Thursday, June 16, 2011


**** This week I will be writing about four life experiences that had a huge impact on my life. ****

"I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse." ~Walt Disney
Cinderella's Castlephoto © 2008 Casey Fleser | more info (via: Wylio)

After my first year of teaching back in 1996, I decided that I needed to have a new life experience. So, I moved to Orlando, Florida, for the summer and worked at Disney World. This short, seven-week stint was an eye-opening experience for me. Not only did I learn a bit about the magic behind WDW, but I also learned a valuable lesson about managing people.

I worked in Merchandising in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom. For those of you familiar with WDW, this is the area just behind the castle. For most of my days, I worked on the Stromboli Hat Cart next to Lumiere’s Restaurant. I enjoyed this assignment as business was always brisk and I was able to be outside. The volume of sales that this small cart at WDW does in a day is unbelievable!

I have several stories from my days at WDW that I might share in future posts, but in this post I want to relate one of the best lessons that I ever learned about managing and motivating employees.

Each evening after the park closed, the manager of Fantasyland merchandising would hold a debriefing session  with all merchandising employees to review the days budget and whether or not we had met our goal. This, in itself, was a powerful exercise. We felt like a part of WDW because we were in the “know.” I loved the fact that they shared this information with employees.

On a typical day during the summer, our budget would be around $90,000 (this was only the merchandising area of Fantasyland). So, in the evening, the manager would say, “Our budget for today was $87, 450. We actually hit $91,257. Great job!” Then, he would ask if anyone had challenges during the day or any issues that he should know about. This was a very powerful exercise.

My story takes place in the middle of my time at WDW. It had rained off and on for a week straight and we sold a load of ponchos (no one EVER brings ponchos with them to WDW). So, each evening when we met for debrief we would crush the budget by $15,000 or so.

When we met that Friday evening for our debrief, the managers had brought carts of hotdogs, fries, drinks, and Mickey Mouse ice cream bars for everyone. They told us that this was in celebration for our hard work.

In actuality, we knew the wet days had contributed to our sales, but it did not matter. You would have thought they gave all of us a check for $1,000. We were whooping it up and high-fiving and generally excited. The managers were pumping us up and just being super appreciative.

We knew we had made WDW a load of extra money that week and they had spent next to nothing on buying us junk food. But, again, it did not matter. They did something for us and we LOVED it.

I’ve never forgotten this lesson. If you are in a position of leadership (and we are ALL leaders – if you’ve forgotten read this), you need to say thank-you for the hard work that others do. A seemingly small amount of recognition can go a long way.

What can you do today to encourage others? Stop focusing on what you can’t do for others and focus on what you can do.

Question: Have you had experiences similar to this? Please post comments below.


Anonymous said...

For me, the best is coming in to work and having a little note written by my manager recognizing my for the effort and work I have done. Not just good job, but specific details about what I have siad and done and how it affected the company and my customers.

PS I just got back from 6 days in WDW. the Magic is still strong. I hope to work there when I "retire"

Jason said...

Disney is a special place.

Anonymous said...

It truely is a magical experience. Even at 30 years old, my wife and I (no kids) love going every couple years. I work in Customer serviceand it just refocuses me on things I can do to be better at my job.