Mavs CEO Celebrates Completion of 100-Day Plan to Change Workplace Culture

Six months in, new CEO evaluates culture change at Dallas Mavericks HQ

It's now been almost six months on the job for new Dallas Mavericks Chief Executive Officer Cynt Marshall.

Owner Mark Cuban hired the former AT&T executive back in February after Sports Illustrated detailed allegations of sexual misconduct in the front office.

Marshall quickly launched a 100-day plan to change what the magazine reported was a hostile work environment for women.

Her plan focused on what Marshall saw as four immediate priorities: zero tolerance, a Mavs Women’s playbook, cultural transformation and operational effectiveness

Earlier this month, she and her team of 140 in the business office celebrated the completion of that plan. And, in an exclusive interview with NBC 5, Marshall talked the changes in the front office.

“I see something very different now when I walk in than when I walked into that office in late February. So, I’m just really fired up about that,” Marshall told NBC 5. “I believe we have truly established a work environment where people know what's acceptable, what's not, and where inappropriate behavior, retaliation, any kind of misconduct won't be tolerated."

To enforce zero tolerance, Marshall hired a new chief ethics and compliance officer, established a hotline to encourage employees to speak up when they see something wrong and a new code of conduct that clearly explains the new culture.

“I will tell you, if it's sexual harassment and it’s proven, termination. Pure and simple. We won’t allow that in our workplace. We just won't,” said the CEO.

Marshall also required mandatory Respect in the Workplace training for all employees from the office to the court. Players will get their training in September.

The Mavs Women’s Playbook was designed to erase a culture unfriendly to women and immediately addressed leadership 

“The permanent leadership team did not have any women on it,” said Marshall. “In order for our business to be successful, we need a diverse group of people around the table. So, now we have women and people of color around the table. Our leadership team right now is 44 percent women from zero.”

That 44 percent breaks down to eight women; two new executives – Cyndee Wales in the role of compliance officer and Tarsha Lacour as senior vice president of human resources – and six women from within the organization promoted to leadership positions.

There are also four new employee resource groups with WOMEN, Women of the Mavs Empowering Network, not surprisingly being the most active. Marshall said one particular session focused on purpose.

“As women in this organization, what are we all about as women as a unit but also as individuals. What are we about every day? What do we bring in here every day? What value do we add? And, I’m trying to get them to see they do add value,” said Marshall. “The beauty of this is the men are all over this. They come to ERG meetings. These men have mothers, wives, daughters and they want this inclusive environment.”

The Mavs Women’s Playbook includes increased philanthropy and partnerships with women-owned organizations. Marshall also wants to double the spending with women-owned businesses.

Culture transformation brought a new set of core values called CRAFTS – Character, Respect, Authenticity, Fairness, Teamwork and Safety, both physical and emotional.

“They’re just not on the walls, they're in the halls. People are living out these values. They are talking about them. We are making decisions based on them,” said Marshall.

And to keep her staff and leadership team focused on the new values, Marshall will use regular surveys to check the pulse of the workplace.

She also set up an inclusion council made of employees to keeps tabs on the office culture, employee engagement and the effectiveness of ERGS and whether more or less are needed.

An external advisory council of business leaders, season ticket holders and corporate partners provides input to management and acts as a sounding board on the connections between the Mavericks and the local community.

The council was established prior to a breakfast for the Dallas Police Department that resulted in controversy.  

Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall talks about BB725, her relationship with police officers and the controversy that came from trying to create unity.

Operational effectiveness meant staffing changes such as a new general counsel, a vice president of diversity and inclusion along with the chief compliance officer.

“Those are all brand new leadership positions in thinking that are absolutely necessary to for us to be effective as an organization in 2018,” Marshall explained.

There is also a new employee handbook and a new performance review process.

Marshall believes all the changes made to transform the front office will make the Dallas Mavericks the standard for diversity and inclusion in the NBA by 2019.

“We’re very competitive, so we want to be number one around workplace culture. We want to be number one around workforce demographics and everything that has to do with culture transformation,” she said. “And I think by December, and there’s no real hard measurement out there, but I think we'll be seen at the top.”

Yet there’s one item still left on the check list. It’s the actions Marshall will take once independent investigators hired by Cuban to look into the prior toxic environment finish their report and recommendations are made.

“Let’s do what we need to do. We trust these investigators. They are very good. They will make recommendations. We will take action on those recommendations,” she said. “That’s one of the only outstanding Items of our 100-day plan, where it says we will take swift action. There will be a leadership call to action, and that call to action is based on what's In that report and what do we need to do swiftly to close this.”

Marshall was recently in New York to meet with the investigators and get a glimpse of the preliminary findings after 200 interviews and their review of more than a million documents. 

“I’m still disgusted,” she told NBC 5. “I’m very disappointed at the very environment that these folks (the front office) had to work in.”

Marshall said once the report is final, she and Cuban will be transparent about the findings.

“As I said before, Mark was very serious about we're going to change the culture. We're not going to hide and say things didn't happen. And, yes, some of it was many years ago, but we're gonna close it out. We've investigated it. It’s real,” she said.

As damning as that report may be, Marshall believes getting it out there may bring the closure so many need.

“These people are so dedicated every day to what they do. And so I want it over for them. We need to be able to just move forward. And, already moved forward,” she said.

“Most of the people who work in that building had nothing to do with what's in that investigation. Nothing. So this people have been painted with this broad brush that something is very wrong at the Dallas Mavericks. I’m here to tell you there's something very, very right at the Dallas Mavericks, very right at the Dallas Mavericks.”

And to drive home that point, Marshall shared with NBC 5 her new mission statement for her team: “As true Mavericks, we set the global standard for ultimate fan experiences, unmatched emotional connections and extraordinary workplace culture.”

“Extraordinary workplace culture. So at some point, my vision is that we will be named on Fortune's Great Place to Work list. That’s my vision. That we will get certified by the great place to work organization in San Francisco and that they will see us, an NBA team, as one of the best places to work. In the world,” she said.

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