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Creating Magic

This week I am having an operation. I had a terrible fear, but turn out that my body is very good on healing and recovering. I have a lot of time and gladly I took some books with me. Finally, I am having time to read “Creating magic – 10 common sense leadership strategies from a life at Disney” by Lee Cockerell.

The book is very clearly written. Lee describes his way from a farm to a magic kingdom through failures and lessons learned. He is the author of Disney leader strategies, which he based on common sense. For me, as a tester, the reference to common sense made a special joy!

Lee starts the book with following words: “It’s not the magic that makes it work; it’s the way we work that makes it magic”. For ten years Lee was responsible for Walt Disney World with 59 000 employees. Rational, muscular, no-nonsense business strategy of Disney is utmost care and respect. For everyone! Guests AND employees. Treat your employees how you want your guests be treated.

The whole book is about leadership as an act of care and respect; as a responsibility not as a title or role. For Lee being a leader means making the right things happen by bringing out the best in others. How oft did you experience that at your work?

“The study found that business units with the highest scores in guest satisfaction where the same ones whose leaders received high ratings from their direct reports in qualities such as listening, coaching, recognizing people’s efforts, and giving people decision-making authority.” Ration 80:20 reflects the vital importance of inspiring, motivating, teaching, and other so-called soft skills. Lee opinion is that the soft stuff is actually the hard stuff, but if you get it right, everything else tends to fall into place. When everyone matters and everyone knows he or she matters, employees are happy to work, and they’re eager to give you their energy, creativity, and loyalty.

My favourite chapter is about strategy #7: Burn The Free Fuel. The main idea is about leaders emotional impact on employees. Lee summaries it in an acronym ARE: appreciation, recognition and encouragement. He calls it cost-free, fully sustainable fuel, which builds self-confidence, self-esteem, and keeps an organisation running clean and smoothly. “ARE is more powerful than the fuels that make engines roar and space shuttles soar, because it propels human energy and motivation.”

Another chapter which talks to me is strategy #6: Learn The Truth. It is about the hard way to build trust relationships with everyone with aim to know what you need to know to make a decision. “I had no idea that was going on” is not an excuse for a leader. ”Knowing what’s going on is your responsibility”. “I’ve seen it happen to a great many otherwise competent leaders. Some rely too much on vague data and dubious information; some isolate themselves, acting as though employees below a certain level had nothing to offer; some get defensive in the face of constructive criticism; and some develop reputations for lashing out at those who deliver unpleasant facts, so people stop coming to them.” One of his suggestions is to get out regularly. In one of his previous hotels he daily checked the whole hotel, each elevator and stairwell and corridor of all fourteen floors. On the way meeting and greeting guests and employees. Lee writes: “Getting out and about regularly was a great investment of time. Not only did it allow me to see the operations up close, but it helped me get to know everyone on the staff better, and all of them in turn became more comfortable telling me what I needed to know.” In software industry – how many CEOs do you know who walks through offices more then once a week?


I am reading this book in very special time in my life – taking care of my health, moving to the new house and switching careers. Some of my work experiences I made in toxic environments, I am happy that I had the strength to leave it in the past. I wish more people, not only with fancy titles, would read Lees book and that each of us can work and evolve in an environment, which empowers us and make us the best versions we can be.

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One thought on “Creating Magic

  1. Insightful post, and I hope the procedure goes well and you’re back on your feet soon 🙂