Creating Disney Magic: Lessons in Leadership, Management, and Customer Service

Lee Cockerell, former Executive Vice President of Operations for Walt Disney World, shares his wisdom and experience from his time with Disney, Marriott, and Hilton. Lee discusses how you can apply lessons in leadership, management, and customer service to create magic in your organization.
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Creating Disney Magic: Lessons in Leadership, Management, and Customer Service





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May 2, 2017

Imagine what it would be like if you went on vacation without planning first. You would pay more for a flight. You would end up staying in a hotel you don't like. All of us would avoid having a bad vacation through planning.

Yet so few people take the time to plan out their day. If you take the time to plan out your day, it just turns out better.

The key to planning is to examine the responsibilities in your life and consider if you are putting enough time toward them this year, this month, and this week. And you take the first step today.

Do things now that won't pay off until later. Most people hope, wish and pray things will work out. But you don't have to do that. Spend time planning your day so you get the most important things done. 

Before I began planning every morning, I was working late at night, bringing work home, coming into work early, working every weekend. Time Management and morning planning helped me get under control. My workweek dropped by at least twenty percent.

If you don't don't take the time to plan the life you want, you will spend a lot of time living the life you don't want.

Apr 25, 2017

One key trait in becoming a successful lead is self-awareness.

To become self-aware, you need people who are willing to speak into your life. You need someone who will tell you the truth.

Early in my career, I was defensive. Do you like to work closely with someone who is always defensive? No one does.

My boss did me a big favor when he spoke up. His advice helped my career dramatically.

Be open to taking a profiling system like Gallup or DISC to better understand your personality and how you work.

You have to begin by being aware that you want to be more self-aware. But you also need someone else you trust who is willing to speak truth to you.


Apr 18, 2017

Implementing change can be hard. 

A new policy can bump into many roadblocks, including seniority. 

Before you make a change, you have to understand how and why you are making a change before you sell it to employees in your organization. 

Take time to consider all the rejections, objections, and complaints you will receive when trying to implement a new policy. Develop your responses so you have an answer ready for any challenge. 

You should not be implementing a new policy until you know it is right for employees, customers, and the bottom line. When you are certain it is time for a change, don't cave into the pressure of the people who complain. 

Understand people want answers. They deserve an explanation of why you are making the change. 

What seems like a big change now will work out eventually. Get through the early resistance and people will settle in as they get used to the new policy. 

The Time Management Magic on-line seminar is now available. You can find it here

Apr 11, 2017

Too many organizations overreact when a customer does something negative.

Look at the signs you see at most organizations. What language do the signs use?

You see words like "Don't", "Prohibited", "No".

All words your guests and customers shouldn't hear if you are trying to delight them. 

You can not overreact when one customer tries to scam you, or file a false complaint. It is the cost of doing business. You have to be careful not to offend the rest of your customers because of the behavior of one person. 

You should remove hassles for customers, not add more. Rules and signs you put in place because of bad customers create new hassles for your best customers. 

Referenced in this episode: Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard

The Time Management Magic Course is now available. You can find it here

Apr 4, 2017

There will come a time when you have to fire an employee. Whether they can't get the job done anymore, or the requirements of the job have changed, there are situations when you have to let someone go.

Depending on who you talk to, there are several tips or best practices about how to fire an employee. Some of the examples I have heard include firing on the day the decision to do so is made and waiting until Friday.

When I could, I always gave notice when I fired someone. Being let go was never a surprise because I communicated with them along the way about their performance.

When the time came, I would tell someone their new job is to find a new job. I give them time, one month up to six months, to spend their working time looking for a new job.

When you fire on notice, it is important to give them a specific end date so they know when their last day at the company will be.

Now, if someone has done something inappropriate or illegal, do not give someone time. They will have to leave the company immediately.

The Time Management Magic on-line course is now available. You can find it HERE.

Mar 28, 2017

Change comes slowly in some organizations. It is not just organizations that change slowly. Even in some countries, change can take longer than you would hope. 

A young lady from Oslo, Norway asked my opinion about women in leadership roles getting resistance. 

It all comes down to culture. 

At Disney World, we have embraced women in leadership roles. It is part of our culture. But that is not true at every organization. 

When I began my career, there were few women in leadership roles. In my experience, women are more likely to pay closer attention to detail and have more empathy.  

In this episode, I talk about women in leadership and answer a listener question about personal branding. 

Resources mentioned on this episode;

Web design by John Van Horn.

Building a personal brand with Influence Brokers.

The Time Management Magic Course

Mar 21, 2017

How do inspire yourself?

For me, inspiration comes from doing what I love. I focus on being a teacher and helping people grow. When I receive a note from someone explaining how Time Management Magic, or one of my other books, helped someone, it inspires me. 

You can find inspiration in the work you do and the people you meet. If your work does not inspire you, begin helping other people. It won't take long before you are inspired and excited and you might not even notice when it happens. 

Once you become inspired it rubs off on other people. It is contagious. Inspired people inspire people. 

Don't underestimate the impact you can have on other people's lives. You have the ability and knowledge to make a difference for someone else. 

The listener question this week came from Anna Knudsen from Oslo, Norway. After becoming inspired by the Time Management Magic book, Anna designed her own planner, which she sells at

My new on-line Time Management Magic seminar is now available. You can find it at

Mar 14, 2017

Often, small businesses have an advantage over big businesses. I know, it doesn't always feel like you have the advantage, but you can get to know your customers better. 

A big business may have a lot more products, more staff, and a bigger store, but it is hard to find someone to help you. And when you find someone available to help, they don't often have the knowledge to help. 

Recently, I visited all the big box stores looking for outdoor ceiling fans, a product I know nothing about. No one could give me the information I needed until I stopped at a small local fan store. 

Not only was the staff at the local store available they were knowledgeable about the product. I spent twice as much as what I planned to spend. Which more than I likely would have spent at a big store. 

The ability to connect with customers and take care of them is the advantage small businesses have. Small business can create relationships and deliver extraordinary customer service that big businesses just can't match. It is hard for a customer to walk away when they have a relationship with you. 

To create your advantage you have to wake up every morning and ask "What can we do better today than we did yesterday?

The Time Management Magic Seminar is now available. Find out more HERE

Mar 7, 2017

Always remember, employees are unique people. We all have our individual needs. At times, we may need accommodations to keep the rhythm between professional and personal life in sync. 

In this episode of Creating Disney Magic, we examine making accommodations for employees. 

Each need for an accommodation should be considered individually. 

How does the request fit within company policies and procedures?

Are you able to make an arrangement where an employee can work from home?

Do whatever you can to help employees. We all want to feel special. We all have family situations and tragedies that arise. Do the best you can to work with an employee's situation. 

But keep in mind, the business has to still be able to operate. If the business goes out of business, everyone will have a problem. 

Do what you can to accommodate an employee, but do not make an arrangement that will punish other employees.

Follow along with the Creating Disney Magic Podcast on Facebook

On Twitter - Lee Cockerell and Jody Maberry.

Feb 28, 2017

Good ideas are everywhere. You can learn something new to apply in your business by visiting competitors or even other businesses in a different industry. Visit museums, golf courses, churches. Creative ideas to spark a new way to do business could be found anywhere.

You can even find new ideas in the paper, which is why I spend time every morning at Starbucks reading the Wall Street Journal or New York Times.

Great customer ideas can also be found in the ways other businesses do it poorly. Have you ever had an experience that left you wanting more? Understand why it happened the way it did and find a way to make sure your customers never feel that way.

In this episode of Creating Disney Magic, we examine where you can find ideas outside and bring them into your business. We also talk about how to improve from within before you bring in new ideas. 

Feb 21, 2017

In this episode of Creating Disney Magic, I answer a listener question about managing time conflicts. 

Specifically, he asks about dealing with conflicts of schedule of what I have in my DayTimer and events scheduled by my assistant at Disney. 

Here is how I would make sure there would never be a conflict of schedules;

  1. Every Sunday night, I would sit down and check my DayTimer schedule with the corporate schedule in Outlook.
  2. Every morning, I would open Outlook, I would make sure all of my appointments in Outlook were in the DayTimer.

If you want to stick to your own personal time management system, which you should, you have to understand how to make it work with the corporate scheduling system. Or understand other people can put items on your calendar you must tend to and you will have to remain flexible.  

You can go deeper with time management with my new course, Time Management Magic.

Do you have a question you would like me to answer on the podcast? Just hit reply to this email and ask your question. 

You can also ask a question on Twitter or Facebook.

Feb 14, 2017

To create a magical experience for your customer, you need to identify and remove any hassle the customer may encounter. 

In this episode of Creating Disney Magic, we examine how you identify what is getting in the way of your customer having a better experience. 

First, look at customer complaints and look for trends. 

Next, ask your customers directly. Offer them something in return to sit down with you and answer questions for an hour. Find out what you do well and how you can do better. 

Finally, sit down with your employees. Ask what you do well, how you can do better, and what rules and procedures they don't like. 

With those three steps, you can find the areas creating the most hassle for your customers. Now work on a new system, guideline, or procedure to remove the hassle from the customer experience. 

During the episode, I explain some innovating ways we have removed customer hassles. 

My Time Management Magic Course is now available. You can find it here

Feb 7, 2017

Is it possible to initiate change if you are not in a leadership position? 

Some organizations are reluctant to change. Sometimes a boss can think they know everything. 

All you can do is to finesse in a change. Ask your supervisor if they are interested in hearing your ideas and input about your job. Be clear that when you bring an idea forward, you are willing to work it yourself and not put more work on your supervisor. 

Understand, you may not be able to have any impact on change in the organization. If that is the case, don't be willing to stay in that environment too long if it frustrates you. 

Referenced in this episode is the book Winning by Jack Welch

The Time Management Magic Course is now available. You can find it here

What is the best excuse you have heard from an employee? 

Send in your excuses and we will use some of them on an episode of Creating Disney Magic. The top 5 excuses will receive an autographed copy of one of my books. 

Feb 2, 2017

The Time Management Magic Online Course is now available. 

Based on the book, Time Management Magic, this course goes deeper into the content and concepts behind the book. The book introduced you to the idea of Time Management Magic, the course will walk you through every step of implementing this system into your life. 

The course includes a workbook to help you walk through the course material and discover the most important things in your life, set goals, work towards priorities, and have a better life. 

You can enroll in the Time Management Magic Course HERE

If you are business and would like to offer this course to your entire team, reach out and ask about special pricing for organizations. 

This material in this course is the same material I taught to leaders at Walt Disney World, at the Disney Institute, and to organizations around the world. 

This course is not just a how-to on using a Day-Planner. This is a system to uncover your responsibilities, discover your top priorities, and use your time to get the things done that really matter. 

CLICK HERE to enroll in the Time Management Magic course. 

Jan 31, 2017

Today, many people are skeptical of leadership. How can you overcome this?

People will remain skeptical until you build trust. You have to show you are credible, reliable, do what you say you are going to do, keep your promises. That is how you build trust and begin to create an environment where people are not skeptical of leadership. 

Connect with us on Facebook on the Creating Disney Magic Podcast Page

Jan 24, 2017

Is there an "It" factor? Do some leaders just get it? 

Yes, some leaders have it and some don't. But it is possible for you to learn it, enhance it, build it. You have to understand your impact on the people around you and consider leaving a legacy before you can get the It factor. 

If you focus on it, you will eventually get it. 

In this episode we mention Carol Quinn and her book, Don't Hire Anyone Without Me

Jan 17, 2017

In this episode, Lee discusses communication with vendors. A key to working with vendors is to get as much information as you can and be prepared. With more knowledge, you will understand if you are getting treated fairly. 

Use your judgment on how much information you should share. You have to give enough information to allow them to help you solve your problem. 

When working with vendors you have to be clear about what you want. 

If you have a question, you can connect with us on the Creating Disney Magic Podcast on Facebook.  On Twitter, connect with Lee Cockerell and Jody Maberry.

Jan 10, 2017

Does it ever make sense to take a voluntary demotion? 

At one point in Lee's career, he took a voluntary demotion when he was passed over for a promotion. In this episode of Creating Disney Magic, Lee explains the situation that led to the voluntary and why it was good for his career. 

Get Lee's newest book, Career Magic, HERE.

If you want to be one of the first to know when the Time Management Magic Course is ready, get on the list HERE

Jan 3, 2017

During the holidays, gift giving can be awkward. Should you give a gift to your supervisor? As a supervisor, should you accept gifts from employees?

During this episode of Creating Disney Magic, Lee examines gift giving in the workplace. We also discuss what to do with gifts from vendors. 

You need to understand what do to about gifts before it happens so you know the proper way to handle it. 

Dec 27, 2016

Recently, a listener to Creating Disney Magic wrote in and said that it seems that Lee makes negative comments about introverts. 

In this episode, Lee addresses the listener complaint, but he also examines introverts. Lee himself is an introvert. 

The key in business is to get people in a role that best fits them. Perhaps an introvert would not enjoy customer facing jobs as much as they would enjoy a role backstage. If someone likes the work they are doing they will do a great job. 

If you work with people as individuals, you will understand how people get energy and work best, whether they are an introvert or extrovert. 

To learn more about introverts in the workplace, check out the book Quiet by Susan Cain. Or the follow-up book Quiet Power. 

The Time Management Magic Course is almost ready. To be one of the first to find out when the course is available you can add your name to the list HERE

Let Connect - 

Creating Disney Magic on Facebook

Twitter - Lee Cockerell  and Jody Maberry

Dec 20, 2016

Everyone organization will experience change. Change is healthy. 

The problem is people want everything to be the same, but they also want change. So change, even if it is good, can be disruptive. You have to manage change with customers but also within the organization. 

Change should be a part of the culture of your organization. If your organization does not have a culture of change, you will face resistance when it happens. 

Be one of the first to find out when the Time Management Magic course is available. Get on the list HERE

Follow Creating Disney Magic on Facebook

Dec 13, 2016

In this episode of Creating Disney Magic, Lee Cockerell shares a travel story that nearly ruined his plans. Bad weather and canceled flights threatened Lee's chance to make a flight to South Africa for five speaking engagements.

Instead of giving in to the situation, Lee rented a car and drove from New York to Atlanta to make sure he made the flight to South Africa. His can-do attitude made sure he was able to meet his obligations. An attitude of determination to make things happen will set you apart throughout your career.

Get Lee's new book, Career Magic.

The Time Management Magic Course is almost here. Be one of the first to get updates. CLICK HERE to get on the list. 

Dec 6, 2016

During his time at Marriott, Lee opened 100 new hotels. 

In this episode of Creating Disney Magic, Lee shares what how Marriott was able to open so many hotels in a short amount of time. 

When you expand and open a new location, customers don't care that you have only been open a few days or a couple weeks. The customer paid and expects excellence. Being new is not an excuse for not delivering. 

Nov 29, 2016

Sometimes work doesn't get done because of team members. Sometimes work doesn't get done because of bad policies, poor communication, or a number of other institutional reasons. 

The real reason work doesn't get done is because of poor project management and poor time management. In this episode of Creating Disney Magic, Lee examines ways we can all get more work done. 

We are recording the modules for the Time Management Magic course. If you want to be one of the first to know when the course is available, you can add your name to the list here.

Nov 22, 2016

If not everyone can be the best is it okay to accept being average? We often put a wrong spin on success. Success is measured by happiness not by money.

Listen in as Lee talks about what success looks like and what you can do if you're ready for something different.

You can order Lee's new book, Career Magic, HERE.

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