A Case Study in Excellence: Lessons from Disneyland

Inspiration is everywhere, and having just returned from my first family trip to Disneyland with the kiddos, I wanted to share some really great lessons on leadership excellence I observed.

Here are 4 key takeaways you can apply right away:

1. Decide to be Excellent. I've seen consistently in my 20+ year career working with world-class companies and leaders that being excellent is a conscious choice. Nowhere is this more evident, consistently, than at Disney. In order to be excellent, you must think through the entire customer experience and decide to be great at all of it. 

At Disneyland, not only does it mean creating leading edge effects and performances, it also translates down to mundane things things like never having to wait in line for the women's restroom (yes, really!), which is a big deal for parents with young children. 

2. Imagine Amazing. Businesses spend a lot of time benchmarking, and that's important. But it's table stakes. Being excellent means going beyond that to engage the imagination in what would create a fundamentally amazing experience, beyond anything that exists today. 

In Walt Disney's zay, a family amusement park outing often meant contending with grumpy crowds, dirty venues, visible trash, and an inconsistent (and often sketchy) service experience from park employees. Rather than start here, he imagined amazing and built from there.

Did you know that Walt Disney was the inventor of the swinging lid trash can? We learned that fun fact from a ride attendant. Mrs. Disney always hated seeing all the garbage at amusement parks, so Walt decided to create a trash can that hid the garbage.

3. Dream it, then DO it. Deciding to be excellent and imagine amazing is one thing--following through, consistently, despite doubters and skeptics takes courage. Yes, it can be tempting to take the easy way out. 

But a reputation is built by doing lots of little--and big--things in a consistent manner over the long haul. 

4. Everyone Matters. When you are spending the day at Disneyland, your impressions are formed by lots of interactions from food vendors to ride attendants to performers to trash sweepers. They were all knowledgeable beyond their job description ("Where's Space Mountain? Go up 20 feet and turn left."), polite, and helpful.

No guest at the park cares about the executive team--they care about the people they interact with throughout the day.

Obviously, that means the exec team understands the importance of treating the frontline employees really well.

I hope this served you, and I wish you your own inspiring case studies as you savor time with family and friends.

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