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Volume 26 No. 139
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Mavericks CEO Marshall Dishes On Team Culture, Leadership

Marshall wants to make the Mavs the global standard for diversity and inclusion
Photo: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
Marshall wants to make the Mavs the global standard for diversity and inclusion
Photo: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
Marshall wants to make the Mavs the global standard for diversity and inclusion
Photo: MARC BRYAN-BROWN

Mavericks CEO Cynthia Marshall was a featured Q&A at the '19 SBJ Game Changers conference, and she brought a high level of energy to the event -- one that ended with attendees dancing the Cupid Shuffle on stage. Marshall was brought into the Mavs organization in February ’18 in the wake of widespread workplace misconduct. Addressing this morning’s crowd, Marshall hit on how she came into the team and laid out 200 action items to turn the club around.

  • On the behavior within the Mavs front office that went unchecked for around 20 years: “It’s checked now, sister!”
  • On her No. 1 priority upon being hired: “I wanted to execute a 100-day plan. I literally wrote a plan on an airplane right after I accepted the job that was in four parts. What it said was that by 2019, the Dallas Mavericks would be the global standard for diversity and inclusion. There were pretty much all white men running the Mavericks, and all my experience would suggest that you need women at the table and a diverse group of people at the table to be successful.”
  • On the four areas she focused on with the Mavs upon starting: “Started with a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior. Then I wanted to develop a Mavs women’s agenda; clearly there was no agenda to empower, educate, enhance women. Then I wanted to go into full-blown culture transformation. Diversity and inclusion. All that. Then operational effectiveness was another big piece. Just putting some basic things in place that -- in my 36 years at AT&T -- I knew was needed to run a business.”
  • On the Mavs leadership team: “We have gone from zero women or people of color at the executive leadership team. Right now, 50% of my leadership team are women.”
  • On the distinction between diversity vs. inclusion: “Diversity is about gender, ethnicity. The mix. Inclusion is about what you do with that mix and how you make people feel. Do you actually teach them the rules? Do you have a climate to where they’re not just at the table, but are included and know how to contribute and know the backstory on things. They feel comfortable being there. To sum it up: diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance. … I also tell the women now ‘don’t all sit together. Spread around so you can make the fellas nervous.’”
  • On any difficulty in executing her plans: “We’ve had some pushback. But we’ve always investigated. … What I tell my team is that there’s zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior, and we don’t have a lot of tolerance for false allegations. We’re trying to have a climate of character.”