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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Lerner

9 Words that Changed PayPal

When David Marcus took over as President of PayPal in 2012, the culture was nothing like the startup Peter and Elon founded. With over 20,000 employees, things were slow, bureaucratic and inward-looking. But Marcus was able to effect a powerful transformation quickly: He modelled the right behaviours.


Remember, the “Growth Mindset” means embracing failure as a learning opportunity.


In one of his first all-company meetings, after imploring employees to use PayPal’s products, listen to customers, take risks and learn from failures, he said these nine words…


9 Magic Words

David said: “Let me tell you about a mistake I made.” Then he spoke openly about a bad choice he'd made – selecting the wrong parts supplier for a credit card reader, which led to malfunctioning devices that caused expensive delays and angered customers. “That was on me” he explained. That example showed everybody it was “safe" to talk about your mistakes and learn from them. Can you imagine how powerful that change is?


Your Litmus Test

If you asked your team to tell you about their recent mistakes, would their mood change? Would they feel comfortable being honest? If not, that’s really dangerous. And it’s on you. If your team can’t talk openly about mistakes, they won’t learn. And, as a startup, when you stop learning, you die.


Remember: Your employees will copy your behaviour. That can be your greatest lever or your greatest curse. So pull it in the right direction!


Nature or Nurture?

Some people naturally have this “growth mindset” orientation, seeing mistakes as lessons and progress. But I’ve found, in about 80% of people, it’s easily teachable. First, model the behaviour yourself! Next, create a safe environment where mistakes are welcomed as lessons. (In other words, when good people screw up, be patient and help them learn).

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