Leading Great Groups

By your host, J. Jeff Kober

Question: Who painted the Sistine Chapel? Of course it was Michelangelo. But it was also a crew of 13. We rarely if ever hear about the crew of 13, yet Michelangelo would have never been able to accomplish this amazing feat without their assistance. Look at a number of successful organizations.

Leading Great Groups

A depiction of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

We think of Walt Disney, but Walt did little drawing except in the early years. The animated classics under his name were the result of scores of animators and artists. The same is true of Pixar with John Lasseter. Or Apple with Steve Jobs. Great leaders succeed because they are in a fertile relationship with talented people who collaborate together.

As they say, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” As Warren Bennis puts it:

“The genius of Great Groups is that they get remarkable people — strong individual achievers – to work together to get results. But these groups serve a second and equally important function: they provide psychic support and personal fellowship. They help generate courage. Without a sounding board for outrageous ideas, without personal encouragement and perspective when we hit a roadblock, we’d all lose our way.”

Ask yourself:

  • What would take us one notch or one step better than what we are currently doing?
  • How do we abandon individual egos to make a great team?
  • How can we help individuals to more actively participate as part of a strong team?

Great teams only succeed to the degree they attain the results they set out to achieve. What does that look like for you?

Being Present To Win

The other day I noticed the watch of a fellow client:

Being Present

I asked what the watch meant to him. He said it was a gift from his wife, and that it was to remind him to enjoy the present. I’m impressed by the great watches out there. Once I blogged about another watch worn by an Apple store employee who found that time stood still when he was doing what he loved.

The experience of the watch the other day reminded me of a favorite quote. In what I consider to be my first “real” job, I sat down at my desk in a new job I had just taken. The desk had been inhabited by a former worker. I happen to pull out a writing table, where there taped to the table was a quote:

“Enjoy here while you are here, because there is no here, there.”

In our yearning for days long past, or in our myopic focus for opportunities and achievements yet to come, we often forget to enjoy the present. It is perhaps one of the my greater weaknesses. In A.A. Milne’s great series, Pooh bear asks, “What day is it?”

“It’s today.” squeaked Piglet.

My favorite day,” said Pooh.”

You’ve heard the expression given during sweepstakes or giveaways: “You must be present to win.” Well, perhaps there’s more truth to that then we take for granted. Perhaps the real prize is being present.

Here’s to making today and every day the best!

Confronting Change

Confronting change can be a difficult experience. Simply defined, it is the process of going from one form to another. Those in organizations seeking to become more successful know that change happens. But it doesn’t always make it easy. That said, there are many factors that impact our day-to-day activity, and even the most well laid plans can be impacted from time to time. So it’s helpful to understand the process people go through when they have to adjust to that change, or move from one reality to another. Confronting change, or managing the “chaos” that can happen will look like the following:

The Chaos Model, created by Chuck & Mary Lofy, as found in their book, Vitality.

The Chaos Model, created by Chuck & Mary Lofy, as found in their book, Vitality.

This model, created by Chuck and Mary Lofy, is similar to Tuckman’s stages of group development–Storming, Forming, Norming, and so forth. Yet the visual here offers an opportunity to see how an organization may temporarily dip as it re-builds itself.  It suggests that movement from one form to another requires that we dip down into an unproductive and even emotional state before spiraling back upwards. Most importantly, it emphasizes that sometimes you can’t move from one form to another simply by drawing a straight line. By recognizing that this is a normal human response, and by allowing it in others, we become more empowered to taking steps that enable us to move forward with more clarity. Here are the steps that will help you and others get through the chaos:

Gather the Facts. Get clarity around what is happening and why. Identify not only what is known, but also what is not known. This is an important place for leaders to be as transparent as possible.

Assess. Consider what these changes mean to your work, activities, etc. Also consider what they mean to you and others personally.

Engage. Have conversations and dialogue with others so you can process what is happening. Identify facilitators who can help people work through their expectations.

Guidance. Get support and assistance you need to make the change successful. Set yourself up for as much success as possible.

Consider the following:

  • What changes do we need to make in order for our work to become successful? What does Form A look like to us? What does Form B look like?
  • What chaos, however minimal, may we experience in getting to where we need to be organizationally?
  • What facts do we need to gather? What issues do we need to assess? What would constructive dialogue with others look like around this matter? What guidance do we need?

I have had experiences in my life when dramatic change came to me in my business as well as in my personal life. Of course, little that happens in business compares to that which may happen to home or family. But our work is still a major part of who we are. To dismiss changes in the workplace as “part of doing business” is to invite something far worse than temporary chaos. Everyone can eventually deal with disruption in our work. But if we don’t take the steps to work our way through it, we may spiral down to a place far worse than what temporary chaos may bring. Leaders must take the steps to help their employees work through the chaos and eventually arrive at a far better place.

Celebrating Guest Service at Disney

Celebrating Guest Service at Disney

Disneyland is where Disney’s legacy for providing great Guest Service really began. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

One of the best benchmarks for great customer service are the Disney theme parks. This year Disneyland celebrates it’s Diamond anniversary. In commemorating this 60th birthday, I am posting 60 ideas for improving customer service in your own organization. You can find the first article here. It focuses on providing Guest Service, not just customer service. You can find my second post here. I hope you check this series out over the next six months leading up to Disneyland’s birthday on July 17th. I think you will find some great ideas for improving your organization.

The Trail to a Great Work Environment

What Qualities Do You Look For In The Place You Work At?

At Universal’s Islands of Adventure there are two comics that intertwine in Toon Lagoon. They are simply incidental theming to the park, but they offer a couple of great thoughts about creating a great work environment.

Mark Trail and Family Circus Share the Same Trail Here at Toon Lagoon.

Mark Trail and Family Circus Share the Same Trail Here at Toon Lagoon.

The first is a comic known form any years as Mark Trail. Mark Trail is a comic strip created by Jack Elrod, and featured themes that focused on the environment. It was targeted to those who appreciated the great outdoors, and was often instructional in its ideas about how to care for nature and its surroundings. To inspire his small team, Jack assembled his artists in the second floor of a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in the Atlanta area. Windows looked out over a 130 acre forest that surrounded the home. It provided inspiration for many of the comic strip adventures.

In this studio photo are Ed Dodd, Jack Elrod, Tom Hill and Rhett Carmichael.

In this studio photo are Ed Dodd, Jack Elrod, Tom Hill and Rhett Carmichael.

I’ve had the privilege of visiting some impressive work environments. Google has so many cool amenities. Red Door Interactive overlooked the Padres Stadium in San Diego. And speaking of natural settings–the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had a beautiful training facility in the hills of West Virginia. And yet, it isn’t just about the location, the appointments, and the amenities. It’s about the people you work with, and the esprit de corps.

That brings us to the other comic depicted–Family Circus–created by Bil Keane. It’s the depiction of family life, and the humor, love, and camaraderie found therein. In another Toon Lagoon panel, you can trace the trail from Billy back to the rest of the family.

The Family Circus looking for Billy. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The Family Circus taking a walk. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

There were a couple of key elements found in this comic, which coincidentally tie into any workplace culture:

1. Values. There are strong messages written humorously throughout the comic strip. Themes of being grateful, courteous, and caring are among just a few.

2. Gremlins. In 1975 Keane introduced an invisible Gremlin named “Not Me” which becomes a way for the kids to place the blame on anyone but themselves. Other gremlins were introduced like “Just B. Cause” and “Ida Know”. These same gremlins often creep up in organizations, unless they are defined and thrown out.

3. Dotted Paths. A dotted thick line would often show a character’s path through the house or down the street. We can see that same path utilized here in the comics depicted in Toon Lagoon. In business, this is represented by providing people a path of opportunity for them to grow and develop. In Bil Keane’s family, that path provided opportunities for his own children. Billy in the cartoon is really a representation of Bil’s own son Glen Keane, who went on to be a major character animator at Disney, to include Aladdin, Ariel, The Little Mermaid, Tarzan and the Beast in Beauty and the Beast.

The trail even continues along the walk way of the park. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The trail even continues along the walk way of the park. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

What messages does this comic strip have toward our work environment? I just got through doing two weeks of programming for a major college in New York. The comment that came up repeatedly was how when the college was small, it “felt like family”. When you stop to dissect that statement, you really it isn’t that the group was small. It was that they knew each other. They were more dependent on each other. They worked together to make things happen. These are the things that make a family a family–even at work.

And yet, there is nothing that stops a family from being a family–even when it grows bigger. I’ve known families with a dozen kids, and none of the older children ever say: “Back when there were only two kids it used to feel more like family.” Family doesn’t stop because it grows. Family stops because you stop working to nurture it. And the bigger the family, the more you have to nurture it.

People don’t leave brick and mortar. They may be attracted to the physical assets of the organization, but in the end they stay because “it feels like family”. What about your organization? Does it feel like family? Are there strong values that bring people together? Are there gremlins that get in the way? Is there a path for your success? How are you “marking the trail” in a way that makes the organization successful?

New Book! Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz

This newest book by J. Jeff Kober celebrates Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the stories, tales, and lessons behind it!

I am so very excited to announce my newest book, Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz, published by Theme Park Press. I’m thrilled that it’s available in time for this week’s 25th silver anniversary of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If you love Disney, if you love all things Hollywood, and if you love Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, you are going to love this book.

Disney's Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz by J. Jeff Kober

Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz by J. Jeff Kober

This is the most comprehensive story of the Disney’s Hollywood Studios ever told. Books have been written about Walt Disney World, the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and even Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but other than the wonderful, but brief Imagineering Guide, there has never really been another book that talked about this park so fully. You’ll find any number of stories that document how Disney has approached this park, its daily operation, and its unique attractions. There’s probably the most comprehensive description of the Tower of Terror. You’ll hear rare stories about the making of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, the creation of the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, and about the rise and fall of Disney Feature Animation Florida. Did you know that one of the biggest deals in Hollywood was created at The Brown Derby restaurant here at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? You’ll read about that and more.

Who was Louis B. Mayer of MGM's Metro Goldwyn Mayer? And how was his studios boss style different than Walt Disney's? Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Who was Louis B. Mayer of MGM’s Metro Goldwyn Mayer? And how was his studios boss style different than Walt Disney’s? Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

But beyond that, you’ll find little-known stories about the Walt Disney, the company he founded, and of Hollywood itself. Who is Edith and Adrian? Who is Min and Bill? Where did the expression “Mickey Mouse Operation” come from? What was it like on the set of The Golden Girls? What created the theme park wars between Michael Eisner and Universal Studios? And what were some of the greatest and most tragic moments of Walt Disney’s life?

Most importantly Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz is more than some “tell-all” tabloid from Hedda Gabler or TMZ. Every story has a lesson–has some message for one’s business, leadership and life. Every story ends by asking you questions about how you would approach adversity, competition, or serving others.

Labeled as "Disney's Folly" Walt overcame opposition and premiered his first full-length feature, Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs at the Carthay Circle Theater. How do you face opposition? These are the lesson's in Disney's Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Labeled as “Disney’s Folly” Walt overcame opposition and premiered his first full-length feature, Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs at the Carthay Circle Theater. How do you face opposition? These are the lesson’s in Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Perhaps one of the most unique leadership, business books out there, discover for yourself  Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz. Now available through Amazon.

The “Face” Of Passion At Work

A month or so ago I went to the Genius Bar at Apple to have my laptop looked at. While he was working on my laptop, I noticed the young employee’s watch:

No, this is not an iWatch. But it says something about the people who make such things. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

No, this is not an iWatch. But it says something about the people who make such things. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

I inquired. He said, “when you love what you do, time doesn’t matter.”

Do you feel that way about where you work?

Mid Life Celebration

The logo for my company is this symbol:

Screen Shot 2011-11-16 at 8.53.21 AM

It represents three things:

1. Half of it represents a time piece. This represents performance. It’s about attaining results.

2. Half of it represents a compass. This represents having your values and priorities in order–being pointed in the right direction.

3. The color is gold. Gold occurs when you heat ore to an intense temperature, removing the dross until the metal is purely refined. Together with other two it comes to represent excellence.

Few people represent that more than my former Disney Institute colleague Jeff Noel. Jeff is simply one of those people most look at and say, “I wish I was like him.” He is humble and kind; patient and cheerful; but never relenting about being the very best he can be.

Jeff Noel

Jeff Noel

Jeff has written a new book entitled Mid Life Celebration: Rethink, Reprioritize, Recommit. Whereas having a midlife crisis is spending our life chasing our dreams, a mid life celebration is a wake-up call to rediscover–and improve–what matters most.

Mid Life Celebration: Rethink, Reprioritize, Recommit--by Jeff Noel.

Mid Life Celebration: Rethink, Reprioritize, Recommit–by Jeff Noel.

I heartily recommend reading this book–even if you’re not somewhere in “mid-life”. It’s the next best thing to dragging Jeff along with you. It will offer some simple, inspiring ideas for anyone trying to figure out what matters most in life. And nobody does that better than Jeff.

More important, please order a paperback version from Amazon this weekend. Jeff is using the sales to raise awareness and donations for those suffering from Crohn’s disease. People with Crohn’s suffer many challenges, and are 20 times more likely to get colon cancer than others. Jeff’s own son deals with Crohn’s, and so buying a book allows Jeff to support those who are trying to make researching inroads on this disease.

A worthwhile cause in pursuit of helping two important causes–Crohn’s disease–and you! Buy it today!

Challenging the Process

Perhaps one of my most frustrating experiences are front line employees who simply say: “That’s the policy, I’m just doing what they tell us to do.” In those moments two things happen. I become irate because management should have created a culture that invites critical thinking around what is working and what is not working with the customer. Secondly, I grieve sadly that employees would want to work–or settle–or put up with that kind of culture. I know, they’re just trying to make a living. But who wants to make a living in an organization where thinking is not encouraged and rewarded?

If there is any reason to hire an employee–as opposed to creating more computers and robots to do the job–it’s that employees can provide needed critical thinking to the job. It’s a skill that truly cannot be replaced by machine.  Therefore, if you’re going to spend money hiring humans, teach them to seek innovative ways to improve their organization and the projects they are working on. And that requires challenging the process. It consists of the following:

  • Searching for opportunities to change, grow and improve.
  • Getting excited in finding new ways to approach one’s work.
  • Treating problems as opportunities as opposed to fearing their arrival.
  • Looking outward for fresh ideas. Benchmarking what others are doing and applying those ideas.
  • Experimenting and taking risks through small wins.
  • Learning from mistakes.

Managers should promote the psychological hardiness of their employees. Even when solutions aren’t obvious, hang in there. If doing something were easy, it would have been done already–and probably by a machine.

Ask yourself:

How can we seize the initiatives on our plate? How can we make the challenges we face more meaningful?

How can we experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from our mistakes?

How can we create a culture that wants to take the right road even when it’s the more difficult route?

 

Announcing The New 2nd Edition of The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney

2nd Edition of The Wonderful World of Customer Service by J. Jeff Kober.

2nd Edition of The Wonderful World of Customer Service by J. Jeff Kober.

I’m very excited to announce the 2nd Edition of The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney.

When the first edition of The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney came out, my rationale for writing the book came from the fact that I didn’t feel anyone was really telling people what customer service was really all about at Disney. I had developed the customer service curriculum that was to be the foundation in the development of the Be Our Guest book Disney released. That book had a forward by Michael Eisner. I doubt that Michael ever read the final draft it was finally written, but he did decide who was going to author it. While we thought it made sense for people at The Disney Institute to write it, we were told he wanted to go outside of the organization to have it written. Being responsible for customer service programming at the Disney Institute, I disappointingly relinquished all of the materials I had written to the author. I never met the author, and after a year went by nothing came of it. We inquired and begged for the opportunity to write the book ourselves. Eisner still didn’t want the book written by anyone at The Disney Institute and chose another ghost writer to do the book. I again sent the individual a copy of my materials, but never met the person. It was all too disappointing. Not that long thereafter, I moved on when a new opportunity became available.

But I didn’t leave the ideas that were at the heart of providing a great guest experience at Disney, and when Be Our Guest came out, I was determined someone had to tell the story–not only the truth of what works and what doesn’t at Disney–but how to make the experience come alive in one’s own company, whether it was a hospital, an airport, or an insurance firm.

The result was my first edition of The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney. I was pleased with the response–especially since my copies didn’t get space on a shelf at the Emporium. It was truly one of the proudest things I have done in my career. It has literally been read by thousands of people who have implemented its ideas into their own workplace.

The only challenge is that Disney is constantly changing. How they approach customer service ever evolving, and I felt like I needed to address those changes. In particular, there were three areas I especially focused on in this new edition:

1. Disney’s Service Behaviors. Back when I wrote the first edition of The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney the company was trying to move away from it’s original Seven Service Guidelines to more practical behaviors. Since then it has nailed a really solid set of behaviors expected not only of every Cast Member at Disney, but of leaders as well. We address both.

Cast Members greeting Guests into the park. It's part of the service behaviors discussed in The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Cast Members greeting Guests into the park. It’s part of the service behaviors discussed in The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

2. Making Guests Feel Special. I wanted to provide some clearer ideas about the ways Disney creates interactions as opposed to transactions. New stories in this second edition of The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney really press upon the way that guests experience something truly magical as a part of their stay at Disney.

This story of Wilderness Explorer Kalah and my son is an example of interacting with every one of your guests--even until the end of your shift. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

This story of Wilderness Explorer Kalah and my son is an example of interacting with every one of your guests–even until the end of your shift. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

3. High Tech/High Experience. With the addition of MyMagic+, FastPass+ and Magic Bands, Disney has done some innovative things to address the biggest complaint guests have about their experience at Disney–waiting in line. This is whey I waited as long as I did to do a new edition of The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney. I needed to evaluate how Disney is creating a more interactive, more high-tech experience.

New high-tech turnstiles are just the beginning of the High Tech Magic discussed in the Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

New high-tech turnstiles are just the beginning of the High Tech Magic discussed in the Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

That’s the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the changes. Every chapter was touched upon with new stories and ideas, and some chapters were substantially changed. Also, I re-did the order of the book so as to make it easy for people to take The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney and adapt it to their own organization.

What I didn’t change was the cover. It still hearkens to the early days of the Wonderful World of Disney show when everything seemed to come alive on your old TV set as you watched as a family on Sunday evenings. Those same traditions of excellence, great service, and magic are still a part of this book as well.

Please check it out, and let us know what you think. We’re excited for this new edition of The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney.