Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! This week, Jeff interviews a former Disney executive who is now helping leaders learn how to create a company culture that empowers and engages its employees. Dan and his wife Valerie spent a combined 41 years working at Disney and have worked both in Orlando and internationally. In this episode, you’ll hear some of the secrets to Disney’s success, how to set yourself apart, and the key to making a big career move.
How has Disney been able to maintain and build upon their company culture?
Disney has been very disciplined at being consistent and focused. When Dan and Valerie worked for Disney, they worked for the same CEO for 15 years. He never changed his mission and stayed committed to seeing it carried out in every area. This is the key to creating a culture: consistency. Dan argues that you can get results by pushing your agenda through, no matter what the cost is, but you will lose your people. Businesses need to get results the right way.
Q: What does “get results the right way” mean to you? What do you think would be a sign that someone was getting results the wrong way? Which do you think is easier to do as a leader?
How can you hold people accountable while still motivating them?
Creating clear expectations is very important. A lot of people don’t know what they are supposed to do or how they are supposed to do it. Dan created a 6-page memo that he presented any time he took on a new role so that his new team could understand what he thinks about communication, performance, and balance. Then, he explained what he expected of his team members. One of those expectations was that his employees answer 3 questions every week: 1. What are you working on that I need to understand? 2. What do you think about what we’re working on as a team? 3. What have you done recently worth celebrating?
Once you have set strong, clear expectations, you have to give honest feedback and point back to those expectations. Make sure that you celebrate when people are meeting your expectations, not just correcting them when they fall short.
“Silence fails every time.”
Q: What do you think makes people want to listen to a leader and meet or exceed their expectations? What expectations do you have for yourself? On a scale of 1-10, how consistently do you hold yourself to those expectations?
What did you do differently to set yourself apart?
Everyone’s journey is going to be different based on their talents and strengths. Dan realized he loved service and making people happy. The best decision you can make is to join a company where you get to do what you love to do and that capitalizes on your strengths. Dan kept communicating to his leadership that he was flexible and ready to learn anything. Investing in diverse experiences sets you apart and shows how adaptable you are. It’s not the job you can do, it’s how flexible you are and how you adapt to a new role or environment.
Three Tips for Leaders
Have the right people in the right jobs. Talent selection will make or break your team.
Build a good trusting relationship with people.
When you see people doing what you want, you have to reinforce it, celebrate it, and tell stories about it.
“If you can go through life being open-minded, you create your own luck.”
Taking the leap into what’s next.
When Dan worked in Disney, he put a lot of effort into downplaying his role so that he could make his frontline leaders and cast members the heroes. However, to step out on his own, he learned that there had to be a balance between confident and humble. Now, he sells himself based on what he knows best and on one thing specifically. This allows him to be confident and showcase his knowledge and best qualities.
What do you think Dan meant when he said, “Silence fails every time.” Do you tend to face issues head-on or hope that they resolve themselves? Think about a time when you remained silent instead of addressing an issue. What was the result? Did you eventually have to deal with the problem? If this is an issue for you, write that quote on a note and stick it where you can see it as a reminder that it is better to address a conflict or performance issue right away!
Dan talks about how taking on new opportunities help advance him in his career, but he stresses that he thinks everyone’s journey will be different because of their unique strengths and interests. What are your strengths and interests? Write down at least three of them and then brainstorm at least one way that you can use each of those strengths to stand out from among your peers.
In the episode, Dan says that he had a hard time selling himself at first because he was so used to the culture at Disney where he would celebrate his team members. Do you think you tend to be more humble or more confident? Make a list of all of your responsibilities, and then make a list of everything that your team carries out. Think about how you can celebrate them while still acknowledging your own role. If either side of the list is much shorter than the other, spend some time thinking about what you/your team does that deserves to be celebrated so that you are ready when the time comes.
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7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey
StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, David de Vries, et al
How’s the Culture in Your Kingdom? By Dan Cockerell
Connect with Dan Cockerell
Podcast: Come Rain or Shine
Book: How’s the Culture in Your Kingdom? Preorder online here.
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MAY 13, 2020