Book Review: “Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney” by Lee Cockerell

The author enjoyed a long career at Disney but he first started out very low as a dishwasher without a college degree and gradually moved up.

The 10 strategies:
1. Remember, everyone is important. Treat everyone with respect. RAVE (Respect, Appreciate, Value Everyone).
a. Make sure everyone matters …. and everyone knows it.
b. Know your team.
c. Let your team get to know you.
d. Greet people sincerely.
e. Reach out to everyone on your team.
f. Make yourself available.
g. Listen to understand.
h. Communicate clearly, directly and honestly.
i. Stand up for the excluded.
j. Forget about the chain of command.
k. Don’t micromanage.
l. Design your culture.
m. Treat your people as you would want your customers to be treated. 4 Guest expectations: Make me feel special, Treat me as an individual, Respect me and my children, Be knowledgeable.

2. Break the mold.
a. Be clear about who’s responsible for what.
b. Remember that responsibility and authority go hand in hand.
c. Make every position count.
d. Get as flat as you can.
e. Eliminate overwork.
f. Rethink the meeting structure.
g. Anyone can take responsibility for change.
h. Be prepared to take risks. Evaluate reversible and irreversible decisions.
i. Expect resistance.
j. Don’t try to win every battle.
k. You’re never really done.

3. Make your people your brand. People, especially the front line people, represent you and your brand.
a. Define the perfect candidate.
b. Don’t settle for a clone.
c. Look for good people in unlikely places.
d. Involve the team in the selection process.
e. Select by talent, not resume.
f. Find a good fit.
g. Hire people who are smarter and more talented than you.
h. Describe the job completely.
i. Check out the candidates personally.
j. Ask revealing questions.
k. Use structured interviews when possible.
l. Find out what really matters to your applicants.
j. If possible, have candidates demonstrate their expertise.
k. Select the best candidate, not the best one available.
l. Look for people to nurture and promote.
m. Constantly evaluate performance.
n. Recognize when the job doesn’t fit the talent.
o. Terminate quickly and kindly.
p. Don’t lose touch with those you lose.

4. Create magic through training. Make sure everyone has the right training.
a. Give people a purpose, not just jobs. The vision statement: What we want to be. The Essence Statement: What we want our guests to feel. The Mission Statement: What we must do.
b. Take your role as a teacher seriously.
c. Become a COACH (Care, Observe, Act, Communicate, Help)
d. Teach by example.
e. Teach the principles of great service.
f. Train people for Magical Moments and Take 5’s.
g. Teach them how and where to spend their time.
h. Communicate constantly.
i. Give feedback immediately and effectively.
j. Prepare them for the unexpected.

5. Eliminate hassles:
a. Ask what than who.
b. Listen to your customers
c. Learn firsthand of what’s working and what’s not.
d. Constantly query employees.
e. Harvest process solutions from employees.
f. Try an audit exchange plan. (Cross organization audit)
g. Stay technically up-to-date.
h. Think ahead to prevent.
i. Look at your personal processes. Take 5 to 30 minutes each morning to plan your day. Use that time to list all the things you need to get done or get started on that day. Ask yourself, of all which ones should I start on today? What should I start today that will not pay off for 1, 5, 10, 20 or more years from now? What did I do yesterday that I need to go back and do better.
j. Expect resistance.
k. Periodically evaluate the changes you make.

6. Learn the truths.
a. Get out and about routinely.
b. Get a ground-level view.
c. Meet regularly with direct reports. Discussed 4 P’s (people, processes, projects and profit).
d. Assemble small groups.
e. Make them feel safe.
f. Probe for the whole story.
g. Answer the tough questions. Be prepared.
h. Get formal feedback about yourself.
i. Constantly evaluate your spending.

7. Burn the free fuels. Give people the recognition and acknowledge their accomplishment.
a. Spend meaningful time with employees
b. Recognize employees by name.
c. Catch them doing something right.
d. Make it public.
e. Include their families.
g. Recognize and encourage good ideas.
i. Give extra ARE (Appreciation, Recognition, and Encouragement) to frontline employees
j. Make ARE a natural part of your routine.
k. Watch your language.

8. Stay ahead of the pack. Sharpen your pencils – keep learning.
a. Be a knowledge sponge.
b. Fill in your gaps in Technical, Management, Technological and Leadership competencies.
c. Master business fundamentals.
d. Learn from the best.
e. Learn from your competitors.
f. Keep up with your colleagues.
g. Study your customer base.
h. Follow the compass. (Compass points based on customer psychogrophics: needs, wants, stereotypes, and emotions.
i. Expand your horizons: opens your eyes to better ways of doing things. Coming up with great ideas is like fishing; the wider you cast your net, the better your chances of hooking some good ones.
j. Keep the people you lead ahead of the pack.

9. Be careful what you say and do. You can’t stop being who you want to be because “People are always watching you and judging you.”
a. Demonstrate a passionate commitment to your role.
b. Do what it takes to get the job done.
c. Set high standards.
d. Have a positive attitude.
e. Look and carry yourself like a professional.
f. Be a full time professional – even when the curtain is down. True professionals do the right thing in the right way, even when no one is watching.
g. Model personal ownership.
i. Don’t lose your sense of humor. Take the work seriously but not themselves.
j. Be a great partner.
k. Stay humble. Great leaders are great followers. They worry a whole lot more about their mission and the people they work with than they do about themselves and their stock options.

10. Develop character. Have integrity.
a. Anticipate ethical dilemmas.
b. Live your values. Honesty: deal with one another in a straightforward manner. Integrity: act in a manner consistent with our words and beliefs. Respect: treat others with care and consideration. Courage: pursue our beliefs with strength and perseverance. Openness: share information freely. Diversity: seek, value and respect difference among our fellow workers. Balance: strive for stability and vitality in our lives.
c. Train for characters, not just skill.
d. Teach your values.
Lots of good ideas especially around carrying yourself as a leader. It takes lots of efforts and experience to lead people all the way down to the front life people; it’s not a natural act.

Disney has a lot to offer to those who want to learn. This is a good advertisement for Disney and its training offerings. Creating magic in a Magical Kingdom is not as easy as people thought and it’s not fairy tale either. Learning from the best in class is the best way to become the best in class.