I always encourage readers to study and read beyond purely leadership issues. A leader should be knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects, and should enjoy seeking out new information. To that end, I picked up Inside the Magic Kingdom a few years ago on the promise of learning some of what makes Disney, and specifically Disney World, so successful.
The book features a fictitious group of five managers who meet with a consultant named Mort. They meet at Disney World and Mort’s agenda is to discuss seven keys that he feels are instrumental to Disney World’s success. So as not to spoil it for you, I won’t list the seven keys, though some of them I found very closely related to some of the principles of strategic planning in particular and leadership in general. I was especially drawn to the chapter in which the author presents Michael Eisner (former Disney CEO, 1984 – 2004) speaking about the mindset of all Disney employees. Each cast member (they aren’t called employees) understands the importance of the Disney mindset. The particular discussion centers on trash pick-up, keeping the park clean, and how leadership’s willingness to do this seemingly mundane chore sets the right tone for everyone.
At this point, I need to go back to Connellan’s introduction where he freely admits that such things as the discussion with Michael Eisner was purely fictional but was based on extensive research into Disney’s method of operation. In fact, much of the book is a fanciful telling of his research.
Connellan’s method works though as he takes the reader backstage, through the part of the park that no one sees — the park has an underground maze of tunnels and rooms that allow cast members to come and go without appearing to be out of place or character. These catacombs also house all the physical plant necessary to run such a large operation. He also talks about the almost obsessive attention to the little details; the things that probably no one would notice (did you know the carousel is painted with 24-karat gold leaf paint?) but ensures an incredible level of accuracy.
Feedback is a subject that gets a separate chapter as Connellan feels it is vital to success. He points out that, to be truly constructive, feedback must come from more than one source. While Disney has a program for regular guest interviews, they also solicit feedback from employees. Positive feedback is shared with the subject cast member and with others. He points out that people tend to treat the customer the same way they are treated. That’s a great leadership lesson!
The final series of chapters are devoted to each of the fictitious manager’s description of what they had learned. These chapters are a masterful wrap up of the important concepts. They provide a great series of lessons, meant to concentrate on customer service, but certainly useful for leaders as well. Connellan finishes with a “toolkit” designed to help the reader train others in the book’s principles. While a little repetitive, it is a succinct collection of good information.
Pick up a copy of Inside the Magic Kingdom. It’s an easy read and contains a lot of great information. Though it focuses on customer service, it has much to offer the inquisitive leader.