Mickey, Donald, or Mufasa: What Disney’s Leadership Strategies can Teach your People

Mickey, Donald, or Mufasa: What Disney’s Leadership Strategies can Teach your People

This On-Demand event was originally presented on April 26, 2023 (60 min)


Much like his beloved characters, Walt Disney demonstrated three different leadership personalities during his lifetime. He started out emulating his alter–ego Mickey Mouse. Later, as circumstances became difficult and his burdens became greater, his behavior resembled the angry Donald Duck. Eventually, he found the sweet spot, comparative to a character developed years after his passing, Mufasa from The Lion King.

In this illuminating session, Lenn Millbower, The Mouse Man™, and a 25-year Walt Disney World veteran will share Walt Disney’s leadership journey. He will explain each of the three approaches, the situations appropriate for each, and, more importantly, situations where each is not appropriate. The formula Walt Disney World leaders are expected to follow will be explained. So will the three leader expectations that determine promotions, raises, discipline, and, unfortunately sometimes, the termination of underperforming leaders. Finally, you will be able to compare you and your own organization’s leaders against the Disney model and action plan the next steps for turning your organization’s Mickeys and Donalds into wise Mufasas who can inspire and guide the path to your own magical kingdom.

Attendees will learn

  • 3 different leadership models.
  • How to identify situations in which each of the three models provides an effective approach.
  • Disney leadership expectations.
  • How to identify behaviors you and your leadership team should focus on improving.


Lenn Millbower, the Mouse Man™ and author of Care Like a Mouse, teaches Walt Disney-inspired service, leadership, innovation, training, and success strategies. Everything Disney touched seems magical. It isn’t. It’s a method. Lenn saw that method up close. He spent 25 years at Walt Disney World as an Epcot Operations trainer, Disney-MGM Studios stage manager, Animal Kingdom opening crew, Disney Institute, Disney University, and Walt Disney Entertainment management. Now, he shares methodologies that will help you make your own magic.

Connect with Lenn on FacebookTwitterYouTube, and at www.likeamouse.com

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ADDIE model training - disney leadership

ADDIE model training - disney leadership

ADDIE model training - disney leadership


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Mouse Man Consulting™

Discover the secrets of Disney-inspired success with Mouse Man Consulting™. Led by a former 25-year Disney leader, trainer, and consultant, we provide personal consulting, presentations, training, coaching, and other resources to help you create your own magical culture, leadership style, customer service, and employee engagement strategies. Get inspired by Disney and take your business to the next level with Mouse Man Consulting™!

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On-Demand Webinar Recording
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Hi, everyone, and welcome to today’s webinar, Mickey, Donald, or Mufasa: Walt Disney’s Leadership Strategies Can Teach Your People, hosted by HRDQ-U, and presented by Lenn Millbower. My name is Sarah and I will moderate today’s webinar. The webinar will last around one hour. If you have any questions or comments, please type them into the questions box on your GoToWebinar control panel, and you can access today’s handout under the handouts drop-down on your control panel.
And today’s webinar is sponsored by HRDQ, for 45 years, HRDQ has provided researched-based off the shelf soft skills training resources for classroom, virtual and online training, from assessments and workshops to experiential hands-on games, HRDQ helps organizations improve performance, increased job satisfaction, and more. You can learn more at HRDQstore.com.
I’d like to welcome today’s presenter, Lenn Millbower, the Mouse Man(TM) and author of Care Like a Mouse. Lenn teaches Walt Disney inspired service and Leadership Innovation Training and Success Strategies.
Everything Disney touched seems a magical, it isn’t, it’s method. Lenn saw all that method up close. He spent 25 years at Walt Disney World as an Operations Trainer, Disney MGM Studio Stage Manager, Animal Kingdom Opening Crew, and Disney Institute, Disney University and Walt Disney Entertainment management.
Now, he serves as methodologies that will help you make your own magic. Thank you so much for joining us today Lenn.
You’re quite welcome. Glad to be here.
Yeah, and you’ll remind me that Disney’s Animal kingdom just celebrated its 25th year of operation, and it’s hard to believe that was 25 years ago. But I did learn a lot from my time at the Mouse by and large. I had excellent, excellent leaders more uncertain, so that wasn’t true. But the The interesting thing about Disney and leadership is Walt Disney’s own leadership journey, and when he finally found his sweet spot. So, we’re going to talk about Mickey Donald, and Mufasa, and what those strategies can teach you.
Walt Disney just loved coffee. He also, he had A apartment over the Fire Department and Disneyland and the picture on the far right shows The light that is lit on the second floor is his apartment, and even though he passed away in 1966, they leave that light lit all the time to remember Walt.
But anyhow, he probably had a coffee maker in his apartment, a coffee pot, or whatever, back then, But for some reason he was always walking around the park early dawn mooching for coffee. And why was he stayed overnight in the park? Because it was just easier to be there at the crack of dawn and walk around and verify that things were looking like he’d want them to look.
Well, there’s all sorts of stories about Walt Disney coming up on people.
Workers, employees, cast members, as Disney would call them and asking if they had coffee. This one time he went into the, I believe was called the Combination Cafe, and he walks up to the counter and the there’s a woman behind the counter and she is prepping the shop before opening a little bit later.
Lot walks up to her and says: I am Walt Disney, you know, of course, you are do you have any coffee back there?
She says certainly mister Disney and Walt Disney response Oh, no, wait.
There’s only one mister in Disneyland.
I’m Walt, and the one “mister” Mr. Toad from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
And Walt was very much a personable sort of guy in that way.
In fact, the reason Disney employees, where name tags, is because, at one point, he knew everybody in the company, but then the company got so big that he didn’t know people. And he wanted to be able to converse with them on a casual basis.
So, well, in one time, he said, I’ll take ideas from the janitor if he’s got one because but he couldn’t get those ideas if he was not approachable.
So he was Walt and mister Toad was, mister. Now, my experience is not a Disneyland. It’s a magic kingdom, Epcot, does the Hollywood Studios and Disney’s animal kingdom. So many of my references today will be from there.
However, the philosophy is largely the same, and I consider myself a wall, the angelus, meaning the current leadership doesn’t, and lift ship throughout the ages doesn’t always get everything right.
But we should remember what Walton and how he did it and what we can do to make things better and our own locations from that.
So having said that, let’s put your mouse here shot.
If you worked in a Disney Park, how would you expect your leader to behave? And I’ll let Sarah explain. I’ll be quiet. So, Sarah can explain how we’re going to do this.
So, if you want to open up that questions box there in your control panel and type in, the questions are and let us know your answer to the question and we can share off some of those answers.
I’ll give you a second there, too, to do that.
OK, great, So we have some some responses coming in here. Sean said, Happy, fun, and direct.
David said by example, Amy said welcoming.
Wendy said, organize but friendly.
Nikki says confidence. Joyce says enthused. Karen says they would lead by example. We have so many responses coming in here, but I’ll read off to more. We have Monica saying personal and fun, and Kelly said, open to feedback.
Yeah, those are good, those are good choices. And I would say often they are the goal.
It hasn’t always worked out that way, but those are certainly the goals.
And we’re going to share things with you That will validate a lot of what you’ve said and show you situations where the mouse had issues trying to do that, in spite of knowing that should be the way it’s done.
Just very quickly, my, my background, upper left, is me on the land boat ride in 19 85, with a lot less metal. And a whole lot more hair than. I was in charge of some attractions and Future World Horizons, which I miss to this day.
Getting my leadership certification with Mickey and the legendary Dave Venables, from the mouse being on a stage Manager at the studios for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles then, into training for entertainment, back to Epcot.
Then opening Disney’s Animal Kingdom lower left Getting My certification for running the Disney Institute programs for loyalty and quality service and Earning a Lifetime Achievement Partners and Excellence Award, of a one bit of business, is that this presentation is not authorized by endorsed by affiliated, with, has nothing to do with the Walt Disney Company.
Other than the fact that I work there and have some opinions and champion wall.
If, if there’s something about the presentation, I don’t like, if it’s solely my fault, the mouse has nothing to do with this, other than, hopefully, guiding a path for us to be better leaders and employees.
So having said that, my book, … Miles, focuses on three areas.
And the point of the book is that success comes from an emotive message, delivered with carrying interaction in a flawless context.
Now that, that would be a lot to cover in one session.
So we’re going to focus solely today on interaction, and that is the interaction between the leader, and the guess, remember.
Well, what we remember, Walt, those of us who still remember him from the days on the wonderful world of color or just rely on TV shows.
But he had a character journey all of his own, to get to be that person that we remember. And he always, he wasn’t always that person.
He didn’t say one, so I hope we never lose sight of that.
one thing that it was all started by a mouse, but it was really started by the people that Walt hired because he was an excellent creative.
It was a storyteller, par excellence, but he didn’t do something. She didn’t draws characters. He didn’t write a script. So, you don’t compose music is kind of a tone, deaf, heat, interactive movie. She didn’t create the special effects, design, the toys, or build the right.
He had to have people to do those. In fact, one of the annoyances for him was that he didn’t consider himself a good artist. He was in awe of how his animators drew.
So, he had to get other people like a True Leader does get other people to do things form.
So, what did you do. How did you do that? Well, He stayed real. I told you about his first name thing. hate Dress Down A, there was an old TV show called Colombo with the wrongful detective while it looked a little rumbled a lot at the time, Of course, agency that on TV.
He was definitely not an approved through there. If there’s this really funny story about him going to France and he loved Chile.
And he like two different kinds of Chile. We want to have more beans and one had more meat. And so we shouldn’t this French restaurant and enhance these two cans of Chile to the, to the server and ask if the kitchen can combine those and heat them up for them. I think that’s the kind of got anyone see. Hot dogs were favorite food. Has any like jell O for dessert? What? what he did was he hired experts, he inspired them, and he pushed them to be more excellent than they ever thought they could be, and the results while they speak for themselves.
Now, in that first phase, what I’m calling the mixing phase, What could pay a lot of money?
Because he couldn’t pay a lot of money.
He had to inspire, He had to create a mission, and the mission was, we’re developing animation into an art form. This is going to be unlike anything the world has ever seen before, and he was everybody’s buddy.
They didn’t they didn’t even come, all. They call them does, and he was in the room with his people. And it was very personable, again, because there wasn’t a lot of money to be here.
But then something happened, and it is called Success.
With the advent of snow white, that made something like $39 million.
Which doesn’t seem like a lot today, but it was real lot back then Of animators started to notice that this one got more time off than that one and I have a better chair than this guy has and why does he have the bigger drawing table?
And things start to get a little certainly because the utopian view of the mickie the panel do, you know, didn’t work once there was money to be made.
Also, in addition to that all had a breakdown because he was in everything all at once.
Hey, they’ve gotten through the Great Depression but then World War two was cranking up and because of World War II the military took over the studio lot.
Wall was not happy with the film production, and he turned into Donald, his real cranky, just the bad boss. In fact, the security guards, when he would drag onto the lot, would call ahead and tell people whether it was the teddy bear or the grizzly bear, that was reporting to work that day.
Here’s a couple of quotes from that period.
Know, you wanted to hear these from the company, but they’re real quotes.
I chair the **** out of my pound, pound aunt.
Every, once in awhile I fly or somebody, to hire them back, that way, they don’t get too complacent.
one of the inside jokes during this period at Disney was as soon as your name on opened the door.
You were going to be gone because while it was not pleasant to be around, and he lost some people during this period.
And you can see how herriot he was.
When you look at this org chart, and he’s, He is at the top, but everything goes through him. It was just a mess. And the other thing, as well throughout an org chart.
As soon as it was developed, he, he wanted to run things by the seat of his pants and you can’t do that with a big company. And with him in the middle of everything, he really did have a band breakdown and it all led to a strike.
The Disney studio strike was a nasty, nasty affair.
And again, it was because the studio had made money. The Utopian version was not working anymore. And Walter had gone Surly so you have the Mickey.
Then you have the Donald.
And this did not change until later on, but the problem with being a Donald is you can’t expect people to do things if you won’t do them yourself. Now, this picture here is an interesting one. It is not from the Disney company. It is from Lowes Foods in the Carolinas.
And I work with Lowes Foods because Martin Instrument branding guru brought me in to help los lobos won the turn themselves into, if you will, the Disney of Grocery.
And one of the things they decided early on, was that the everybody in the store would do the chicken dance when chicken came out of the oven, why, Because the chicken so good, it just makes you want to dance.
That included the leaders. If the Leaders one Chicken dance, then you couldn’t expect the employees to do it.
Well this picture is all the exact Lowes Foods at the the Ribbon cutting for a new store or the first shovel of dirt I should say doing the chicken dance and Walt.
Did not succeed in this period of time.
It only he only succeeded when he literally walked away from his studios and started messing around in his backyard with toy trains.
He set up a entity called Wed, stood for Walter Elize Disney and a building, an entity called Maple.
So what was worthy Walt, Disney Imagineers were and maypole was the Fabrication and Building arm.
They’re created with the imagineers developed.
And this is the wall we know this move fossa the kindly, grandfather uncle figure with a twinkle in his eye because he wasn’t involved at every little detail anymore. In fact, it was fairly involved in the animated.
Now, we’re talking the late fifties, Peter Pan, Cinderella, particularly by the time they got the sleeping beauty, he was barely involved in that.
And when we’re wall would come in, at that point, was when the ship needed steering when they when they had a problem. And they couldn’t figure out what to do with it. While came the rest of the time he was playing with toys and launching Disneyland now.
I’m oversimplifying a little bit. I understand that.
But these are clear phases. You’ve got the communal, pal the Mickey.
You’ve got the surly boss, Donald, and you’ve got the wise sage guide, move faster.
And it was when he hit move faster, that the, the thing worked for him?
And here’s something, he said, during that period, I think the prototype leaders in co-ordinating and encouraging.
It’s like conducting an orchestra, they’re all very talented, but they need to be pulled together.
So, what does it mean for us?
Well, here’s one example. I worked with the hospital system, called Hamilton Healthcare System.
And the CEO would always be running to a meeting, but to get to those meetings, he had to go from his office down the hall, in the hospital.
And he’d be running by people.
And people thought that he was not a nice guy, that he was meaning certainly.
We had to retraining him to leave his office 15 minutes before meeting.
So he could glad hand and talk to people as he was walking down the hallway, is some more fossa.
Attitude is steering without fully direct involvement.
You can’t both steer the boat and row the ore.
So, by leaving 15 minutes earlier, he was, he was able to connect with people.
So, those are the three kinds of leadership phases Walt Disney went through, that I want to ask you, which kind of later do you usually deal with?
Think about the majority of the time. And I’ll turn it over to Sarah for Explanations.
So, now I’m gonna open up a quick poll here so you can take some time here, and vote, if you feel like you deal with Mickey, Donald, or Move bossa leader, typically, and we’ll give you some time here to do that, and then we will get those results up on the screen, so that we can discuss.
Great, and We’ll give you more seconds here. Sorry about that. Lana didn’t mean that.
Now I interrupted you.
OK, great. Let’s get those results up on the screen, Seth.
Yeah, I find the results very, very interesting, because the donald’s are still a strong contingent.
Now, I shouldn’t say there are times when the Donald approach needs to be the right approach.
So for instance, if if you’re the team leader in an ambulance, and you’re trying to resuscitate a guy who has just had a heart attack, you probably don’t want to be everybody’s pal. You need to, you need to get things moving.
There was this movie called Armageddon and I remember the the Billy Bob Thornton character, who’s supposed to be Mission Control and NASA says to the astronauts who are in a crisis. I don’t care what you do. You fix that, you do that or else.
That would currently not really work for NASA that sets more but Donald approach, but it’s good to see what I’m 43% of the fossils. Maybe we’re learning.
So here’s some advice for you.
If you need to be the micky, be friendly.
But don’t be the pal, don’t get that close.
If you need to be at the bottom, Donald, be bossy. But only, if necessary, if you want to be the …
fossa, be the guy, share a vision of the results you want, and coach, and guide others to deliver it.
And as kind of a lazy person, I think, move X is the only way to go, because then you can for your time up, to handle bigger issues than trying to solve silly little things.
They had to, at the mouse, use these three Approaches Wild coven hit.
They had to be pal to the team, because it was very stressful times. And they were very upfront with, with the cast members. So they shared the pain. Both of these executives gave back a lot of their salary to the company. Now, it’s not that they’re still not hurting, but, let’s But at least they gave it back, then. And then they had to be decisive about what they were going to do. There’s no question. They shut the parks down.
But then they spend all their time trying to figure out how to run the parks in a safe way once they could re-open.
And perhaps the most interesting thing as they make decisions that were best for the employee.
So, as an example, they set the college program home because the college program kids, we’re all living in, building together, and that the home at that time, that looked like that could, that could be disease written, That kept the full-time employees on, but they furloughed them.
So, so that, that, they didn’t have to pay them because there’s no money coming in to pay them. But they did, in fact, continued their pay until the federal government kicked in with coverage and the entire time they were on furlough.
They still covered their medical costs, so they were very much focusing on the move fast.
This picture here is from Dalton Utilities, which is another client of mine and when Mark Buckner became the head of, they call them Crew Chiefs, the Chief of the Water Department.
The guys dig into holes and putting the pipestone absolutely love Mark, and why did they love Mark?
Because he was always out in the field with them.
They would do anything for him, because he was, God, you know, when I say is out in the field? He wasn’t telling them what to do. He was there, and support, and guidance.
So let’s talk about the approach of Disney, and so who are the real ideal Disney characters? Talking about the team members? There are people who give, who like to bring delight to others, and therefore gain pleasure and satisfaction for themselves.
There is, however, something that I call the founder, flounder, and you can see this in companies once the founder dies.
That sometimes the companies lose their way. It happened in some the Apple and it happened to Wal-Mart. It’s certainly happened with the mouse.
Once all went away, um, Disney developed a little bit of and arrogant attitude, late, forgotten this smooth fossa thing.
Now, I’ll give you an example In 2000, my book training with the beat came out, and I had to keep it hidden from my co-workers at Disney, because how dare you put something out, even though it had nothing to do with Disney.
You put that up. So, I’m in line with the cafeteria at the cafeteria with a leader of the leadership development at the Disney University, the employee training there.
And, she asked me, are you going to … the Association for Talent Development now?
And I said, yes, I am. And I very quickly added. And I’m paying my own way.
So what she said, Yeah, Karen’s going to. That’s such a shame.
I’m thinking to myself, such a shame. What’s such a thing that I paid for myself that? Karen’s going, is it something else. So I asked her, and she says, Well.
It’s such a shame that two people have to go when only one could go and report back to everybody.
I just thought to myself, Lady, we should be sending 10 or 20 people to which we should be gaining the knowledge. But the attitude was, Well, we’re Disney, We know better. We know the way to do it.
Then Judge Green comes along and hey, by the way, a center incredible jazz pianist, but he was in charge of Walt Disney World and Disneyland. And they did some guests research. They did some cash focus groups, manager, focus groups, and they came up with some discoveries and main thing. And of course, here’s an example of guests, research that still goes on.
And main thing they discovered was something that ultimately, they called the Disney Basics.
And the Cast Members had very specific needs, and those needs are emotional.
Disney, I wrote as emotion or wild set, other shape the intellect. We hit emotion. Those who appeal to the intellect only appeal to a very limited group.
And you could see this in the difference in attendance at a Apple store, on the right.
Or a Microsoft store on the left. And by the way, the Microsoft stores and basically closed down and the Apple Stores are still going strong.
I would suggest you, one is an intellectual, and the other is an emotional, even if you reach people emotionally, you can change behavior.
So here’s what the cast said they wanted. They wanted the bidders to remove barriers and aid success, they wanted to be in power, they wanted to be included in decision making. And they want it to be developed.
They, they also said, here’s what they wanted from the leaders. They said, I know my purpose, do you know yours? They didn’t feel the leader stood.
They want to be recognized by the leaders, and they want it to feel like the leaders valued them, high value of my co-workers, why aren’t you?
That’s a major Myths that the leaders were slipping back into that boss environment.
They wanted leaders who uphold the Disney standards who set us up for success and model behaviors.
They wanted to have delivered.
They wanted leaders to look up from their computers and talk to them.
They didn’t like leaders who didn’t help when it was fizzy.
They didn’t like leaders who complained about our home life and guess they didn’t like me and chastize in public being talked down too.
And then assume that what they were doing was the worst thing.
And, by the nineties, there were some of those leaders around there.
And yet, the formula that was put in place and, this really harkens back to wall, but, but, it was, it was the current leadership at that time, and I figured enough a great leader.
Delivers a satisfying cast experience. They cast members, deliver a satisfying guest experience, satisfy guest, deliver business results.
So, if you’re not focused on your cast if you’re not move faster, you don’t have good business results because us, certainly, caste is going to give certainly service to guess, then they won’t be satisfied.
So they put a lot of behaviors in place, and a lot of expectations in place.
So, let’s, I asked with regards to this later, what do you think is expected of this, Lee, or what kind of things do you think they put in place based on looking at this later here?
And you can type your response into the questions, and we’ll share some of those responses that we received.
I see we have Beth saying participation, Barbara says interaction.
Notice it says fun.
Karen says, engaging and approachable. Sheila says engagements, Debra enthusiasm, Maria involved, David, smile, and greet guests, and we’ll read off two more here. We have Jennifer saying had him be on the floor with the team, and Nikki says, Engage with the customers.
Yeah, interesting.
Notice, this is a leader, and look, what he’s doing with this time, he’s blowing bubbles sees. He’s got the buzz Lightyear glove saying to infinity and beyond. He’s got that little girl on through our page also got Tenants for penetrating, honors, lanyard. And mentioned, this is like, 8 30 in the morning.
This guy’s really on, it’s kinda like that photo. I showed you a couple of minutes ago of Mark Buchner out there with the guys or the leaders at Lowes Foods doing the Chicken Dance. This guy is demonstrating the behavior. He wants his employees to deliver.
So they codified this, The Judson Green regime did and codified entitlement as we went along. And finally, it came out to three times I’m positive.
I’m Knowledgable, and I accountable I demonstrate commitment to my cast members.
I know and manage my operation and teach it to my cast members.
I lead and monitor cast performance and enact operational improvements.
Those three words are really, really powerful, because in those three words, you can, you, you can inform any activity that a leader shouldn’t or would engage him.
And employee reviews, or leadership reviews, excuse me, were predicated on these three values, Positivity, Knowledge, and Accountability.
So we’re going to talk about those three a little later. And we’ll start with positivity.
There are very, and then, pardon me, I have to, I have the control panel right in the way here, for a second. The Cast Members expected and you saw the raw data a little earlier.
Treat us as individuals, be respectful, not dismissive. Don’t be self absorbed And don’t be arrogant.
That’s what positivity looks like.
Now this picture here is Josh ….
At this point, the picture was taken, he was the head of Walt Disney World. He’s now the head of all parks and the beaches and cream at the Beach Club Resort.
It is a marvelous place, if you ever get down there, make sure you do it. And if you see that gigantic Sunday the reading, it’s called the kitchen sink.
And if you can finish everything in the kitchen sink, you get it free.
So, he is enjoying a kitchen sink with employees of peaches and cream, and Josh, it’s very personable, And this is, of course, it is, it’s a photograph that was put together.
But it’s not Josh pretending to be somebody he’s not.
So what’s leading with positive attitude?
Look like, I foster a positive and safe work environment.
I take a sincere interest in and make the cast feel included and valued. I treat them with courtesy as if they are my guests and I actively listen and quickly follow up on their issues.
Those are the four points that the leaders are expected to deliver on the positivity. Now I’ll give you an example of how this positivity thing work.
This is, the worker, says Wardrobe issue.
But it was originally the word erbitux for Animal Kingdom.
What it also is a place where entertainment auditions happen and the room on the right is some of those auditions happening with with a choreographer leading the people being an audition. The problem was that this building this on Sher Birth Road and Sherbert Road. Disney had originally intended to be sort of a backstage lane, but it was a public road.
So, people found it, but because it was a backstage lane, had no sign that said, sure, birth wrote, and the end result was that prospective employees to come to an audition.
We’re missing the building and not showing up.
And the guy, the play Santa Claus, Victor Getchell, went to Lee Cockerell, who was an executive vice president of Walt Disney World, and pointed out this problem.
Know how hard it is to get government to do anything. There was a sugar throwed sign up within two weeks.
And that was leadership responded to a frontline cast member, and they do that all the time.
So some positivity suggestions for you.
Take a sincere interest in your people.
Treat your people with kindness, respect, and value of their diversity.
Definitely listen and quickly follow up on Issues.
Now, if you’re not the leader, if you’re in the training environment as a for instance, maybe there are points you could take from this and gleim into training programs.
If you are just just a worker, like, like if you’re a foreman.
Certainly, you could follow these, but if you’re a frontline, and you’re just curious about the mouse, or you’re attending here, this will translate to taking a sincere interest in the people around you to treating them with kindness actively listening and following up with, with others.
So these are good roadmap guidelines for anyone trying to succeed.
Now, let’s talk about Knowledge.
The customers expected, they’re leaders to be available and visible.
Just had a positive tone, to be capable of stepping into a sense known as not doing the job, but able to step in and then demonstrate the ability to do the job, because they have to teach to the cruze.
So, if you go to the Disney Parks, and you know what you’re looking for, you can very easily spot leaders.
In fact, one of the interesting things is A A one-on-one with apart vice president, for instance, and the head of merchandise will not take place in an office unless it’s a really sensitive topic to talk about.
You will see them walking the park, looking at the merchandise series, talking as they go, so they’re out and about In fact, I went Disneyland was built.
The original leaders walked around the park with Walt for the first time and asked where the office is going to be. And will also be, no **** office, I want you guys out in the park sharing what’s working for the guest and fixing it and making it better.
So, the expectation to this day is that you are out and about then, you can step into assist when needed.
But, you’re not rowing the boat only if you are absolutely needed, and that you know the job.
So, here this is explained, I know and manage my operation and teach it to cast a model and teach the priority behaviors. I know when to decide, I went to empower. I transfer knowledge and skills. I’m available. Visible and able to assist and identify improvements and remove barriers. Like that example I gave you about server thrown.
Now, here’s an example of how we did that.
So if you look at this picture, there’s a sign in in the basically the center upper rightish part says living on the land, They used to say, listen to the land And off to the right of that sign, There was an ice cream stand.
Now, here’s the problem, A family would go to the queue to get in line for listen to the land.
Dad usually would run over and get ice cream for the entire family, then he’d come back to the queue with all this ice cream.
And we, frontline folks, we didn’t know any better we can.
The rule was no food and Q So we couldn’t let him in this kind of ice cream dripping all over his hands.
And invariably, like, eight times, 9, 10 times a day, some frustrated guy after spending 20 bucks or so will, would throw ice cream in the trash.
That’s stupid.
But, as long as leaders weren’t out and about, and they weren’t paying attention to the cast and they weren’t knowledgeable about the operation, that continued.
Finally, when they started listening to us, we told them how stupid that was.
And they said, Well, the issue is, we don’t want people trippin ice cream in the queue.
So, OK, well, how can we fix that? And we ended up with a custodian going through the queue, every half-hour, simple fix.
But, if the leader is in the office and they don’t know their affirmation, they don’t see the fix like that.
So, some knowledge suggestions, model and teach the behaviors, you expect.
Know, when to decide or empower, and that’s a key point, is sometimes you have to decide, but anything you can give to them, give to them.
Transfer knowledge and skills, be available, visible, Able to assist, identify improvements, and renew barriers.
OK, last point, accountability: the cast expected that you recognize and appreciate my efforts that you consistently enforce rules and priorities, and I have to tell you, nothing, frustrated all of us, more than a, than a cast member getting away with things. They shouldn’t get away with it. We, so, I did that, because we were so dedicated and passionate about the Disney product and, and our goal of making people happy. So, trust us to make reasonable decisions. We know when to take that queue down or when to add more … to the line. Just let us do it, and communicate, communicate. Can you tell us what’s going on?
Now, I mentioned, I’ll go back. So we can see this. I mentioned priorities. Wells.
Here are four just being priorities. They’ve since added a fifth, which is inclusion, whether I can only speak for my time. So, these priorities are courtesy Efficiency, Safety, and Show.
Now, I suggest to you that virtually every organization is concerned with safety.
So, we’re leaving this out of this mix, but of courtesy efficiency and show, which in your organization gets the most focus, and I’ll turn you back over to Sarah.
Alright, so let’s launch another poll here, so you can take some time here to answer, and then, again, we’ll get the results up on the screen.
And we have this results streaming in. We will give you 15 more seconds to answer.
Well, look at efficiency.
Yet skyrocketing there.
Let’s get the results up for everyone else to see as well. There you are.
Um, so the Disney version is Safety, courtesy Show and efficiency. And you can see Hamilton healthcare system ended up with the exact same thing, which astounded me.
I wouldn’t think that a hospital system wood would have the same priorities as an amusement park, but they did what I say to my clients because often show is just completely neglected and show is everything in the environment. It either communicates a positive message or not. I’ll give you the simplest, broadest example. United Airlines flies a family friendly skies and there’s video of them dragging a passenger off the plane.
It’s not the friendly skies.
So, what Disney says about efficiency is when you have safety, courtesy and show working effectively, you will automatically be efficient.
But by a foe, by focusing on efficiency, you are considered you are not considering the other components that make efficiency successful.
So let’s, let’s move on from there.
Here’s how good the leadership was.
This was a personal story, if you could see, that, both criminal and boat, right?
I had, I was brand-new. I was working in 19 85. I was working 60, 70 hours a week, just because pay was only 465 an hour, Which seems terrible now. It seem like a lot back then.
Um, and to take boats off the canal, you had to throw us through.
You had to open a garage door.
Sir, oh, switch gate.
And the boat’s would go right off the track and into the storage area.
And I hit the button for the awning, or for, excuse me, for the garage door too soon. And it came down I wanna go screen on it, and a tour that owning to shreds.
Now that could have been a career ender because I was in my 90 days and I could have been dismissed at any time.
But leadership got together, they never told me this. I figured it out years later.
They decided. And here’s a guy with a real career in front of them.
And we’re not going to get him the smiths just because he made a mistake, because he’s working too many hours.
So somehow that reprimands never got on my record car.
This is just benevolent leadership.
So accountability suggestions.
Take a sincere interest in the …, treat all with kindness respect, and value their diversity, and actively listen and quickly follow up on issues.
So those are the Disney Leader Basics. I want to take a second and talk a little more about something that had to blow. Right, so I’m going back.
I was in charge as the lead at the attraction, And we had these things called an operation sheet. And we had to write. They had to be hand-written, boy how times have changed since then. But they had to be hand-written and everybody’s name had to be correct. The hours they work.
And from, from here to this at this hour, to that hour, and the number of hours and a percentage for payment purposes, and that’s an entire option.
Had to be perfect or you had to do it again, And The Lambo Reich could have on a busy day like the day I’m talking about 36 personnel.
So it was almost impossible to get an option correct.
I put one of the people I trusted in charge of the doc.
And I told her, OK, you’re going to need to take some boats off the canal.
She sent somebody back to take the Boat’s off the canal.
But the person she sent back was somebody I was told to keep an eye on.
Because this person had already had two accidents while driving busses.
And he was close to being terminated, But I was also told not to tell anybody any IPs.
So when I got Karen, the clipboard, and I said, Send somebody back, I didn’t, say, Don’t send disburse.
one of the worst thing happened, he threw the switch back to early, bet the switch gay, for the next two weeks. We cannot take any boats on or off the canal. So we’re stuck with 16, both, on the canal. All the time. Karen, Caribbean blame for that.
The guy who was certainly blamed for that.
But I stood up and I said, don’t blame them. It’s my fault.
I’m the one then put Karen in charge that caused this whole chain of events.
And unfortunately, that guy did get fired because it was his third accident.
But I saved Karen from a reprimand.
And, coincidentally, that was the last day of my duty in charge because I was in a temporary assignment. I got that job back a month later.
And they told me it wasn’t because of anything I had done while I was deleted the attraction.
They said it was because of the way you stood up and took responsibility when things went bad.
So, that’s a mark of really, really good leadership.
Well, we’re near near the end here. I have a question for you.
What is the most helpful idea you’ve heard today?
And we’ll do this. And then I suspect some people want to know something about the Disney Florida fiasco. So I’ll have a couple of comments on that. But what is the most helpful idea you’ve heard today?
Let us know in the Questions box, and again we’ll share of some of the responses that we received. So we’ll give you a moment there to submit your response.
OK, let’s see, we have David who said, Listen to your employees with genuine interest. Carless says, FAFSA.
Lynn says, the three leadership principles, Sherry says, Being quick to responding to staff and look at safety first.
Allen says that leadership can evolve as needed for different situations.
Medina says the three phases of Disney.
Beth’s saying accountability.
Sheela, saying, This is a great reminder to leaders else, if everyone were lots of responses coming in. I’ll read off a couple more here from Gina saying Respect the staff.
Barbara says, Be available, visible, and ready to assist, And Kelly says, The building and consistency of it all.
Yeah. Does it strike you?
There’s this really simple, Be positive, be knowledgeable, be accountable.
I mean, how hard is? How hard is that? That, that should be one of our jobs in life.
But leadership, kind of go very wrong sometimes and, and cheerfully, I’ve had a couple bad leaders at the mouse, but most of them have been stellar, just absolutely.
Wonderful. People couldn’t know how to manage things.
Well, once I give the people everything they can keep it as clean as you can, keep it friendly, make it a real fun place to be.
I would suggest to you that that is true for the employee base, as well.
That if a leader does those things for the employees, a great leader delivers a satisfying employee experience, satisfied employees, deliver a great customer experience.
Since customers come back, spend more money, tell others, become loyal business profits result.
Between those two things set the Surface Success Formula and Positivity Knowledge and Accountability.
You can create a really, really great company, and that’s what all to.
Now, I imagine you might wonder, a little bit about this Florida, Disney food fight that’s going on because, just yesterday, Florida all overrode what the Disney lawyers have tried to do, to protect the Reedy Creek, Reedy Creek, don’t remember the rest are going to create an improvement district. Sorry, there’s a really great fire department.
I was tripping over that, and then, after that, the governor’s board now, in charge of Reedy Creek, Countermanded what Disney Fox had done.
So now Disney’s suing Florida and particularly the Governor and I’ve got to say, candidly, I don’t get any of us.
I don’t understand the whole point of Disney and Watteau appointments to make people happy.
And it just don’t see, saw how a fight with your local governments going to make any anyone happy. I think it’s possible Disney Winsor fight.
But there’s going to be so many hard feelings that I just don’t know that it’s worth it.
And I, frankly, I don’t understand what the leadership is doing. Right, No.
No, I’m not excusing the Florida government. Both parties are to blame.
But, um, the reason Disney succeeded was, they kept to the knitting, and the knitting was making people happy by creating emotional, magical experiences.
And this kind of thing that’s going on right now is very far away from that.
So, for what it’s worth, that’s, that’s my opinion.
Um, Sarah? Any thoughts?
Yeah, so if we have some time here, when we can open that up for questions. If.
Yeah, great. The one question that comes up, is, how many … are there. There’s one.
Let’s see here.
Oh, we have Maria saying, thank you for sharing, for sharing that.
And we had a question come through earlier here from David. And it’s going back to that poll that we were doing on, you know, courtesy efficiency show. Safety, and it’s with the picture of the girl holding the tray of pins. Can you, what do they signify David like to now?
I have to go back to that to verify, OK? Their shoes.
Those are: trading pins, Shares A hostess or a server at the land grill room. That’s a restaurant that goes around in a circle and chipping day will come out to greet people.
And, at the moment, she’s just standing there with this basket appends, and any child or adult that has pins can come up and trade with her for one of her pincer, it is, a guess, satisfy her.
It’s a conversation piece and it makes a huge amount of money because guests get fanatical about collecting pens. So, they, they buy a lot of pins and then they look for unique ones and they trade with the hopes and hostesses.
So, that’s what she’s doing.
The reason I have that picture there was just to draw an example. So here’s an example of how safety courtesy show and efficiency work.
If she saw a glass of ice spill the carpet behind her and she’s talking. So some gas you will excuse herself from the guests and make sure the the walkway is secure and then come back to the guests.
If on the other hand she see some napkins there and there those little cocktail napkins nobody’s going to trip over those that span show but courtesy is more important than social continue our conversation. And then she will go and pick up the the napkins.
So that’s what that upsets pin trading that’s it’s a huge thing at Disney.
I’ve never been into it myself, but but if it’s something that makes you Happy, by all means you should try.
We have another question here from Reggie who would like to know what CEO best embodied Woltz division?
Can you say that again sir? What? Yeah, what CEO best embodied vision.
It’s a tough question because they’re all good and all bad.
And the problem was everyone would sit around and say, whoa, and Walter, Well, well, the one thing about Wallasey always did things differently.
I would say that Eisenhower was very good for the company.
As long as Frank Wells was around, but when Frank Wells died and the plane crash, um, Michael kinda lost his way.
And the one of the things that made while successful was his brother Roy.
because Roy was some more analytical financial guy along with the creative and the two of them melded together really well.
Now, Bob Iger is in a second run, as CEO.
I would say, during his first Garonne, he was really, really strong, particularly at the start.
I met both Michael and Bob, couple of times, and both men were very personable.
Uh, Bob Iger is actually kind of humble, which was astounding for a guy at that level.
Well, the first thing that Bob Iger did, one of the first things, when he became CEO with the company, was a traded within the sea to get oswaldo Lucky Rabbit back, which was walt’s first character stolen from him.
In the 19 twenties, He got that character back in exchange for traded L Michael Sportscaster to NBC.
At that point, we knew Bob Iger was one of us, however, like Michel, later in the regime.
I think I heard, made some successful mistakes. And here’s some here’s some mistakes. I see.
He bought Pixar, and lucasfilm, and Marvell.
And prior to that, Michael hit, but ABC Capital Kept Cities, the problem with those entities is course they made a lot of money, and Greg Movies and all that, but they’re not steeped in the wall culture: staying out of plot politics, and just making people happy.
So, there’s a, there’s a, um, a problem bopp set up by acquiring these companies at the current company.
Kind of forgotten in some quarters, What was about law? Very specifically says, I say our projects, I don’t know anything about it. I’m not good at it.
So I would say both Michael and Bob were good CEOs in the Walt-mold in their early years.
OK, great and that here, Lenn does bring us up to getting approaching the top of the hour here so we can move on to the next steps here, before we close out our session today.
Sure, I would encourage you to visit the parks and look around and pay attention, and you’ll see the leaders there. They’re kind of in their visibly invisible.
So they’re there. But if you’re not looking for them, you won’t see it.
But if you look around you see them. I do a, like a once a month newsletter, and you can find that at carelikeamouse.com. And in that newsletter, I talk about what’s going on with the mouse, and what we can learn from that. I’m always up for conversation. Lenn@mousemanconsulting, or Lenn@likeamouse, either one of those will get there. I would encourage you to share this information with your team to build it in your training To share it with your leaders, and I certainly would encourage you to do to attend HRDQ-U tele-seminars because they’re really, really valuable things.
Yes, and thank you all for participating in today’s webinar. Make sure that you join me next week, same place, same time, same day for providing effective feedback to employees and all performance levels. Thank you so much for you for everyone joining us today on the line and thank you so much, Lenn, for a really fun webinar today.
Well, thank you. I’m so glad to be here. And I’m honored that you all attended today. And assuming I will see you sometime in the parks, I only have one thing to say, and that is: (mouse voice) “Ha, ha, ha, ha … see you real soon!”
Thanks, everyone. Goodbye.

Listen to the podcast

In this episode on the HRDQ-U In Review Podcast, Lenn Millbower, The Mouse Man™ and a 25-year Walt Disney World veteran, takes us on a captivating journey through the three distinct leadership personalities of Walt Disney himself. Drawing parallels to beloved characters, discover how Walt initially embodied the spirit of Mickey Mouse, then faced challenges akin to the irritable Donald Duck, and ultimately achieved a harmonious leadership style resembling Mufasa from The Lion King. Through this enlightening episode, we’ll explore the renowned formula followed by Walt Disney World leaders giving you the tools to assess your own organization’s leaders against the Disney model and chart a course to transform your Mickeys and Donalds into wise Mufasas who inspire and guide your path to a magical kingdom.
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