My life at Walt Disney World started with an endurance test. After 10 interviews over a two-year period, and a probing, extensive psychoanalysis, I was finally hired.
I had big plans when I joined Disney—or the Mouse House, as we called it—and I wanted to make my mark quickly. Here are three of the keys that I acquired during my tenure at Disney that proved to be instrumental in my development as an entrepreneur.
Create a Personal Board of Directors. I decided to quit working for Disney after just 90 days. I had gone from a small company with 100 employees to the happiest place on Earth with over 55,000 people—to say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. When my recruiter learned of my plans, she made it her mission to ensure that I stayed with the company and quickly introduced me to two executives—Brad Rex and Jim Lewis—who took me under their wings.
Brad and Jim became the first members of my personal board of directors. We would have meetings at least four times per year in which I would update them on my progress. They taught me how to survive at the mouse house.
Seek Out Stretch Assignments. Several years in, I became the sales director of a team that no one else wanted. I was scared to death. An emerging leader must be uncomfortable with being comfortable to make an impact. As author Jason Lauritsen puts it, “Feeling uninformed is uncomfortable. Feeling inadequate or underskilled is uncomfortable. Feeling like you are going to be exposed for these things is really uncomfortable. And yet, that’s when our brains respond and our learning accelerates.”
Customer Love is a Mindset. Disney took two years to hire me to ensure that I understood that customer service is a department but customer love is a mindset. Human decision-making is 70 percent emotional, according to a Gallup study. This emotional connection is Disney’s secret sauce, and as a cast member, that is something I needed to understand.
I realize now that you must hire for attitude and train for success. A person can have stellar credentials but be emotionally clueless when it comes to people. “How they feel usually has more binding power than how they think,” according to the authors of Firms of Endearment. “Customer loyalty is like love: It grows not from reason but from the heart.”
Whatever house you’re in— be sure to acquire and use the right keys to make an impact.
Simon T. Bailey is founder of Brilliance Institute and author of Shift Your Brilliance: Harness the Power of You, Inc. He resides with his family in Windermere, FL USA., and when he’s not working, he enjoys going to the movies, working on his tan, and rooting for the Buffalo Bills football team.