The secret to understanding how you can operate your business better, serve customers better, and better support your staff is right in front of you.
All you have to do is ask.
Asking employees how you can do better is a powerful way to infuse new ideas into your organization.
When I was with Disney, I would do this often.
I would meet 10 or 12 front line cast members to find out what is going on with them. Meeting with employees will uncover information you can get no other way. They know something you don’t know. They know a lot more than you about the jobs they do. Listen to them and help them do their jobs better.
Everybody is an expert in something.
Ask employees to look out for things they should tell you.
Once you get everyone involved in helping you run the business, it is amazing.
We all like to give our opinion about the work we do. Give people the chance to offer their opinion and insight.
Here are 3 questions to ask employees:
What should we stop doing?
What should we start doing?
What should we continue doing?
Take the time to sit and listen. Let them talk.
Did you know people used to call me Low-Key Lee?
Don't make the mistake of thinking your work will stand for itself. People have to know you did the great work.
I made this mistake when I interviewed with Marriott. When I assumed the great work I had done at Hilton would speak for itself. It doesn't work that way. You have to promote yourself. At the time, I didn't know how to promote myself
Low-Key Lee was not the person Marriott wanted to hire. Fortunately for me, someone I worked with at Hilton was now at Marriott and he knew I was the right guy for the job. But had the hiring decision had been made based on my interview, I would have never been hired by Marriott.
The feedback from the interview taught me a lesson. During the rest of career, I did a better job at promoting myself and the work I have done.
Make sure you know what you believe about management and leadership. When you are around your boss, give your opinion based on what you believe. It is a way to promote yourself, show what you can do, and improve the company. Over time, if you do this and plan how you can send a message about how valuable you are, you will prepare your boss to think of you when the time comes for a promotion.
One of the most effective ways to create new opportunities is to meet new people.
Meet people and keep in touch because you never know what could pop up later.
If you don't know people they can't help you.
If you don't know people you can't help them.
I meet as many people as I can. It doesn't matter who they are or where they are from.
Don't expect anything from the people you meet. Just enjoy meeting them and enjoying the diversity of conversation. But, sometimes opportunities arise that wouldn't have been available unless you had met the right person.
Sometimes an opportunity arises right away. Sometimes it is ten years later.
As an example, Lee Sheldon from the United Kingdom makes a brief appearance on this episode of Creating Disney Magic. Lee explains how him reaching out to me led to us teaming up to do a live event in London.
I first met Jody Maberry when he asked me to be a guest on his Park Leaders podcast. Back then, I didn't even know what a podcast was. And now we have published more than 200 episodes of Creating Disney Magic. Who knew that would happen? You never know what opportunities arise when you meet new people.
Our partnership with Magical Vacation Planner came about because two things happened. First, I met Jamie Eubanks, the founder of the company. Second, we kept in touch.
One of the ways I meet new people, is I make myself available. I'm not shy about telling people I am at Starbucks every morning. People often show up there to meet me. My phone number was in one of my books. I encouraged people to call me.
On the 200th episode of Creating Disney Magic, we examine the Guest Experience Cycle.
Disney implements the Guest Experience Cycle to make sure guest have the best vacation of their lives.
Anticipation - Anticipate what your guests will expect so you can work on those items before the guest arrives.
Arrival - What will the experience be like when your guest arrives? Whether a guest arrives in person, on the internet, or by phone what will the experience be like for them?
Experience - Think through what the entire experience of the guest will be like. A guest will have many experiences during their time with you, not just a single experience. Each one of these experiences should be thought out by you in advance and planned.
Departure - You have one more opportunity to make a guest feel good. What will you do with it? Don't let a guest leave without doing one more thing to make them feel special.
Savor - If you have anticipated and planned an excellent experience for a guest, they will savor the visit. Your goal should be to create an experience so delightful the guest savors the moments they had with you.
If you adopt the Guest Experience Cycle, you will begin seeing a difference in your business in a week.
Don't underestimate the impact this simple plan can have on your business. You will have guests and customers return because you made their experience so delightful. Never forget, the customer you have is a whole lot more valuable than the customer you might get. Rather than spend money on promotion and trying to get new customers, invest your time and dollars into the Guest Experience Cycle and take care of the customers you already have.
It doesn't matter what business you are in, and how big or small your business is in, the Guest Experience Cycle will have an impact.
Remember, you can create magic, too.
Career Magic is available as an Audiobook. You can get it Here.
If you want to make a difference in your organization, you will have the most impact if you lead by example.
On this episode of Creating Disney Magic, we talk about 3 different situations, including leading by example. Here are the first two:
How to handle meeting a celebrity at work.
Be polite and courteous. Say hello and go away. At Disney, you can't bother a celebrity or ask for an autograph. They are there for a private event or to spend time with their family. If you are at work, remember you represent the organization.
How to equip staff members to give bad news to customers
You have to give staff members not only the training, but the authority to be able to deal with difficult situations. If you are not going to equip them to serve the customer when something goes wrong, then it is best to have a supervisor talk with the customer.
Now, let's talk about leading by example.
The real story of this episode, though, is a discussion about Phil Gaines. The recently retired Director of South Carolina State Parks. On the final day of his 37-year career with the park system, Phil returned to the park when he first began his ranger career. He spent the day picking up trash, cleaning bathrooms, and doing other tasks that so many people feel are beneath someone with a big title.
Phil Gaines is leading by example. Any of us can take this same mentality and have an impact on our organization. This same attitude and passion are what got Phil the job of Director. Professionals do what they do. Hard work and leadership led to Phil Gaines becoming Director. It doesn't change because he has a big position. It doesn't change because it is his last day.
At Disney, everyone sets the example for cleanliness. It doesn't matter what your position is. When you become a big deal, don't. Don't be a big deal. No one wants to be around someone who thinks they are a big deal. But if you lead by example, you will set the tone for everyone else. People will know what to do when they see you perform.
If you are going to take a vacation to a Disney property, get in touch with my friends at Magical Vacation Planner. They will make sure you have a great vacation.
You can get my Morning Magic Planner here for free.
Often, people ask me about my morning planning time.
I like that question because morning planning has helped me create magic.
So many questions about morning planning time led me to create the Morning Magic Planning Course, which you can find here.
My career at Disney has been well documented on the Creating Disney Magic podcast, but you have to rewind nearly 40 years to discover one of the biggest secrets to my success.
Before I discovered the secret, I was disciplined, but not organized. At work, I kept putting off hard items. I would avoid certain projects and then dread the day when my boss would ask me about it. Then in 1980, I went to a time management seminar.
At this seminar, I learned about time management and morning planning. Since that day, I have spent 15 minutes planning every morning. Morning planning made me a new man. Since that day in 1980, I have been organized, I have kept my promises, I do what I say I am going to do, and people know I am reliable.
Here are the two things that will impact your career; a good attitude and being reliable.
A good attitude is up to you. But I can help you become more reliable.
Reliability comes back to planning. Fifteen minutes of planning is all it takes to remove distress.
Distress is when things feel out of control. When you spend your days dealing with whatever is thrown at you, it feels out of control.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
You can remove distress. You can remove regrets (if you don't have regrets now you will later if you don't take action to get your days under control).
You can get this under control.
This is why I developed the Morning Magic Planner and the Morning Magic Planning Course.
If you use this planner for 30 days, you will never want to go a day without planning time again.
Life is better when you are the one controlling it.
You know you have responsibilities you are not tending to and projects not getting finished. Subconsciously, this is putting more pressure on you and adding to your distress.
It's never too late to get better. You can change if you want to.
Remember, things are never the way they are. Things are the way you let them be.
How much longer will you let things be this way?
You can get the Morning Magic Planning Course HERE. Or, if you want to use the planner without the course, you can get it here.
People only change for two reasons; crisis or education.
Making a life change because of education is much better, believe me. But too many of us wait until we are smacked in the face to make a change.
Making a change is hard, though. In my personal life, I made a drastic shift after going to a Time Management seminar in 1980. Before then, I worked hard and I worked a lot. Yet, I still missed deadlines and didn't get all my work done. But this 2-day changed everything. It shifted the way I thought. It shifted the way I approached life. The seminar taught me how to do things on purpose. Each day since then has been both full and fulfilling.
There is an example of changing how I operate in my personal life.
At Disney, we made a change in how we operated throughout Walt Disney World when I introduced the Great Leader Strategies.
In both cases, making a change involved 2 steps;
Step One: Deciding to Change
Step Two: Taking the action to change
Whether you are making a personal change or changing the way an organization operates, you have to know why you are making the change. You have to be committed to the change. You have to have clarity. And finally, you have to do the work every day. Making a personal change is tough, but imagine how tough it was to implement a culture shifting change to over 40,000 cast members. Any change takes time.
You can change now because you know there is a better way. Or you can change later because you are forced to through a crisis.
In this episode, we talk about the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown.
Before you plan your next vacation, talk to our friends at Magical Vacation Planners.
This week on Creating Disney Magic, I answer two questions about working with co-workers. Working with Co-workers.
Two questions both involve working with co-workers. First, how do you handle it if you have information or knowledge that can help co-workers?
Someone would only ask this if they have ambition and a steak of leadership. Often, people keep their heads down and do their job without consideration to co-workers, unless it has a negative impact on them. Even so, this can still be delicate. You have to approach this the right way. You have to have the right intention. But if you work it out with your supervisor to help train on a particular process or procedure, not only will you help your co-workers, you will stand out as a leader.
The second question is how to be a good follower when you may be more qualified for a supervisory job than the person who was promoted to the job. Here is another delicate situation. In this case, the best thing to do is to forget it. Just be nice, let him figure it out, and do your job the best you can. There are times when being a good follower is nothing more than doing your job the best you can. If your opinion is ever asked for, offer your best advice.
Have you downloaded my free Morning Magic Planner yet? You can get it here.
Creating Disney Magic has partnered with Magical Vacation Planner. Talk with them before you plan your next Disney vacation.
No matter what business you are in, poor service happens because of the general manager.
If bathrooms are dirty, don't blame the guy who cleans them. Look at the general manager.
If food arrives late at a restaurant and service is lousy, it is not the cooks and servers. It is the general manager.
If people stick to doing only what is in their job description, it is because the manager allows it.
As a leader, there are three steps to help staff create magic.
Also, consider what plans you have to address any emergencies or unexpected situations come up. For example, what happens at a hotel or restaurant if the kitchen goes out of commission? Or, insert your own what-if situation.
If the staff is not prepared, it is because of the general manager.
Bottom line; the manager is always responsible for what happens in his or her operation.
I am excited to announce our my new partnership with Magical Vacation Planner. If you are going to visit a Disney property, make sure you talk to them. Magic Vacation Planner will take care of you.
This episode was recorded while I was in Italy. The sound quality is not the best because I had to find an internet connection that worked good enough to record.
There is a reason I wanted to make sure we recorded an episode while I was in Italy. I have said before, the best way to gain exposure and exposure is to travel. When you meet people from other countries, you will find out they are as wonderful as your neighbors. Spending time with them will open your eyes to new ideas and new ways of doing the things you are most comfortable with.
Which bring me to the topic of this episode, making old ideas new again.
Disney took an old idea, Minature golf, and made it feel new again. Disney miniature golf courses don't feel like the old boring mini-golf courses you might expect. They are special. They tell a story.
There is a lesson you can learn from a Disney Miniature golf course. You can take anything and make it better. An old idea can be new again if you add your own spin, your own story to it. An old idea can be new again if you find a way to do it better than you have been doing it.
We all get set in our ways and accept things are the way they are. We get lazy. Take time to consider if you are as good as you could be? Are you as good as you should be? Can you do better?
Go out and get new ideas and apply them to what you do. Go somewhere you might not expect to get new ideas. Start with a game of miniature golf.
Don't settle for average. Ask people around you; customer, coworkers, vendors, and get new ideas. Always be on the lookout for a way to get better. Each day you are not getting better you are getting worse.
The audio version of Career Magic is now available. You can get it here.
Gossip can spread through an organization quickly, leaving a wake of confusion, rumors, and hurt feelings.
You must deal with gossip quickly and clearly. But it all begins when you hire someone.
Up front, during the onboarding process, explain gossip is not tolerated. Be clear about what you consider to be gossip and rumors and how you will deal with it.
Don't let it end there. Continue to discuss gossip and what you expect. You will have to continue to remind people. Raise your expectations, be clear about what you want, and hold employees to your standard.
Gossip is not the only topic we discuss in this episode of Creating Disney Magic. We recorded this episode on Facebook Live with listeners being able to ask questions. It made for another fun episode, and we talk about gossip, how to receive a compliment, working with volunteers and more.
What will your legacy be? Have you taken time to consider this?
This episode of Creating Disney Magic is the second episode recorded live at Urbain 40 with a group from a live Mastermind meeting. You can hear the first episode here. People who were in the room had the opportunity to ask me questions, which you will hear on the podcast.
One of the questions was about what my legacy will be.
For a long time, I had this all wrong. I thought it was all about Lee Cockerell. But now, I realize I need to be a teacher to leave a legacy. The I do is to help other people have a bigger life. By teaching other people, they will teach what they learn to other people. It spreads. Teaching builds a legacy that lasts a long time. You can't change America, but you can change your family. And you can change your workplace. Start today and you can leave a legacy.
Other topics we discuss on this episode:
Advice for women in leadership positions.
Advice for young adults entering the workforce.
People who invested in my life who helped me become who I am today.
You can find out more about my Creating Magic Mastermind events HERE.
This episode of Creating Disney Magic was recorded live in Orlando during a private mastermind event.
Twelve people joined me and Jody Maberry to spend the day talking about business and creating magic. During our time together, we turned on the microphones and recorded two episodes of the podcast. Participants of the mastermind were able to ask a question.
You can find out more about my live Creating Disney Magic Mastermind events here.
Having the participants of the Mastermind ask me questions live added a fun element to this episode of the show.
Here are some highlights of what we talk about in this episode.
Look for attitude, not skill. Great attitude and passion are the elements of a high potential person. Skill can be taught.
Do you have the attitude to put up with a guest when they are upset because they have spent too much money, rain has ruined their day, or they are stressed out?
Don't underestimate the influence you have on people. It matters how you talk to people. It matters what you say to people. It matters if you say "hello". Be aware of the influence and impact you have on people.
When I was at Disney, the moment I stepped out of my car I had to be aware of my actions towards other people. It is important to notice people no matter what I may be preoccupied with.
Plus, I will share with you what I learned during the mastermind event.
In the last episode of Creating Disney Magic, we answered the first half of a series of questions from a listener. After listening to every episode of the podcast, a listener wrote in with a series of questions. The first half of the questions were more about success.
You can hear the first episode Here.
In this episode, we answer the rest of the questions, which are more about business.
Here are the questions we answer in this episode;
Why do you think most companies don't follow the principles from Creating Magic?
How would you handle working for a company you wanted to stay at, but dealing with the direct supervisor is frustrating and challenging?
Have you ever received feedback that was not valid?
How did we instill the values of hard work and humility in our son when he was young?
You will enjoy the entire episode, but one message I want you to take away is to stand up for yourself. You know the work you do. You know what you believe in. Stand up for yourself and stand up for what is right.
This episode of Creating Disney Magic is a bit different. Let me tell you why; recently someone discovered the podcast and listened to all of the episodes in the catalog.
After listened to well over 150 episodes, he had a list of questions he wanted to ask.
Normally, we answer a single question on an episode. This time, we combined all of the questions into an episode. Or, rather, two episodes. This episode we tackle the questions that are more success related.
When you are around successful people, what are the questions you ask them and why?
If you can have dinner with 3 people who would it be?
These were fun questions to answer and led to an interesting discussion. Here are the two things I want you to remember from this episode;
Use the tools that work for you. An iPhone 10 will not solve your organizational problem any better than an iPhone 5 will. That is why I have used a DayTimer for so many decades. It works for me. It fits my system perfectly.
If you believe in something, just keep going. Don't give up. You can make a difference. You can create magic.
Imagine a basketball team where one player decides to stay in the offensive end of the court because it is easier for him. Running up and down the court is hard work. Would the other players allow it? Would the coach allow it? No way! And it should not be allowed in the workplace either.
Yet, it happens all the time. Specifically, it happens as employees are getting close to retirement. People should not "gear down" for retirement. Whether an employee retires in 3 years, 1 year, or 3 months. They have a responsibility to work as hard as ever and produce results.
Some call it Retired on Duty.
If someone is retired on duty, it is a leadership problem. Someone is letting it happen.
Being retired on duty is unethical and unprofessional. If it is happening in your organization you can step in. In fact, you should step in. You have the opportunity to step in and be an advocate for the right thing.
When you accept someone who has retired on duty, it is a step in making the company worse. Other employees see how leadership handles this situation. If this person is allowed to get away with it, the company will start sliding in the wrong direction.
If your business is struggling, it may be hard to hear this, but here is the candid truth...Your business is as good as you want it to be.
Most business can turn things around in only 2 to 4 weeks.
In this episode of Creating Disney Magic, I use a doctor office as an example of where to begin to turn a business around.
The problem in a doctor's office is the doctor doesn't know what is going on out front. But there is so much involved in a customer's experience than the time they spend with the doctor.
Here are the three steps I would implement right away to change a doctor's office, or any business.
You may have to repeat these steps over and over until change catches on. For the first month, you may have to be in front of your people every day before the door opens and the show begins. Repeat your expectations over and over until it begins to stick.
Sure, it is hard work. But let me remind you, your business is as good as you want it to be.
When you introduce yourself, or someone asks about you, what do you say?
So many people discuss the work they do. This is especially a problem for those of us in the United States.
Be careful about becoming who you work for instead of who you are.
Some people never recover from having a big-ego job. I get it. Those jobs make other people think you matter. Or, that is what you think, anyway.
When I retired, people would ask me if it was hard to leave a high position at Disney. No. It wasn't hard to retire, even though I was Executive Vice President of Walt Disney World.
During my career, I never really identified myself with Hilton, Marriott, or Disney. I worked for Lee Cockerell.
People get attached to their job because they work for a high profile company, or have a big position. It leads them to stay too long or keep doing work that doesn't make them happy.
Next time you introduce yourself, remember this...who you are is more important than what you do.
Remote teams are just a fact of business life now. There is no going back.
Whether it comes from telecommuting, an organization spread out geographically or working with employees who work from remote locations, most organizations deal with remote workers.
Now, leaders have to understand how to communicate better with people they do not see in person.
To discuss this topic, we invited Kevin Eikenberry to join us on Creating Disney Magic.
Kevin is the author of the new book, The Long Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership
Although remote work has changed the work environment, leadership has not changed. In the book, and on this episode, Kevin talks about how to lead remote teams.
With distance between you and the staff, it becomes harder to check in. We have to be deliberate and intentional. We can't touch the people on our team, but they need to feel like we have had the personal touch with them.
Sometimes you have to ask Why five times to get to the truth.
What you hear at first is not always the truth. Or not the whole truth, anyway.
At first, people put the best story up front. They hope it will be enough and you won't go deeper.
Ask Why. Go deeper. Get down to the truth and get all the details.
If you want to prevent the problem from happening again, you have to understand what happened.
Be relentless. Don't accept what you hear at first. Dig deeper. Ask Why five times to uncover what really happened.
Without the truth, you will not be able to make proper decisions. You asking Why also helps staff think deeper when a problem arises.
If you want to learn more, read this Entrepreneur article about asking Why.
When you are searching for people to add to your staff, you have to have a wide approach.
Don't just post a job opening and hope the right person applies.
Finding the right person starts long before you have a job opening. Having the right contacts and relationships with a wide variety of people can lead you to the right person, so it is a good idea to meet people across different industries and professions.
At Disney World, we would carry a card to give to people we think would be a good fit at Disney.
Focus on getting well known in your community. Have a good relationship with high schools and colleges.
One of the best sources of new employees is right in front of you. Good people bring good people into the organization. If you have good employees already, turn to them to get referrals.
When it comes to hiring the right people, create obstacles in your interview process. Never judge the size of the obstacle. Consider their thinking process and the motivation behind their actions. Carol Quinn is the authority when it comes to hiring. Check out her book Don't Hire Anyone Without Me.
You may also consider including a scenario or a task in the interview process. For example, you may want to have a chef make a hamburger as part of the interview process.
Emergencies are the extreme example of finding out how well you have done in delegating authority.
When you have an emergency you have no time for anyone to wonder what they should do and what responsibility they have. You have to sort it out before you have a problem.
You don't plan what to do in a tornado when you hear the tornado siren.
Think about what could go wrong. Work through the scenarios and determine who will do what task. Part of the planning for handling an emergency is to talk to people so they know what they will be doing. Everyone needs to know their role ahead of time. And don't delegate a responsibility to someone who won't be able to handle it.
Gather your team in a room and discuss different emergencies you could face. If you need inspiration, pull out a recent newspaper and pull headline to talk through it. What would you do if that situation happened to your organization?
Anticipate what can happen and then have your team work through the scenario. Reflect what other organizations have done to minimize the emergency.
Do you have the Morning Magic Planner yet? You can get it for free HERE.
The morning Magic planner will help spend 15 powerful minutes each morning setting the right course.
If you don't plan where you are going, how are you going to get there?
Just like putting coordinates in your GPS. Know where you are going so you can get there.
No matter how big or small your organization is, your customers all have the same expectations;
Make me feel special
Treat me as an individual
Have knowledgeable employees
Now, go through these four expectations with your team and figure out how you can master them. You will have to be deliberate to master these four areas. Discuss each expectation individually and figure out what it means for you and your organization.
If you master these four expectations you will stand out from the competition. Customers will become so loyal they won't even think about going to the competition.
Have you ever been in a situation at work where it seemed like it was Us versus Them?
When you find this situation it often comes in the form of field staff vs. office staff.
The problem comes from the top. This happens because the CEO lets it happen. Or, in a public agency, the Director or CEO equivalent.
Al Weiss used to say there would not be any silos at Disney World. And if there were, someone would not be in their silo anymore because he would remove them.
It is the responsibility of the leader to create a culture where everyone works together, appreciates each other, and realizes everyone has a hard job.
If an organization has let Us vs. Them creep into a culture, one way to address the situation is to have the office staff work in operations. Give people the exposure and experience to understand what happens in other jobs. Once you understand the work other people are doing you will begin to appreciate them more.
When your people begin not working together the focus shifts away from the customer. Everyone needs to work towards the same purpose.
Every day this situation continues it chips away at the culture of your organization. There is a lot at stake. Great people will leave the organization to work at a place with a better culture. Over time you are left with average
When you lose a customer, is it possible to win them back?
Yes, it is possible, but don't even try to win a customer back unless you are ready to have them back.
They left you for a reason. Fix the issue that caused them to leave in the first place. Only then, should you try to win a customer back.
And when you know you are ready to have them back, treat them like a VIP (very individual person). If you are in a position to do so, go see him or her in person. Don't settle for sending an email or text message. Definitely, don't wait for them to come to see you. It won't happen. And it is your responsibility to fix it. Own your mistake, face to face.
Once I was an hour late for a speech. Immediately I told my customer I would deduct $5,000 from the speaking fee. They didn't ask for the fee reduction. They didn't expect it. But it was the right thing to do. I didn't serve the customer to the level I should have. It needed to be handled professionally.
Professionals want to take a bad situation and make it right.
So if you want to win a customer back, you need to fix the problem first. Then be professional and personal. You might win the customer back.