Caring for Castomers: A Disney Inspired Approach to Employee Engagement


Walt Disney liked to proclaim, “It all started with a mouse.” Although it is true that Mickey Mouse was Disney’s breakthrough product, it did not start with that mouse – it started with the people who made the mouse. The Disney philosophy, likewise, doesn’t start with customers. It starts with “castomers.” They are the ones who make the customer experience.

The Disney formula is simple. A great castomer™ experience leads to a great customer experience. Happy customers become loyal and spend more money. Profits increase. Disney inspired castomer™ care involves four elements that can be summarized in the acronym TEAM:

  • Teach – Developing employees so they can reach their full potential
  • Engage – Involving employees in decisions that affect them
  • Appreciate – Acknowledging and thanking employees for their efforts
  • Manage – Providing employees with the tools and assistance they need

In this webinar based on his book Care Like a Mouse: The Key to Disney Quality Service, Lenn “The Mouse Man” Millbower will share Disney-inspired TEAM techniques for meeting your castomers’ needs. The webinar will cover the arc of the Disney castomer™ training experience, the processes Disney uses to involve castomers in on-the-spot decisions, recognition, rewards and perks that honor customer effort, and the Disney caring-for-castomer expectations of its managers.

Everything Disney touched seems magical. It isn’t. It’s method. Learn the method and you can make your own magic. The Mouse Man™ will inspire you to create your own castomer culture. Give it a shake and watch the magic take!

Participants will learn:

  • The importance of purpose in focusing employees on the overarching goal of the organization
  • Disney’s operating priorities and the ways in which those priorities help every team member, at every level within the organization, make the best decisions for delivering Disney’s purpose
  • The multiple approaches Disney uses to recognize castomers who effectively serve customers
  • What the Disney leadership expectations are and the ways in which those expectations align with a castomer focused culture
  • How a customer-focused culture can unleash your people to improve your processes, maintenance and service delivery

Who should attend:

  • Leaders and managers
  • Customer service personnel
  • Others interested in Disney’s workplace method

Sarah Cirone: Hello everyone and welcome to our webinar, Caring for Castomers, a
Disney Inspired Approach to Employee Engagement. Hosted by HRDQ-U
and presented by Lenn the Mouse Man Millbower. My name is Sarah
and I will moderate today’s webinar. The webinar will last around one
hour. If you have any questions, please type them into the question area
on your GoTo Webinar control panel and we’ll answer them as we can
or after the session by email. Let’s keep this conversation going over on
our socials today. Share your thoughts and comments using the hashtag
#CaringforCastomers. You can see on the screen here our social media
accounts. We’d love to hear your thoughts. And now I’d like to give a
warm welcome to our presenter today, Lenn Millbower, the Mouse Man
and author of Care Like a Mouse.
Sarah Cirone: Lenn teaches Walt Disney inspired service, leadership, innovation,
training and success strategies. Everything Disney touched seems
magical, but it isn’t. It’s method. And 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 and
was part of Disney Institute, Disney Universe, and Walt Disney
Entertainment Management.
Sarah Cirone: Now he shares his methodologies that would help you make your own
magic. It’s an honor to have you speaking with us today Lenn.
Lenn Millbower: Well thank you, thank you very much and thank you very much, I’m … so
let’s talk about Caring for Castomers. Sarah, can you hear me now?
Apparently the mic had gotten muted.
Sarah Cirone: Yes, we can hear you now, Lenn.
Lenn Millbower: Perfect, sorry about that folks, it’s technology. You never know what’s
going to happen. We’re going to talk about caring for cast members and
what Walt Disney eventually came to as a system for taking care of
people so they can take care of the guests. There’s this famous story
about Walt and it’s, I use it in my book as well as … him walking the halls
at the studio. Now candidly this picture is not at the studio, this is of
Disney University, the training arm at Walt Disney world. But he walked
the hallways, he found the janitor and he asked the janitor what color
the wall should be.
Lenn Millbower: And now think about Walt Disney has thousands of colorers for the
animated films and here he is asking the janitor. And when the janitor
said well why would you want my opinion? Walt said you’re the one
that sees this every day so you would know better than anyone else
what color it should be. And that attitude continues to this day.
Lenn Millbower: Now this is something that just recently happened. The guy in the
picture is named Josh D’Amaro. He was the vice president of Disneyland
and much loved out there. I’ve never met him but I know the reviews on
him were good. And he just moved to Walt Disney World and he told
the Orlando Business Journal this quote I’m about to read to you. And I
should explain that he decided rather than spending a lot money on
another new attraction here’s what he said he was going to do.
Lenn Millbower: We could spend billions of dollars on a new Land or attraction, but you
need to be putting that money back into the common areas or the break
rooms to make sure that they are equipped so you feel good. To me it’s
a sign of respect to make people feel good about their surroundings.
Not only do you have to be in the right state of mind to do the job our
cast members do but you have to feel good physically too. So in the end
it’s tied to you feeling better so you can do better on stage and better
out in the community and bring that home to your family.
Lenn Millbower: So this whole system of the cast experience is important. And that’s why
he’s spending a million dollars upgrading backstage facilities. It is a
attitude that you would see around the Disney properties in spades if
you knew how to look for it. Now just as a placeholder, when we talk
about the Disney properties, my experience was at Walt Disney World
and there are four theme parts there.
Lenn Millbower: Magic Kingdom’s upper left, Epcot’s upper right. Hollywood Studios
lower left, and Animal Kingdoms lower right. And there is construction
galore going on. New things being built at Epcot, Epcot’s being
completely re imagined. And of course the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge just
opened at Hollywood Studios. But it’s a very dynamic place and the
team members that work there, cast members they’re called are a vital
part of this.
Lenn Millbower: Now what I’d like to ask you is what have you observed about the
performance of Disney cast members? And how this is going to work is
put your observations if you have any in chat and Sarah’s going to read
some of those out and we’ll use those as a jump off point for the rest of
our conversation. So what have you observed, if you’ve been there,
about the performance of Disney cast members?
Sarah Cirone: So we have a response coming in from Michelle saying friendly and
helpful. Ron says they never stop playing the role. Stephanie says
they’re never tired and always smiling. Oh yeah we have a lot of friendly
coming in, people being happy. Helpful and upbeat. They’re always on,
they’re neat, dress and courteous always.
Lenn Millbower: Interesting. So how does that happen? Is that an accident? I would
suggest to you it’s not. And let me take you through how I think that
happens. And just for my bonafides, I’m … these are pictures of me.
Upper left I’m a whole lot more hair and a lot less middle at the Land
Boat ride in the 1980’s. And the various positions I held. Probably the
most interesting thing that’s appropriate for us today is over in the far
right, you see me holding a statue. That’s a Partners in Excellence
Statue, that’s a lifetime achievement award that they would give out to
exemplary team members.
Lenn Millbower: So I’ve seen this up close and I have to qualify this by saying that this is
not a Disney sponsored presentation. I’m not affiliated, endorsed by or
authorized by them to talk. It’s just my observations based on all my
years of experience. So having gotten the legal junk out of the way. Let’s
dive into this. My Care Like a Mouse book suggests that success comes
from an emotive message delivered with caring interaction in a flawless
Lenn Millbower: And today what we’re going to focus on is interaction. Now you might
think that interaction is between cast and guests but it’s actually
between leader and cast and cast and guests. So I want to give you
some examples of how the mouse cares for cast members.
Lenn Millbower: The Walt Disney we remember is not the Walt Disney that started his
journey. He didn’t go to business school, he didn’t know anything about
an org chart. He certainly wouldn’t have drawn up the mission and
vision statement while locked in a conference room with a bunch of
suits figuring things out. He was just one guy with lots of creative vision.
And this statue is at California Adventurer and this is a very young Walt
coming to Hollywood with no money in his pocket.
Lenn Millbower: Well he went through three leadership stages. Now when he first got to
Hollywood there was no money. He was producing these [inaudible]
shorts but the income was sporadic. Mickey Mouse hadn’t happened
yet. It would soon happen but even then, he didn’t have much of a
company and he didn’t have any way to pay people.
Lenn Millbower: So what he did instead was he inspired. He inspired them, thinking that
they were creating a new art form. This animation done better than
anyone else. He was everybody’s pal. It’s very communal, we’re not in
this for the money. We’re in this to build this art. And that worked. Until
the money started coming in. Once Snow White hit, it became
Lenn Millbower: But Walt needed these people, you see? Because he didn’t actually draw
his characters. Now he was an okay artist, he’s certainly better than I
could ever be. But he’s not the one who did the refinements that made
Mickey Mouse looked right. He didn’t write his scripts although he knew
how to fix a script. He didn’t compose the music, he didn’t direct the
movies, he didn’t create the special effects, design the toys, build the
rides. He couldn’t even read the first blueprint for Disneyland.
Lenn Millbower: So he needed other people to bring his creativity to life. What he did
was he stayed real. That’s why everybody at Disney call each other by
first name because he didn’t want any suits, any pompousness at all. He
dressed down. There’s an old TV show called Colombo and he was
reported to have dressed like Colombo with a rumpled jacket. He
shunned froufrou. There’s a story of him going to France and pulling out
cans of chili and asking the maitre d’ in the fancy French restaurant to
heat up his cans of chili.
Lenn Millbower: He knew that he needed others so he hired experts and he inspired
them and he kept pushing them to do more than they ever thought was
possible. And he rewarded results. So, it worked. Until the money
started coming in. When Snow White hit, it was a big big bonanza in
dollars and then an interesting thing started happening. Animators
started comparing who had the better chair or who had the larger
drawing board, who got an extra day off.
Lenn Millbower: And a lot of complaints started happening. And coupled with this we
were coming up on World War II and the US Military basically invaded
the studio and took it over so Disney was creating military shorts and it
was just not a very happy time at the studio and Walt became surly,
argumentative. Well, if you look at the structure chart you can see that
the red here is basically Walt. Everything goes through Walt.
Lenn Millbower: You see he’s at the top and that red circle, everything goes to that and
they have to meet with Walt before they make any decision. And he was
making himself crazy. Here’s a couple of quotes from that time period. “I
tear the hell out of them, I pound, pound, pound.” “Every once in a
while, I fire someone. And then I hire them back. That way they don’t
get too complacent.” Does that sound like the Walt Disney we
remember? But he was in a very bad place then.
Lenn Millbower: And it led to bad things. It led to a studio strike, his health was
practically ruined, he was close to a nervous breakdown. And ultimately
Walt then walked away from the studio. Now his name’s on it so he was
still involved when he needed to be. But he became more of a guide. He
started tinkering with trains and that ended up with the development of
Disneyland. But he would go back to the studio as they needed him to
chart the course to tell people the grand vision and to help them fix
problems they had.
Lenn Millbower: So those are the three stages of Walt. The pal, the boss and the guide.
And it wasn’t until the guide that Disney enterprises took off. So then
that’s the Walt we remember, the kindly uncle with the twinkle in his
eye. Now he always had the twinkle in his eye. But the business was not
fun earlier than that. Here is him being the guide. “I think the part I’ve
played is coordinating and encouraging. It’s like conducting an
orchestra. They’re all talented but they need to be pulled together.”
Lenn Millbower: Okay. That lead to in the 90’s from Judson Green who was the leader at
Walt Disney World at the time. That led to him embracing a formula to
bring about this guide mentality and leaders. Now the formula consists
of four components. Business results, great leaders, satisfied guests and
valued cast members. I’ve put them in alphabetical order here. And I’d
like to do is challenge you, you have a drop down menu with four
different version of this. So what do you think the right order of these
four things? Guest, business, cast, leaders. Business, leaders, guests …
I’ll give you a couple of minutes. What do you think is the right order?
Sarah Cirone: So I’ll just give people a couple of minutes here to submit their answers.
Lenn Millbower: Yeah, I can see it, cast plus leaders plus business equals satisfied guests
is a … it’s far and away the winner here, isn’t it? Well let me share the
real result with you. Here’s the formula. A great leader delivers a quality
cast member experience. Valued cast members serve and satisfy guests.
Satisfied guests come back, spend more money and as a result become
loyal. So the fourth one is actually the correct one. And this is the
formula that Disney follows.
Lenn Millbower: So it all has to start with a great leader. So what’s a great leader do?
Well in Disney terms, friendly but not the pal. Bossy only when
necessary. And is the guide and shares the vision of the results wanted
and then gets out of the way. Now, what do cast members actually
want? And I call them castomers and the reason I call them that is
because they’re customers too. They don’t have to work there, they
choose to work there. So what do they want? Well they want four
Lenn Millbower: They want teach me, engage me, appreciate me, manage me. And we’re
going to talk about those four things in order, starting with teach, which
incidentally spells team, kind of fun. Walt was obsessed with the idea in
life that you continually go to school. You never reach any plateau of
final perfection. And he practiced that with everything he did. That was
his brother Roy.
Lenn Millbower: I’ll tell you how much he practiced that with everything he did. Imagine
the CEO doing what I’m about to explain to you. He would drive his
animators to an animation school after work hours and then pick them
up and then take them home. Can you imagine anyone doing that now?
I mean Walt was that dedicated to it. And no matter how hotshot of an
animator you were, if you were hired from the New York City animator
pool, you still had to start at the bottom at Disney and you got nonstop
training so you knew how to do it the Walt way.
Lenn Millbower: He was so fanatical on training that his money helped found the
California Institute of the Arts because there was no place for these guys
to get training so he had to create it. And it still exists to this day. This is
the Disney University. The front of the U right outside of the Walt Disney
Lenn Millbower: So one of the things that they teach is four priorities. They are courtesy,
efficiency, safety and show. And I’ll explain how those work in a minute
but I’d like to ask you something and Sarah I believe this is another poll.
Now think about those four words and which … we can assume that
every organization focuses on safety. But which of these three,
courtesy, efficiency and show gets the most focus within your
Sarah Cirone: Okay, we’ll just give people a couple of minutes here to submit their
answers before we wrap up the poll.
Lenn Millbower: I feel like after the primary here, watching the results.
Sarah Cirone: There we go.
Lenn Millbower: Yeah. And you know, your results aren’t surprising. Efficiency always
seems to be at the forefront of every organization. But the interesting
thing is it is the last on Disney’s menu. So this is them, those four
priorities in ranked order. Safety comes first, courtesy next, show next,
and efficiency last.
Lenn Millbower: In my work with organizations and I’ve worked with hospitals and with
groceries and with utilities and much to my surprise nobody gets show,
everybody gets efficiency. Now the easiest thing to do is talk about
grocery. They would, if somebody came into the store looking for
something they’d say can I help you find something? Which they
thought was being courteous but what they were really doing was being
as efficient as possible so that they could get back to their stocking the
Lenn Millbower: But this is the order Disney uses [inaudible] and this lovely lady on the
screen, let’s say she’s talking to guests. She’s pen trading, she’s got these
pens there. And she sees behind her somebody has spilled water on that
ramp. She thinks in her mind is this a safety concern, a courtesy
concern, a show concern or an efficiency concern. Well it’s a show
concern because there’s water on the ground. It’s a courtesy concern
because she has to interrupt her talk with the guests. But safety is the
first priority. So she says to her guests, excuse me let me get this taken
care of.
Lenn Millbower: She does whatever she has to do to take care of it and then she comes
back and resumes courtesy. In the process she’s cleaning show. And it’s
not so efficient but it’s more efficient than if somebody tripped and fell.
So let’s turn this around a little bit. She sees a napkin or two on the
walkway and she’s talking to the guests. Well that’s definitely a show
issue, but if she interrupts the conversation with the guest, it’s a
courtesy issue. And people don’t usually trip over napkins so it’s
probably not a safety issue. So she will finish the conversation with the
guest, then she will go over and pick up the napkins.
Lenn Millbower: And that’s how this works. And the way Disney defines it is efficiency is
the result of safety, courtesy and show working together. Now let’s talk
about show for one minute. Show is how do your surroundings look
with the idea that your surroundings send a message about you. And if
your surroundings don’t support what the message you’re trying to
send, then they undercut the entire experience. So her job is to pick up
those napkins, but not at the expense of courtesy or the expense of
Lenn Millbower: And Disney spends a lot of time teaching these priorities. So another
thing they do that’s really interesting to help the new cast members is,
this is Samantha and you notice she has a ribbon that says earning my
ears. That ribbon tells the guests that she’s in training and Joe is
standing by her side to make sure that she is living by safety, courtesy,
show and efficiency.
Lenn Millbower: So what about you? What are some best teach practices you use in your
organization? Now obviously we don’t have time for huge paragraphs of
stuff but if you could in a couple of words tell us some of the best teach
practices you use, we would be interested in hearing those.
Sarah Cirone: So just type your responses into the question area on your GoTo
Webinar control panel. And we’ll give people a couple of minutes here
to submit their response. Oh, we have clear, proactive expectations.
Lenn Millbower: Important.
Sarah Cirone: Tracy says mentoring. Michelle’s saying revisit the material, not the
review. We have be a role model.
Lenn Millbower: Yeah, very important.
Sarah Cirone: Allow people to fail/make mistakes.
Lenn Millbower: Important and not done enough.
Sarah Cirone: And lead by example is another one we have in here.
Lenn Millbower: Those are all great examples.
Sarah Cirone: Yeah they’re all great. We have a ton flowing in, a couple more that we
have are explaining the why, and one on one, a training manual.
Lenn Millbower: Yeah, the thing that always kills me is when you try to share a vision, a
mission statement with a new hire and their eyes just glaze over.
Because they’re so high level. Disney’s vision, mission if you want to call
that can be described in three words. We create happiness. One of the
reasons those cast members are so happy is they know that happiness is
their most important job. Happiness is their purpose and like the
custodian who is sweeping, he’s making people happy by cleaning the
streets. So its not just about cleaning the streets, it’s about making
people happy.
Lenn Millbower: So here’s some thoughts about teach, what you can do. Invest in
training, it actually pays for itself in productivity and innovation. Unify
training throughout the organization if one area is being taught this way
and another that way who knows what … in fact in one point in time
early on at world, every park trained their own character performers.
Now that’s madness, you’re training Mickey different ways in different
parks? I don’t understand that.
Lenn Millbower: Luckily they don’t do that anymore. Set clear design parameters and
train, coach and champion them. You said that in your poll. And let your
customers know your training is still learning. So that’s teach. Let’s talk
about engage me. I think you’ll find that some of the things that you said
as a result of teach will pop up as we’re talking about these next three
components. Now, it’s guesstimated that the average guest has
encounters with 20 or more cast members per day. It’s also
guesstimated that there’s about 70,000 cast members working at Walt
Disney world.
Lenn Millbower: If you extrapolate those numbers that means there’s over a million,
almost a million and a half possibilities for an interaction on any given
day and any one of those interactions that goes bad can ruin the guest
experience. Then when you think that there’s 44 square miles and four
parks and 20 something hotels, how can management do it all? And the
answer is they can’t. CEO Bob Iger said Disney has grown too large to be
grown from the top. And that’s absolutely true.
Lenn Millbower: The Castomers actually have to run it with proper guidance, with a
guide, not a pal and not a boss. So there’s a number of ways Disney pulls
the Castomers in to make them a part of the process. This is a rare thing
to catch. I actually happened to catch this one morning waiting to get
into Epcot. This is the front entrance crew and the guest relations crew
and they’re all gathered around it’s 8:25 in the morning and they’re
about to open the park. And the leader there, I’m not sure who the
leaders are but I believe it’s the guy in the beard and the shorter woman
next to him are sharing with the team the things that are happening that
Lenn Millbower: What the weather’s going to be, if there’s any special guests in the park
and any rides that aren’t functioning, anything you need to look out for,
any special ticket pricing issues. Possibly what the attendance is and
most importantly, who’s celebrating an anniversary, a birthday and
what guest compliment they received the day before. And those
compliments are read and yes even guest complaints are read as well.
But they do this, they call it a track talk. And they do this every morning
before they open. It’s just rare to see it because usually it’s at a ride
track, which is why it’s called a track talk.
Lenn Millbower: So leaders at the Mouse are always sharing information. They’re also
involving employees in decisions that they can’t possibly make
themselves. Here’s an example. At the Magic Kingdom, the parade has
become so popular, the afternoon parade that people queue up and sit
down on the curbs an hour or two before the parade even starts. So you
have all these people sitting there and it’s hot and it gets tent the kids
are cranky and management felt correctly that they needed some way
to entertain these guests so that the time went by before the parade
Lenn Millbower: Well, hiring a lot of equity actors would do it, but it’s a rather long
parade route. So what they did instead was they asked the cast
members what can you do to entertain our guests? And now if you
attend a parade at the Magic Kingdom you’ll see hula hoops and
hopscotch and chalk drawings and beach balls being tossed around and
you might even see this guy. He’s a train conductor and he’s doing
Simon Says with the guests. This is all cast members doing it, with
leaders saying okay. But the leaders didn’t say to him you’re going to go
out there and do Simon Says. He came up with that.
Lenn Millbower: Now here’s another example. The Whispering Canyon restaurant at the
Wilderness Lodge. Now the joke is there’s nothing quiet about it. They
hoot and holler, the plot of this place, the show is that these are … this
is a Western Town with some slightly wacky citizens who do not like
ketchup. And the reason they don’t like ketchup is because they’re
primarily a barbecue place and getting ketchup ruins the barbecue.
Lenn Millbower: So the cast members, not the leaders, the cast members came up with
this idea, any time you ask for ketchup they bring you every bottle
they’ve got. And then this little girl here is laughing because somebody
at the other side of the restaurant called out ketchup, who’s got the
ketchup? And now she has to stand up and carry all these ketchup
bottles over to that next table. And so it goes all through the mealtime.
Lenn Millbower: But imagine leaders telling employees they would do this? It wouldn’t
work. The employees came up with it. Then there are those tough
decisions. There was a period in time where when I was hired on you
would get to go home early on Christmas Eve so that you could spend
time with our families. Well when Michael Eisner and Frank Wells came
in and looked around, they realized that what they were doing was
leaving a whole bunch of tourists frustrated and unhappy on Christmas
Eve. So, they had some … they had the leaders at World do some
sessions with cast members and asked for opinions on what should be
done. And ultimately those committees came back and said you know,
we just need to stay open later.
Lenn Millbower: And then they made the announcement to the cast and they made this
plenty in advance of the Christmas season that effective this year, we
will be open late for Christmas Eve. And it was amazing, very few people
complained. We all got that we were trying to make our guests happy
and we were involved in the decision and it was the right decision.
Lenn Millbower: Then there’s something called the plussing process. Walt was always
looking to better things. And this Fish and Chip cart, maybe some of you
have seen this. This is at the United Kingdom at Epcot. This little building
wasn’t always here. But a bartender noticed that people would be
walking to the hostess stand in the restaurant and saying we’d like some
fish and chips. The hostess would say, would ask them do you have a
Lenn Millbower: Well no we don’t, we just want some fish and chips. So the hostess
would send them into the pub. The bartender would reluctantly take an
order and then tell the guest to wait over in the corner with his kids and
the guest would say no, you know this is a bar I’m not waiting here with
my kids, forget it. And walk away. When the leadership put in place the
plussing process, they set it up so that any cast member could come
forward and say here’s a problem and then they would following these
steps you can see on the screen, they would investigate the problem try
solutions. So what they did was they put a clipboard at the hostess
stand and a clipboard in the pub and every time somebody asked for
fish and chips they documented it with a slash.
Lenn Millbower: It turned out to be a lot of fish and chips. So then they put up a rolling
wagon with a sign saying fish and chips just to see if they would sell any.
And they did. So they put up a tent. And the sales got better and better
and better and finally for a permanent solution they built this building.
The first year this building was in existence it was a 1.3 million dollar
business. And people sitting in a conference room trying to manage
would never have come up with that.
Lenn Millbower: It happened because the bartender said we should do this. So that’s
how they get their people involved. Here’s one other example. Textile
services is where they launder all the laundry. The sheets and the towels
for all the hotels. And there was some talk about outsourcing it because
it was not efficient. Things were not getting cleaned properly. So instead
of just outsourcing, they got the front line team together and said look,
we’re in danger of losing our jobs, how can we make this easier? What
would you change?
Lenn Millbower: And they came up with some recommendations. As a result of those
recommendations turnover dropped from 85%, 85% to 10%. They had
$100,000 a year in savings and the most incredible part was the quotas
that each team member was to meet were higher than what
management set themselves. And this was all because they asked the
Castomers. So how about you? What are some ways you engage your
frontline? Why don’t we do that same thing with the text message? How
do you engage your front line? What are some best practices?
Sarah Cirone: Okay we’ll just give people a couple of minutes here. You can type your
response into the question area in your GoTo Webinar control panel.
Just while we’re waiting for a response Len, Erin said earlier that Epcot
specifically World Pavilion is fantastic in terms of cast members. The
authenticity of those cast members representing not only the brand but
their home country is great, it’s a nice comment.
Lenn Millbower: Yes [crosstalk] the interesting thing is some of those cast members are
now here, they’re not just all exchange students but they still do a good
job of representing the countries.
Sarah Cirone: Yeah that’s amazing. So we have some responses that came in. Rose
says having a voice in the team by providing solutions to problems that
they identified.
Lenn Millbower: Yep, good one.
Sarah Cirone: Katie says we have a customer complaint tracker and make changes to
policies based on the number of complaints. That’s a good one.
Lenn Millbower: Yes it is. If you start to hear the same complaint over and over you have
a process issue somewhere.
Sarah Cirone: Ron says talking to the people doing the actual work, what is standing in
their way and what thoughts they have to improve it.
Lenn Millbower: Yeah, Ron I’ll give you an example when Disney executives toured
Disney Land for the first time they asked where the offices were, and
Walt said there’s not going to be any offices. I want you guys out and
about with the guests. I want to know what they think.
Sarah Cirone: We have another response here from Elizabeth, she says give them the
power to resolve customer issues.
Lenn Millbower: Critically important. And that filter, the priorities filter often will allow
them to do that.
Sarah Cirone: And maybe we’ll answer one last one here. Tony says when my
consultants ask for a product I always try to work with them.
Lenn Millbower: Often, it’s just a case of listening, even if you can’t give them what they
want. All right, let’s move on to the next one. Here’s some of my tips.
Conduct regular, even daily meetings. Encourage team members to
identify problems you don’t even know you had. Ask team members to
help you find solutions. Develop and apply a defined plussing process.
Disney spent a lot of money training people on their plussing process
but that money paid them back 10 times over.
Lenn Millbower: And involve team members in tough decisions that will affect them.
Really important instead of having effective immediately memos
hanging up on the wall. Okay, let’s talk about appreciate me. Because
it’s got to be a happy, if you want these cast members to be happy with
guests, they’ve got to be happy too. Now happy doesn’t mean you’re
giving them raises because raises don’t really make you happy. They do
for a week or two and then you’re complaining that you’re not making
enough money. It is more about being valued as a human being.
Lenn Millbower: So there’s a few ways Disney does this. This is not from me, this, Kristen
R. Was so enamored with these cards she got that she posted these in
her blog online. Now this is Disney’s
guest service fanatic card. And the way this works is anyone, anyone at
any level in the organization can give anyone else one of these cards.
You can give it to your boss, you can give it to each other. Now if you
give it to each other you notice the leader’s signature has to be on this
Lenn Millbower: But the point is most recognition is paternal. You have done well
grasshopper, here’s the reward. This isn’t that. This is your peers
recognizing you and this process is solely governed by a team of cast
members and leaders working together governing the recognition. And
then how it works is the top piece is torn off and put in a drawing and
once a month they a have a drawing, you win a movie ticket or movie
tickets and a dinner or something.
Lenn Millbower: But the truth is most people just hang on to them because they’re so
meaningful as this Kristen did. And then I mentioned earlier my Partners
in Excellence award. They now have an award called Disney Legacy but
it’s the same idea. It is rewarding your best people. Now the interesting
thing though is you can’t nominate yourself. Like with the Guest Service
Fanatic, you can’t give yourself one. It has to come from somebody else
and there is very stringent standards on who can get one of these
Partners in Excellence awards. It really has to come from your peers.
Lenn Millbower: So instead of the leader granting, her or his all high and mighty position
granting you recognition, the people working with you are the ones
that’s saying you are the Disney legacy.
Lenn Millbower: Another thing they did at least in Futureworld where I worked was they
had competitions. It was called the Futureworld 500 and it ran every
April and in this picture a thinner me and Ray Carson are holding up the
trophy Spaceship Earth won that year. And we were scored based on
safety, courtesy, show and efficiency. But this competition happened
every year at Easter and it really kept the teams on their toes and it was
all in good natured fun.
Lenn Millbower: Then the other thing Disney does is team experiences. Now granted you
can’t do this one but this is my team at Human Resources inside the
Mouse. We all got to be in costume and be friends of Pluto or friends of
Br’er Fox. I was a friend of the Prince off in the corner. But maybe it’s as
simple as taking the team to the movies or taking them out to lunch. Or
one time at Disney Institute we baked pancakes for the team. Did that
once at the Land theaters too.
Lenn Millbower: But the point is to have recognition events to thank team members.
Every Friday at Walt Disney Entertainment they’d push an ice cream cart
through the hall and we’d each get a Mickey bar. No wonder we were
Lenn Millbower: So here is something they did recently. It’s an example of the kind of
creative things they do. This probably doesn’t look like much but what
this black thing with all the signatures on is is a pillar. One of four or five
pillars that were soon to be installed inside the new Tron Light Cycle
Power Run ride at Magic Kingdom. And the signatures are all the cast
members who were let out of their shift long enough to come over here
and sign the column.
Lenn Millbower: Now isn’t that the coolest thing? You’ll know forever more than your
name’s inside this ride. When they open new attractions the cast
members get to ride first and this is the Smuggler’s Run ride at the new
Star Wars Land. And all the cast members got to go before the guests
ever got to do it. So it’s taking care of your cast first. It may seem
counter productive but your cast is more important than your
customers. Because if your cast are mistreated then your customers are
going to be mistreated.
Lenn Millbower: So how about you? What are some best appreciate practices? What are
some things you do in your organization to let your front line know that
you appreciate their work?
Sarah Cirone: While people are submitting their responses to that question, Len,
Michelle actually asked if cast members also signed something in the
Haunted Mansion?
Lenn Millbower: I don’t know the answer to that. The Haunted Mansion was built a fairly
long time ago. I’m sure there are all sorts of cast references in that
building but candidly I never worked Magic Kingdom. I got a backstage
tour of the Mansion a couple of times but I wouldn’t call myself enough
of an expert to know the answer to that.
Sarah Cirone: So, Ron responded in to your question, he said we have an ovation
board where everyone in the company who can see who was observed
of doing something great.
Lenn Millbower: That’s great.
Sarah Cirone: Jodie says that they submit names for a pat on the back award.
Lenn Millbower: Okay and then the question would be who decides who gets it and
ideally that team should include front line people.
Sarah Cirone: And Lisette says monthly doughnuts and quarterly team lunch or dinner.
That sounds [crosstalk]
Lenn Millbower: Oh, can I come and visit you?
Sarah Cirone: Tammy says today, leaders in my program held a Valentine.
Lenn Millbower: Wow.
Sarah Cirone: Lisette also said weekly kudos email each week. So that’s cool.
Lenn Millbower: It’s interesting, you know what to do. It’s sometimes the hard part is
getting the organization to go along. Okay, let’s … sorry, go ahead.
Sarah Cirone: I was going to just say one more here that was interesting from
Elizabeth, she says a jeans day, contests with prizes, special food
brought in for lunch.
Lenn Millbower: Yeah, that’s an interesting point. At the theme parks you had to work on
Thanksgiving the leaders would provide a turkey and the things that are
more pricey and everybody would bring in a dish and you would have a
thanksgiving meal with your teammates all day long. All right, so here’s
just some suggestions from me.
Lenn Millbower: Develop and maintain a real recognition program. Not a top down, but a
bottom up. Champion team members who make a difference, celebrate
anniversaries and special occasions and create special team events for
your employees. And you guys, you already get this so let’s move on.
Lenn Millbower: The last one, manage me. This looks like a great employee, does he not?
I mean look at him, he’s smiling, his name tag’s on, he’s got his ID, he’s
got pens to trade, he’s got a Buzz Lightyear mitt that says To Infinity and
Beyond every time he folds it. He’s blowing bubbles, that little girl is
certainly attracted by it. And this is like 8:32 in the morning, I mean this
guy is on his game.
Lenn Millbower: The thing is he’s not an employee. He’s a leader. He’s demonstrating and
you said this earlier today, in some of your chat comments. He’s
demonstrating what he wants them to do. Now Disney leaders are
scored basically on three areas. Positivity, knowledge, and
accountability. Positivity meaning that they are a positive presence
because cast members can’t be positive with guests if the leaders aren’t
positive with the cast members. They are knowledgeable. They know
their areas. As a matter of fact when I was right in the fireworks training,
we insisted that the fireworks leaders pass the same test that the
technician pass.
Lenn Millbower: Because that way the technician couldn’t say of the ramps [inaudible]
didn’t work and so therefore that’s why … no. The leader knew what
was going on after that. And accountability, they are responsible for
whatever happens in their area while allowing enough room for
frontline people to step up and do the job.
Lenn Millbower: Now, there’s a famous story about Walt. He’s walking through
Tomorrowland with the supervisor of Tomorrowland attractions and
Disneyland and he points out that there’s some trash on the ground by
the trash can. And the poor supervisor said the absolute wrong thing. He
said I’ll call custodial. Well you know what Walt did. He picked it up
himself and that supervisor was soon gone. Everybody at Disney picks
up trash. I’ve seen Eisner do it. I haven’t seen Iber do it but I haven’t
seen Iber walking on stage.
Lenn Millbower: But literally everybody picks up trash and everybody’s called by their
first name. It’s like you set the example you want people to follow. And
trash is ingrained. In fact you can tell when somebody works for Disney
if you go into the local supermarket and you see somebody who doesn’t
work for the supermarket picking up trash. You know they’re a Disney
employee. So these two ladies are managers, I would guess
merchandise because they’re on the main street at Hollywood Studios
and you see they’ve got their grabbers.
Lenn Millbower: They’re ready to pick up trash. It still goes on to this day because again
you can’t expect the cast to care about cleanliness if you don’t. And you
can’t expect a magical place if it’s dirty and that leads to unhappy
people. Now one of my clients has been Lowes Foods. Many different
clients but Lowes foods had this bizarre idea working with Martin
Lindstrom who was a branding guru. They decided that any time chicken
comes out of the oven, they were going to do the chicken dance.
Lenn Millbower: So all the employees would stop whatever they’re doing and do the
chicken dance. Okay, now imagine hiring somebody and telling them
okay, you’re going to do the chicken dance. And how difficult that would
be to maintain. Well it’s not in Lowes foods because here’s the leaders
of the company all doing the chicken dance at the groundbreaking of a
new Lowes foods. And the guy up top, Tim, he is the CEO. So they are
bought into this. You can’t ask people to do something you won’t do
Lenn Millbower: So some manage suggestions for you. Demonstrate the behaviors you
expect. Get involved and help team members with their tasks otherwise
you won’t know what their issues are. Guide, mentor, coach and
discipline. And unfortunately if those don’t work then you’ve got to
terminate somebody because nothing destroys morale as much as
somebody who’s not carrying their weight hanging around and
seemingly not being addressed about the issue.
Lenn Millbower: Okay, so those are the four. Now my question for you is, how can you
apply what we’ve talked about today? Maybe it’s something you’re
already doing that you can reinforce but how can you apply teach,
engage, appreciate, and manage? How can you apply that?
Sarah Cirone: Okay, and again you can just type your answer, your response into the
question area in your GoTo Webinar control panel. Oh, and they’re
already flowing in. Ron says the guide mentality of empowering your
employees. Katie says our plus, constantly conduct peer observations
and provide positive reinforcement.
Lenn Millbower: That’s a good thing. And that takes effort too, congratulations to you.
Sarah Cirone: Arnold says by using the bottom up approach instead of always coming
from the top.
Lenn Millbower: Yeah, it’s an upside pyramid. You hear it called servant leadership fairly
often. I think that’s a good definition.
Sarah Cirone: Elizabeth shares give appreciation for specific actions, groom your
employees. And we’ll answer one more here. How can you use these
when you are the cast member?
Lenn Millbower: When you are the cast member? Well actually it’s the same thing. You
demonstrate by your behavior the behaviors the company wants. And
hopefully you’ll lift those people around you up and you may find
yourself in management pretty soon if you do that. It’s interesting when
we were rewriting the face role training, how to be Snow White, Belle,
et cetera. The new girls got a much better training than the old.
Lenn Millbower: And when we had these discussions about whether the girls who had
been trained previously should be put back through it and we decided it
wasn’t necessary. That the new girls’ behaviors would push the old girls
to a new level of performance. And that’s what happened. So you can
be a role model anywhere and the difference is a manager and a leader.
A manager handles things. A leader inspires people. You can be the
building custodian and be a leader. It isn’t … it doesn’t have to be
connected to title.
Sarah Cirone: Awesome. And one more response here, Len, Erin says well it’s easier
said than done. Come to work with personal issues left at home. I’ve
never had an issue with a Disney cast member sulking about something,
put on your best face and be positive.
Lenn Millbower: Yeah, it is hard and I must confess when at the start of this presentation
you were talking about they’re always happy, I’m thinking to myself well
I know some days that there were some that weren’t so happy. It’s
difficult. And it will always be difficult and there will always be one or
two that are dragging things down and all you can do is, it’s the old
saying about smother somebody with kindness.
Lenn Millbower: All you can do is smother them with whatever you’re trying to
accomplish. In Disney’s case it’s happiness, so that their bad example
doesn’t shine so bright. But yes, it’s a challenge. It’s a continual
challenge, it will always be a challenge and it has been for Disney and it
is for every company.
Lenn Millbower: Now, this picture here shows Roy Disney. He’s the little guy in the
sweater in the center. Looking down at the muck that would become
Walt Disney World. You’ve got to be thinking he’s thinking what the
heck did I get myself up into here? Because see what happened was
Walt Disney was his younger brother. And Roy Disney was getting ready
to go into retirement when Walt Disney died. Now Walt never saw Walt
Disney World. Roy had to come out of retirement and finish it.
Lenn Millbower: As Walt once said the way to get started is to quit talking and start
doing. Imagine what would have happened if Roy just sat in his rocker
reminiscing about how wonderful it would have been if that place got
built. Well he didn’t do that. He got up out of the rocker, he quit talking,
he started doing and the result was Walt Disney World.
Lenn Millbower: And three months later Roy was dead so you can literally argue that he
gave his life for his brother’s dream. So maybe that’s my cue also to quit
talking so you can start doing but the question becomes, so what can
you start doing? Well, I would encourage you to visit the parks and don’t
just do it as a tourist. Look around. If you look closely you’ll see
managers standing with their team members, fully engaged.
Lenn Millbower: Look for things that don’t work too. Look and see how long it takes a
piece of trash to get picked up. I have a newsletter that it’s called
Mickey Snaps and it comes out every other week and it’s a photo and I
talk about what’s going on in the photo and it’s information like what
you’ve seen today and you can get that at
Lenn Millbower: I would also love to talk to you and I would encourage you to share this
information with your team and come back to HRD-Q often for more
learning. Sarah, before I … no I’ll close and then you’ve got a thing after
that. So if you do those things, then hopefully I’ll in the mortal worlds of
a very famous mouse, I will see you real soon!
Sarah Cirone: Wow, Len, thank you. That was great. I just wanted to thank you all
today as well, we appreciate you looking to HRD-Q for your training
needs. We publish research based experiential learning products that
you can deliver in your organization. Check out our online or print sub
assessments, our up out of your seat games, our reproducible
workshops that you can customize and more either at our website or
give our customer service team a call. And if you need help learning a
training program or you’d like one of our expert trainers to deliver it for
you, we also provide those services.
Sarah Cirone: We look forward to being your soft skills training resource and we
actually have some time now Len for some questions so if you’d like to
submit your questions into the question box in your GoTo Webinar
control panel we can answer those for you. Give everybody a minute
here to type in their question. While we’re waiting for a question one,
Cindy actually says she’ll be at Disney World again next month, she can’t
wait for it.
Lenn Millbower: That’s great. Make sure you get to Hollywood Studios very very early in
the morning, like 6:00 or so if you have any hope of riding Rise of the
Resistance. Otherwise your best recourse would be to just not bother
with it this time.
Sarah Cirone: Aaron is asking, he wants to know if there were any hidden Mickeys in
the presentation because he noticed the keys.
Lenn Millbower: That’s the only hidden Mickey. I don’t want to step on Disney
prerogative too much but that’s an excellent question. For those of you,
just in case you don’t know what Aaron’s talking about, there are hidden
Mickeys all over Walt Disney world and it’s his head and the two circles
and if you just look close they’re everywhere.
Sarah Cirone: Stephanie would like to know if you have any suggestions for showing
appreciation for a small team without showing favor. For example if one
team member consistently outperforms the other?
Lenn Millbower: Well, if you’ve got a high performer you need to reward them. But that
doesn’t mean you can’t do things with the whole team. So I think you
have to do a bridge of both and perhaps you also need to look for
something that you can reward the others on as well.
Sarah Cirone: We have another question coming in here from Tom and he wants to
know what training issues does Disney face?
Lenn Millbower: What training issues does Disney see?
Sarah Cirone: Disney face?
Lenn Millbower: The same issues you face. One of the biggest issues that I think is … I
don’t know how it’s going to be solved over time, but it used to be really
easy to train people because they all remembered Walt. And so, you
were starting at a common place. Well Walt’s passed away in 66 and so
that unifying factor isn’t there anymore. Another issue is and this is
something I’ve always talked about and I know others have as well.
There’s so much training is front loaded, it’s like trying to swallow a Big
Mac in one bite.
Lenn Millbower: So I would say one of the biggest issues is how do you spread training
out? If you were to talk to some of the leaders an issue they would say is
that it takes so long for people to get through training because Disney is
very particular about its training that they need somebody now, they
don’t need them in two weeks.
Sarah Cirone: Great.
Lenn Millbower: [inaudible]
Sarah Cirone: All right, Len. It looks like we’re approaching the top of the hour here so
that’s all the time we have for today. Thank you so much Len, this was
Lenn Millbower: Yeah, thank you for everyone for being here and your comments.
They’re very helpful, they pushed us forward today.
Sarah Cirone: Yes, thank you all for participating in today’s webinar. Happy training.
Lenn Millbower: Happy training, see you real soon.


Lenn Millbower

Lenn Millbower, the Mouse Man™ and author of Care Like a Mouse, teaches Walt Disney-inspired service, leadership, innovation, training and success strategies. Lenn spent 25 years at Walt Disney World: Epcot Operations trainer, Disney-MGM Studios stage manager, Animal Kingdom opening crew, and Disney Institute, Disney University, and Walt Disney Entertainment management. Now he shares methodologies that will help you make your own magic.

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