Some 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 me 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 compared to other parks. 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 this 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. 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 Disney 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.
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 customer service and leadership 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 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 which included Starbucks, AT&T, Procter and Gamble, the Armed Services, the YMCA, the Walt Disney Company, and several others.
While we reviewed them all, 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 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 wanted “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 in Orlando. I learn a great deal of DThink from Robert and Kat as well.
I hope you can attend a Disney Institute course someday. Check them out at www.DisneyInstitute.com and read their blog. I know 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.