HPU, every student receives an extraordinary education in a fun environment with caring people."
Nido highlighted three WOWs that are making a big difference to students: "The best three things we did to create WOW were to bring a branded ice cream truck and kiosks for free ice cream, food and drinks, free car washes on the weekend and valet parking for students after 9 PM." The food and drink kiosks and the ice cream truck sell the value of generosity. The valet parking sells the value of safety and security; even on a safe campus, HPU goes above and beyond to ensure the safety of its students. Because of the dirt from all the new construction and renovation, the free car washes on Saturday show the value of respect for the students' property.
Nido Qubein's office doesn't have a closed door. Instead it has a bubble gum machine right outside. Students are invited to come by and talk. He feels that by rewarding students who have the confidence to come talk to him with gum, he's sending an important message. It isn't just what you know and learn that counts in life; you have to have the confidence to network and share your concerns and perspectives with others. He wants HPU students to develop the confidence to talk with the "big cheese" on campus.
If your kids haven't picked a college to attend, you might want to add High Point University to the list. If I was a few...OK, a lot of years younger, I'd be signing up to be part of transformation that promises to make a difference for HPU students for years to come! I loved HPU and the lessons I learned about transformation leadership that can be applied anywhere!
Do you need a Director of WOW? What would you do to bring WOW to your organization's mission?