SBC Life Articles

Mickey Mouse Motivates

God told His children that they should plunder the Egyptians by taking what they needed to be successful on their journey. As a psychologist, I have used that principle – take from the secular to use for the spiritual – as long as it does not violate biblical authority, commands, or principle. I have had the privilege of visiting one of America's most successful enterprises, and I was able to look behind the magic curtain and travel underground to Mickey's domain inside the amazing "Wonderful World" of Walt Disney in Orlando, Florida.

Behind the magic, the sparkle, all the fantasy, all the fireworks, adventure, and discovery is one of the most impressive showcases of management you will ever see run by a mouse. I learned many valuable management principles from Mickey Mouse and his entire cast. This Mickey Mouse operation is more that flash and pixie dust. Here's the magic in a nutshell that this "dumbo" learned.

You must see the big picture. Walt Disney saw Disney World. He knew exactly where everything was going to be even while looking at nothing but orange trees. When you can see the big picture, all the little problems can't irritate you or stop you because you know you are headed for something bigger and better.

Never forget the details. Walt Disney spent time looking at the details. For example, he saw that benches were painted, that the music fit the time of day, that trash cans were placed every twenty feet, and that flowers for the Mickey Mouse head were replaced daily. The details are what paint the big picture and give it life.

Live in the future tense. Tomorrow land quickly becomes today. Change must always take place. A difference is usually better. Even if it is not, there is still a certain amount of relief.

Communicate the vision to others. You have to be able to communicate your vision. This was very important for Walt Disney because Disney died before Disney World was ever completed. Other people had to complete it without him. However, he had communicated the vision so well that they knew exactly where Cinderella's castle went.

Let your people know how important they are. In underground Disney World where all the work is taking place, the carpet is red. Disney wanted the employees to know that they get the red carpet treatment because they are the people that make Disney World successful. They don't refer to the employees in administrative terms or by hierarchy. It is simply "front stage" and "back stage." The show must go on, and it takes everyone to make it spectacular.

Language is important. Speak positively whenever possible. Disney World doesn't have problems; they have challenges. They are not burned out; they are looking for new opportunities. When there needs to be a behavior correction, they call it a coaching opportunity.

Always be enthusiastic. You can't accomplish anything great without enthusiasm. The difference between a geyser and a mud puddle is enthusiasm.

Feel deeply about your subject. Walt Disney had passion. Disney World looks for people who have fire in their belly, people who have a passion for something.

Never change who you are. Disney strives to make the guests' visit excellent, but they will never do something that compromises what they believe they are about. For example, Mickey Mouse is never seen in two places at the same time or they might risk someone not believing in Mickey Mouse. If there is one thing that Disney World is not going to compromise, it is Mickey Mouse.

Hire people who like people. Most of us hire people thinking we can train and change them. However, most of the time that is not the case. You can teach skills and policy but you can't teach personality.

Disney World strives to understand the people for whom they provide service. The bottom line of Disney World's success is understanding people's stories – stories about things people do, things people say, and the lives people live. Disney says that success is recorded by relationships with people. To establish a good relationship with people is to understand their story.

Disney World puts its people through a management training program that consists mostly of story telling. They tell stories about the people who epitomize their guests. For example, consider the trainee who will be in charge of Dumbo the Flying Elephant. They not only train him how to operate the machine but also about the people who will ride it. They tell him about the little boy who has leukemia and is going to die and his last wish is to ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Now, when the operator sees a little kid in line, he doesn't think about operating the ride, he thinks about the little kid with leukemia whose dream was to ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant. The secret to Disney World is not the theme park's methodological and mechanical underworld. The secret is the people and their spirit that considers Disney World's mission important.

Our success lies in stories as well. People learn from stories because illustration is more powerful than instruction. That is why the testimonial services of yesteryear were meaningful. I still remember parts of personal testimonies that I heard as a child. Let's take the greatest story ever told and put some magic into it. If Disney can do it for a Mouse, surely we can do it for the Master.

    About the Author

  • Charles Lowery