The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.
How Snow White Changed My Life
OK, life change is a stretch, but Snow and some of her peer princesses did remind me of a critical aspect of leadership—creating special moments. In the case of Disney, it’s “where dreams come true.” For my Starbucks aficionados, it’s, “Handcrafted beverages are the secret to making life better.”
Five years ago, I added “create perfect moments” to my personal strategic plan. It’s one technique to help ensure “creating perfect moments” moves from bench to bedside. In the big things of my life, this has worked well, but not the common everyday stuff of earth.
While in Orlando recently, I spent time exploring Disney’s Epcot. Just for fun — and to make my wife and 20-year-old daughter smile — I decided to grab a photo op with Snow White.
Was my pride ever challenged! There I was, sandwiched between animated toddlers and star-struck preteens, in line to take a pic with Ms. Purity herself. Seemed everyone was dressed like a princess except me. I stood close to one toddler hoping passersby would think I was part of her family. Heaven forbid someone I knew might see me standing in line at Disney for a personal princess pic.
My turn came. I sheepishly held my arm out for Snow White. My friend took the pic.
I was ready to run, but Snow would not let me go. Help! She turned, looked me in the eye, and engaged me in conversation. I was pulling away, but she kept me there. It was longer than a moment, but not excessive, maintaining eye contact the entire time. As if someone just discovered my hand in the cookie jar, I was about to break out in a nervous sweat.
I texted the pic to my wife and daughter and they both replied ROTFL. So when I saw Sleeping Beauty, I stepped in line again.
This time, I carefully observed all the interactions between the princess and her devotees. Miss Beauty held eye contact with every fan and engaged in brief conversation.
My turn came, and though I tried to pull away, she clung to my arm until we talked. Awkward, yes, but so enlightening. Ditto with Belle, Cinderella, and last but not least, Ariel. They were indeed making dreams come true for their fans. They made me feel important.
How can we take something as simple and yet profound as a Disney princess engagement formula and put it into practice ourselves? How can we allow this to become a natural part of who we are?
As leaders, we are so rushed. I preach to myself here. We walk past our staff with nary an acknowledgement. When we do stop to talk, we are thinking about the meeting we are headed to.
On one hand, we claim that the right people in the right places are our most valuable assets. But do we give them the gift of our time, fully present, even for just a minute? This proves a contradiction in our leadership.
Since my return from Disney, I’ve been doubling down on creating special moments, this time with my staff. I am making sure every interaction, however brief, is meaningful. Eye contact. Genuine interest. While the other person may be rushed, I will remind myself that my agenda is their agenda, and my role as a leader is to serve them. True, not every person will want the time, but for those who do, I am there.
Before the end of my final day at Disney, I was looking for the next princess. Why? Because I enjoyed the way they made me feel. Special. If a princess can do this for strangers, we can do it for those we serve. Pics or no pics.
Create special moments.
Ed Marx is a CIO currently working for a large integrated health system. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. Add a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of this post. You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook and you can follow him via Twitter — user name marxists.