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Creating Magic Teacher’s Guide

By Lee Cockerell

Creating Magic by Lee Cockerell



Please click on the PDF link below to download the Teacher’s Guide.

When guests encounter the Disney experience, filled with warm and welcoming experiences from beginning to end, Disney makes it all look so easy. But, in fact, considerable behind-the-scenes leadership contributes to the overall consistency of quality products and services visible to guests.
The Disney brand is synonymous with magic, aligning with excellence in all its products and services. Lee Cockerell writes of this “magic” from firsthand experience, as he was the Executive Vice President of Operations of Walt Disney World Resort for over ten years. In Creating Magic, he demonstrates how students can become great leaders, regardless of background or occupational aspirations.
The recommended usage for this Teacher’s Guide for Creating Magic is to first assign students to read the particular chapters before class. Of course, you also should acquaint yourself by reading the chapter you’re assigning— and by familiarizing yourself with the Chapter Summary and Key Concepts at the beginning of each segment of the Teacher’s Guide. When beginning with Discussion Questions, decide first which will be most appropriate for your class. For example, several questions ask students to apply examples from the workplace, but not all students will have experience on which to draw. For those students who have yet to hold their first part-time job, odd jobs, babysitting, and even volunteer work may provide answer material. The questions are structured for students to discover the answers in Creating Magic, but at the same time, they encourage students to unearth their own applied examples to demonstrate authentic understanding of the concepts.
The Creating Magic Teacher’s Guide will help teachers encourage students in all subject disciplines to appreciate and harness leadership techniques. Students will learn that these invaluable life skills transcend far beyond the corporate world.
Chapter One: Making Magic (4)
Chapter Two: The Journey from the Farm to a Magic Kingdom (6)
Chapter Three: Strategy #1: Remember, Everyone Is Important (8)
Chapter Four: Strategy #2: Break the Mold (10)
Chapter Five: Strategy #3: Make Your People Your Brand (12)
Chapter Six: Strategy #4: Create Magic Through Training (15)
Chapter Seven: Strategy #5: Eliminate Hassles (17)
Chapter Eight: Strategy #6: Learn the Truth (19)
Chapter Nine: Strategy #7: Burn the Free Fuel (21)
Chapter Ten: Strategy #8: Stay Ahead of the Pack (23)
Chapter Eleven: Strategy #9: Be Careful What You Say and Do (25)
Chapter Twelve: Strategy #10: Develop Character (27)
Chapter Thirteen: Leading into the future (29)
Conclusion (31)
About the Guide Writer (32)
Chapter 1 (Making Magic) maintains that team building and group cohesion are major tenets of leadership, and bring about positive change through new ideas and fruitful productivity. These skills are applicable to all disciplines and functions relevant to leading people.
★ Students will realize that a leader who instills and nurtures effectual leadership structures and processes, including the leverage of team-synergy, will be rewarded even in times of disasters.
★ Students will understand that the highest customer satisfaction levels come from positive employee interactions.
★ Students will comprehend that adapting to current demands is a bona fide tool of effective leadership, whether those demands are technological, social, or economical.
1. In chapter 1, the author describes the generosity of many of the cast members (which is how Disney refers to its employees) in donating time and money to help those employees affected by hurricanes. Why did some employees do this, while others did not? How could a manager encourage generosity without coming on too strong or being thought of as pushy?
2. Disney maintains a 70 percent return rate among visitors. Why is repeat business so important to organizations? Discuss other examples of particular businesses that also have a very high rate of returning customers. How do they do that? What’s the draw?
3. Disney research shows that guest satisfaction levels are highest when they have positive interactions with cast members. Discuss examples of when you received excellent “guest satisfaction.” What exactly made it so good and memorable?
4. In chapter 1, the author states that these leadership strategies work not only in the corporate world, but also in religious organizations and community life. What are examples of teamwork in action in groups like these?
5. On pages 5 and 6, Lee Cockerell states, “Take care of your people and they will take care of your business, not just because they have to but because they want to.” Put yourself in the place of cast members at Disney. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
6. On pages 6 through 8, Cockerell encourages students to “keep up with change.” Recall a situation where a leader in an organization did not take the author’s advice. What negative repercussions might arise for that leader?
Chapter 2 (The Journey from the Farm to a Magic Kingdom) describes the author’s own life path. This chapter is applicable to all disciplines. Career development is a topic relevant to every professional path.
★ Students will behold that opportunities abound, even in an uncertain economy.
★ Students will observe that being prepared and performing consistently results in a smart working style that is appreciated by others.
★ Students will discover that respecting all individuals on the way up manifests in a potentially powerful network of people.
1. The author states that his mother was one of the greatest leaders he’s ever known. What do you think he meant by this? What effective leadership skills did your parents or other significant people from your childhood possess?
2. Lee Cockerell compares business issues to marriage, stating, “You can’t resolve conflicts or differences of opinion if your relationship isn’t grounded in mutual respect and trust.” How is this relationship advice applicable to a situation in your life?
3. Chapter 2 discusses continuous learning as a career tactic. Give an example of how you could utilize this in your future chosen career field.
4. One of Disney’s great leadership strategies is to always have respect for process and procedure. In this chapter, the author describes an error he once made while making hamburger buns as a cook in the U.S. Army. Compare the author’s incident to a similar personal one from your own life.
5. Lee Cockerell shares the difference between leading and managing. Give an example of each.
In chapter 3 (Remember, Everyone Is Important), the author introduces the concept of RAVE (Respect, Appreciate, and Value Everyone). He also discusses the importance of sincerely understanding the behaviors of individuals.
★ Students will ascertain how the people component (humbly and openly listening to employees’ ideas and opinions) of business directly affects profits.
★ Students will grasp the technique of listening to employees, for they are a rich flow of opinions and ideas. Whether suggestions or complaints, and whether it’s from the lowest-ranking employees, it’s all potentially useful information.
★ Students will sense that corporate culture is being redefined and nurtured continually, evolving regularly due to employee involvement and contributions.
1. Chapter 3 discusses how, when cast members are motivated to contemplate better ways to perform tasks, productive results occur. What is a change you might suggest at your job to improve your organization’s results? How could such a change make you feel more energetic at work? More loyal?
2. There is an adage in managing people that asserts, “Never let
’em see you sweat!” Lee Cockerell maintains that we should not hide our humanity, especially our flaws and weaknesses. Do you agree or disagree with this? What are the advantages and disadvantages of a manager becoming too familiar with employees?
3. The author states, “Take your responsibility, not yourself, seriously.” What is a distinctive example of this mantra in action? What are potential downsides to using or living this motto?
4. The Disney Institute says that corporate culture is the “system of values and beliefs an organization holds that drives actions and behaviors and influences relationships.” What are some examples you’ve observed of company cultures?
5. Disney has the lowest turnover rate of any major company in the hospitality industry. Why do you think this is true?
6. Asking people’s opinions and ideas is one of the author’s recommendations. How would you answer this question: How can this classroom atmosphere be improved?
7. What do you think a good leader should say to an employee who says s/he is just bored with the job? How could the RAVE technique be used here?
Chapter 4 (Break the Mold) is useful for many courses, for it speaks to the risk and resistance in doing things differently. Leaders, as well as all employees, must question everything. This does not mean being contrary or argumentative. It means simply asking if there is another way to perform tasks, for the betterment of everyone involved.
★ Students will rethink the usefulness of holding regular meetings and utilizing other forms of communication.
★ Students will analyze and subsequently appreciate accountability as a major tool in successful leadership strategy.
★ Students will re-evaluate all methods of operations and systems. Questioning processes does not always mean changing them.
1. The author believes a leader must hold cast members responsible for specific tasks. This is referred to as accountability, and it’s achieved by measuring outcomes. What is an actual example of this process?
2. The author discusses minimizing the number of layers in an organization on pages 68 through 70. According to the author, why does a “flat” organizational structure generally work better than a “deep” or “tall” one? Can you site an example of a company that is deep or tall? Can you site an example of an organization that is flat?
3. The author reveals an anecdote of the origin of his Green Tabasco Award, presented to Disney cast members who “demonstrated the courage to try new ways of doing things.” What’s an example of a process—some task or habit that could use some changing—in your life, at school, or at your part-time job? Would the change work for everyone involved? Why or why not?
4. At school, if you don’t complete your assignments, you could fail.
At work, if you don’t clean the ice cream machine thoroughly to the manager’s standards, you will lose your job. If young kids at home don’t keep their rooms clean, they risk losing their weekly allowance. Think about some circumstance in your life that if you had been held more accountable for the successful completion of it, may have resulted in an improved leadership-learning experience for you.
Chapter 5 introduces the third strategy (Make Your People Your Brand). Here, Lee Cockerell delves into the recruiting, selecting, and hiring of cast members. The more objective a leader remains in finding the best employees possible, the better the resulting outcome.
★ Students will understand that finding and keeping great employees is step one in leading excellent companies.
★ Students will comprehend that patience and diligence are key factors in this process and that they’ll ultimately yield an excellent staff of employees.
★ Students will appreciate and successively follow this mantra from Lee Cockerell: “I knew I had mastered the art of hiring once every person who reported to me was someone I would gladly report to myself.”
★ Students will recognize the need for a strong and suitable approach to terminating employees. Be sure, and then be quick, kind, and professional. Individual dignity should always be maintained for all involved.
1. On pages 86 through 88, the author discusses four competencies managers look for when hiring employees: technical, technological, management, and leadership. Consider a particular job and describe the four competencies needed to be successful.
2. Why might present employees be involved in hiring decision making? Aside from being time-consuming, what are the disadvantages?
3. Disney surveys cast members annually by presenting statements (relating to their managers) to be rated on a seven-point scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Choose one of the statements listed below (from pages 106 and 107), and comment on whether this is a good question to ask employees and what should be done with the results.
§  I trust the people on my work team.
§  I receive the training I need to do my job well.
§  My work team values different points of view.
§  My immediate leader deals with me in a truthful manner.
§  My immediate leader makes the best use of my talents and skills to accomplish team goals.
§  My immediate leader accepts responsibility for failures as well as successes.
§  I trust my leader.
§  If given the choice, I would work with my immediate leader again.
4. Disney shows a video to new, promising hires before they are even interviewed. The author explains that this “film serves as a great orientation for eventual employees, but also saves the company the high cost of hiring, training, and replacing people who would ultimately prove to be wrong for the job.” Why do you imagine this technique results in more fruitful hiring? Can you name other organizations that use a similar method? Or consider an organization, which if it did use a similar method to what the author describes, would result in an improved recruiting and hiring program.
Chapter 6 (Create Magic Through Training) introduces the fourth leadership strategy. The author explains that the more an employee understands and appreciates his or her own mission and vision in the company, the more their individual “usefulness” factor will be enhanced.
★ Students will understand that coaching members of the employee team helps them focus on their individual development.
★ Beyond simply using verbal cues, students will discover the value of demonstrating good leadership acts and traits to employees. It’s important to realize that employees are watching.
★ Students will resolve to train and test. Don’t practice on customers.
★ Students will note how to communicate regularly with consistent feedback, good and bad.
1. The author’s son once said to his father, “Dad, you can’t fire your children; you have to develop them.” Lee Cockerell believes that leaders should apply that wisdom to their employees. Discuss your thoughts regarding this philosophy. Can a manager ever get too involved with his/her employees? Please share examples of this.
2. Disney teaches cast members to do “Take 5s,” small behaviors that delight the guests every time. What are some examples of Take 5s that might delight customers where you work? What are some examples of Take 5s you’ve experienced as a customer yourself? For both scenarios, why can they be costly to perform? How should more businesses implement Take 5s? What are the potential downsides?
3. What are some ways a leader can show employees how to perform certain tasks instead of just telling them?
4. The author discusses how he published a regular newsletter for employees. Why is it favorable to include items such as: new hires, new benefits, safety, community outreach, reminders of important dates, and customer comments/letters?
5. Select one of the “7 Guest Guidelines” from page 129 of Creating
Magic. If you were training an employee for a company, how would you “teach” this lesson by using an example?
In chapter 7 (Eliminate Hassles), the author describes what goes awry in running a business and how to minimize these occurrences. Students will learn how to directly utilize these principles, particularly through specific stories and examples.
★ Students will comprehend that following rules is essential for an organization to run well. However, they must ensure those rules make sense for all involved.
★ Students will become increasingly open to relishing and even welcoming problems; they are opportunities to make better policies, procedures, and processes.
★ Students will detect the value of listening to employees and customers because they provide the best insight into how to address problems and improve operations.
1. The author believes that leaders should “constantly query employees . . . to root out process problems.” What is a rule or process that makes sense at your job, if you have one? Why does it work? Why does the company need the rule?
2. What is (or what seems like) a rule at your school or perhaps at your part-time job that does not make sense anymore? How could it be changed for the better? What do you think would happen if the rule were eliminated?
3. “Listen to your customers” is stressed in this chapter. An example of this is how Disney addressed the number one complaint of guests: waiting in line. Disney introduced FastPass, a computerized reservation process to assure guests of shorter wait times for their favorite attractions. What is an example of another business addressing a major complaint?
4. There are no problems, just golden unresolved opportunities to make things better. The author offers an example of how cast members complained about having to go to the costuming department every day. Disney changed the policy to allow them to check out as many as five costumes, exchanging them all at the same time or washing them at home. Cast members saved time and the company saved money in cleaning costs. Please identify a similar scenario at a company with which you are familiar. What was the original problem? Why was it an opportunity to improve the situation for everyone involved?
Chapter 8 (Learn the Truth) defines truth as complete information and accurate, pertinent facts. Students will benefit from learning how to use feedback to access meaningful, necessary truths for aggregate decision making.
★ Students will discover that viewing a business through the eyes of customers provides insight and information that is beneficial when deciding which changes should be implemented.
★ Students will trust that encouraging employee honesty will yield true and valuable interactions. In turn, this will help employees make better managerial decisions.
★ Student will listen not only to words, but to nonverbal messages as well.
★ Students will increasingly rely on measuring everything possible.
1. Think of a way a manager could remain alert to what’s occurring where the employees are stationed (on the sales floor, in the field, at the warehouse, etc.)? Why is it valuable for leaders to maintain this awareness?
2. Meeting with and listening to entry-level employees (the ones in closest contact to the customers) helps leaders to change policies and procedures for the better. Why don’t more managers do this? Should they? Why or why not?
3. What advice does the author share for a manager who needs to convey sometimes critical, tough-to-receive information to an employee?
4. When students are asked the most important traits of a good leader, honesty appears very high on the list. Discuss why this is so.
5. The purest method of gathering true, accurate data from employees is observation. What is an example of a manager observing an employee?
Chapter 9 (Burn the Free Fuel) describes strategy number seven, which can be used in management classes in all industries and disciplines. Here, the author teaches how to use ARE (Appreciation, Recognition, Encouragement). It’s a cost-free and inexhaustible resource; one begins each day with a new “full tank.” And it helps employers and employees alike foster greater productivity, important in any industry or career.
★ Students will come to understand why (and how) appreciation, recognition, and encouragement are tools for productivity.
★ Students will develop a mindset of consistent leadership respect for employees.
★ Students will recognize and identify low-cost/no-cost methods of workplace motivation.
1. Please think of a past manager or teacher who used ARE. Did you consider him/her a good leader? Why or why not?
2. The author describes how he would hand out award pins that “cost a buck or two each, but if pride has a price, they’re worth millions.” What is an example of a similar program that could be implemented at your job?
3. Lee Cockerell describes a program at Disney called “You Said—We Listened” on pages 201 and 202, where cast members are rewarded for coming up with great ideas to better serve guests. What kinds of helpful, productive ideas could you conceive at your job? How do you think your manager will receive and appreciate your ideas? Why?
Strategy number eight is conveyed in chapter 10 (Stay Ahead of the Pack). Here, the author encourages students to be “knowledge sponges” by filling the gaps, keeping up with colleagues, and expanding horizons. Nowhere is this more important than within fields where change is rapid and new, and cutting-edge techniques appear almost daily. Examples include nursing, computer and informational technology, graphic design, and nearly all forms of business administration.
★ Students will discover the value of keeping current both culturally and technologically.
★ Students will come to appreciate the value of learning from sources that appear or seem unconventional.
★ Students will create and forge best practices always.
★ Students will become aware of and eventually practice “Guestology,” which is the study of what guests like and don’t like, as well as what they want and don’t want.
1. There is an old adage that states, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” On page 213 of Creating Magic, the author tells students not to shy away from challenges—for example, his was speaking in public. He comments, “I don’t know about old dogs, but I can tell you for sure that experienced leaders can learn new tricks, and those who create magic are constantly on the lookout for tricks that can give them an edge.” What “old dog” habits do you have? What would be some advantages of you trying new tricks?
2. “Guestology is the study of what guests like and don’t like, as well as what they want and don’t want,” says Cockerell on page 221. Why don’t more businesses practice guestology? Explore the advantages and disadvantages by discussing specific examples.
3. Disney executives, for example, likely read Funworld, the magazine
of IAPPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions). What is an example of a trade journal that is read in the industry in which you are employed?
4. A mentor could be a distant relative a student sees twice a year at family holidays; a neighbor’s cousin with whom a student could spend a couple hours to tour a workplace; or a complete stranger (obviously until the student connects with him/her) with whom the student completes an internship. How could any of these mentor examples be a contact for you? How would a mentor help you stay ahead of the pack?
This chapter begins the part of the book discussion on professionalism. Passion, positive attitude, and humility (among other perennial, admirable traits) are discussed. Students in various disciplines will find rich veins of knowledge and self-improvement and should apply these integral life skills through their explorations of detailed curricula and related readings.
★ Students will discern that trust from the people you lead is paramount.
★ Students will grasp the value of perpetually being onstage. It’s always show time.
★ Students will continuously keep high their own standards; being professional but humble in all matters.
★ Students will search for opportunities to collaborate, maintaining a positive mindset with all people and situations.
1. What is the difference between being a professional and being professional? Without sharing specific names, which nonprofessionals do you know who act professionally? Why is this an important attribute for an emerging and aspiring leader?
2. Do you have a passion for your job? Why or why not? Think of someone you know who does. What does it feel like, look like, and sound like? Why don’t more working people have it?
3. Lee Cockerell says on page 231, “You have to protect your reputation because it’s the only one you have. When your reputation is tarnished, you lose your credibility, which is the one thing leaders need most: the trust of the people you lead.” Identify and reflect on something from your personal life that you would not want to appear in any media.
Finally, Cockerell urges employers to develop their team’s character. Just as mathematics classes rely heavily on “skill-building,” leadership skills also need to be built. Development of character—of the total person—is the culmination of all Cockerell’s leadership skills.
★ Students will deal honestly with everyone.
★ Students will act in a manner consistent with their beliefs. Behaviors should match values.
★ Students will teach others powerful, positive values. Spread the good word. People learn more when they pass the message on to others.
★ Students will be kinder. Hurt no one.
★ Students will allow themselves to have fun. Safe, healthy relaxation is productive to the total human being.
1. One of the Action Steps listed on page 258 is, “Know what you stand for, and live by those values every minute of every day.” What do you stand for? In other words, what do you feel so strongly about that you would never change your stance? How can you be so sure you won’t change your mind?
2. The author presents a challenging-to-answer question in the chapter on developing character. What would you do if you knew that a co-worker had a drug problem? When (if ever) would it be okay to tell a “white lie” to help him/her remain employed?
3. The author revisits RAVE from chapter 3. What makes you have a deeper appreciation for this acronym after reading Creating Magic? How will respecting, appreciating, and valuing everyone bring more money into a company? How do you know?
4. Lee Cockerell advises students to have fun. And he continues, “You’ll laugh your way to robust profits.” Do you agree? Please explain why or why not.
Chapter 13 (Leading into the Future) sums up the importance of perpetual, ongoing growth—in a world that is moving faster each day. Leaders in every type of business situation will relate to the information covered in this chapter and learn how to apply it in present and future situations, at work and at home.
★ Students will step up and take the lead in every situation—it will become part of the fabric of their daily routine.
★ Students will recognize that leaders lead at work, home, and play.
★ Students will know the value of keeping an eye on guests (customers), cast members, and business results (bottom-line profitability).
★ Students will see that leaders attract, develop, and keep great employees.
1. The author states on page 260 that even a part-time employee can be a leader, and adds that leaders are patient and persistent. How can you, as a student, be a good leader using these qualities at your part-time job? How about at home? How about in class?
2. Disney’s “three-legged stool” consists of decisions impacting guests, cast members, and business results. Which do you think is more important than the other two? Why? Please explain your reasoning.
3. Great leaders know that their people are always watching them. The author says, “Everything you say and do matters, perhaps more than you realize.” What is a subtle example of this in action?
4. The author reminds us (on pages 262 and 263) that “organizational cultures do not change overnight.” Who are the slow-to-change people and how does a leader help these individuals embrace change in the future?
5. What does a company culture need in order to find and keep smart, energetic, and creative employees?
We have learned that creating magic is possible for everyone. Leaders are indeed made, not born. Leaders come in all shapes, colors, ages, sizes, and positions on workplace hierarchies.
Students do not train and work up to some leadership pinnacle; that describes mere management. Leadership is intangible, and students can decide to become leaders now—immediately—by “stepping up” as Lee Cockerell says. When that decision is made, life changes both philosophically and attitudinally. Only then, when actions begin to match values, does behavior change. It’s ongoing. It’s also demanding.
The author shares numerous tools and techniques that are put into play by actively following the activities and assignments in this Teacher’s Guide. We can all increasingly create magic, and apply that magic in our work lives for the betterment of ourselves, our guests, our cast members, and our businesses. Lead with magic!
TIM McHEFFEY teaches marketing and management courses at various colleges and universities in the Long Island/New York City area. His thirty-year career has also been spent mostly in department store retailing as well as his own small businesses (gift/home, bakery chain). McHeffey also worked with Dun and Bradstreet in New York City, and presented seminars for D&B (and Skill Path) across the country.
McHeffey’s publications include books and programs on retail visual merchandising (used at Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma), balancing business and home life, and handling difficult customer service issues (used in high school and college marketing classes across the country). His most recent project is “Solving Sticky People Problems with Employees.”
McHeffey is an SME (Subject Matter Expert) for the National Retail Federation Foundation, and a frequent contributor to articles and media interviews. He resides in Center Moriches with his wife, Danielle, and has four grown children and two grandchildren.
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