The last few days, my drive to work and back has been a journey into what makes the most magical place on earth give its visitors an experience of a lifetime. The morning and evening commutes have been filled with Lee Cockerell telling me about the 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies From A Life At Disney, through his audio-book, “Creating Magic”.
You see, Lee is the former Executive Vice President of Operations for the Walt Disney World Resort. My holy land. To me, it is truly the happiest place on earth, filled with fantasies, dreams, and of course, magical experiences. Not to mention, one of the most efficiently managed customer service operations on the planet. 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 20 resort hotels, a shopping & entertainment village and a sports and recreation complex and a host of ancillary operations. 40,000 employees and 7,000 leaders. Together, earning the well-deserved title of “the number one vacation destination in the world”. Listening to this man explain what it takes for a leader to give his customers an experience of a lifetime and yet strive to overachieve that standard is an amazing learning experience in and of itself. Personally, it’s a culmination of everything creative and corporate I strive to achieve.
I’m still not through with his book but I’m beginning to realize that chapter after chapter Lee focuses on the leadership qualities that put employees at the same level as customers. He swears by the concept of leading a well cared-for and empowered workforce results in a fantastic customer experience and robust financial returns. The four expectations that Disney leaders have to meet for their “cast members” (employees) are exactly the ones that apply to their “guests” (customers).
- Make Me Feel Special
- Treat Me as an Individual
- Respect Me
- Make Me Knowledgeable, Develop Me, Know My Role
What makes his book compelling is that it is packed with actual examples, business cases, anecdotes and draws on his own missteps and learnings in life. It’s also one of his more powerful messages to leaders. Share your weaknesses, challenges and your efforts to overcome them with your employees and you will earn their trust and loyalty like nothing else. What’s most intriguing to me is that, so far (I’m on CD 5 of 6), never once has he mentioned the advantage of the huge creative content at his disposal to ensure a great customer experience. That truly is a sign of a great teacher who demonstrates how to successfully lead, regardless of your business, industry, product or service.
As with most audio-books, I’m never done with one hearing. New concepts and applications to my work and life jump out at me every time I listen. Most leadership concepts Lee talks about are nothing new. However, their application in real-life situations is what drives it home for me. With his unmistakable southern drawl, Lee has made my commute a great experience.
This blog and everything it represents could not have had a better book to rave about. Lee Cockerell’s “Creating Magic – 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies From A Life At Disney”.