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PODCAST | July 1, 2021 | 30 min read

The Dallas Mavericks’ CEO on game-changing leadership

By prioritizing empathy in community and employee engagement, Cynt Marshall transformed the franchise’s culture

Many organizations talk about values-based leadership, but relatively few practice what they preach. Who is showing how this management philosophy can win over employees and customers?

Tune in to the Let’s Workflow It podcast and find out

This week, co-hosts Alan Marks, ServiceNow’s chief marketing officer, and Kathryn Minshew, founder of The Muse, sit down with Cynt Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks and the NBA’s first Black CEO. In this episode, Marshall shares how her brand of people-first leadership transformed the Mavericks’ culture.

Episode transcript

My favorite quote is: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” It is about people caring for people. That’s how we get stuff done. I really, really believe that.


Hey, everybody. From ServiceNow, this is Let’s Workflow It, a podcast about the workflow revolution. I’m Kathryn Minshew, founder and CEO of The Muse.

And I’m Alan Marks, chief marketing officer of ServiceNow.

In every episode, we’re going to pull back the curtain on how businesses today are driving transformation and growth with digital workflows.

It’s obvious that everything about the way we work is changing. But we’re noticing some really interesting contrasts.

For example, we live in an age when so much arrives at the press of a button. But at work, most of us are still putting up with clunky, outdated systems. Turns out, businesses are hungry to solve this problem.

So it got us thinking. Who are the organizations out there who are bold enough to embrace this change? It’s time to hear from them. Let’s workflow it.

Let’s workflow it.

Alan, it’s great to see you today.

Great to see you, Kathryn. You know, we’ve got a great guest today with Cynt Marshall, really looking forward to our conversation with her.

I think it’s going to be a good one. You know, Cynt Marshall is the CEO of the Dallas Mavericks, she’s the first Black female CEO in the NBA. And previously, during her 36-year career at AT&T, she served in a number of roles: SVP of human resources, chief diversity officer. So I think she’s got a lot to tell us about transformation, leadership, a life of firsts. I’m really excited to dig in.

No question. And you know, we believe empathy at mass scale is one of the great themes of our time. And Cynt has such a great perspective on that.

And sports is such a great filter through which to talk about these issues and the role of technology is playing in sports.

ServiceNow is very proud to be the workflow partner of the NBA and WNBA and helping to restart the season last year.

So looking forward to hearing Cynt’s perspective on empathy and how we move forward, how we stay connected to people and the role technology is playing and delivering great experiences for people.

Amazing. Well, let’s bring her in, Cynt Marshall, welcome to Let’s workflow it. It’s so great to have you here today.

Thank you. It’s so good to see you.

And hello Cynt, wonderful to see you again. Glad to have you here today.

Alan, can’t wait to hang out with you.

Cynt, You’ve had this incredible career spanning management and human resources, but I want to start off asking you about your role in the NBA today.

You’ve been CEO of the Dallas Mavericks for a few years now. Can you take us back to 2018 when Mark Cuban, the owner of the Mavericks, first reached out to you?

Honestly got this call out of nowhere, one day, February 21st, 2018. And I remember that day well, because I had just written a blog post called Impact. Because I was really being impacted by these teenagers who were protesting in Parkland, Florida, because of the shooting. And then the Reverend Dr. Billy Graham had passed away. And so he was a big part of my life. And so I remember writing this blog post called Impact because we have these teenagers on one hand, and this 99-year-old on the other hand, that had really impacted my life and I found myself smack dab in the middle, age-wise.

And that morning, I’m like, “Okay, what am I going to do next? What am I going to truly do to have an impact?”And then lo and behold, later, I get these text messages from Mark Cuban, who I didn’t know at the time. And my phone is just blowing up, but I gave my husband the phone because I was on another call. And I said—you know, I have four kids—I said, “One of the kids need money, so just transfer it.” Because my phone is blowing up, and that’s what you do when it blows up when the kids need money.

And he came back and he said, “It’s not one of the kids, it’s Mark Cuban.” You need to call him. And I’m like, “Okay.” I said, “Who is that?” And he said, “Mark Cuban?” So he starts telling me who he is. I tell people that and so now I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know him, but I didn’t.

And I tell ya, I didn’t know him, and he didn’t know me. And he basically asked me if I could come and see him. And said he had a crisis going on. And we all know now what that crisis is, the Sports Illustrated article, 18 years of allegations of sexual harassment, misconduct, inappropriate behavior, et cetera.

And what was going through your mind in that first conversation when he reaches out and, with this proposal?

Well, first of all, he asked if I could come and see him at 2 o’clock. And I said, “Well, I actually no, because I have a mammogram scheduled.” And he’s like, “Okay, well, we’ll be coming to see you.” And I told him, “I learned the hard way. I’m a cancer survivor. A colon cancer survivor.”

I learned the hard way what happens when you don’t keep your doctor’s appointment and take care of your medical business. And so I said, “I can’t delay my appointment, and maybe I can get to you by 4 o’clock.” So I got his address.

We had a driver pick us up because I told my husband, “You need to get on your iPad, I need to get on my iPad, and we need to read the story.” We need to know what’s going on here before I get here. And I got to tell you, Kathryn, by the time I got to his office, I kind of had it in my mind I wasn’t going to take this job. Because, I thought, you know what, I don’t really know what’s going on here.

And so I finally got to him. We sat down for a little less than an hour. And he was just telling me about what he had just learned, and about the situation and what was going on there.

And it was a wonderful, wonderful conversation. He was very genuine, very caring, absolutely looking for a change. And asked me if I would be the CEO. Told me he needed a culture change. That the things hadn’t been done properly. And he needed to know if I would come in and help him lead this organization, actually, lead the organization and help him change the culture.

Like so many great leaders, you bring your entire life to work every day. You tap all the experiences of your life, and leadership is about these moments that sometimes come to you and how you take advantage of them. Can you share more about—you’ve got such a compelling backstory—can you can you share more about your life and everything that’s brought you to this moment?

Well, I love that. I have many life lessons, and you’ll know why in a second. And one of the lessons I have is, sometimes it’s not what happens, it’s how you respond to what happens. And so I’m very thoughtful about the response I give and what I do next. And so the backstory is real quick.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama. My parents left Birmingham when I was three months old, because they did not want their kids growing up in the Jim Crow South. And I was the baby at the time. And so now there are six of us, four girls, two boys. And in fact, the church… I know you know your civil rights history, so the 16th Street Baptist Church that was bombed in 1963 in Birmingham, where four girls lost their lives, that’s my mother’s church. And so she left there obviously, three years prior to that.

But I often think about those four girls, and then of course, my mother’s and father’s four girls and two boys and the tremendous sacrifices that were made at that time. So that my mother’s four girls and two boys could have a good shot and a life filled with equity and equality. So I think about those four girls, literally, every morning, they are part of my prayer.

So those are my roots. And so we moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, and landed in the Easter Hill public housing projects. And so I grew up in a public housing project. I didn’t really know it was the projects, it’s just kind of where I grew up.

And I saw a lot of stuff. Saw my father shoot a man in the head, in self defense. Actually, in defense of me, since I was standing at his right side when a young man pulled out a pistol. I can still see it. And so chaos broke out in our family. You can well imagine, it was a trying time then, six kids, we had to be sequestered in the house for safety purposes.

But Alan, a uniformed police officer took me to school from that day forward in the seventh grade. My mom figured out a way for me to get to school. Officer Dale Prater did what he signed up to do, his car said to protect and to serve, and that’s what he did. He would pick me up and take me to school, he’d ride the bus with me in his police uniform, or sometimes he’d take me in his police car. And he just kind of dedicated his life, the rest of that year, to getting me to school.

What a powerful life experience, Cynt. And I know for your mom, education was so important.

Education was huge. You’ve heard me say before that my mother put two books in my hand. She put a math book in one hand and the Bible in the other. And told me if I kept my head in these two books, I’d make it out. And at that time, I didn’t know what ‘out’ meant. But obviously it was out of poverty. So fast forward, my parents get a divorce, I go back to school. Brace on my nose, when my father had broken my nose. And three teachers and a principal embraced me, found out what was going on in our family. Knew my mom, knew she had a desire for her kids to go to college. They got me involved in all kinds of stuff, and the rest is history.

I ended up getting five full scholarships to the college of my choice. Graduated top of my school district. And chose the University of California at Berkeley. Not because it is the number one public institution in the world, but because it was close to home. And–

We’ll debate that later, Cynt.

Yes, we will debate that. We can debate that.

Alan, you know what, I still remember, and Kathryn too, I still remember stepping foot on the campus, and everything was so big. And you know, the big Sather Gate, the big Campanile, Wheeler Hall, everything was just huge to me. And I’m this 17-year-old kid from the public housing projects, 20 minutes or so away. And it was like that was the moment that I just knew I needed to be big and step up to that moment. So many people have poured into me to get me to that spot. And I just had to do what I needed to do. And so I just had to focus. And that’s one of the four words I live by: dream, focus, pray and act. This was my time to focus.

Well, I love two things that jump out to me and your story is, success never happens alone, it takes a community, right?

I’m all about the village, it is so about the village.

And leadership happens in the moment. We can’t predict the circumstances we find ourselves in, in business or in life. And it’s what you do in the moment that really matters.

It is. And what I always talk about is, if you have a set of values that you just stand on, and you know, live by, it can help you decide what to do in that moment.

So Cynt, you’ve had a career first. AT&T, an incredible career. And all of your success and leadership at AT&T, I believe is one of the reasons Mark Cuban said, “You’re my person, I want you to come in.” And it all started with you at age 21 supervising telephone operators?

I had a fabulous career at AT&T. They had this fast track management program, so I started out supervising long-distance operators. So back in the day—Kathryn, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about—Alan, you might not either, but maybe.

I’m thinking of the rotary phone I had as a teenager.

Yeah. You know what I’m talking about.

I think I’ve seen that in some movies.

Yes! And they were all senior people 20, 30, 40 years with the company. And they were the operators for the night shift. And so my job was to be their supervisor.

And I’m telling you, I learned so much about leadership in that job. I walked in there 21 years old, told them I didn’t know what I was doing. And they’re like, “Yeah, we know you don’t know what you’re doing.” But I was open, I wanted to learn. I listened to them. And in fact, I think that it goes all the way back. I really live by three Ls in leadership: my job is to listen to the people, to learn from the people, and then to love the people. And if I can do those three Ls, I’ll be okay.

And so that’s what I did. And I’ve done it in every job. I had 14 different jobs. So all over the business, technical, non-technical, three different states: California, North Carolina. I was actually at a basketball game, when I got a call to move, to go and be the president of AT&T in North Carolina. So that was in December 2006.

And then I ended up seven years later here in Dallas, to actually do a job I had never done. To kind of help lead the human resources aspect of the business. Diversity and Inclusion was added to it later. I had never done it, but our chairman had picked some people from around the country and said, “I need you to come to Dallas, I need you to come to corporate, we’ve had so many different mergers, we have all these subcultures. We need to create a culture and we need to focus on making this a great place to work.”

And so I was one of those few people asked to come to Dallas to help to do that. And it was my first time working in corporate, and it was a great, great experience. So 13,088 days, 14 different jobs, I think like five different business units. I was blessed to work all over our business, and I had a phenomenal career.

That’s amazing. Well, Cynt, I wish we’d met years ago. My mom was born in Alabama and I grew up in North Carolina and I’ve been in the Bay Area for 20 years now, so.

Get out! Okay, Alan, we might be cousins.

It’s a really small, funny world sometimes. I love this.

So Cynt, I want to ask you, I love the framework you said a minute ago, listen, learn and love. That’s um…It’s both so simple, and yet it… Actually those aren’t necessarily words I hear all the time in the same sentence as a business philosophy. How did you develop the idea for this or what was the origin of the framework? Because yeah, I love it.

Because I’ve been in so many different jobs, and usually I step into something that I know nothing about and I don’t pretend that I know. And so I have learned that the best way for me to get to know it is to listen to the people, to sit down with them.

So for example, when I got to the Mavs, the recipe was, we had our vision that I laid out, we had a set of values that I laid out. And then we had a 100-day plan that I had drafted, that I put in front of everybody. And then I started meeting with every single person on our team, one-on-one. And I just wanted them to talk, and I wanted to listen.

And I would open up the one-on-one with the statement, I’d say, “Give me your whole life story.” And 9 out of 10 times, they would say, “Oh, it’s my 10th season at the Mavs. This is my third season at the Mavs.” And I said, “Stop, stop, stop. Were you born here? Start from the beginning.” Start from the beginning, I want to know your story. And I would just listen. And I would learn so much by listening.

Then, of course, I would ask them work questions. And then at the very end, I would close all my one-on-ones with the same question. I said, “Tell me, where do you see yourself five years from now, personally and professionally?” And people would respond, I’d listen, take notes.

And said, my job is to make sure that these people can have the careers that they sign up to have, that they get to where they want to be five years from now, personally and professionally. Because I believe as a leader, I have a lot to do with both.

If we can all create the right climate, give these folks a great place to work, a place where every voice matters, and everybody belongs, which is our workplace promise. We can impact their professional lives, which impacts their personal lives. And of course, pay, benefits, et cetera. All that impacts their personal life.

And so my job is to really know these people. Love them as people first, employees second. And to see about them, and they will produce and they’ll deliver what we need them to deliver at work. I learned that a long time ago. And so far so good.

And it makes a lot of sense, because I think from far away, the jump from the SVP of HR at AT&T to CEO of an NBA team may not seem like a common leap. But the way you describe it, a lot of the fundamental principles are so aligned.

And I wanted to ask, when you first stepped into that CEO role, what went through your mind? I know for me, frankly, when I was first starting my company, and I realized I might have to be the CEO, there was a lot of baggage, perceptions. There was ideas I had about that word that didn’t necessarily match, right away, with who I thought I was. And yet, I love it now. So what was the experience like for you of making that transition?

Well, it was interesting because, obviously, I came in during a crisis. And the organization was clearly in need of a cultural transformation. The first piece of our plan was to model zero-tolerance. And so to do that, we had to do our own investigation, we had to put a hotline in place. Just do the things we needed to do to kind of purge anything that wasn’t right.

So we’ve got all that kind of activity going on. Where we’re trying to try to create a women’s agenda. We’re trying to lay out a diversity, equity inclusion plan. We’re looking at market-based compensation, make sure we don’t have any pay equity issues. I mean, so we’re trying to run our business.

And I knew I needed a diverse leadership team. When I walked in, there were no women or people of color in permanent leadership positions at my table. So my first meeting, it was all white men and then two women who were not in leadership who they had invited to the meeting. I am a true believer that if you want to have good results—when McKinsey talks about that diversity dividend—how profitable companies are when they have women, people of color, white men, just everybody, at the table, I believe that. I’ve lived it, I know it’s true. And so I had to change our leadership team. And so we had to make some changes to where we could kind of diversify that.

We had people there. I brought a few in, but we can promote people, we had people there. And they were talented, they are superstars. We have men who are superstars, we have people of color who are superstars.

So my job was to get all this talent around the table. And so I just knew we had to do it. I did have a situation where one of the leaders, one of the pretty seasoned leaders, told his team don’t pay any attention to anything I said or did, because I’d be gone in 90 days. And so that was challenging, but we dealt with it.

And you had a 100-day plan, so you’re going to be there past 90 days, for sure.

For sure. At least 10 days past 90 days, it’s like, I won’t be here long enough to execute on 100-day plan. But it’s that kind of stuff. And then things like, ‘why is this woman in this job, she has no experience.’ I mean, but that’s typical kind of stuff.

I grew up in a male-dominated industry, technology and telecommunications. So I’m used to being the only woman in the place, I’m used to being the only Black person in the place. And then I just vowed that I won’t be the last. And so I kind of get through all that. I can get through all that by doing what I need to do.

So, Cynt, a lot of leaders have to deal with organizational change, and you certainly had a lot of that on your plate. Also all of us are leading during a time of extraordinary external change in the world around us, not only COVID but all the social issues that have come up. Can you give us insight on how do you do both? How do you lead transformation in an organization? And how do you help your organization lead transformation in the world at large?

Okay, what has helped me, and I alluded to it earlier, was having a set of values. And when I got to the Mavs, we wrote down a set of values and they spell CRAFTS: character, respect, authenticity, fairness, teamwork and safety, both physical and emotional safety. So everything we do, everything we respond to, our business plan, employment, everything is around this. So you work at the Mavs, it’s values-based employment.

And so when things come up, we make our decisions, and we respond based on those set of values. So when COVID hit, we had a business continuity plan in place, which, you know, if you’re a good business, you always have it in place, you just plug in the crisis.

We had a technology infrastructure that was unmatched. And so we could send our people home immediately. And so once we took care of our people, the players were situated, we let everybody know that we’re going to continue to pay for them, pay them, we don’t want people to think that we’re going to have a financial crisis.

Once we did all that, our leadership team sat in a conference room, looked at those set of values and said, “Okay, what do we do next?” And what we realized is that we may not be playing the game of basketball for a while, because we don’t know when it’s going to come back. But we’re playing the game of life, with people right now.

And so we put together a plan to reach out to the community. We put together a plan to figure out how to keep our employees engaged. We figured out where we could put some of our charitable dollars to organizations, to healthcare workers who might need daycare, to schools that we’re trying to provide virtual learning to the kids. I mean, we just laid out a list of things and said, “Okay, we got to step it up now.” And so we’re in COVID, and all that is going on.

And then of course, May 25 hits and George Floyd gets killed. And now we respond to that. And that’s based on a set of values. We knew we had to step up. And we did. Our players responded. So appropriately. You probably saw them with Equality on the back of their jerseys when they were playing in the bubble. The NBA responded beautifully.

And then we put together Courageous Conversations for the whole community. Because as the basketball team, we are normal conveners of people. That’s what we do. We bring people together. And so we brought them together on June 9th, socially distant, 200 people, communities that we’re going to have a conversation about race. And it was called Listen—so there’s that word again—Learn, Unite.

And unite around what? Well, unite around an action plan for this community, to promote social justice, to eliminate racial disparities and inequities, and to drive some sustainable change. And so we ended up with a plan called Mavs Take ACTION that we launched after that community conversation, because that’s what we do. That’s what we do.


As a leader, Cynt, on those issues, I’ve had conversations with people saying, people asking, is it going to be different this time? And it does feel different. I know, we as a company, we had more courageous conversations than were imaginable, before the past year. So as a leader, how do you think about making sure that those commitments do result in tangible action? And that we don’t just move past this moment and things go back to quote unquote, normal.

I call it all-in leadership, we have to be very intentional. And when I say all in, I’m talking about leading with intent, inspiration, inclusion, we have to do that. And so we have to be very intentional about what we do, meaning we have to have the plans, we have to document them, we have to have the milestones, we have to make sure our budget dollars are going where we say they’re going to go.

We make these commitments where we’re going to spend $5 million over three years. 10,000 employee volunteer hours. We have to track that. Your new community partners, making sure they understand what that agenda is all about. And inspiring people to really kind of make a difference. And so I think if a leader has to do that, the tone is set at the top. No doubt about it.

Every day, every day.

Every day. Every single day.

Well, Cynt, I’d like to ask kind of an extension of that. We’ve talked about diversity and inclusion and how important that is. And we believe deeply, and I know you do, too, that the real goal is belonging. Can I really show up as who I am and be my authentic self? And you’re such an authentic leader. But it’s hard for some people, right? It’s hard for people of every generation to say, “Can I trust? Can I really show up as my authentic self?” How do you help people on that journey? Other than modeling? I mean, you model it every day for sure, but how do you help convince people… What does it feel like to really belong in an organization? And really show up as who you are every day?

First of all, authenticity is one of our values. And so I spent a lot of time actually explaining it. We have hashtags for all of our values. And the hashtag for authenticity is, do you. Okay, hashtag #doyou. And so we try to help people understand when they come on board with the Mavs that we want them to be themselves.

The person who got out of bed in the morning is the person who I want to walk in our doors. Because that’s the person that if we have the right environment, we can meet you where you are, and meet you where you live. And in return, I get you, the authentic you. Your creativity, your innovation, your culture, all the stuff you bring. Because we mix all that up, and that’s how we create something great.

I don’t need you to change, which I have been at a point in my career. I had a boss who told me to get rid of my braids, get rid of my shoes. I mean, this happened to me a few times in my career. I’ve been at my best when I’ve been able to be me, when I’ve been able to tell my story, when I’ve been able to bring what I would just naturally bring to a workplace.

And I wasn’t always like this. I truly was not always like this. I probably worked for 20 years before I brought Cynt to work. I mean, even just my name alone, people wanting to call me Cindy or Cynthia, because they had never heard Cynt and they refuse to say it. And I’d let them get away with that, which I don’t anymore. Okay. And so it took me a long time to get to a point where I truly felt like the company or the organization was getting me and everything that I had to bring. And so I want that and other people.

So I do try to model it, but we also try to set up ways to make sure it happens. So we have employee resource groups. So some common business resource groups or affinity groups, where we highlight people’s backgrounds and their cultures and what they bring, and who they are.

We have one called Parents at Work. We want to have policies and practices where if you’re trying to be the great dad that you are, the great mom that you are, we want policies and practices where we support your ability to do that. Because that’s part of who you are, that’s part of your identity.

And as an employer, you want all that coming into the door every single day. You don’t want to stifle that. And you will stifle it if you don’t let the person who gets up out of bed in the morning walk into your doors.

And you see that on the basketball court. Great games, right? That’s people doing things you didn’t think possible, right? And working as a team, individual efforts. And you see people going deep inside themselves and pulling out things that you didn’t think we’re achievable.

I pull out lessons every time I watch a game. I mean, every time I watch a game, I just sit there… Obviously, I’m enjoying the game. We have phenomenal, phenomenal players. We have great coaches. And I’m a sports person anyway, so I’m into these games.

But then I also watch what’s going on. And so sometimes I’ll watch where one of our players will fall down. And the other night I watched, it was like three of them. Okay. So almost all of them, they went and picked him up, that fast. I said, “You know, we have to do that.” That’s what we have to do every day. Somebody falls down you know if they’re falling down a lot. Sometimes I’m like, these guys are in such great shape because if I did that move, I’d be laying down there for three days, okay. But they get down there and the other ones go get up real quick and then they kinda pat him on the head and all that. It’s just like wow, that’s heavy.

So, Cynt, ServiceNow was so proud to become the workflow partner of the NBA and WNBA and help both leagues successfully restart the season last year, fall. And you know, we’re big believers in using workflow to create great experiences. And in this case, it was helping everybody be healthy and safe to get the games going again. But how do you think about technology both from a league perspective and from the Mavericks perspective? Not only to keep your employees and players healthy and safe, but to actually create new experiences going forward for fans and for the overall game.

Oh, I think it’s kind of the foundation of what we’re all about right now. And if we can use technology, not just to solve some societal issues, you know, telemedicine, all that kind of stuff. But to really just create great experiences every day. And I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface on how we can use technology to create a great fan experience, to really kind of showcase our players.

So for the Mavs, we’ve had to figure out, how do we engage our fans? How do we keep communicating with each other? How do we do all this in an environment where we can’t be together right now? And so some really good things have come out of it. Like, we have a Virtual High Five Line. And so the guys run out, and they can kind of talk to the folks on the screen. Okay, Virtual High Five line.

We’ve had to figure out just from working with our sponsors and our corporate partners, how to show their logos and give them opportunities, in a digital way. We have crowd noise in there, now. Now, we’re actually, we have about 23% of our arena filled now. So we’re slowly trying to get up to 50%. So there are some people in there, maybe about 4,000 people, but that’s not like the 19,200 we normally have. So we have that crowd noise in there. That crowd noise sounds pretty good. It doesn’t replace people. But it gives some action and some noise in the arena.

So there are just some different things we’re trying and so we’re gonna keep it because technology is the great enabler.

Yeah, one of the interesting things, we discovered that we have 13,000 people around the world. Last year, we hired 3,000 people digitally, they haven’t met their co-workers. And one of the things we see, though—and back to your kind of listen, learn and love—is technology’s actually brought us closer together. We spend more time talking to each other and understanding each other. And, and we’re thinking how do you keep that going forward? These connections we’ve developed.

I have said for years, people matter, and that’s all that matters. I mean, at the end of the day, it’s all that matters, it is about the people, because people produce results, they deliver all this, you got to take care of the people. My favorite quote is: “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” It is about people and caring for people. That’s how we get stuff done. I really, really believe that.

Cynt, it is great to see you again. It is always wonderful to talk with you. And listen, learn and love, words to live by for sure. If we all practice that every day, we’re unstoppable.

Thank you. Thank you. So good to see you again. Good to see you, Kathryn.

So great to see you too, Cynt. Thank you for joining us.

All right


So, wrapping up that great conversation with Cynt Marshall. Now it’s time for our final segment, dream big with ServiceNow CEO Bill McDermott. Bill, great to have you with us again.

Thank you so much, Alan. Great to be with you.

You know, Bill, I know you know Cynt, just what an incredible person, incredible leader, incredible story. It’s just, it was wonderful talking with her today.

Oh, absolutely. I’m so, so impressed on so many levels, but I love leadership happens on the job and living by the three L’s, listen to, learn from, and love the people. It’s just so inspiring.

One of the things Cynt also epitomizes is leadership happens on the job every day. You learn on the job today and prior to the Mavericks, she had just a stellar career AT&T. And she talks about that experience as just always learning. It’s all about the people and always learning on the job. How do you think about that? And how would you advise more leaders in the middle of their career who are still aspiring to the top jobs and still managing their long-term career?

Every single conversation you have requires you to turn on that listening skill and then retain what you’ve listened to. I find that correlating stories and remembering facts and ideas that are not my own, but that I can attribute to other people who give me insight, it’s just a really special tool to be able to utilize that, and use that information at the right moment when it can really make a difference.

And today, Bill, as we know it, technology is just foundational. It’s foundational to business. It’s foundational to the future of work. But these days: is great leadership also about technology and understanding how to use technology to really benefit people and benefit the world? Are we technology leaders, as well as people leaders?

You have to be a technology leader as well as a people leader because technology is at the epicenter of strategy. And every good leader knows that they owe their employees, their associates, a great strategy without which they’ll simply work harder and go nowhere. And today digital transformation is the opportunity of this generation without question. It’ll be $8 trillion invested in the next three years in digital transformation, so it’s really a do or die moment for companies to acknowledge that if they get it right with digital transformation, they can win. If they get it wrong and their competition gets it right, they’re certain to lose.

In the next three years, 25% of a company’s revenues will come from businesses they’re not even in today. So you really have to rethink the business model and innovate it in new ways to accommodate new customer demands and new market opportunities. And that is absolutely the responsibility of the CEO and the executives that surround that CEO. And it’s never been more critical than it is now. You cannot win without digital transformation at the epicenter of every good strategy.

Bill, we’re at such an inflection point. Everything in the world is just changing around us. And of course you can only go forward. You can’t go backwards. As you talk to leaders around the world, how do you avoid getting trapped in a place of fear and anxiety about how to lead forward versus leading with boldness and optimism?

Well, I try to remind them that not making a bold move is the biggest risk that they’ll take, because not making a bold move and leaning into this digital future is the equivalent of doing u-turns on a dead-end street. It’s not going to get you anywhere. And delaying decisions, postponing things won’t get you there either because time is the most crucial of all assets in the way we activate our companies, the way we innovate, the way we serve our customers.

All of these things have to come together, not in islands of innovation, where everybody’s running around in circles, but on a platform level, where the platforms are clear. And that’s why I often call ServiceNow the platform of all the platforms, because you could put this workflow revolution to work, you can truly run mission-critical processes at the speed of light.

And I would just think for every CEO, really every business leader, those things are top of mind: speed, agility, resilience, time to value. That’s what I’ve got to be solving for every day.

A hundred percent. And as you know, Alan, we’re in a world right now where there is a talent war. And smart, innovative people have no interest in working for companies that can’t recruit them properly, can’t hire them to a perfect standard, can’t onboard them with modern technologies, can’t provide them the services at their fingertips that they need, can’t give them a self-service environment where they can control their own destiny and manage their own cases.

They want digitized companies. And if they don’t get digitized companies, they go work for someone else. So you have to give the people what they need and what they want to be the best version of themselves so they can bring all of themselves to work. And that’s really the linchpin to then getting after the markets and the opportunities.

What a great note to end on, Bill. As always, it’s a pleasure to have you, always inspiring and exciting to hear you talk about leadership. The world needs leadership more than ever, and it’s great to hear from innovative leaders like you and Cynt, who truly are making the world of work and the world work better every day.

Thank you so much, Alan.

So until next time, let’s workflow it.


Join us next time as we uncover how business leaders are innovating to make work, work better. Let’s workflow it together. Let’s workflow it is a production of ServiceNow and Slate Studios. You can find out more about Cynt Marshall and other guests in this series at slate.com slash letsworkflowit.


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