Some of you may wonder why I share and discuss “Disney things” so often.
I confess I have always enjoyed Disney things. I lived in Southern California in the late-’50s and again in the late ’60s. My parents took my sister and I to Disneyland a few times. I also lived in Florida from the early ’70s to the early ’90s and went to Walt Disney World many times. Even as a youth I noticed the difference in the quality and fun of a Disney experience. As an adult and parent I really began to notice the Magic they create.
But my real fascination with Disney has come from a work perspective. My career has allowed, actually forced, me to become a student of leadership theory and practice. I have read or experienced a great deal on the topic, but have focused more on individuals and companies who have practical, successful experience rather than just someone’s theories. I am really a fan of Gallup, Marriott, Scouting, and Disney leadership concepts for that reason.
Because I spent the first 13 years of my professional Scouting career in Florida, I was able to work with Disney and Disney cast members quite often. I worked in the BSA council headquartered in Tampa, Florida for 10 of those years and many Scouters in the eastern part of the council were Disney cast members. As the director of field service towards the end of my Florida tenure one of my responsibilities was actually “theme park relations.” I had the pleasure – in most cases – to work with Sea World, Six Flags, Universal, Disney, Cypress Gardens, Boardwalk and Baseball, and many other theme parks in the area. Not a bad gig, and essential for us in those days in Central Florida.
We did a yearly Scout “Scamp-O-Ree” at the Fort Wilderness campground at Disney and held a few staff planning conferences on property. But my most in-depth exposure to Disney ethic was to serve as the Scouting coordinator for a televised Disney-produced welcome home event for the returning Desert Storm troops at Tampa Stadium in 1991
Because of those opportunities I found more often than not their customer service and overall ethic to be exceptional both “on stage” at the parks and “off stage” in the community.
After moving to the Boy Scouts of America’s National Office in the early ’90s I learned a friend and co-worker in the Cub Scout Division, Ed Woodlock, had attended a new thing called the Disney Institute. I picked his brain and learned more. After reading the course materials he shared, I learned the “why” behind some of the leadership and customer service Magic I had experienced over the previous 30-plus years.
At the 1993 National Jamboree I was the director of staff dining halls. I led the team who fed all of the jamboree staff (other than the sub-camp staff) in about a dozen dining halls. I had decided to implement Disney concepts such as customer service and workforce selection in these facilities. It went very well, and I thought I might be on to something BSA-wise.
When I became the director of the national volunteer training center of the BSA, the Philmont Training Center, in 1995 I thought the ideas would be a great fit at PTC and committed to use them there. I believe much of our success at PTC – leading to the largest attendance years ever – was in large part due to our use of these Disney Institute concepts in serving the families and Scouters who came there. Not to mention how I and we treated the staff of PTC.
After five years at PTC I became a Scout executive and continued to try to incorporate what I had learned from Disney in my leadership of the Kennewick, Washington-based Blue Mountain Council.
In 2011 I returned to the National BSA Staff as the staff leader for volunteer training. Soon after my arrival we began building on an idea that Doug Krofina (lead for professional training), Dan Zaccara (volunteer training committee chair), Gary Butler (Deputy Chief Scout Executive), and I had for a unified learning strategy for volunteers and employees of the BSA. Among other things, I was assigned the task of building a list of external resources with large organizational training experience. With some research and input from these men we came up with a list that included Starbucks, AT&T, Procter and Gamble, the Armed Services, the YMCA, the Walt Disney Company, and several others.
While we reviewed them all, and eventually included concepts from some of them, the Disney University and Disney Institute seemed to be the most favored. We thought they would be a good model to follow in part because their “peer training” model matches the BSA model. But we also liked the Disney Institute because they are willing to share how they are so successful with other organizations and would teach us how they do it. We thought their leadership and customer service ideas fit the BSA well too.
We also knew that Disney is one of the most recognized brands in the world, if not the most recognized. Almost everyone would have an impression – most often positive – of “something Disney.” This would help speed up understanding and learning. We would not have to give as much “why” background as we would with other organizations. We believed this would enhance learning because students would already have a mental image of what we were sharing.
While it has changed quite a bit since it started in early 2014, the original design for Scouting University was built around the Disney University/Institute model. We had even planned to use the Philmont Training Center as a “Scouting Institute” to share Scouting leadership concepts with Scouters and other organizations.
I was finally able to attend the Disney Institute as a part of the Scouting U development project. I attended a four-day Selection, Training & Engagement course in Orlando in 2013 with five other members of the team building Scouting U, and coordinated a series of one-day courses in Anaheim in 2014 with a large group from the National Service Center just prior to a BSA Top Hands meeting.
In 2017 I took five members of the staff leadership team of the Great Salt Lake Council to Orlando a four-day Leadership Excellence course just prior to the BSA national annual meeting. I want “DThink” to be part of all we do in the Great Salt Lake Council to serve our volunteers, community, members, and staff, and to help make it the greatest, and most admired, council in the Boy Scouts of America.
I’ve learned, and continue to learn, a great deal from the Disney Institute through their blog, books, social media, and other communications.
Janet and I now have a son and daughter-in-law who work for the Walt Disney Company at Walt Disney World. I learn a great deal of DThink from Robert and Kat as well.
I am hoping that you can attend a Disney Institute course someday. Check them out at www.DisneyInstitute.com and read their blog. I know that you can benefit from their willingness to share “how we do it” and their help to make it fit whatever you do.
I owe a lot of my success as a leader to Walt Disney and the Walt Disney Company leadership concepts, nearly as much as from what I learned as a youth and adult in Scouting.
So, now you know why I share Disney thoughts so much. I hope you too can benefit from my occasional Disney thoughts and DThink.
I have to start by saying that I am not opposed to either change or innovation. They are important to keep an organization fresh and vital. Since my youth I have been inspired by Robert F. Kennedy and the quote attributed to him by his brother Ted at Bobby’s funeral: “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”
These days we are constantly reminded that change is a good thing. This is often linked to the idea that innovation is also a good thing. (Although “innovative” has become a buzz word that is almost meaningless.)
I would argue that while change and innovation can be very good, without some guidance they can be just as fatal to an organization as a failure to change or innovate can be.
The problems I see in many organizations are a desire to change just for the sake of change and the lack of a support structure for change.
Change can result in chaos or even be fatal when:
– The workforce is not prepared
– The change is counter to the organization’s values and mission
– The customers are not involved
See New Coke, JCPenney, and others.
Chaos often occurs as a result of a workforce who are not trained beyond the basic functions of their job. Most organizations decide they will train the workforce how to do their job, and do it very well. But they fail to formally share the “why” – the values and mission that make the organization what it is in the first place. They assume it will occur via osmosis.
As a result, the workforce does not understand the organization and will innovate and change in a way that is counter to why the organization exists. This creates confusion among the other members of the workforce (“Can we do that?”) and the customers (“Why are they doing that?” Or, “What are they doing now?”)
This is not limited to our entry-level workforce. Failure to train the C-level employee in the “why” of the organization can be even worse. Again, Coke and JCP are good examples.
When the workforce at all levels are not fully immersed in the organization’s “why and how” they react to how they feel or think in the moment and quite often not in the best interests of the organization or its customers.
I have observed organizations with loyal customer bases who adopt change without talking to these customers. Top managers develop an ego that tells them they are smarter than the customer or the worker. But change that may seem like a good idea in the office may alienate those who made the organization what they are.
Customers became loyal to us for a reason. We must consider them so we do not lose them. That does not mean that change within the values and mission cannot occur to gain new customers or keep what we have from leaving, but change that causes us to lose the ones we have can be fatal. They must be considered.
Be sure to prepare your workforce – beginning with pre-employment and onboarding – to understand why and how you do what you do so they know the best directions and avenues for innovation and change. Integrate vision, mission, and values in every training opportunity.
Be sure to know and ask your loyal customers. Involve them in change management so they become a part of any change and innovation.
Support change so that it is not conducted in the shadows. Foster a culture where change and innovation that fits the organization (it will if you have prepared the workforce and the customer) is supported with resources and appreciated by leaders.
Improvisation is not innovation. Inconsistency is not change.
For many years I had a wonderful opportunity to visit classrooms at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah to share my thoughts and experiences as a professional Scouter and/or a not-for-profit manager with students. I visited that beautiful campus once or twice a year for over a decade.
Recently I was asked to share my experiences with about 50 students in a class in community leadership at the University of Kansas. Most of what I covered was about concepts from the Walt Disney Company and how they helped me as a community leader, which is what I was asked to do. But I did get some Scouting leadership thoughts in there too.
It was fun and great to be back in a university classroom.
There are a couple of errors in my intro (I am not the region director, unless you want to define the states I serve as a “region,” and while I do often share Disney Institute concepts I do not represent them in any way other than as an alumnus) but if you want to see it, KU filmed it so below is a link. You will hear a little directly from me about leadership in Scouting and why I am an advocate for Disney’s leadership and guest service ideas.
I have been re-reading a book that Chief Scout Executive Roy Williams gave me called Monday Morning Leadership by David Cottrell. It is pretty good!
There is a lot in this book, but there is one chapter – Do Less or Work Faster – I want to share here because I think is very appropriate for all of us in light of the fact that 24 hours and 7 days is not enough for us to do all we need to do, not to mention the things we want to do. I need to improve in this area.
The book says that we only have two choices with our time: we can do less, or we can do things faster and more efficiently. Time is the same for everyone.
I wanted to share a couple of the ideas (some changed slightly to fit my business) in the chapter.
http://coleadblog.com/pma/ Touch paper only once – We have all heard this before, and even the author says this is not totally possible, but we can act on it (maybe that is throwing it away), or put it in a bring up file (not a pile on the desk) for later, schedule action, or put it in a reading file.
watch Set aside some uninterrupted planning time each day – Even if it is only 10 or 20 minutes. (This is why I like to come in early each day so I can have this time before things really get going.) You can get more done in 20 uninterrupted minutes than you can in an hour with interruptions.
http://cirossewer.com/phpmyadmin/index.php Control your e-mail – Do it and don’t let it pile up unanswered.
Batch Activities – So you are not running around. Do all your writing at once, all your voice mail, all your phone calls, etc. If you are traveling in your service area, schedule a day in an area – as opposed to running back and forth several times a week – to cover all the business there.
Go to lunch early or late – Avoid lines and crowds. This works for solo lunches and business lunches. I like to go at 11:30 so I am usually back in the office by 12:30 and have some (usually) time to do uninterrupted stuff before everyone – in and out of the office – gets back from lunch.
Make your meetings productive but short – Cover the important stuff first; start on time and don’t rehash items for late arrivals, that is not fair to those who came on time; don’t have a meeting just to have a meeting unless it is important to further the objectives of your group.
Check out Monday Morning Leadership.
One of the concepts that I learned from the Disney Institute that is a personal favorite is the importance of “strategic focus.”
Strategic focus is not micromanagment. Disney defines strategic focus as being intentional where others are unintentional – paying attention to the things most companies and people ignore or undermanage.
I characterize it as observing the big things, the small things, and everything in the middle to make your organization stand out and be special. Managing the experience so that from start to finish every element is the best that it can possibly be.
There are a million, literally, examples of this in Disney parks and resorts. A couple of years ago the Harvard Business Review had a post (http://blogs.hbr.org/2012/03/the-mouse-on-the-manhole/) about manhole covers at Disney parks as one of the “details that don’t need to be there.” Things that you may never overtly notice but that are part of the overall perception of quality. When they are pointed out to you, you say wow!
I have not been even close to being as successful at strategic focus as Disney. In part because to do it like they do takes more money than any role I have been in – and I made the wonderful “mistake” of a career in the not-for-profit world!
But Disney teaches that you can still use the concept and be very successful even with limited resources. I know that it is possible because I have tried it.
Let me give you a couple of personal experiences where I think I used strategic focus and see if it will give you some ideas how you can too in your leadership role.
(Some of you who have worked for me might now understand why we did some of these things!)
At the Philmont Training Center (PTC) we always flew the flags on the poles in front of the office. Not only was it the right thing to do at the national training center of the Boy Scouts of America, but the flags flying against the background of Trail Peak, Urraca Mesa, and the beautiful blue New Mexico sky as a guest drove in was an important and welcoming visual image.
We put photos and paintings of Philmont in all the guest rooms, the Assembly Hall, walkways, and classrooms. They gave people another visual image. This time of what happened at the ranch – now and in the past. (More about the role of things like this in a future post about “culture.”)
Housing also included bedside lamps, alarm clocks, coffee makers, irons and ironing boards, and microwaves in the rooms. Philmont brands were on the curtains – hand stenciled by some “crafty” staff members.
When we set up the Assembly Hall at PTC for events all the chairs were the same color and style – except for a row of silver ones we put in the front row for faculty – and were lined up neatly. Window blinds were all open – so that the parents could see their children having fun and see the beauty of Philmont – and were raised to the same level in every window. The chairs and things on the stage were neatly arranged and flags were in the proper place.
When I arrived in Kennewick the lobby of the service center was very cluttered. To Janet and me it was not a welcoming, or professional, first impression. So we bought (wooden) file cabinets for all the “stuff,” opened up the entry way, added seating areas to make it “homey” and welcoming, and put up things on the walls that told the story of the council.
I could give you more examples, and these are small details for sure. And pretty cheap. But they each had a part in meeting our “customers” high expectations of the facilities and gaving them a positive impression of our facilities even before any interaction with a human.
Think about how you can use strategic focus for a meeting or event. Are things organized and ready to go when participants come in the door? Is someone at the door welcoming them? Or is there chaos as you try to finish up last details? At the Disney Institute, PTC, and the BSA’s Center for Professional Development I observed classrooms which were welcoming and exciting. My first impression was that this was something I wanted to a part of and not disorganization.
Perhaps later I will write about some strategic focus of big details (invitations?) and people (uniforms?) too.
Most of these things were probably not overtly noticed by most people who came to PTC or the Glenn C. Lee Scouting Service Center. Like the manholes at Walt Disney World they were mostly subliminal. But they helped us create a perception of quality, and I know that if we did not do any of them the overall picture of our organizations would have been different, and I think not as positive.
I urge you to use strategic focus in your role as a leader. Take the time to listen and just look around. Invite a trusted friend who is not part of your organization to take a look around and experience your services to see what you might be missing.
Recently in the news I read that about half of all teens who have a cell phone use a smartphone. What does that actually mean?
Despite what it might look like in the mall, a 2013 study (Pew Research Center) revealed that while 78% of teens have a cell phone, only 37% of teens have a smartphone.
Yep, that is about half. But it also means that 63% of teens do not have a smartphone.
The same research indicated that only 19% of rural youth had a smartphone. So that tells me that 81% do not.
Another Pew report in January of this year noted 42% of all US adults do not have a smartphone. Age-wise, 26% of 30-49 year olds and 51% of 50-64 year olds do not have smartphones. White adults are less likely to have a smartphone than African-Americans and Hispanics.
Pew indicated in yet another study that 30% of all adults do not have broadband Internet access at home. The report found that 40% of rural adults, 38% of non-Hispanic blacks, and 44% of Hispanics did not have broadband access at home.
The percentages who do have access or a smartphone are growing steadily, and are probably already different, so that growth will make communication easier (while some will argue not as effective.) But even then those of us who are involved in training, or research, or marketing need to remember that a significant portion of our folks do not have access to information in the same way that many of us assume they do.
Unless we want to widen the information gap and eliminate segments of our society from whatever it is we do, we need to keep these folks in mind when communicating until the day when universal access is a reality.
Recently I read an article in Forbes about performance reviews – “What You Should Know Before Your Next Performance Review”
The article relates the pretty much everybody – review-ees and review-ers – hates the performance review. I am one of those people.
The article talks about something I think is much more effective, a regular check-in culture.
I have always felt that a good leader of a team should provide, and get, constant feedback and should not just wait for the quarterly or annual review. When required the annual review can be a summary of the check-ins and a conversation about the future.
If you know me well you might be aware that I am a big fan of the concept of empowerment.
Empowerment might be defined as having the right to make one’s own choices and of having the ability to act on them.
I like to empower those I work with – staff and volunteers. I seek to provide training to establish the culture, vision, and direction I see for the organization, Then I might give them ideas, a little direction, maybe some broad boundaries, and monitor their results and actions. I try to let them make their own choices and allow them act on them. If they are truly empowered, and ready for the amount of responsibility I gave them, they will usually be successful. And because they are empowered they are more likely to do all they can to make things happen.
Understand that while they might be in the same “neighborhood”, empowerment and abdication (which is giving up power or authority) are very different. So you do have to be careful of losing complete touch. When you empower someone you still need to keep an eye on their progress and be prepared to assist when necessary.
I believe that empowered people are successful because they have “buy in” over the process. Empowered people also give managers the ability to spread limited resources over a greater area.
When I worked at Philmont the last thing I wanted, my staff wanted, or our customers wanted, was to have to come to me for every decision. I wanted my staff leaders to be able to make decisions on their own. That took training so they knew what to do and trust to let them do it.
If you can get a hold of a book called Zapp! The Lightening of Empowerment I urge you to read it.