When Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall visited High Point University, she shared her insight for succeeding in the workplace with students across campus.
And Marshall really was a presence throughout the entire campus that day. She worked with a sport management class, networked with students during lunch, and participated in a campus-wide Q&A session.
Marshall has much experience to share, including her rise in the industry, challenges she’s faced and transitioning from one executive role to another. As HPU’s Sports Executive in Residence, Marshall will continue mentoring students in the future. Until then, here’s a glimpse of impactful lessons she provided during her time on campus.
Strong leaders have strong values.
“I’m a values-based leader, and I rely on my values wherever I’m called to lead. What I have to do in this job and what I’ll have to do in the future is learn the subject matter, and that’s the only really big difference.”
Strong leaders are also willing to serve.
“When I took the job at the Dallas Mavericks, I decided I would walk in every day to serve our fans and our leadership. I walked in with the mindset of a servant leader, and I continue to lead with that mindset today.”
Find an organization that allows you to lead authentically.
“I got a phone call earlier in my career when an individual offered me a job on behalf of the board. But the person on the phone said I was being offered the job based on some conditions. The board wanted me to go by ‘Cynthia’ or ‘Cindy’ instead of ‘Cynt.’ But I had always gone by Cynt. They also said that my laugh was too loud and that I needed to cut my hair. After that individual laid out all of these conditions, I said, ‘Now I need to ask you something – How should I tell the board I can’t accept this job offer?’ I knew that it wasn’t right for me because I needed to be able to lead as my authentic self. After I turned it down, another leader on the board called me back to apologize and offer me the job just as I am. I’ve been leading as ‘Cynt’ ever since. Stay true to who you are, and don’t forget where you came from.”
Successful organizations have positive cultures.
“When I arrived at the Dallas Mavericks, we made a firm commitment that our values would not just be words printed on the walls, but they would be enacted by the people walking in our halls. It’s just like those famous words from Roy Disney, who said, ‘When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.’ Everyone benefits from a safe and respectful work environment.”
Education is key.
“I was raised in public housing in Richmond, California. My mother taught me at an early age that education was my ticket out. She put a math book in one hand and a Bible in the other and said, ‘Keep your head in these books and you’ll make it out.’ For me, the classroom was a place where I could feel free and be safe. I could go anywhere in a book, and I loved math. I wanted to go to school… During my education, I had three teachers and a principal who embraced me. I always stop to applaud educators because they saved my life.”
Don’t limit yourself.
“Take the limits off. Don’t think you have to be 50 or 60 years old until you achieve your goals. You can do it by the time you’re younger. It happens all the time. Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks owner) has done that.”
HASO – Help a sister out.
“Ladies, I want you to learn to ask each other something that men already know how to ask each other. I want you to learn to ask each other for help. The men know how to do that. But I want you to remember these letters: HASO. That stands ‘Help A Sister Out.’ Don’t be afraid to ask each other for a HASO favor. It will improve your networks and your career.”
Take advantage of your HPU education.
“My son got a great education at High Point University. He liked media, but HPU taught him what to do with his passion. You are all blessed to be at a university where you receive a well-rounded education. Make sure you take advantage of that and all of the resources HPU provides you.”
Ask yourself what kind of impact you want to have on the world.
“When I got the call from Mark Cuban, I was writing a blog post. It was during a time when Bill Graham had just passed away, and students from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, were advocating for change. Both of those things inspired me to ask myself: What kind of impact do I want to have in life? And then Mark Cuban was on the phone. I knew that the Dallas Mavericks would be an opportunity where I could create impact.”
Take time to get to know others.
“When I began my role at the Dallas Mavericks, I made time to talk to every single employee. I asked them to tell me their story. Some of them would start with, “Well my name is and my title is…” And I would say, ‘Tell me where you’re from. Where did you grow up? Who are you?’” I wanted to understand who they really are and where they came from.”