When “Doing it the Disney Way” May Really Just Be a Simple Thing









A client of mine is interested in how to create a climate for great work. This endeavor makes a whole lot of sense to me, because why would you want to have it any other way? Ideally, we strive for a time in our lives where the stars align and we are able to put our hearts and minds toward something that really matters. That may not be as hard as you think.

To that end, I recently read in the New York Times that Disney’s consulting arm is realizing a booming business helping companies to extract what they can by “doing it the Disney way.” The essence of the article, “In Customer Service Consulting, Disney’s Small World is Growing,” was to live your brand – which assumes you have put the effort into having one in the first place. Then show courtesy, service, and spirit to your customers and employees, all the while embodying your brand.

Like I said, why would you want it any other way? And do you really need to hire a high-powered consulting firm to execute what your employees most likely already know?

One of my best clients recently had a guy from Disney speak about innovation – and everyone, including me, thought he was very, very good. But then it occurred to me that this whole engagement thing is a pretty simple idea gone a little wild.

Several months back, we were asked to hold focus groups with this key client. The heart of the question was, “What would make this experience with our company a stellar experience for you?” Last week, I was asked to present the results of the focus groups to the same people who gave their input in the first place.

Maybe Disney’s “stuff” was a tad better than what they said, but not much. Here is what they said:

  • The difference between OK and great is a little bit of effort but a huge amount of reward – go the extra mile on behalf of employees
  • We want to change, but we need to know why, how, and ways the change will impact ME
  • We care deeply about our company and our work and, if left to our own devices, we would know what to do

And here is what they said they wanted from the company:

  • Keep me up to date/informed. Employees depend on management to tell them what is up with salaries, with development, with job opportunities, and with competitive information.
  • Keep my leader accountable for leading well.  Employees want their leaders to be better – it’s executive leadership’s job to make sure leading well is a priority and is on the development agenda.
  • Keep our culture sound. Employees expect that minor decisions that may portend a change in culture are intentional. Leaders, listen up! If you are examining how you decide and how others decide through the lens of the culture, you are missing an essential factor.
  • Keep me productive. Employees know when they have reached their limit, and it’s probably right about now.  Resources are stretched probably as tight as they can be. Look at what the costs of not doing anything about this are and then make the decision:  is it worth it?   
  • Keep me whole/better off. It gets down to this – how much blood can you squeeze out of a stone? Please, don’t take anything away from me or if you have to be very careful of the impact.
  • Give me a safe harbor for confidential discussions.  Employees have lost the means to just talk. HR folks who are now business partners, listen up. These people need some good old-fashioned employee relations. Let them talk, engage them in truth telling, and don’t report it to their boss unless that is what is required. Problems get solved at early stages when you do it this way.
  • Keep me able to work in up-to-date ways.  People say, “I have technology at home – why not bring my work technology up to the right standards?” Inefficiencies and redundancies hamper the productivity–and the spirit. There is something about investing in tools that help people to be more successful that speaks to their value. Don’t ignore it.

So, once again, I ask you: do you really need to hire a high-priced firm to tell you what everyone already knows? In some instances, maybe it’s time to just trust and act on the valuable resources already available to you right now, right there.

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