Creating Magic with Lee Cockerell

by MouseStation Crew, staff writer

MouseStation 252 - Creating Magic with Lee Cockerell

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Featured Topic: Creating Magic with Lee Cockerell

Mark met with former Walt Disney World Executive Vice President for Operations Lee Cockerell at Scat Cat's Lounge at the Port Orleans French Quarter Resort on Saturday afternoon, September 27. Lee's new book "Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies From a Life at Disney" was released today. It's available in both hardcover and audio CD format.

Lee is responsible for many of the changes in the development of leadership and cast empowerment at Walt Disney World, among other changes. His new book is based upon the "Great Leader Strategies" audio CD series that he created for cast members at the resort. It's now part of the curriculum at the Disney Institute.

Lee left Oklahoma to join the army, then worked his way through a variety of positions at Hilton and Marriott before joining Disney to open Euro Disneyland and later moving on to Walt Disney World.

The chapter that stands out to Lee as the most important is the first strategy, Remember, Everyone is Important. He sums it up as the opening sentence of the book: "It's not the magic that makes it work; it's the way we work that makes it magic."

Mark related a story that reinforced one of the stories that was told in the book. (On review, it seems that it was a boxing coach and not a Disney leader, that related the anecdote.) Lee noted that teaching is the job of all managers. You also must continue learning throughout your career, and if you need help, you can always find help to do things that you haven't learned yet.

The example of the changes at the Textile Services department at Walt Disney World illlustrated the fact that empowerment can pay off tremendously. We also discussed how it's not necessarily the people at the top who are the leaders, but that leaders can be found throughout the organization.

Leaders are not necessarily born; the skills necessary to be a great leader can be learned, and that's the focus of the book. Lee likened the need for leadership to the problems on Wall Street right now, where the people at the top are not really showing leadership, as ethics are a part of being a good leader. Greed is not a good leadership strategy.

Management is about keeping things under control, while leadership is about how to be; leadership is about character, trust, inclusiveness and respectfulness. You manage your business and you lead your people. Your people will not be committed to you until you are committed to them.

Lee had mentioned in the book that it is important to have a passion about what you're doing. Mark asked Lee about how people whose passion is not what they do for their living can find a way to balance that out. Lee noted that if you're not passionate about what you're doing, you should keep doing your job well and be looking for something that you can do passionately. You should block out time to do the things that you're passionate about; be aware of time management.

In his current position teaching through the Disney Institute, Lee is continuing to work with banks, hospitals and other organizations to develop leadership skills. It's always important to take care of your people and to have high expectations for their people. Don't just have them trained; develop them. Only leaders that care about their people develop them, and development will keep the people there. Even if you never learned leadership skills when you were young, you can still learn the skills. Lee learned a lot after he was 35 that he didn't learn in the first 15 years of his career. Personal awareness is important to know what you need to learn.

By having a great relationship with the people that you're responsible for, they'll come to you when they have a problem instead of going to their union or some other place that would make resolution a more adversarial matter. By showing respect for others, you're more likely to get better response than by creating a ruckus. Lee told a story about a diversity tie that he wears often because he gets ten times better service because people respond positively to it. Remember that everybody has a problem; when they're yelling, they're not necessarily angry with you.

Asked to sum up the book, Lee said that 20 percent is about management and 80 percent is about how to be a better leader, what professionalism looks like, how to think about organizing your business or personal life properly, and how to understand that everyone is important. The tactics at the end of each chapter are pretty clear, and you should have a little conversation with yourself to see how well you're actually following the principles. Sometimes it's about self-discipline. It's kind of a manual with a lot of personal stories about what he learned at Hilton, Marriott and Disney, the mistakes he made and how he corrected them. It's all about stories, which is what people remember and what Disney is all about.

Win a copy of Creating Magic!

We'll be giving five copies of Creating Magic away to MouseStation podcast listeners and five copies to MousePlanet readers. To enter the listener contest, send an email to the podcast with a subject line of "Creating Magic" and give us your ideas on how we can create more magic on the MouseStation podcast. Entries must be received by October 27, and the winners will be announced in the November 4 episode of the podcast. Books will be awarded randomly to five email entries. One entry per person, please.

Our thanks to Jillian Wohlfarth and Elizabeth Hazelton for helping to get the interview set up, and of course to Lee Cockerell for taking the time to meet with Mark despite the fact that his wife was in the hospital. It was meaningful to Mark that Lee took the time to meet him for the interview after meeting with his wife's doctors. Lee was also kind enough to give Mark several pins that Mark would have loved to have earned if he were a cast member.

You can read Mark's full review of the book in today's World View column.

Last Week on MousePlanet

Once again, Andrew Rich, down at MousePlanet Global Headquarters, told you what you may have missed on the MousePlanet site last week if you're not visiting regularly. Let us know what you think about this segment!

Listener Feedback

Kim Barron called into the voicemail line to talk about conflicts at MouseFest because there are too many events that she wants to do. She passed along a tip from Mike Scopa: pick ten events that you really want to go to and do those; if you do anything else, that's gravy. She's going to attend a lot of Tim Devine's photography meets. We're still looking forward to seeing her again, and we remember meeting her while we were still doing the Magical Moment Podcast.

CHOC Walk/Team MousePlanet

For more information on supporting Team MousePlanet at this year's CHOC Walk, go to the Team MousePlanet page or get information on the MousePad discussion forums.


We're now on Facebook! Join the MousePlanet and MouseStation groups. If you join the club and use Pieces of Flair, you can get your MousePlanet and MouseStation flair from Mark (though you have to friend him first).


Registration is now open for MouseFest! You can sign up now, and check out the many meets being hosted by MousePlanet as you plan your trip.

Wrapping up

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