June 17, 2019

What Can We Learn from Disney University?

What Can We Learn from Disney University?

Who’s that chatting with Alison Meredith?   Doug Lipp, author of  Disney U: How Disney University Develops the World’s Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer-Centric Employees.

Plus the Show: Lessons learned from Doug Lipp

by Alison Meredith

In March, I attended a mastermind conference for IT business owners, a rigorous yet inspiring few days of collaboration.  Combatting new cyber threats, improving customer service, and creating a great company culture were featured topics.

One of our keynote speakers was Doug Lipp, a founder of Disney University International.  I thought I’d share with you a couple of my key take-aways from hearing his message to us.

1. Your employees have great ideas.  Capitalize on their creativity and insights.

Walt Disney loved to stroll the park and talk with the “real people who were making the magic happen.”  Walt would frequently ask Disney employees (aka “cast members”) for their ideas.   Just a simple, “How could we make this better for our guests?” and then a grand pause, to show he actually wanted to know what they thought.

The insights of a 17-year-old operator of the Skyway attraction became the foundation for a complete redesign.  Among other improvements, this upgrade resulted in fewer people bonking their heads when they entered the ride.  Why did the architects and engineers not think of this on their own?  Who cares why they didn’t think of it!  The important principle is that Walt would not go forward on any such redesign efforts until the people actually in the trenches of serving guests had given their input.

2. Instill Pride in Your Employees

What is your company’s mission?  What part does each employee have in making that mission happen?   Does each employee know the part he plays and feel a sense of pride in his work?

“Creating cathedral builders from bricklayers is a multistep transformation.”  This cannot happen overnight or in a one-off conversation.   Talk often about your company’s core values and the part those values have in day-to-day operations.  Share stories of success during team meetings.  Pair up employees for brief on-the-job training sessions.   Role play how to handle disgruntled customers.  Empower employees to fix problems on their own instead of asking the customer to wait while a higher-up person is fetched.

Some of this may sound cheesy, but it works.  When employees are better aware of the importance of their job and better equipped to do it, your customers will get better service.

One of Disney’s mantras became “How Do We Plus the Show?”  Translation: “What can we do to enable our customers to have a better experience?”    Employees are the critical ingredient.  We need to capture their great ideas, train them, and make it easy for them to be proud of what they do.