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Lee Cockerell, former Executive Vice President of Operations for Walt Disney World, shares his wisdom and experience from his time as the Executive Vice President of Operations for Walt Disney World. Lee discusses how you can apply lessons in leadership, management, and customer service to create magic in your organization.

Lee Cockerell, former Executive Vice President of Operations for Walt Disney World, shares his wisdom and experience from his time as the Executive Vice President of Operations for Walt Disney World. Lee discusses how you can apply lessons in leadership, management, and customer service to create magic in your organization.
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Lee Cockerell, former Executive Vice President of Operations for Walt Disney World, shares his wisdom and experience from his time as the Executive Vice President of Operations for Walt Disney World. Lee discusses how you can apply lessons in leadership, management, and customer service to create magic in your organization.




Product Knowledge Leads to Better Customer Service

People are looking for experts to help them. The more you know about your products, the more people will trust you. Knowing everything you possibly can about the products you offer will lead to better customer service. Product knowledge doesn't happen by accident. You have to be deliberate. Schedule time to get out in your operation and see what is really happening. Use your product in the way customers will use your product. If you are going to make it happen, you have to schedule it....


The Customer is Not Always Right But They are Still a Customer

The customer is not always right, but they are always the customer. Sure, people are going to take advantage of you. But overall, you still shouldn't make your policies too strict because a few people will take advantage of you. Treat the customer like they matter to you. Mr. Marriott told me, "Always give the customer the benefit of the doubt." Go in favor of the customer. If you find a trend or something, in particular, getting abused and it becomes a problem, then you can make a...


Why Every Business Should Have Appearance Guidelines

Your people are your brand. The way staff look represents your company to every customer who walks through the door. At Disney, we have appearance guidelines because we are putting on a show. If you want to tell a story people will believe, everyone has to look like the part they are playing in the show. Every business should have appearance guidelines. Staff should be dressed to fit the theme of your business. What do customers expect employees to look like when they visit your...


Handling Difficult Situations With Employees

One of the most difficult things you will have to do as a leader is to handle uncomfortable situations with employees. Talking to an employee about their behavior is hard. Terminating people is probably the hardest thing you will have to do. All of the hardest things you have to do at work, and in life, involve people. Decisions about products are easy. Unfortunately, too many people don't deal with the hard things. By letting it go, you are making your life harder. And you are not doing...


Use the Phone to Build Your Reputation

For many people, your reputation will reach them before you have the chance to meet them in person. Don't underestimate the impact your phone conversations have on people. Your demeanor on the phone will help people know you are respectful, professional, helpful and will show people they can ask you hard questions. Phone conversations will help you build trust with people. Don't do phone calls on a whim. Prepare for a call so you know what you want to accomplish while you are on the...


Take Time to Celebrate Milestones

Taking time to celebrate milestones is an important part of any organizations culture. With that, we are taking the opportunity to celebrate episode 250 of Creating Disney Magic. Over the past 5 years, with each episode approximately 15 minutes long, we have produced more than 62 hours of lessons in leadership, management and customer service. If you have listened to the episodes, with only 15 minutes once per week, you have accumulated a lot of information. Perhaps more information than...


It's Your Responsibility to Develop People

Some people don't get the development they need at home. Working with you is the first opportunity they have to learn how to be professional and get ahead in life. We all have ability and potential if developed properly. But not everyone gets the development they need to be successful. As a leader, your responsibility goes beyond technical training. Upfront, let them know what matters. Be clear. Then teach them how to be great. Developing employees helps your customers, but it also flows...


Get Your Message Out

If you want to get your message out, you have to do the work. Don't count on people hearing your message until you put it directly in front of them. Sometimes you have part-time staff who aren't always around. Or staff on different shifts. Use technology to make sure all staff members hear the same message no matter what time they work. Or, move around meeting times. If you want to figure it out, you will figure it out. Don't worry about annoying staff by getting your message out so...


The Conversation You Should Have With Every Employee

When I brought on a new employee at Disney, I would have a 2-hour conversation with them, but we would not talk about work. A corporate feeling meeting can leave a new employee feeling unsettled. A one on one meeting to find out more about them as a person sets them at ease and welcomes them to the company. Having a conversation without talking about work gives a new employee a positive onboarding experience. During our talk, I wanted to get to know them; their background, family, kids,...


Exploring Offsite Team Building Exercises

More than ever, it is important to get some of your team out of the office for team building exercises. People are running so fast we don't have time to settle down and think about what to do long term. Getting out of the office and into a new environment allows your team to bond without the distraction and routine of the office. When teams have fun, they do better work. When teams have fun away from the office, they can discover new ideas. Best ideas don't usually happen in the office....


Implementing the Four Keys to Making Decisions

At Disney World we use four keys to make decisions. The four keys help people understand how to make decisions. Here are the four keys: Safety - Is the decision you are about to make going to be safe? Courtesy - Disney is famous for being friendly and clean. Any cast member you meet will go out of their way to take care of you. Show - Are we ready to put on a great show? Is the area clean? Are the props in the right place? Are the cast members prepared? Efficiency - When you are in...


How to Build a Legacy

Your legacy is the only thing you can take with you and leave behind. As I get older, I think about what I have contributed to the world. More than anything, I want to be remembered as a teacher. If you have experience and knowledge, there is no upside in keeping it to yourself. Give it away. The proof of what your legacy is will be what people say when you are not in front of them. Do you do what you say you will do? Do you make a difference? Can people approach you? If you do the right...


People Who are Included are Committed

On this episode of Creating Disney Magic, I answer several listener questions. How does taking care of customers and employees reduce risk? When you treat people right and are sincere it creates an environment and culture where guests want to help you. Guests will report issues before they are real problems because they like your company and want to help. Is there a difference in running meetings with volunteers versus meetings with employees? Including volunteers makes them feel part of...


Clarity Creates Magic

It's not magic that makes it work, it's the way we work that makes it magic. And we are able to create the magic with our work through clarity. Here is the secret about clarity people aren't talking about...If you are not clear, people will begin doing what is clear for them. People fill in the blanks and do what they either want to do or what they think they should do. When you want your brand to be consistent and reliable, there isn't room for employees to make up their mind on what to...


How to Stay Connected to Your Team

Walking through your operation every day, especially the beginning of the day, is the best way to know what is going on. When I ran a hotel, I walked the entire hotel every morning. By 7 am, I was aware of every issue and had checked in with most employees. Again, around lunch time and before I let for the day I would walk the operation again. Every employee saw me each day. Lee Cockerell was part of the scenery in the hotel because people were so used to seeing me. But what if your team...


How to Delegate and Get More Done

Delegation is hard. But if you want to get more done, you have to delegate work to other people. Often, we don't delegate because we think we can do it better than other people. As a leader, you should be doing bigger things. If a small project takes you 30 minutes, then you misspent 30 minutes you could have used doing something only you could have been doing. Your time needs to be used wisely. If you have hired people to do work, let them do the work. Take the time up front to give...


The Magic of Masterminds

Magic happens when you get people in a room together. We recorded this episode one day after one of my Creating Magic Mastermind events. People usually come to these events to spend time with me, but the real magic happens because of everyone else in the room. When you can hear from other people on how they solve and resolve problems it gives you a different perspective. When you leave the room, you will see your own problems differently. All we know is what we do. And maybe what we...


A Great Leader Acts as a Bodyguard

This episode was recorded live at the Contemporary Resort in Walt Disney World. Being back at the Contemporary Resort reminded me of some fun stories from my time as Executive Vice President of Walt Disney World. Including opening the California Grill. The success of California Grill came from the recipe used to open it. I hired a great chef and a great restaurant manager and let them do their job. And they did a great job. Chefs are artists. You can't mess with them. Let them do their...


Making a Connection With Customers

When people come to a hotel, they want their room. They don't want to get to know the staff. How do you balance top-notch service and getting people to their room as quick as possible? There is a way to give customers what they want and still take the time to make a connection. When you have time, and it doesn't impact the service for other guests, go ahead and take the time for a conversation and make the guest feel special. How can we identify and realize what the customer really...


You Don't Need to be a VIP to Treat People Like One

I started my hospitality career in 1964 working at a Hilton Hotel. This episode was recorded in Hilton in Yakima, WA. In 1973, I begin working for Marriott. When I started my career with Marriott, many of my friends thought I was crazy to take a job with such a small company. "That company is never going to be anything", they said. Now, Marriott is the largest hotel company in the world with 6,500 hotels. When I joined them in 1973, they had only 32 hotels. With only 32 hotels, Bill...