what I learned from Disney World: Leadership edition - pt 1

Today on my personal blog, I shared some fun takeaways my family experienced during a recent trip to Disney World. You can read that slice here.

While it was a vacation, it was hard to turn off the "leadership" switch. I didn't do this on purpose, but I found myself as a consumer taking mental notes in my head as my family went around the parks and hung out at our hotel. I couldn't shake them, so I found a disney napkin to write them down and dump them out of my brain for the moment. Now that some time has passed, and apparently I still have the napkin, here are 7 things I learned from Disney World: Leadership edition.


Day 1: Magic Kingdom - Pt 1

Intentional distractions.

As soon as my family entered the Magic Kingdom, I was looking forward to getting my boys down that amazing street where the castle lies at the end of it. This is what many people look forward to in a Disney experience, which is why there are photographers parked around it, ready to take your picture for free (which later translates into some more cha-ching for Disney)


So we head into the park, smelling that amazing popcorn smell and seeing the old America-style downtown atmosphere.

But first... we remembered that Guest Services hands out free buttons to first-time visitors. We heard that employees and characters go out of their way to say hi to kids who have this, so of course we grabbed it. Then we headed off to the castle.

But first... our eyes caught a store and we remember that we had to pick up some autograph books. We'd learned that as our boys would meet different characters, they could get signatures from each to remember the moment later. So we ran into the bookstore right by the gate, then headed off to the castle.

But first... we thought we might need to go to the bathroom. Ironically enough, there was a set of them right by the front gate. So we all went in (me with my two boys and my wife on her own) and spent 5-10 minutes longer, still near the front gate. Then we headed off to the castle.

But first... we saw where Pinnochio would be signing autographs and taking pictures with kids. So we stopped, wondering if we should wait around, but then realized the wooden boy was nowhere to be found. Then we then headed off to the castle.

But first... we walked by a store with ad windows that advertised they sold Mickey ears. "Everyone needs Mickey ears," we reasoned, and figured this was as good a time as any to check the price. So we went in, decided to wait on the ears, snapped some pictures in funny hats, then headed off to the castle.

But first...

You get the picture?

This is when it hit me... Disney management are geniuses at staggering your journey around the park with intentional distractions. Everything "ordinary" is made "extraordinary" so you will slow down, look at it, take pictures, and thereby delay yourself from where you were going.


Why do they do this? Why would they slow you down from getting to the place you want to get to?

Because they want you to take your time.

Why take your time? Because they don't want everyone clogging up the same rides/places at the same time. If this were to happen, Disney wouldn't be the happiest place on earth... and they know it.


I saw this more the next day when we walked in and right away Chip & Dale and Pluto were taking photos with kids right at the entrance. By this point I realized what Disney was up to, so I planned to use my insights in our favor. I asked my wife to stand with the kids in line while I ran over and got a "fast pass" for a ride we wanted to go on. It all sounded like a great plan, especially since we were trying to maximize each day (since we didn't spring for the "park hoppers" - this meant we only got so many shots at each park).

And yet... on my way over to get that fast pass, I realized I was seeing a lot of "extraordinary ordinary" things without my family. Bushes in the shape of Mickey and Minnie, entrances to Fantasy Land and Tomorrow Land, other characters meeting with kids.

And I realized that I needed to turn around.

While I knew what Disney was trying to do to me - intentionally distract and stagger my journey - I felt the conviction that it would be better to walk slow with my family and enjoy the sites than "efficiently" run around separated from one another.


Or in the terms of this blog, a Type-B decision versus a Type-A one.

Is there anything in your realm of leadership that would make the people you serve more inclined to enjoy their overall experience?


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Maybe it's adding music to an awkwardly silent atmosphere, or perhaps it's turning off the TV/radio/internet to create some quietness.
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It could be that the color scheme of your office or home space has an "edge" to it, whether it's the colors you chose or the bare walls that make things seem sterile.
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Perhaps you need to start layering out the journey people walk to get to the "main thing," from purposeful artwork that makes them stop to social points of interaction (water coolers, hot beverage stops, slightly larger corners where there is comfort in stopping).
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Or you just might need to spread out your leadership team into zone areas, ensuring that whichever direction someone walks in they are greeted with joy - whether you're a business attempting to reach customers or a family wanting to ensure everyone is greeted with a smile and a hug when they walk in the door.


For the record, we did make it to the castle after all.


And for the record, we did let the photographers take their pictures.

And for the record, it was absolutely awesome.

- Part 2 tomorrow.

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