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Learning To Lead

In this transcript, Lee Cockerell (former Executive Vice President of Operations for Walt Disney World® Resort and manager of over 43,000 employees) discusses leadership qualities on, one of the best business schools in Michigan!

Lee:    In 1995 I gauged the Gallop Organization to go out and talk to our guests. About 6,000 guests, they asked them to call that had been to Disney world a month before and I would say that could even be the same question, we said ask one question it could the question you ask people that don’t come to this church or people who are new coming to the church or even people coming to the church. The question was what do you expect when you come to Disney World?

It’s really the only thing you need to know, because what do you expect and different people expect different things. Families with small children expect certain things Disney for the rides and all of those kinds of things but it was amazing to me that all people no matter what age they were, children, no children, single, married, on their honeymoon. Everybody expected the same thing we called these the four guest expectations at Disney now.

It helps us think about our policies, our procedures, our rules, our regulations, we think about how we hire people, we think about how we interact with our guest and we call in the four guest expectations. The first one was they said “When we come to Disney World make me feel special, is that important? You think it’s important in this church to make people feel special when they walk through that door, maybe it’s the first time.

The power you have is incredible because it depends they are going to run into one of you and that may determine whether they come back or not, that one interaction. One interaction, it’s the same in hotels, it’s the same in restaurant that the right interactions can seal the deal or the opposite. It was okay, it was no big deal and it was hard to park and no body made us feel, “No I didn’t get much out of it.”

That’s where you have huge impact. So be careful when you’re a volunteer make sure you are focused on those people, even when you see them coming way out there in the parking lot, zero in on them and attack them.

Aggressive hospitality we call that at Disney, aggressive hospitality. Not just standing there talking to each other, make sure you are focused on the guest, focus on your members, focus on the new people. By the way you don’t know what they are coming in, you don’t know what just happened in their life.

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There’s a million things happening every day to all the people in this room. Everybody has got a problem you don’t know about and that problem may have come up last night, it may have come up this morning. It may be something has been on their minds for a long time and you could be the person turning that around. Listen, help them, maybe help them get some help in the church or get them to somebody. Take this as a serious thing, first impressions are everything, big deal.

They re-focus how you do your volunteer work so that you can really know that you made a difference and you’ll hear back from them later, “I really appreciate that morning when you stopped me I was really having a hard time. My mother died last night or yesterday or last week. I was going through a tough time or whatever happens.” We know many things happen.

Make me feel special, how do you make people feel special, you pay attention to them. You listen to them, you know their name. Every time you meet them you must learn something new about them. If you really want to make them feel special, ask them about their grandchildren, I can tell you and I’ll tell you. Because I happen to be the one you’ve always wanted to meet.

I’m the only person in the world who has perfect grandchildren. Because I had a perfect son, this is how it goes in our family. We love to talk about our grandchildren and our kids, make people feel special, make them feel special. Find out their aspirations, what are they trying to achieve, any way you can help. Second they said, “Treat me as an individual when I come to Disney.

When I have an issue or a problem, deal with my problem. Help me get through my problem. First you’ve got to know what it is, that’s why you’ve got to get close to them, get to know them. Help me, treat people as individuals, there’s not a person in this room who doesn’t want to be treated as an individual when you’ve got a certain issue, somebody to go out and help you get through it.

Well, all kinds of individual needs at Disney World, people come with kids who are in a wheel chair, people that have dietary restrictions, people that want to be in a certain room on a certain level. People who need this and that and so on and on, wheel chair access for the bus and it’s unbelievable, treating people as individuals.

We never talk about how big we are at Disney World, and I would say for your church don’t talk about how big you are, talk about how good you are. Talk about impact, not how big. Delta Airline says they’re big that’s a problem. The bigger you are, the more I get worried. So don’t ever talk about bigness, talk about goodness this is the name of the game. We never talk about how big we are at Disney. You know how you take care of 50 million visitors? One at a time.

A cast member interacting with you and then when you’re going down the street, the next one, the next one, the next one and those interactions happen all week long where hundreds and hundreds of cast members, one by one. Sometimes I know you say it’s busy and there’s a million people coming through the door on Sunday. Take the time to have a strong interaction with people one by one and that will make impact.

Treat me as an individual, know me, know who I am and what I am trying to achieve, know my problem.


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