The Happiest Place on Earth to Learn about Leadership

The Happiest Place on Earth to Learn about Leadership

Last week I attended “Leadership Excellence” training at the “happiest place on earth”…Disneyland (actually, at the Disney Institute at Disneyland). At first blush, that is an unusual place to go for this type of training. Customer Experience (CX) training at Disney makes a lot of sense, but why leadership training? Disney is not only a leader in CX but also a long standing market leader in their industry, so they must be doing something right.

Also being a CX practitioner and leader myself, I thought that if I was going to try a leadership training, it certainly would be interesting to learn about leadership inside the context of CX from a world-class CX organization. Upon reflection, I’m not sure if I learned more about leadership or about delivering world-class customer experience. Either way, it was a great use of my time!

Many of the things we discussed in the class are things we regularly discuss with our clients on their path to becoming world-class CX organizations…define the vision and brand promise, build an operating and sustainment model to enable that brand promise, and do it all intentionally. The interesting part is Disney talked about all of these things being important not only for delivering a great external customer experience but for organizational leadership and employee engagement. They also presented the content in the context of the Disney Company case study, in how they run their business, which was super interesting and enlightening. As they said, “leaders establish, operationalize, and sustain the values and vision by which their organizations thrive.” Totally agree.

There are a few key things that I took away from the training.

Intentionality.

Like everything in life, you have to be intentional about what you do to create the desired results. The same applies with being a leader—one needs to be consistent and purposeful, proactive and inclusive, and ensure that you have aligned your personal values with the organizational values. They talked a lot about values alignment and trying to optimize the overlapping white space between Your Values, YOUR Organization’s Values (your department/sphere of influence) and THE Organization’s values (the company as a whole). Once you have established the values, you need to create the vision. Disney promotes “The Leadership Lens” where the values are constant. As leaders, we need to consistently look ahead and ensure that the expanding visions we create and the decisions we make are in alignment with the values.

Values Infused Operating Model.

Not only should your operating model (your strategy, people, processes, and technology) be supportive of and enable your CX brand promise, but it should be based on your organizational values throughout. Disney does a masterful job at this, all the way down to the very front line of their operations. They showed us first-hand as we took a backstage tour of Disneyland and met some of the people working on the front lines. Infusing your values into your operating model is not just about standing up the operating model, it’s also about sustainment and how you ensure that your values do not erode over time. This requires implementing practices that reinforce your values, build relationships across team, and regularly share the vision of the organization. These can include things like job shadow or rotation programs to enable people to build cross-functional skills and work across the organization.

Everyone is a Leader and Defining the Leader’s Legacy.

At Disney, every member of their cast (employees) is a leader. They are leaders for the organization in what they are doing,  regardless of whether they have direct reports. They empower their people as leaders to carry forward the values and vision of the organization. This really resonated with me because, at West Monroe, this is also core to who we are as a firm. Our mission is “Building the Next Generation of Leaders” and we very much agree that everyone at our company is a leader. At Disney, they discussed the Leadership Legacy, which as a leader is something I personally think about from time to time. We all want our legacy to be favorable, but the question is: What do we do each day to create that legacy? Legacies are not written in a leader’s final years but throughout a lifetime. Great leaders intentionally write their legacies and they do it true to their values because a leader’s legacy is designed by their behaviors, not by their intentions. A leader’s legacy will be read later but is being written now.

Disney is certainly a world-class organization when it comes to leadership and customer experience. Regardless if you make the trip to Disney for this training, I hope you can take a few of these leadership ideas and put them into action at your own company. Now is the time to start writing your Leadership Legacy!

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