Book Review: 55 Ways to Add Disney Magic to Your Organization

While today’s post will not be the first time I’ve written a book review, this is also one of those rare times when I’m performing a cross-branding exercise as well. While I’ll be reviewing my friend Pete Blank‘s book, 55 Ways to Add Disney Magic to Your Organization, he will be reviewing Heroic Technical Writing: Making a Difference in the Workplace and Your Life. If you’re interested in shifting into a leadership role, Pete is a great resource.

A Little Background

Pete and I worked together for the Mouse sometime in the previous millennium; specifically, we both worked at Disney’s Dixie Landings (now Port Orleans Riverside) Resort front desk. If I had to guess, I believe Pete worked at the front desk when I was starting room assignment and shift operations supervisor duties. Pete was a great guy to work with: upbeat, energetic, sociable, and hard working. He was also a lot more of a “Disney” person than I was, as I have a bit of a cynical streak. Pete was and is a true believer, and I envy his attitude at times.

Getting back in touch with Pete via Facebook years later, I learned that after I went on to other jobs (guest letters, training and development), he became a manager within the parks and resorts and then, like me, spent some time at the Disney University. Since his time at Disney, Pete has become something of a management and training guru, bringing his Disney-style management approach to local governments within the state of Alabama. Looking back, none of Pete’s career or literary contributions surprise me. As I noted, he was (and is) a positive, upbeat, engaged person–exactly the sort of human being you want in a management role. He cares about doing work well while also supporting people reporting to him and making the customer happy, and that attitude comes across in 55 Ways.

The Book

So what does the book do?

Pete offers tips for managers–even if they don’t work for the Walt Disney Company–to employ Disney-style management practices in their workplace. It’s interesting to see things from his point of view because while I was writing and editing some of the courses Walt Disney World (WDW) managers had to take for professional development, he actually had to execute them. So while I had the theories in my head, Pete actually had to execute the practice.

What Pete does in his book is provide a brief anecdote about specific behaviors he observed or performed while at WDW, why they were done, and what the outcomes were. Each of these one-page anecdotes is then followed by a few action items for the manager reading the book to consider for implementing the Disney approach to their job. Anyone who’s read “daily devotional” books will recognize this format.

The 55 individual tips are broken out by The Magic of Leadership, The Magic of the Employees, the Magic of the Customer Experience, and The Magic of Successful Business Processes. Specific tips include:

  • Make Employee Development a Top Priority
  • Learn to Love Your Job
  • Keep Backstage Stuff Backstage
  • Research Your Competition

Why 55 ways? Disneyland Park opened in 1955. According to Pete, if that park hadn’t been built and succeeded, he wouldn’t have had the opportunities and experiences he had. Like I said, Pete is very “Disney.”

Anyhow, the book gives you some insight into how Pete approaches management, and he’s one of those folks who you’d want to work for because he’s good at what he does. Not everyone is quite as conscientious–or would even consider doing things the Disney Ways described in Pete’s book. For those who are upbeat, caring leaders, the book can offer great ideas for how to make their practice even better.

I did have to chuckle at one section in the book–“Hire for Attitude and Train for Skill”–because I got into a polite argument with a Disney manager about this exact thing. I greatly preferred working in an environment where everyone was good at their job even if there was occasional friction rather than working in an environment where people were nice and friendly but not particularly competent…my attitude at the time was, “You can’t fix stupid.” Pete comes down on the side of hiring positive, motivated self-starters that you can train to do the job well. It’s lovely in theory, but occasionally the theory doesn’t quite match reality. You can’t just be friendly and amiable; you have to be willing to learn the job and do it well. While it’s rare, incompetence can still get you fired. Pete would no doubt respond that there’s also no reason the super-competent people couldn’t apply some of their competence toward being pleasant to each other, but that’s a subject for another day.

That minor point of disagreement aside, I heartily recommend Pete’s book for anyone who’s a manager and looking to improve their game. If I had to guess, you have to learn how to do the job before you can improve upon it. But once you’re ready, Pete provides great pointers for helping you and your team succeed.

Oh, and speaking of pointers, one last thing I wanted to call to your attention besides Pete’s book. Extrovert that he is, Pete also puts out daily two-minute videos titled “Pete’s Points,” where he does a verbal version of the tips he talks about in his books. He knows what he’s talking about and he’s seriously fun about it.

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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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