MAN Behind the Magic

From a man I have gotten able to speak with and be involved with quite a few times;  A  True leader, philanthropist, and Visionary! Mr. Lee Cockerell ” Retired & Inspired”

As the Senior Operating Executive for ten years Lee led a team of 40,000 Cast Members and was responsible for the operations of 20 resort hotels, 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, a shopping & entertainment village and a sports and recreation complex in addition to the ancillary operations which supported the number one vacation destination in the world.

One of Lee’s major and lasting legacies was the creation of Disney Great Leader Strategies which continues on as the primary resource for developing the 7000 leaders at Walt Disney World.

In “Creating Magic” Lee describes how Disney’s bottom line benefited from listening to Cast Members at every level of the company.  We all know our country is currently dealing with one of the worst financial crises in decades.  The State of New York (like California, Michigan, and many other states) is also dealing with a serious budget crisis due to the downturn in the economy.  Our SUNY system is directly supported by the state budget, and has been hit hard by the budget crisis.  After 9/11 Disney went through a similar financial crisis and “faced new challenges because of the drastic declines in revenues and the uncertain future of tourism.”  Lee discusses strategies Disney used to deal with their financial crisis such as wage and hiring freezes; strategies SUNY is also employing.  However a number of cost-cutting ideas Disney used came directly from frontline Cast Members such as making bus routes more efficient to save on gas and cutting down on landscaping duties.  These ideas allowed Disney to keep everyone employed during a difficult time.  We in higher education would also be smart to call upon employees at all levels while looking for cost-cutting solutions.

One of the things I found most impressive about “Creating Magic” was Lee’s strategy of personal balance.  I am very surprised to find a high-powered Executive Vice President of a multi-billion dollar company advocate putting health and family on equal footing with professional life.  Lee believes balanced people with lives outside of work are the best employees, and he practices this philosophy in a myriad of ways.  Lee left the office every day at 5:15pm to go to the gym.  He would attend his children’s events and activities, and he also loves of cooking and describes making French food for the family and cooking food for his son’s sporting events.  In the book, Lee suggests not having separate professional and personal lives – it’s all ONE life.  “I learned to lead one full life instead of trying to lead two separate ones – one business and one personal.  I learned to enter personal necessities – time with family and friends, my daily workouts, etc. – as appointments on my calendar, just like business meetings.”  For a senior executive, Lee Cockerell is in touch with the attitudes of today’s young professionals.   “They’re also not as obsessed with becoming the head honcho as people used to be.  Many of the younger people entering the workforce grew up in homes where Mom and Dad were single-mindedly focused on their careers.  They saw the consequences of an imbalanced life.”  It was refreshing to read Lee’s strategy of balance as a necessary component for a complete, happy and successful person.

In ending this post, I would like to personally add that dealing with Lee and his Team of leaders on a personal level, was one of the most fulfilling achievements in my career! Through Lee, I and a team of Cast Members, We completed some amazing aspects for the give Kids the world Children’s crusade, providing smiles from ear to ear! I own his book, and his iPad/iPhone App. I refer to it regularly! If I need a pick me up, I know that I could call his cell, because that is what he does for people whom he mentors!

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