In Dennis Snow’s book, Lessons from the Mouse, he explores what key elements have made Disney such a success. Mr. Snow became a Walt Disney World employee in the summer of 1979 and worked for the organization for the next 20 years. He stayed with them because he knew he was part of a great organization and because he knew he would learn important lessons. To this day, Walt Disney World ranks as one of the most popular vacation destinations. What it does, it does well.
In chapter one, “Never Let Backstage Come Onstage,” Snow discusses the importance of “preserving the magic.” The backstage, behind the scenes locations, were where the employees like Cinderella and Mickey would smoke, gossip and complain. Backstage is where all the truck deliveries would happen. Company meetings, costume changes and the like all occurred in the underground “backstage.”
What is the magic you need to preserve in your organization? At Disney, Mickey Mouse never comes out of character. Mickey doesn’t smoke, doesn't lose his temper and is always happy. According to Snow, most companies don't make it a priority to train their employees in onstage/backstage behavior. One of his examples is for us to imagine walking up to a salesman just as he is putting out his cigarette with his foot and then having to shake his smoking hand. That’s pretty yucky for most folks, even if they are smokers and especially if they are not. Onstage employees do not smoke in front of their clients.
What about interruptions? Do your customers rate top attention or are your employees more concerned with paperwork and personal conversations? I remember a friend of mine once saying, “Interruptions are my work.” It stuck. We need to be about people and the work will follow.
Some other “backstage” behaviors that Snow lists are:
- Employees eating or drinking in front of customers
- Notes and employee memos posted in full view of clients
- Employees complaining to a client about another employee or sub
- Radios turned up so high customers can hear all the chatter
So, what to do? Identify backstage components that pertain to your organization, things that your customers should never witness. Next, begin the habit by beginning the change. Most companies know what to do yet fail to do it out of poor habits. Consistency comes only when new habits become part of your culture and when you, as leaders, model appropriate onstage/backstage behavior. I will leave you with a final thought from chapter one: “How can you ensure that your operation is always show-ready for customers?” —Kathy Shertzer is office manager at DuKate Fine Remodeling, in Franklin, Ind.