Exploring the Continuing Leadership Influence of Walt Disney

J. Jeff Kober’s latest book, “Disney, Leadership, and You” is an excellent work that more than delivers on its title.

Drawing from an inquisitive mind and keen insight, Kober has nearly five decades experience with Walt Disney – from both within and without the company – which provide a very readable, practical, and thoroughly enjoyable leadership book that you will find yourself returning to time and again for just the right nugget to use.

I have “known” Jeff for years through his writing, and earlier this year was grateful to meet him and engage his services for an immersive park experience with a group I was leading. The warmth, wit, and sheer knowledge of Disney, coupled with his ability to instantly link it to practical applications of my group, was one of the highlights of our experience. That same experience has been translated into this book.

If you are a leader in any size or type of organization, the stories Jeff Kober has captured in “Disney, Leadership, and You” should be a valuable addition to your library, a source of personal encouragement, and a wealth of practical training for both you and your team.

The book is divided into four sections:

  1. Defining Leadership
  2. Leaders Attain Results
  3. Leaders Build Relationships
  4. Putting It All Together

In those four sections you will find 18 themed chapters, each chock full of leadership principles illustrated with stories of Disney leaders from all ranks. The principles are solid in themselves, but what makes them memorable is the stories of the Cast Members.

The stories and principles perfectly describe how Disney Cast Members create magic each day through their hard work and respect for Walt Disney’s original vision.

You organization is not Disney, but you can learn from their excellence. “Disney, Leadership, and You” is an extraordinary source of lessons and learning to help you make a dramatic impact on why you do, what you do, and how you do it.

 

 

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Effective Leaders Know How to Make the Shift from Critic to Critical Thinker

Leaders, by definition (if not practice) have followers. Leaders find, recruit, and train followers for specific tasks. While this is an important task in any organization, a leader who can only lead followers is limited. To make it to the next level of leadership, a leader must be able to lead other leaders – those alongside them.

Leading peers is a unique challenge, no matter what organization a leader is part of. A highly competent leader who is seen – rightly or wrongly – to have considerable influence with his boss is often at a disadvantage when it comes to peer-to-peer relationships.

To succeed at leading alongside your peers, you must work at giving your colleagues reasons to respect and follow you. You do that by helping them win, and in doing so, you will not only help your organization but you will also help yourself.

SOLUTION #1: Shift from critic to critical thinker

THE QUICK SUMMARY – How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge by Clay Scroggins

Are you letting your lack of authority paralyze you?

One of the greatest myths of leadership is that you must be in charge in order to lead. Great leaders don’t buy it. Great leaders lead with or without the authority and learn to unleash their influence wherever they are.

With practical wisdom and humor, Clay Scroggins will help you nurture your vision and cultivate influence, even when you lack authority in your organization. And he will free you to become the great leader you want to be so you can make a difference right where you are. Even when you’re not in charge.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

As a leader, you have undoubtedly been told “no” at some point in your life. When that happens, what is your typical reaction? Do you become cynical and defensive, or do you redirect that energy into a more positive direction?

Leaders who want to become a positive influence with their peers must learn how to overcome the tendency to be critical and become a critical thinker.

Great leaders know how to listen, watch, connect the dots, and fix problems because they’re able to think critically.

If you are seeking to develop the skills of a critical thinker, there are four subtle shifts you must make.

Shift #1 – Stop thinking as an employee.

Start thinking as an owner.

Owners see things others don’t see.

Owners have more buy-in than others do.

Owners care more deeply because their future depends on it.

If there is trash in the hallway or in the parking lot, employees may decide to walk past it. Or worse, they call someone in facilities to pick up the trash. Owners pick up the trash because it’s their reputation on the line.

Shift #2 – Stop stacking your meetings.

Start scheduling thinking meetings.

As a staff member, you often get sucked into a multitude of meetings. It’s the natural gravitational pull of any organization. The worst is having a stack of meetings, back to back. While this may seem efficient, it can also be an enemy of critical thinking. You get to the end of the day and realize you’ve generated no new thoughts or new ideas.

Schedule space to think critically, marking it down like a meeting, at points throughout the day. The greatest enemy of thinking critically is an overcrowded schedule.

Shift #3 – Stop being critical.

Start thinking critically.

If thinking critically is a skill, being critical is a snare. Many leaders don’t want to be critical. They don’t sit around planning to be cynics, but they still get caught in the trap.

The key difference between someone who is critical and someone who is a critical thinker is motive. People who are critical want you to lose. They’re bringing problems, not solutions.

People who are great critical thinkers want you to win. They’re motivated to make something better.

Shift #4 – Stop giving others a grade.

Start lending them a hand.

No one likes the feeling of being constantly measured and monitored. If you’re not careful, your critical thinking will make others feel like you’re giving them grades.

This is not about whether you should convey the thoughts that could better those around you. It’s about how you pass on those thoughts. When you communicate critical thoughts to others, you need to do so with a helping hand, not a grading tone.

Clay Scroggins, How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge

A NEXT STEP

On a chart tablet, write each of the shifts, leaving space below each one to add comments.

Set aside time to review your actions in the last week, focusing on activities in which you were involved with one or more of your peers.

Write down, under each shift, the actions that fit the first part of the shifts – the “negatives.” For each one, write out how you can make the shift as described in the second part of the phrase.

Take the initiative to review these actions with your peers, and ask them to comment on the shift you would like to enact.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 79-1, issued November 2017.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

It’s Highly Possible that You’ve Already Had Your Next Best Idea

Most of us attach the word “audit” to “IRS” and the word association isn’t pleasant.

The general definition of an audit is an evaluation of a person, organization, system, process, enterprise, project or product.

The term most commonly refers to audits in accounting, internal auditing, and government auditing, but similar concepts also exist in project management, quality management, water management, and energy conservation. (from Wikipedia)

Debra Kaye, writing in Red Thread Thinking, wants to give new meaning to the word audit by attaching it to your ideas instead of your tax returns.

There’s plenty of information, products, materials, and technology that can be looked at in a fresh way, modified somehow, and used again.

We’ve all experienced deja vu – looking at an unfamiliar situation and feeling – almost knowing – that you’ve seen it before.

It’s time to flip that phrase.

William Taylor, cofounder of Fast Company magazine and author of Practically Radical, writes that it’s time for the best leaders to demonstrate a capacity for vuja de’. It’s looking at a familiar situation (say, being a leader in ChurchWorld for decades, or designing and delivering a weekly worship experience for years) as if you’ve never seen it before, and with that fresh line of sight, developing a distinctive point of view on the future.

You can’t do big things anymore if you are content with doing things a little better than everyone else, or a little differently from how you’ve done them in the past.

It’s time to look at your organization and your calling as if you are seeing them for the first time.

We all have ideas that never went anywhere. It’s time to unearth old notes from previous development projects. Are there innovations or ventures that you started to work on and then abandoned for some reason?

It’s time for an “idea audit” to see what’s in the back of your hard drive, filing cabinet or closet. When you reassess what’s already there you can uncover what’s worth revisiting.

What should you be looking for in an idea audit? Most organizations and innovators have or can find hidden assets in their past ideas and efforts, including:

  • Existing old technologies that have accessible benefits that can be enhanced and revealed to new constituents
  • Underleveraged technologies or products that could be valued in categories that were not previously considered or by new or niche groups of consumers
  • Unreleased products or too quickly discarded product concepts that could be potential winners, but that went astray because the going-in insight or platform wasn’t properly tweaked
  • Undervalued distribution networks that can be reawakened with partners who want to be where you are
  • Consumer perceptions and sluggish brand equity that can be refreshed to awaken new revenue

In short, open your eyes fresh and look anew.

Look at your resources – every false start, tool, prototype, note, gadget, materials, formula, recipe, or report available – from a different perspective.

Maybe it’s even time for a little Vuja De’.

Most artists look for something fresh to paint; frankly I find that quite boring. For me it is much more exciting to find fresh meaning in something familiar. – Andrew Wyeth

 

inspired by:

 Red Thread Thinking, by Debra Kaye with Karen Kelly

Practically Radical, by William C. Taylor

 

Look Back with Old School Thinking to Look Forward

Translating New Testament Principles into Present-Day Practices

One of my favorite pastimes is browsing through used bookstores in towns I travel to. Recently, I discovered a treasure in the form of the book “Building Better Churches” by Gaines S. Dobbins, prominent Southern Baptist educator from the 1920s-1950s. He asks some great questions:

  • What sort of church would it be that undertook intelligently and fearlessly to fashion itself according to the basic principles of the New Testament?
  • On what vital functions would it major?
  • What would be revealed to be its strengths and weaknesses?
  • What would it give up as encumbrances inherited from a traditional past but clearly of doubtful value in the living present?

His answers? He thought the church should be a

  • Regenerate body – an inward change growing out of a personal experience in which the shift of life’s center has been from self to Christ
  • Beloved community – sacrifice for the common good is the essence of true community; love cannot flourish in an atmosphere where some assume an attitude of superiority over others as their inferiors
  • Company of worshippers – the object of worship is the God of the Lord Jesus Christ made real through the presence of the Holy Spirit. The practice of worship is in spirit and truth; the purpose of worship is to maintain vital unity between the worshiper and God through the mediator, Jesus Christ, and the illuminator the Holy Spirit. A church may do much else besides worship, but it will do little else of consequence without worship
  • Winner of believers – the process of intelligent persuasion began with Christ’s invitation to “come and see.” It continued throughout His ministry and Paul expanded it. There is no mistaking the proposal of the New Testament that believers be won to saving faith through persuasion
  • Teacher of disciples – preaching and teaching are indispensable means of leading toward Christ, to Christ, and into the service and likeness of Christ. A church is essentially a school with Christ as the Great Teacher; the Holy Spirit as His interpreter; the Bible the chief textbook; the minister the chief officer of the school with other leaders gathered around him as teachers and staff; every believer an enrolled student; and all others who can be reached are sought as learners to be led toward Christ
  • Server of humanity – the early Christians caught the spirit of Christ and like Him, “went about doing good.” It must send regenerate men and women out into an immoral society to transform evil into good, wrong into right, injustice into justice, not so much by political measures as by the leavening process of Christian influence
  • Agency of the Kingdom – the Kingdom of God is a present and future reality. It is not an organization to be promoted, nor a movement to be advanced, nor a social ideal to be realized, but a relationship to be entered and a spiritual order into which others are to be brought through persuasive witnessing

Dobbins, after a lifetime of service to the church, but writing this in 1947, had this final thought which I leave for you to consider:

Ours is an age of revolution. Inevitably the churches are undergoing change. Why not seize on this opportunity to make changes back to the New Testament rather than farther away from it?

And we thought all this “church change” stuff was new…

Look Back and Learn: Investing in Wisdom Equity

In researching and working on some leadership development material for an ongoing writing project, I came across the following:

Christianity is a religion of change. Jesus’ call in Mark 1:15 (the kingdom of God is at hand) was a call to change – change of mind and heart, of conduct and character, of self and society. By its very nature Christianity is a religion for a changing world and has always had its greatest opportunity during times of upheaval.

The Christian leader has no option; he must face a changing world. If the leader is to render maximum service, he must both adjust himself to the phenomena of change and address himself passionately to the business of producing and guiding change. Here are some elements that constitute the changed world in which the Christian leader today is called to fulfill his ministry.

Changed world outlook

Changed economic philosophy

Changed social consciousness

Changed family life

Changed community conditions

Changed moral standards

Changed religious viewpoints

Changed conceptions of the church

Changed media for molding public opinion

Changed demands made upon the leader

Pretty good list, right? Dead on. Taken from today’s headlines.

Nope.

courtesy the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

courtesy the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

The author was Gaines S. Dobbins, distinguished professor of Religious Education at my alma mater, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville KY.

Written in 1947.

As the introduction to the book “Building Better Churches: A Guide to Pastoral Ministry.”

Dr. Dobbins retired before I was born, but while in seminary in the early eighties I had the privilege of sitting under a couple of professors who were students of Dr. Dobbins. When I came across this book in a used bookstore, I bought it on impulse. After flipping through it, I realized it was a treasure of leadership wisdom.

At Auxano, we talk about a concept called “vision equity.” As developed by founder Will Mancini in his book Church Unique, it’s realizing that the history of a church is a rich resource for helping rediscover what kinds of vision language past generations have used. That language is very useful for anticipating and illustrating God’s better intermediate future.

As I read Dr. Dobbin’s book, I think there is also a concept called “wisdom equity.” It’s realizing that there have been some great leaders and deep thinkers over the past decades and centuries whose collective wisdom would be a great place to start as we struggle with the new realities that face us every day.

It’s why I love history – I see it not as an anchor that holds us to the past, but as a foundation to build a bridge to the future.

Go ahead – look back and learn.

The Danger of Being the Brightest Person in the Room

Recently I recalled a consulting job several years ago where I was speaking to a church about the formation of a team to work on the planning for a new building. During one of the sessions I was speaking on the importance of including the facility manager on the building team in a church project, and I tossed out the following statement: The person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom.

That brought out a lot of chuckles from the attendees, but the point hit home: Operational staff members almost never get the chance for input into the decision-making process, yet they are held responsible for the ongoing outcomes of the decisions. That statement and the following story came to mind recently while working on a teamwork project for a future presentation.

James Watson and Francis Crick can arguably say they answered the question, “What is the secret of life?” The pair discovered the double-helix structure of DNA, the biological material that carries life’s genetic information. During an interview on the 50th anniversary of their discovery, Watson was asked how he and Crick had solved the problem ahead of many other highly accomplished, recognized scientists. Watson’s answer included identifying the problem first, being passionate and single-minded about their work, and their willingness to attempt approaches outside their area of familiarity. Then he added something that was astounding: they had cracked the DNA code primarily because they were not the most intelligent scientists pursuing the answer.

Watson went on to say that the most intelligent person working on the project was Rosalind Franklin, a brilliant British scientist who worked alone. “Rosalind was so intelligent that she rarely sought advice. And if you’re the brightest person in the room, then you’re in trouble.”

That comment highlights a common occurrence in church leadership: When dealing with a specific problem or issue, leaders should ensure that they collaborate with team members toward its resolution, even if they are the best-informed, most-experienced, or most skilled person in the group. Far too often, leaders – who, by virtue of greater experience, skill, and wisdom, deem themselves the ablest problem solver in the group – fail to ask for input from team members.

Scientific studies have shown that groups who cooperate in seeking a solution are not just better than the average member working alone, but are even better than the group’s best problem-solver working alone. Lone decision-makers can’t match the diversity of knowledge and perspectives of a multi-person unit that includes them. The ability to distribute many subtasks of a problem to its members – parallel processing – enables the group to outperform the individual who must address them sequentially.

Are you a church leader working in a group? Don’t relinquish your leadership role, but make sure your process allows group members to offer insights, cooperate, and collaborate with each other. The Bible has a lot to say about that, but that’s for another time!

What’s Shaping the Minds of This Year’s Freshman Class, the Class of 2021

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.

Today, the Mindset List of the Class of 2021 was released.

The creation of Beloit’s former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief and Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride, authors of The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think Is Normal, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references. It quickly became an internationally monitored catalog of the changing worldview of each new college generation.

Leaders – of all ages – need to understand what has shaped the lives of today’s entering college freshman class, those 18 year olds who:

  • Are the last class to be born in the 1900s, making them the last of the Millennials.
  • Are the first generation for whom a “phone” has been primarily a video game, direction finder, electronic telegraph, or a research library.
  • Have always had emojis to cheer them up.

For those who cannot comprehend that it has been 18 years since this year’s entering college students were born, they should recognize that the next four years will go even faster, confirming the authors’ belief that “generation gaps have always needed glue.”

Here are a few nuggets from this year’s Mindset Class for the Class of 2021. You must read the entire list here!

  • They are the first generation to grow up with Watson outperforming Sherlock.
  • Amazon has always invited consumers to follow the arrow from A to Z.
  • They have always been searching for Pokemon.
  • By the time they entered school, laptops were outselling desktops.
  • Whatever the subject, there’s always been a blog for it.
  • Ketchup has always come in green.
  • The BBC has always had a network in the U.S. where they speak American.
  • Family Guy is the successor to the Father Knows Best they never knew.

You can find the rest of the list here.

Read it now.