Create Magic

Nov. 8, 2006
What do you do? Lee Cockrell, retired executive vice president of Disney World Resorts drew instant rapport with his audience at the recent Plant2Enterprise Conference in Orlando beginning his presentation titled “You Can Make Magic, Too.” I’ve noticed that when automation professionals gather for a conference, often the geek in all of us comes out. Sessions are technical, and the audience goes into learning mode—geeks love to increase understanding of technical subjects.
When a speaker addresses topics of personal growth, management or working with people, interest actually increases and questions abound.

Sponsored by MESA International, this conference was no exception. There were some technical presentations in the general session that were very good and generated much interest. Notably, Julie Fraser, principal of analyst firm Industry Directions, presented the results of an in-depth survey of manufacturing professionals about their use of metrics in managing their companies, and how they obtained the information to support the metrics. There was a lot of depth in that report, “Metrics Matter” (reported in this month’s issue).

Not to take anything away from her presentation, but the next day’s proceedings featured Cockrell’s keynote that spurred a lot of interest and many questions. The thing that made the presentation powerful was that he spoke from extensive experience after much reflection. He included his errors along the way as well as his successes.

Create an environment

So, what do you do? Cockrell said, “I’m an environmentalist. I created the environment of Disney World.” You should create the environment around where you work and live, too. And don’t underestimate the influence you have with those around you, or with even a wider circle. Cockrell believes that people always underestimate their influence. So use your influence to create the right kind of environment for growth and success. Leadership creates the right environment that creates customer satisfaction that leads to great business results.

While at Disney, Cockrell had a professional research organization perform a survey of customers. Results of the survey boiled down to four things that customers expected from Disney: make us feel special, treat me as an individual, show respect to my children and have knowledgeable employees. If that is what customers expect, what does your staff expect? He thought about that in light of the research and came up with these four staff expectations: make me feel special, treat me as an individual, show me respect and make me knowledgeable.

Most of us are engineers or “computer geeks” and have lives more focused on things rather than people. This, in and of itself, can lead to relationship problems at home. But as we move into management roles, working with people is a requirement. Reflecting on pieces of wisdom such as these from Cockrell in conjunction with our own actions and attitudes not only leads to personal growth, but it also leads to personal and organizational success.

Michael Treacy, business researcher, consultant and author, spoke to the MESA attendees about achieving double-digit growth in their companies. He advised the group to approach business growth as a skill set much like we all approach cost control. But he said that growth is also about people. You need to build a talent-rich environment. You can’t have too many talented people. That is, if there isn’t enough challenging work, talented people will self-select out for other opportunities. That’s OK, because you have built a large well of talent. His closing principles were stunning in their simplicity and wisdom. “The best management team beats the best strategy every time. New revenue only comes from customers.”

Back to Cockrell for a final thought. “If you behaved at home like you do at work, would you have any friends or family?”