It’s not the magic that makes it work, it’s the way we work that makes it magic.”
Lee Cockerell was the Executive Vice President of Operations at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and spent the majority of his life working out the best ways to be a successful leader. In his book Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney he recalls stories from not only his time with Disney as well as stories from his early years working for Hilton and Marriot hotels.
His ten strategies are:
- Remember, everyone is important.
That means EVERYONE. Even the people at the bottom of the totem pole are important to the day to day operations of the company, without them things would not function properly. Make sure you know that, and more importantly, make sure they know that.
- Break the mold.
You’ll hear very often in life someone say, “Well that’s just the way it’s always been.” Never accept that, question it. Is that the best way to do things or is there a better way. Make sure you’re constantly pushing toward better more efficient structuring and procedures. When Lee came to Disney their Parks and Resort operations were kept completely separate and therefore they had a lot of redundancies in their leadership structuring. He discussed how at one point Disney order 25 different types of French fries, once he combined the two entities they reduced the number of fries and that alone resulted in a half-million dollar savings.
- Make your people your brand.
Make no mistake about it, your people are your brand not your product. Make sure you develop and nurture them so that they can be the best they are, and therein make your company the best it can be.
- Create magic through training.
Once again your goal should be to train your employees to be the best that they can be. “Give people a purpose, not just jobs.”
- Eliminate Hassles.
Don’t wait around for problems to arise. Stay up to date, talk to customers, and get out and see procedures for yourself so you can foresee possible problems and work out action plans to train for.
- Learn the truth.
It’s important to get the whole story. That means getting out and seeing what’s going on for yourself. “The offices in Anaheim had no air conditioning in those days because Walt wanted people out in the park, learning about the operation firsthand rather than being cool and comfortable but out of touch.”
- Burn the free fuel.
Cockrell calls this fuel ARE, or appreciation, recognitions, and encouragement. This means spending time with your employees outside of work, showing them you’ve taken an interest in there lives as individuals because they’re important to the company and they do a good job. It’s important to take time to tell someone they’ve done a good job, and not just wait for the negative.
- Stay ahead of the pack.
Be up to date with new technologies that can improve production. Understand that you have to be willing to adapt and change. Be willing to learn from everyone, including your competitors.
- Be careful what you say and do.
Your staff and your company is a reflection of yourself. Make sure you present your best self.
- And develop character.
As a leader you’re going to get asked the hard questions and you’re going to have to make the hard decision. Know your set of values and morals and stick to them.