As the year turns, I hope your “Leadership Sense” is tingling with the possibilities for a year of growth and improvement. Besides the daily tweaking and problem-solving that is part of your role, consider spending part of your time looking at the long term and the underlying systems that create the outcomes you’re currently getting from your team.
Over the holidays we spend time looking at pictures from the past year, including our trip to Disney World last September. A veteran of many Disney Institute programs, I am well aware that the “Magic” of the Disney experience is the result of superior systems and processes executed well and consistently. As you probably know, Disney calls their customers and employees Guests and Cast Members, openly acknowledging that it is all a huge, interactive theatre.
Three of their systems were particularly visible to me on that trip – living from values, communication protocols, and behavior.
1. Keep Your Values and Priorities Relentlessly Clear.
The Disney Parks live a set of four core values: Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency. The order is important. All cast members receive regular training in these values, which are posted all over (backstage, that is) and reflected in every onstage interaction with guests. I believe a huge part of the magic of Disney is that every person you meet is working toward the same goals and holding the same priorities.
Your organization can create a lot more “magic” for employees and customers when you declare, talk about, and consistently live from clearly defined core values and a shared vision.
2. Meet Others Where They Are.
From having visited Disney in the past with wheel chairs and strollers, I am aware that cast members are trained to always go to the level of the person with whom they interact, e.g. they drop to one knee to make level eye contact with children or people who are seated. We experienced this several times in our trip, always with a part of me marveling at the consistency of the execution.
Sometimes it’s the small details that make the biggest difference in building relationships, and this is one of those details. I teach this technique to others as a powerful tool for establishing trust and improving the quality of communication. Start with the language of those to whom you are speaking AND establish a physical connection by coming to their level – literally.
3. Keep Smiling.
Everyone smiles. The guests smile, the cast members smile, even the decorations on the parade floats smile. It’s impossible to not feel good while you’re at one of the Disney Parks.
I’m not so naive as to think that Disney only hires Happy People. Disney hires normal people, then invites them to play a role on stage, with the instruction: “When you are on stage, smile.” And the truly powerful thing is, the action of smiling triggers positive emotional affect, which causes you to feel better, which makes it easier to smile even more. Plus others mirror that smile back to you, which creates a loop of positivity.
P.S. You can create that in your own organization, even without Mickey or Donald. And smiling isn’t even a budget item!
Great outcomes flow from great leadership, both on stage and back stage. Pay attention to these details, and whatever you do as a leader is more likely to be received in a positive light.
Remember, Leadership is not about a title: Anyone can be a leader who builds systems that support core values, pay attention to others, and build positive connections.