September 9, 2009
When I read a business book, I'm often looking for the hot, sexy idea that puts a new spin on things, the innovative perspective that helps me see things in a new way, the dead-on research that makes a compelling case all by itself. Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney by Lee Cockerell is none of these things.
So I was a bit disappointed and a bit annoyed. But as I continued to read this book full of things I'd heard before, it began to work on me, and I started to appreciate it. As the author says early on, "The ideas in the coming chapters are as simple as they are profound. They sound like good old-fashioned common sense, and they are common sense. But unfortunately they are not common practice" (p. 14).
Page after page Cockerell tells us how to make customers and employees ("Guests" and "Cast Members" in Disney lingo) feel important, how to train people well, how to be innovative, how to cut through red tape and how to be a person of character. On and on he goes with one bit of sane, sober, field-tested advice after the next. You don't have to follow the latest business craze or the hottest managerial concept. Just do good and be good. It's about that simple.
Cockerell comes out of the hospitality industry, so a lot of his suggestions and illustrations won't connect with many. Often his stories also show him to be a micromanager--which may be appropriate in dealing with lots of frontline workers but won't work in a creative or professional environment.
Otherwise, I think most every leader and manager will find any number of good ideas here. You may then find as well that "it's not the magic that makes it work; it's the way we work that makes it magic."