I recently completed the book, Creating Magic, by Lee Cockerell, subtitled, “10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies From a Life at Disney.” Now we know Disney (or any enterprise) is not perfect, but they generally have outstanding customer service and effective leadership, so this book is worth the read. Great quote: “It’s not the magic that makes it work; it’s the way we work that makes it magic.”
Cockerell outlines pragmatic leadership strategies/tactics that effective leaders follow and practice. These guidelines include several of the items that I’ve listed in prior blogs about what it takes to be an employer of choice, a world class best company:

Every employee colleague is important.
Recognize and encourage employees.
Employees are your company’s brand.
A leader needs to act consistently — I like to say it as, the leader needs to be the same person in the mail room as s/he is in the board room. (This is the biggest compliment I have ever received btw.)
A leader must always do the right thing — no situational ethics.

Anyone interested in developing as a leader and/or finding out what makes the magic at Disney — this is a good book for you.

For anyone that has read this book already, I’m curious on your thoughts. Thank you. Tom R.

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12 Responses to Leadership

  1. Jen says:

    I think that Disney is a very good company to review their business strategies and employer ethics. I have read something very similar but it is an application on my iTouch – Disney at Work: Magic Kingdom. It explains what and how Disney does for its Customers (guests) and how an employer can use the same strategies for themselves.
    Thank you for your thoughts on this book. This will be the next book that I read.

    • tomraffio says:

      Hi Jen,

      Thank you for your feedback , and your iTouch heads-up. As you make your way through the Creating Magic book, I’d like to find out what you think, so I hope you stay in touch. I am anticipating you’ll see some applications that I won’t see which will help me to learn.

      Tom R.

      • Jen says:

        I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, without, I may have missed out on such an inspiring book. Some key points/advice that Lee Cockerell made was:
        – “Make them knowledgeable.”
        – Ask the users.
        – “Leadership is a whole lot more than a role or title, it’s a serious responsibility.”
        – “Give people a purpose, not just a job.”
        While reading this book, I was inspired to think about my daily work and if there was any improvements to be made. I have already put in couple of possible process improvements to my supervisors.

        I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in a Leadership role.


      • tomraffio says:

        Hi Jen,

        A purpose, a mission, a passion for being the best one can be — if we can create a corporate culture that helps employee colleagues achieve this highest motivation in Maslow’s hierarchy (“self-actualizing”), then the company will be successful. Lee Cockerell is spot on. Also, the idea of Servant Leadership, that leadership is a serious responsibility — again, spot on. On the idea of Servant Leadership, I encourage you to read “Leadership is an Art“, by Max DePree. It is a relatively short book, but really describes how and why Servant Leadership is so successful, when genuinely practiced. Thanks Jen for checking in.

        Tom R.

  2. > Employees are your company’s brand.

    What a wonderfully fascinating statement! I’ve not looked at business from that perspective before, but I suspect I will from now on.

    Kind regards,


    • tomraffio says:

      Hi Rich,

      Branding is so much more than logos, tag lines, public relations or advertising. Genuine corporate values (e.g., at Northeast Delta Dental, we have values of teamwork, quality, communication, ethics) and how employee colleagues carry themselves and interact with each other and external customers — that’s the brand! Employee colleagues who are proud to work for a company such as Northeast Delta Dental are the ambassadors for the brand and the company.

      Thanks for staying in touch Rich.

      Tom R.

  3. Chris says:

    I’m very excited to read this book. I know a couple of Cast Members (that’s what Disney calls all of their employees) and they are quite supportive of ‘The Disney Model’ of guest centered service. That model continues to win over the public simply beacuse they not only “walk the walk” but they do indeed “talk the talk.”

    A business cannot survive if it’s customers are not taken care of in a professional manner. Too often I’ve seen many companies claim to put the customer first, but forget that their own employees are ALSO their customer. It’s all well and good to say “we treat our customers great,” but is it true? The only way to know is if the employees are just as happy as the customer.

    I know Northeast Delta Dental is successful because of it’s customer service. The way it got there is through it’s excellent leadership and happy, empowered employees. Northeast Delta Dental employees may not work for Disney, but they certainly have that ‘Disney Magic’ quality in everything they do!

    • tomraffio says:

      Hi Chris,

      Right on. When I’m fortunate enough to appear on panels with other companies (nationwide, regional or local) who are genuinely recognized as best companies with world class values, Respect for Employees and understanding that Employees are customers always comes out as a number 1 theme. Self-actualizing, happy, motivated employee colleagues (people who just can’t wait to get to work) are the key — this translates to superb external service, which brings on new customers, which grows the business, which gives employee colleagues new opportunities to grow — a beautiful circle. Thanks for writing in Chris.

      Tom R.

      • Chris says:

        I purchased this book I liked it so much! I have loaned a copy of it to the director of my department at my weekend job. We’ve had a couple of discussions so far and he seems to like the book and the principles in it, but he seems very much inclined to believe that what he’s read can’t possibly work in the environment he manages.

        How can I convince him that the principles of making your people your brand and focusing on process solutions instead of problems with people, can work?

      • tomraffio says:

        Hi Chris,

        All the Best Companies in the United States, regardless of their industry, follow and truly believe in these customer service principles. I’m fortunate enough to sit on panels with CEOs of other “Best Companies”, and, universally, these principles are espoused and followed. You also have to personally practice this quality leadership, and you have to convince the department director that this is a long term strategy, that will pay business dividends, but again in the long run. If the business of your weekend position has a short term focus, it will be difficult to convince, but Never stop trying to the be the best you can be. Good luck Chris. Tom R.

  4. Debbie says:

    Hi Tom,
    I ordered my copy of Creating Magic the other day, and I am looking forward to reading it. I will let you know what I think of it. Customer Service is and always should be #1 for any company, or individual for that matter. Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if each individual treated everyone they come in contact with like an important customer.

    Have a great day,
    Debbie 🙂

  5. tomraffio says:

    Hi Debbie,

    Yes, for sure, the customer is the most important person ever, and if we treat our internal customers (emloyee colleagues) with respect, this will translate to exemplary external customer service, which grows the business, which then provides more opportunities for employees to professionally develop — that beautiful circle again. Glad you will be reading Creating Magic; I know Jen C has been moved by this book and, as a result, may have a few continuous improvement ideas. Thanks for the feedback. Tom R.

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