Ep. 195 INTERVIEW – Lee Cockerell

by | Mar 2, 2021 | Podcasts

Disney Success – Finding the Better Way  Lee is retired from his position  as the Executive Vice President of Operations for the WALT DISNEY WORLD® Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, a position he held for ten years. He shares Disney Success principals you can apply to your own business or career.

Voice over:

Get ready for an unfair advantage over your competition. This is The Sales Edge podcast. Where globally recognized sales expert and trainer Joe Pici helps you sharpen your skills for booking for appointments and closing more deals. And now here’s your host Joe Pici.

Joe Pici (JP):

Welcome to The Sales Edge. This is Joe Pici, your host and we’re so excited today. We’re going to get to our guests in a second. But let me tell you we want to you for growing us around the globe. We’re in over a hundred countries and the downloads are getting bigger and bigger and it’s it’s really a testament to you and what you’ve done and your loyalty. Our hosts are Pici and Pici, it’s a speaking, coaching, training, consulting company. Right now we’re helping our clients recapture lost revenue, recapture lost clients, and the SellMoreVirtually.com membership platform where every Thursday night. I’m out there live doing a training or coaching. Tremendous downloads and interviews like you’re going to be hearing and seeing today. So we’re going to get right to it.

You know, why sometimes you cross paths or somebody gets referred to you and then you start doing some research and we always want to bring you the best of the best and we have Lee Cockerell today. I’m going to give just a few highlights because then as the interviewed goes you’ll get even more and more information about him. Lee Cockerell retired as an Executive Vice President of Operations for the Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and that’s a position he held for 10 years. Lee joined Disney in 1990 as a director of food and beverage quality assurance for the Disneyland Paris hotels. Prior to joining Walt Disney World, he spent 17 years in various executive positions in the Marriott Corporation and eight years in Hilton Hotels.

Lee is a best-selling author of four books and we’re going to talk about those in a little bit. On leadership management and world-class customer service. Moving on under greater magic, how to stay on track to achieve a stellar career. Lee produces an award-winning podcast creating Disney Magic and is the founder of the online learning system Cockerell Academy, and that’s at www.CockerellAcademy.com. And that’s in the you’ll see this in the tag and Lee and his wife Priscilla reside in Orlando. So Lee, welcome.

Lee Cockerell (LC):

Thank you very much. Good to see ya, thanks for having me on.

(JP):

Well, it’s our pleasure. And Lee, I want to get right to it. And because your vastexperience, I know you’re going to be such a value to our audience and and hopefully they’re going to see something in you and maybe want to take some of your courses. When it comes to what you do and who you do it for, and maybe some of your uniqueness, could you speak on that for us, please?

(LC):

Yeah. Well I ran around trying to be the boss for many many years and I really figured out that nobody likes the boss. So I took the position that I want to be known as a teacher and I really learned it in leadership and management that’s the best route anyway. Just teach your people. You don’t have to intimidate them. You don’t have to push them around. You don’t have to aggravate them. They don’t know something, teach them and if they don’t know what they’re doing you either probably hired the wrong person or you didn’t train them right. And like, Mr. Marriott told me once he said “if you have flies in your restaurant you like flies. So you created the problem, get rid of them”. So that’s what I do. I enjoy it, actually. It’s kind of my golf game people say why do you do this? I said because people clap and I’m insecure and I need the feedback. So when I play golf nobody claps and so I just enjoy it and I enjoy people writing back to me and tell me how much it it helped them. Or that they learn something or they learn how to have a hard conversation with people because they were doing that or whatever the issues are. It’s you know, we I think we all have got to encourage everybody in the future to take charge of their own development.

Don’t wait on somebody to come by and tell you they’re going to train you, develop in your company. You got to take charge and like your program, you can there’s so many out there today with the internet. You have no excuse for not knowing something today and I didn’t really I guess I didn’t appreciate the power of the internet until I started doing this about 16 years ago and reaching people all over the world. And it’s fun too, now I have friends everywhere. Yeah, that’s it really expands your own personal knowledge and your sense of what’s going on around the world as far as the exposure you need to really get it. So that’s my kind of my thing and I teach people about how to be better leaders because, I didn’t I wasn’t always a very good leader. I had to learn that.

I was the young insecure kid who thought when you get into management, you’ve made it, now people go get coffee for you. And then I found out that doesn’t work very well. So and how to be a better manager, how to be organized, how to be disciplined, how to keep your promises, do what you say you’re going to do, be reliable. And last those things translate into the great customer service and that then you get that referral like, you know, I’m sure most of your business referral. People say wow, I took Joe’s course them here. They come back and somebody else books it. Most of my business is referral and probably most of the Disney’s is referral.

People saying how great it was when they went there. So other people want to go and there’s nothing more, you know, really trustworthy of when the I give a friend advice. So referral is really a powerful thing. And so that’s how I think about it and we can all be better and it’s never too late to get better. So I keep encouraging people to think about what are they going to do?

Are you just going to sit there? You know, even during the pandemic it’s easy to sit on the couch and hope things get better, or you could get up, take courses, get online, do things instead of watching Kim Kardashian’s problems, you know.

(JP):

Well, I have a question for you here. You spent a lot of years with Disney and I imagine you learn stuff from Disney and they learn things from you. What are the Things that you learn from the Disney culture?

(LC):

Well, the one thing I learned and Marriott was great. But what I learned at Disney is, everything matters. I mean the attention to detail, I mean the littlest things are important and there’s an attitude and a culture there where nothing is small. It’s we do it right and every aspect it’s you know, that our focus is to be cleaner and friendlier nicer and more profitable and everything. And I think that’s one thing in the world I try to tell people is, if you want to be excellent, you’ve got to have that mindset that everything matters. You can’t start letting little things go. This is not important. I was not important, cause the next thing you know, you’ll be average and that’s the difference in Disney. Just the total 100% attention to detail and that they always, everybody who works there, does business there, knows we’re putting on a show and they’re in the show and they’ve got a really behave themselves and put on their best. You know, you pick the best actors for the hit shows and you you rehearse them and you do it the same way every day and you know what you can say and can’t say, what you can do and can’t do. And that’s that attention to detail just incredible that I wish I had had and Merriott was like that too, in a way but Disney, you know, it’s more showtime.

Well most people coming there and paying out of their pocket. That’s not business travel so much.

(JP):

What was the position you held at Disney?

(LC):

I first started with Disney opening the food and beverage operations in France, in Paris. Lived in Paris three years. And then I became in charge the hotel division in Paris. And then I came back to Orlando and I was in charge of all operations for about 10 years. And so I had all the parks, hotels, that kind of stuff.

(JP):

Yeah, but when it came to operations, what would you say the biggest challenges you were confronted with, your team was confronted with?

(LC):

Well, I would say the three things we do better and that are important, and any of your listeners can do it and people think well, it’s Disney. Of course, they do it better than everybody else. But that’s not true. First. We hire better. We trained better and we treat people better. I call I call it hire them right, train them right, and treat them right. You’re only dealing with people. I told Chick-fil-A once, don’t worry about the chickens, that’s never going to be your problem. It’s going to be people. And every single thing you do in your life whether you have good results or bad results, relates to some people. Somebody did it, didn’t do it, should have done it, wanted to do it. You didn’t train them. You hired the wrong people. You didn’t have a hard conversations with them. You didn’t turn them around. It’s kind of like a kid’s, if you got bad kids, well, that’s probably your fault.

(JP):

Yeah. I was on with a coaching client this morning that I’m doing some training and coaching with and we were talking about a couple of people, and I said, you only have two choices, fix them or fire them.

(LC):

Absolutely, you know, and yeah, I told people the term- if the bathroom’s dirty, that’s the general managers fault. It’s not the kid who cleans the bathroom and quit trying to blame everybody else. You’re absolutely right. I doubt what they consider. I was talking to a consultant the other day and he said he specialty is working with Executives and managers, that their problem is they want to be nice and they want everybody to love them. Well, that’s nice. They want to be liked, you know, they want to be liked. Well, that’s fine to be liked. But you also got to have, I tell people you if you don’t have empathy and discipline, you’re not going to be successful. This is what is required. Just ask your mother. She had empathy and discipline and she used both on you. And you remember when both came at you and and she and she didn’t play around because she wanted you to be successful.

Take the seriously. You’re screwing up people’s lives when you don’t have discipline. And yeah and their kids, so their families and I mean, it’s it’s irresponsible. I think that’s what we got to drive into people’s heads. This is I tell people if you can’t have hard discussions and make hard decisions, don’t have children. And don’t become a leader because that’s your life.

(JP):

Yeah, I was with a owner of a company one day and and I been training with them for four years and he asked me to come in and and basically set up some processes and I said let’s have lunch first.

And we’re sitting there. So before you hire me to do this, are you capable of firing? And he said, “what?” And I said, well, there’s going to be some hard decisions made here and if we instill this in your company it’s going to illuminate some of the things that are not being done and then you’re going to have a choice to make.

(LC):

Yeah, I tell you another thing Bill told me about that very subject. He said, once he said Lee, the only way you get excellence is education / training and enforcement. You got it? You know, you can’t like just let it go and be the nice person. And you’re right. You’re right on there man. Let me tell you what. Enforcement’s hard.

You know, if you don’t know what to do. Ask your mom, she’ll tell you.

(JP):

I want to address something here. I’ve been studying you a little bit and you’ve written four bestsellers. Can you give me a little information and maybe a couple of the principles of the creating magic that 10 Common Sense leadership strategies and give me maybe some insights as to what you cover in that book?

(LC):

Yeah, well, the first strategy is remember everybody is important. And certainly that was in my career and when you’re in the hospitality business, your brand are the people who are serving the customer and sometimes or cleaning the bathroom, or making your bed. And sometimes we forget that they are the brand. And don’t underestimate that, everybody is important and if they’re not, you don’t need them. You know, so that strategy deals around how to treat people and how to respect people and how to include them and train them and develop them.

And now second one is create Magic through training. You know, the end of the day I tell people there’s only two things that parents worry about and that’s safety and education for their children. Those two things, for their whole life. And that the same at work. Safety and education is a training issue. That’s you know, that’s what we do training training training and too many people don’t do it. And they don’t enforce it. They let it go and then it falls apart and next thing, you know, you’ve got problems again.

Another one is remove the hassles from your customers. Look at your policies, procedures, operating guidelines, rules, regulations. Are they really necessary? Are they just aggravating your customers? And how many rules do you have for your employees that are aggravating to, or they don’t can’t get in excited about doing their job because there’s so many hassles in their way?

And one is around being professional. Teaching people what professionalism looks like. One part of it is, don’t be complaining about your company. You know, come to work with a good attitude. You know, we say at Disey, you don’t have to be a happy work at Disney, you got to act happy. Disney’s the happiest place on earth or else. Just like your mother used to tell you- or else. And it’s an attitude. It’s got to be committed. If you don’t have that state of mind, you’re never going to be great. And that’s all we try to put that throughout the book. Those ten strategies and looking for the better way every day. You know, that’s a strategy. We have an attitude there that everybody we want working there figures out how to be just a little teeny bit better every day. And then what happens? You just get better and better and better. And you can’t do that having a charity section you have to hopefully hire the right people who are committed to doing that on their own. If they don’t do it you don’t know. If they do do it you get in amazing results. So it’s an attitude. It’s a way of having a right culture, culture where everybody matters and they know they matter. That’s the key. And I tell people the best way to make sure people know they matter, tell them.

(JP):

What we’re gonna do here Lee, we’re gonna save a few more than the strategies for our next interview but a couple things here. I know you’re speaking locally here at a luncheon for the Christian Chamber of Commerce. What are those dates? What is that date?

(LC):

And I will look, I’m pretty sure it’s March 11th at 10:30 in the morning and the First Baptist Church.

(JP):

So if anybody wants to, I think that’s a virtual and live event, isn’t it?

(LC):

I believe it is. But they asked me whether I would do virtual come down. So yeah, 10:30 First Baptist Church in Orlando on March 11th, a Thursday.

(JP):

Perfect. So if you want to see Lee in action, we’re going to be moving him over to the interview. Lee, how do people get in touch with you, for your books. We’re going to go more in-depth into your your books and your training, but how do they find you?

(LC):

Yeah my everything I do I put in one place because I’m old, I might forget where it is. So it’s at LeeCockerell.com.

(JP):

Lee, would you spell your name for the people who are driving 80 miles an hour.

(LC):

Yeah. That’s Cockerell, LeeCockerell.com.

(JP):

Thank you. That’s great. And we’re going to talk to you more about your offerings. And so this has been interview number one. The Sales Edge with Lee Cockerell. We’re getting ready for a milestone in a couple weeks. Milestone number two, which is podcast #200. In celebration for that, what we’re doing is, we’re going to offer a $197 ecourse for $1. We’re going to have a drawing and all you have to do is, like this podcast, share this podcast, and write a positive review. And on March 20, we’re going to do a drawing, we’re going to give out two.

So folks, take out your phone and put the word “sales edge” in your text box. Send it to 5 5 6 7 8, make sure it stays one word. That will take you to a Pici and Pici link, that will take you to a splash page. There’s tremendous information. Five e-course, free video, on recapture lost revenue. There’s information on our SellMoreVirtually.com platform. You’re going to want to check that out. Links to our podcast, okay, and download. If this has been a value to you, can you like it, share it, make a comment on it? And we’re going to move Lee over to interview number two.

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Thanks for listening. New episodes will air each Tuesday and Thursday. So make sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts and give us a five star review. The Sales Edge is sponsored by Pici and Pici Incorporated. A firm which provides training, consulting, and keynote presentations. Empowering corporations and individuals to attract and retain quality clients, for higher revenues and growth. Make more money in sales, speak with Joe in person by calling 407 947 2590 or visit www.piciandpici.com

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