Disney Secrets Revealed: How To Deliver A Magical Guest Experience With Lee Cockerell

Walt Disney World is known for captivating the hearts of guests and giving them a magical, first-class experience. But it turns out that creating a memorable experience isn’t solely in the hands of Disney. No matter what industry you’ve built your business in, you can create a remarkable experience for your clients.

Former Executive Vice President of Operations at Walt Disney World® Resort, Lee Cockerell, is here to share all of the secrets that make people fall in love with Disney. He breaks it down into three simple categories: hire right, train right, and treat them right.

Seems simple, doesn’t it? According to Lee, many leaders don’t put enough time and effort into these specific areas, and that’s where things can go wrong. Whether you’re someone performing on stage at Disney Springs or sitting in an office, you always have to put your best foot forward, have a great attitude, and treat your people right.

Of course, the guest experience should focus on the customer. But where do the leader’s duties come into play?

When making decisions as a leader, you should always think about what will make the customer happy, what will make your employees happy, and what will make the bottom line happy. Additionally, you need to demonstrate that you’re respectful and open to communication as a leader, and you need to get feedback from clients and employees.

Listen to this episode of The Judd Shaw Way Podcast with Judd Shaw featuring Lee Cockerell, Founder of Cockerell Academy and former Executive Vice President of Operations at Walt Disney World® Resort. Together, they talk about how to create a magical guest experience, the qualities of a great leader, and why attitude is everything.

In this Episode:

  • [1:01] Judd Shaw introduces his guest, Lee Cockerell, and the topic of the day: developing a first-class guest experience
  • [3:14] How does Disney give each guest a memorable experience?
  • [6:19] Why intentionality is key in business and in life
  • [8:03] The principles of building a client service culture — and why they’re the same across industries
  • [10:19] How a great attitude helped Lee and Judd succeed in their careers
  • [13:57] What are the qualities of an outstanding leader?
  • [17:59] The key ingredients to providing consistent, efficient, creative, and honest customer service
  • [22:35] How to identify future leaders and foster their growth
  • [26:45] Lee details his books and how they help leaders (and businesses) develop
  • [31:57] Why cross-industry companies aren’t so different
  • [33:52] What the Cockerell Academy is all about
  • [36:40] The Main Street Diary and the one-of-a-kind retirement gift Lee received


Hi everyone. I’m Judd Shaw, host of the Judd Shaw Way Podcast. A year ago when I had the idea of hosting a podcast, the project provided a creative outlet for me, a way to immerse myself in my passion for client service. As it turned out, the podcast has been a great way to consume information and talk to amazingly talented people. Season one is focused on ways businesses develop first class service, and this is episode 10 and the season finale. In celebrating the completion of the first season, one to provide a special guest. A guest that wows. A guest that knows a little something about a guest experience. Lee Cockerell is the former Executive Vice President of Operations for the Walt Disney World. In his capacity as the senior operating executive for 10 years, Lee led a team of 40,000 employees, Disney calls it Cast Members. And was responsible for operations of get this 20 resort hotels, four theme parks, two water parks, a shopping and entertainment village, the ESPN sports and recreation complex, in addition to all the ancillary operations which supported the number one vacation destination in the world.

One of Lee’s major and lasting legacies was the creation of Disney Great Leader Strategies, which was used to train and develop the 7000 leaders at Walt Disney World. Lee has held various executive positions in the hospitality and entertainment business, with Hilton Hotels for eight years and the Marriott Corporation for 17 years before joining Disney in 1990 and he opened the Disneyland Paris project. Since his time with Disney, Lee’s authored several books including Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney, the book The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service, as well as Time Management Magic and Career Magic. Lee speaks nationally on the subject of corporate leadership and now runs the Cockerell Academy, which provides courses on leadership, management, culture and customer service. And by the way I personally joined the Cockerell Academy and I can promise you that the critically important lessons I’ve learned from Lee, have made a direct positive impact on my team in my bottom line. I hope you enjoy this conversation. I know I will.

I’m here with Lee Cockrell of The Cockerell Academy. Welcome Lee.

Hey Judd, how are you doing?

I’m doing so great. Thanks so much for joining me today.

Thank you.

So Lee, Disney World contributes, I don’t know, tens of billions of dollars in revenue each year for the Walt Disney Company, and for executives like yourself that are involved in the incredible complexity to accommodate tens of millions of customers visiting every year. How do you present each guest with a memorable experience? I mean, how are the wheels not coming off at Disney when it comes to customer service?

Well, I don’t know if I said that to you before but we have kind of three things we do better than everybody else. And everybody else could be doing them too if they wanted to. As I tell people we hire better, we’re really careful who we bring into the organization. Everybody can’t work at Disney. There’s a Disney way to do things. If you don’t do them that way, it’s not going to work out too good for you. We say we’re interested in everybody’s opinion but don’t implement them. We have a system, so that’s the first thing we do and we are very clear.

We have a lot of clarity about the working for Disney before you join that we tell you about, of being on time to work, and attitude, and all of those kinds of things. So you know that clarity up front solves a lot of problems. Because a lot of people when they hear what it is to work at Disney and with that clarity like your mother gave you when you were a teenager, that they decide not to work for Disney and they leave. 20, 25% of the people decide not to go ahead and fill out the application after we have that conversation, and that’s good. Saves us a lot of problems and we don’t need an attorney to fight their whatever they’re going to follow suit against us.

On second thing, training. We are fanatical about training and I always tell people it’s kind of like your mother, all she worried about for you is that safety and education. And education makes a difference. I mean, we train our people so well. We don’t train them with the guests, we train them before they go out. We don’t practice on our customers. We make sure they know what they’re doing before we send them out there, so that’s a critical step. And last, we treat them better. And I say that’s kind of the formula, hire them right, train them right, and treat them right, and it’s amazing what kind of people you get, and what kind of work you get, and what kind of results you get. And we really believe that’s all because we have great leaders in place that treat people properly that work there, therefore they want to take care of the guests. They don’t have to, they want to, and then the guests get a great experience because of that. And you know money comes out the other end. It’s kind of that.

Yeah. I know when I read in Creating Magic, not only are they going to treat the guests better but with that combination, they’re going to take care of the business. They’re taking care of the business for the owner because they care about the business in that way.

Absolutely. Our cast members do things that you could never put in a rule book. That’s why we don’t have a big rule book. We basically tell the people that work for us to take care of the guests and they have a lot of authority financially and hopefully with common sense and good sense, because we hired the right people to just take care of things. 90% of the problems guests have at Disney World can be taken care of by a frontline cast member without going to hunt down a manager, because we know what those issues are going to be and they’re going to happen with that many people coming in.

And we teach them how to handle it when it happens to them personally, and that they just go ahead and take care of it. And people say, “gosh, that costs a lot of money.” No, it saves you a lot of money actually because repeat business is everything for us. An average guest comes every three years their whole life, and then the grandparents show up with the parents and the kids and I can assure you grandparents pay. So we love grandparents and grandkids who get Mickey and likes, all cards. So we really appreciate that.

I think I’ve heard the term intentional, right? Disney is very intentional about all those items you named.

Oh absolutely, and I think in life if you’re not intentional, you’ll just do things when you kind of get around to it or when you feel like it. It’s like exercise. You don’t do it intentionally, you’re probably going to spend a long time on the couch and wake up one day not in very good shape. So we really are. I think people in their person lives if you don’t intentionally know what you’re going to do this week, this month, this year, you’re going to end up with the results you’re not going to be happy about and regrets. And we don’t want any regrets down here. Everybody is not happy every day. They come in and they’re not happy, but they’re professional. So they do their job just like on Broadway, no matter what happened with her boyfriend, the leading lady gets on stage and does her thing.

So that’s how you have to think about it. You’re putting on a show, just like your office, you’re putting on a show. How you answer the phone, how you treat people, that tone of voice, that look standing up when somebody comes in the office, it’s just a show. That’s all we see all day is people trying to put their best foot forward and the ones that do a good job with that, we give them our business.

Absolutely. I know that it’s been said that if you’re not intentional about certain things, like if you’re not intentional about the culture, then you get the culture that you’re unintentionally left not dealing with. Right? Or the training, or the outcome, or your client service.

Sure. You’ll have a culture, you just might not like it.

Lee, in your book The Customer Rules, you provide great insight on delivering excellent service. And the principles you outlined working companies as large as Disney, in as small as a local coffee shop in Tulsa Oklahoma, from businesses in the entertainment industry to selling a cappuccino. Why is that? How can principles of building a client service culture and delivering great customer service be the same for Walt Disney, as it is for Jimmy’s local coffee shop.

Well, Jimmy’s local coffee shop better wake up in the morning and be the place everybody wants to go. I go to a place called Coffee for the Soul. I go there every day and I spend $6 for my large latte which is amazing. It’s made with Columbian coffee. Today I had lunch there and spent another 13 or $14. The food is amazing, the people are nice, they have great wifi, they’re happy to see me, I feel comfortable there and that’s what it happens. Excellence is a state of mind. You’re either going to be great or you’re going to be average. I mean, it’s your decision. And when you hire the right people and train them and treat them right, they will take care of your guests. We always talk about a culture where everybody matters and they know the matter. If I know I matter and you’re treating me right and you’re available for me, you’re helping me get ahead and treating me well, I’m going to take care of things for you. I’m going to do a good job. I’m not going to be thinking about anything else. It’s such a simple concept.

I think people forget those days of being the boss are over. I say be a teacher, be there to help people out, make them happy so they wake up in the morning, they can’t wait to get to work because it’s nice and it’s not drudgery. It’s a simple thing. I always tell people today, be the leader, be the boss you hope your children have when they enter the workforce, and then maybe that’ll make you rethink how you lead. You want your kids to have that kind of boss? Well, great. Or I tell nurses, be the nurse you hope your mother has when she’s in the hospital or your daughter, or your wife and that starts to put a different perspective on it. I just like that concept personally. I want my grandkids to have great leaders and that’s a self analysis. Are you as good as you think you are, and are you that kind of person can today? You better do it because people are going to walk away. They’re not going to stay with you.

Young people today are not like I was. I’m old. I put up with all that nonsense back in the sixties and seventies and eighties. Kids today, no way. They will walk right out the door and they’re very talented, but they want a life and they want to matter and they want to be included, involved, listen to, respected. It’s a different time we’re living in.

I know that in your past Lee, you come from a self-described dysfunctional family, right? Your mother was I guess married five times, a lot of chaos, you flunked out of college, you didn’t even get to college but you turned out okay. Right? And that’s because of the attitude. You started I think in the banquet services of Hilton Hotels and you decided since you’re a college flunk, that you better be the best banquet service person Hilton had ever seen.

And I say this because I know that when I started out from law school in my first job, there were a lot of talented lawyers. Some more talented in experience or education than I had, and I realized that if my boss said to me, “do me a favor, can you go grab the dry cleaning?” I wasn’t going to say, “I have a law degree, that’s not within my role of responsibility.” I went and picked up the dry cleaning. The plastic was perfectly situated, laid, the hangers were all facing the right way so my boss could just put it right on the rod and not have to deal with any aggravation, the receipt was still there, flattened and not crinkled. I just wanted to do that the best. I went in on it with everything that I had in everything I did, and that attitude I think helped me lead to success.

Well, I know it helped you because I never did all of the things, being responsible, and doing credibility, keeping my promises and working hard. I never did that for the companies I worked for. And I think people get that confused. I didn’t do that for Disney. I did that for me and how I’m wired whether I’m cleaning out the garage, or I’m hanging around with Mickey Mouse, it’s personal. I didn’t know I lived in a dysfunctional family that I grew up, but we always worked hard, had a good work ethic, we were taught to do what we were supposed to do, we had to say yes sir, yes ma’am and we were polite and that’s pretty much the stuff that works in any business. Somebody put a questionnaire today and said, “do you help people if you don’t know them?” I said, “well, of course you do.” I can’t even imagine that question today.

It’s a state of mind. If you decide you’re going to be great and you go in every day, and even if you hate your job which I had sometimes when it was really rough, I still did it because nobody’s ever going to check my reference and say, “well, he didn’t do his job when he was there.” I always did my job. I left some jobs because I didn’t like it, but I did a good job right up to the minute I walked out the door. I don’t think people understand how your reputation is who you are, and that’s trust is everything. So it’s an interesting concept. And I think some of that is growing up working, working as a teenager.

My grandkids have all worked. They’ve all worked at Disney and other water culture, and pulling weeds, and they’re all 26, 23 and 21 now and they have a great work ethic. They’re doing what’s great in their careers and they are now telling us how much they went to school and have jobs now, with people that never had a job. And there’s a difference. There’s a big difference of going in having responsibility, being on time to work, working with adults, I mean experience matters and you got to give it to them.

You said that leaders are made not born.

I believe you.

In my experience, leaders at least in my company have been the ones who sort of just decide, I’m going to step up. I’m going to get the job done. Whatever it takes, I’m going to get the job done. And I know that from reading your work, you believe a leader must hold their team accountable or their tasks, and that’s achieved by measuring outcomes. Can you provide an example of this process?

Yeah. Somebody asked me if I took on somebody that was having a hard time in their career and they weren’t doing well, they got assigned to me, how would I work with them? And I said, “listen. First, they and I would have a long conversation about the clarity of what my expectations were, I’m going to be there for you, I’m going to lead you with empathy and discipline, when you’re doing a good job you’re going to hear about it, when you’re not, I’m going to hear about it just like your mother did. I’m going to be fair and firm with you. I’m not here to have you like me. If you like me, that’s a cherry on top, but fair and firm you’ll always get from me. And I think those concepts are just telling people right up front what it’s going to be like and then following through that, shame on you if somebody’s not performing and you don’t tell them.

Can you imagine your mother ever doing that? I’m sure she had some long conversations with you at different points and she was fair, she was firm, she told you she loved you and then she kick your butt and then she told you she loved you before you went to school. And she kick it again because mothers know that it’s about the outcome. It’s not about the daily, be my friend. You wouldn’t be where you are today unless you had some good structure. Unlikely, you would or you might be a mean lawyer instead, one with empathy and discipline because that’s how life works. Sometimes you need empathy, sometimes you need discipline and you got to decide when to use them, and use them in a balanced way and make sure people understand that’s how you work.

My mother was always very clear about how things work around here. Clarity’s a wonderful thing. It keeps people from having misunderstanding, clarity. People don’t like to be clear because it’s hard. People don’t like to do hard things by the way, because they’re hard and they’re uncomfortable. I was like that when I first started my career, I didn’t know how to fire somebody or to sit down and talk to them about their performance. I had no idea. And so I let a lot of things go that I should have dealt with back then. One day my boss said to me, “Lee, if you don’t deal with that guy who works for you, I’m going to deal with you.” And that kind of clarify my responsibility. I took the job but I wasn’t doing the job. I was doing the parts that were nice, kind of liked.

We all avoiders. Like every day we avoid things we don’t like. We don’t have hard conversations, we don’t exercise, we have a hard thing to do and we put it off and put it off, we don’t go to the doctor when we should and put it and then bad things happen later. I think the one thing everybody needs to learn is make a list of the hard things you’ve been putting off for years, and start working on them next week and get them out of your life.

It could be your wife, it could be your husband, it could be your health, it could be your job. What are you not happy about? What are you going to do about it? And that’s where I really came around eventually, understanding the difference between a job and having a responsibility for people. The rides at Disney are never a problem, it’s only the people.


People say I want to be a manager. Are you crazy? You want to ruin your life? You’re going to deal with people all day. You got to know what you’re getting into, it’s kind of like having kids. You better know what you’re getting into.

Those are some great ingredients on leadership and I know at our company, we started what we would refer to as red line meetings. And those red line meetings were creating accountability, clarity, but also a way we held people’s feet to the fire that this is something that’s sitting there and it’s hit at the red line, meaning it’s gone over for instance, a certain amount of time it’s sitting on somebody’s desk and we need to reduce that because that reduces the financial life cycle of that case. But something has to be done and that thing is not born and it’s a pain in the butt and there’s a lot of other low hanging fruit that can be done today and I don’t have to deal with thing. That thing sits on a desk another day. So we’ve done it through red lines and those mean okay, now you can no longer put that off.


It is now the red line.

Clarity with due dates is… I love checklists, I love due dates and I like clarity.

What would you say Lee, are the key ingredients to providing consistent, efficient, creative, and honest customer service.

I think just keep in mind that everything you want people to be doing in your company, is to stay focused on the client, on the customer. New policy, is this going to make our customers feel better about us and come back or leave us, pricing, efficiency, reputation. At Disney every decision we make, we have to judge it by, “is this going to make the customer happy? What’s this going to do with the people who work there, employees, cast members, and what’s it going to do to the bottom line?” We call that the three-legged stool. You got to think about those three things and hopefully then, you just make the best decision you can because doesn’t matter which decision you make, you’re going to make somebody unhappy. It’s one of those dilemmas so we got to keep the guests happy, the cast happy, and the bottom line happy.

And so we have a lot of discussion about it, we ask everybody, we get people involved, we try to understand what could go wrong, what would we do if it did? And before we step into a big decision, it’s going to affect those three things. We have a lot of experts helping us think about it because that’s what kept my career going. Let me tell you what, I had a team that often told me, “Lee, that’s the wrong direction, we shouldn’t do that.” “You’re going down the wrong road.” I had the relationship with them and I agreed, “Okay, thank you.” A lot of leaders have people who are telling, in court, isn’t it against a law to withhold the truth? And in business, employees do it every day. We always say your employees and your clients know everything you need to know.

Now, if you can get it out of them, then you’re going to have more cases, you’re going to have a better attitude, you’re going to have better results, a better reputation. Literally, your employees know things they’re not telling you. That’s all because sometimes we have a reputation of, is he in a good mood today? He should never have that reputation. I’m always in a good mood. Tell me, keep me out of trouble. Don’t let me down the path. To get in trouble today, is somebody’s sitting alone and not listening or you haven’t hired the right people and you haven’t trained them. You don’t have the talent around you to advise you. That’s why people get a lawyer and don’t we always say don’t defend yourself?

Right, right.

You should make sure you’re getting input and there’s plenty of input out there. I’m telling you today, if you got a big decision to make, you can just post it on the internet now and you’ll get a thousand suggestions.


And you’ll find a trend of oh, I never thought of that.

Yup. That’s it. It’s part of creating that culture though, with your frontline team and your management to come to the table with ideas, concerns, issues, bottlenecks, don’t be afraid to put them out there. But the company has to be prepared to act in some way, so that team members know that’s encouraged, that you want to hear from them.

And it takes time by the way. You’re not going to tell you right away, it may take a year or two to get people say, “okay, he’s a good guy.” “He didn’t bite anybody this week.” And everybody’s talking about you behind your back in a positive way. The word is out there and if I have a reputation, I probably deserve it. Hopefully it’s a good one though. Every day you have to demonstrate that you’re open, and you’re respectful, and everybody counts, and everybody matters, and not be looking down on people, and having these invisible people, the guy who cleans the bathrooms he’s talking about you, and cafeteria people, and the security guard at the front door, everybody matters. When you get that, you start to get the right input.

I wrote in one of my books, when you become a big deal, don’t start thinking you’re a big deal. That’s the beginning of the end. You’re no big deal. My wife reminds me of that all the time. You can start to think you’re a big deal because you’re successful and people, lead car around Disney World. Not really. I just had a team around me, it kept me out of trouble. I didn’t run anything, I didn’t know what was going on half the time. And like you, there’s cases you don’t know what’s going on with your cases, but if you got a group, great team, they’re going to keep you informed coming out. Is this a good way to go? And I’m sure you guys have meetings about every case and talk about the do’s and don’ts and change our mind, and that’s just normal. I’m not sure most organizations do that at all actually. I think it’s severity.

You’ve said that outstanding leadership is the kind that inspires employees, right? Delights customers, achieves extraordinary results. What are the some of the ways that a company can identify its future leaders within their organization? Cultivate them, foster their growth. After all, these are like the hidden great leaders are pearls for a company, right?

They are. And about 95% of all leaders from Disney come from within. We have 75,000 people in Orlando, so their potentials there about 40,000 have bachelors degrees, or masters or whatever and they like working there and we get a good look at them, because they’re in hourly positions. We get a good look at their attitude. We get a look at their reliability. We get a look at their common sense, decision making. But I think for them, you also got to make sure you know them, and you let them know you. You got to know what their aspirations are, you got to talk, got to know, ask them. Shame on you if you got bunch of people work for you and you don’t know their aspiration, what they’re trying to achieve, what they want to achieve so you get them in the right training, you give them the right opportunity, you get them in the right interview, you get them in the right courses to improve whatever they need to improve in. If I care about you, you’ll care about me. I think that’s one of the good things.

People won’t be committed to you unless they’re sure you’re committed to them. And you got to show that in a lot of ways and being available for somebody when you’re busy and want to go home at five, and they got an issue and they want to see you. Well, you better figure out how to see them instead of saying the problem they have may be gigantic in their mind and nothing in yours, but that’s how people decide who we are. Nobody cares what we do, they care who we are. And I think about that a lot. I talk a lot about legacy recently.The only thing you can take with you and leave behind is your legacy and are you going to be proud of it? Are your grandkids going to talk about you in a nice way and say, “Wow, what a jerk he was.” “We read about him on the internet and that was our grandfather.” And no. I mean, I’ve got relatives I don’t want anybody to know they’re my relatives. So I hope to leave it.

My grandkids are going to be really upset when I die, because I work with them and I talk to them, I spend time with them. I review their social sites to make sure they’re not being, and I’m involved. We have good conversations and we have difficult conversations as they were growing up. And you got to go all in. I think if you want to be a leader or a parent, it’s not easy. It’s like exercise. There’s competition with the couch. You can lay on the couch, you can work out. I mean, right there you are. Everything we do has say, you can go either way I can stay and see you because you got a problem or I can go home. I love that quote. It says you’re not a product of your circumstances, you’re a product of your decisions. All of a sudden you’re 50 years old, you’re where you are because of all those decisions you made hundreds of-

Yeah, yeah.

That’s kind of stuff I think about a lot. Am I making the right decisions? I don’t want to end up in the front news newspaper, I don’t want to be on the internet for sexual harassment, I don’t want to be getting a DUI, even lawyers do that.

Lee, I love the books. I’ve read them. They have been proven to be very helpful. Particularly when we’re talking about I think training, I can’t read where my attitude, I can encourage attitude and I can foster positive attitude. But really the attitude is I either come to work because I can pursue my passion and my purpose and feel good about it. Put a good day’s work in and at the end of the day, care about the job I did or not. And I guess for a company, I got to try to weed those out that don’t care at the end of the day, which all those who really are working hard and trying to build something. Their own legacy and their own professional career and personal development. So I think attitude is a big part. But in reading those books, why can’t you just tell us, I read them I can, but I certainly think the listeners much rather hear you or you just maybe a summary on those books.

Yeah. And what you just said about hiring is you don’t need to get rid of people if you’re getting better at hiring them.


And really we think about hiring people who have a good attitude. And part of that attitude is they have the ability to overcome obstacles every day from a guest that’s mad to getting to work on time to overcoming obstacles. That’s all we all do every day. And you got to, there’s some good ways out there to learn how to do that. We work with a lady Carol Quinn who has really got a profiling system to ask you five or six questions to see how you overcome obstacles in your life and have, and that, when I think about that, we know the people that can’t, well, you have to get involved personally too often because they can’t do it or won’t do it or won’t finish it.

But my books, the first one was Creating Magic: Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a life at Disney. It’s I think a great book. It’s in 22 languages now, we’ve sold 650,000 copies so far. It’s selling at the same pace. It always has for the last 15 years. We’ve now got a workbook. It goes it for people in the Cockerell Academy, we created college courses, just did the first one for the university of Northern Arizona on the books. And we’re creating more college courses because students today want more reality. Instead of theory, they want to know how you do it. How do you hire someone? How do you hire somebody? How do you have a hard conversation? How do you, how do you, how do you that’s becoming very popular because we’re able to just lay it out there. Because we’ve had the experience, my son and his wife, and all three of us worked for Disney for years.

And so that’s one, the second one is The Customer Rules, which is really simple rules of things you can do that you probably haven’t thought about. That don’t cost anything and you can implement in your business. And most people say to me, “wow, I never thought of that.” Sure. We can do that in our business. Those rules are very easy. The chapters are short and sweet. You can read them in any order and you can then ask yourself, are we doing this? Why aren’t we doing this? Couldn’t we do this. And third one is Time Magic, which I think’s the biggest problem people have in the world today. Everything’s coming at you. You got a lot anxiety. A lot of impression today, people are having trouble handling everything, coming at them, their kids, their soccer game, their income, their retirement unit healthcare.

And how do you keep up with everything? And this book I tell you, I took this course 35 years ago and it changed my direction of it’s not about time management. How do you keep your whole life under control? Not just your job or not. A lot of people got their job under control and they’re not married anymore. And, or they got kids that are in all kinds of trouble and problems. And so it gives perspective on that. And the last one is Career Magic, which I’m redoing right now as a second edition. And it’s about how to deal with these obstacles as they come to you in your life, business, home, personal kids, that getting people to understand that they are going to come. It doesn’t matter whether you like it or not. And they’re going to come up and how you should think about dealing with them and not overreact and could be your fault.

You get fired. It may not be your fault. It could be your fault that you got a boss. It’s a jerk because you didn’t check it out for you went there. It may not be your fault, but you’re find yourself in these situations. And I think people need to prepare themselves for that. Not thinking they’re going to come to sailing out of school and life’s just going to be happy and everybody’s going to love them. And things happen. And they happen. I just met with a guy yesterday who, gosh, I just he’s great. And he’s adopted two kids years ago from Ethiopia has two other kids and his life’s great. It was perfect. And I said, how you doing? He said, we got a divorce. I went, what? You know, I was going like, well and I didn’t get into why, but how do you keep your life under control?

And you got to be knowing what on purpose as you spoke about earlier, what you would need to be doing and are you spending enough time on it? That’s why I look at my day planner every day. You know, do I plan enough time on the things? My retirement spending time with my grandkid, paying attention to my wife, your health making SU I mean the health. That’s the one I really pound hard on people. Let me tell you what something can happen. And when you don’t go to the doctor and four years later, you do. And he said, what? You know, you should have been in here. You haven’t been here for four years. We could have done something about this. And they start to get that focus on taking care of yourself. Because if you don’t feel well, I’ve determined. That’s the number one reason people procrastinate.

They don’t feel well mentally or physically and the day it just gets away from you. You know, I don’t feel good today. I drank too much. I ate too ate too late. I, it didn’t sleep well. I’m having a pro argument with my wife. I’m stressed out about my kids in college and all of a sudden you don’t get anything done. And then it deletes anxiety. And we got a big problem right now in this, around the world. People suffer from anxiety and I’m sure you got them in your company. You may not even know it, but it, they need help. They need to be recognized and we need to, because that’s a, you talk about a productivity. Loser is when you’re an have anxiety. You don’t think about anything. You don’t do anything very well. Actually the world is pretty demanding. Now everybody wants it.

They want it. Now they want it faster. And I’m sure you know that life, you know, when do people want to see their attorney now and when they want to see their doctor now and they want their, they want to see Mickey mouse now and Cinderella and people are, have a short fuse today. And so you got to be organized and got your act together and start to really understand the emotional part of your life. Not just technically knowing how to do your job. And I’m sure you’ve got a lot of examples of lawyers. You know, during the recession, I see a psychiatrist.

I went through anxiety with my wife when she almost died a few years ago and I still see him. And he told me his number one customer were lawyers during the recession, lost their jobs, had a house with five cars and 14 TVs and three kids in Harvard. And they were now having to take clerk jobs because a lot of people lost their jobs. And so you know, you think a oh, professional lawyers don’t, they don’t have any problems. Everybody has an issue and you got to make sure you don’t get yourself backed into a situation where you can’t climb out of it. I stay enough in cash that the market can do whatever it needs to do cause I can sleep better.

I think what you’re talking about Lee is sort of like similarities between the commonalities of all companies too, right? We all have to make a profit. We all face serious issues. We all have to please a client or a customer. We all have to, create positive work environment, great leadership to scale and grow. So these are the commonalities of it. And also what I read or my experience from reading your books was there’s sort of like this 360 approach to your books, right? Which is one is at least for me, it was one. And how I can be a better leader for the company. One is how do I make the client or customer be better satisfied with their level of service? So, the customer rules to me was all about client satisfaction, client service, creating magic was really about the leadership part of it, time management.

Well, as much as I thought that I can’t keep up with all my emails and meetings and calls and whatever, I don’t really know with 20 hotels and four theme parks and two water parks and 40,000 cast members and Mickey and mini running around how you manage to do it. But I think time management gave me a good insight on how you did that and sort of how I can apply it to my own life personally and professionally. And then lastly, when you talk about career magic, it’s to the person, it’s where I want to be, how do I want to self improve? So I think all four books really provide that 360 door in person’s professional life.

Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s right. And I think if you can consume those and then implement, the key is don’t this reader, you got to really start hopefully taking a lot of notes to go along. What are you going to do different tomorrow? You know, I mean, that’s for everybody. The biggest problem is follow through.

I’ve enjoyed the Cockerell Academy. It seems to put all four books into that sort of space. Right. So I can come to a place where I can talk to colleagues and peers in various industries and learn how they’re doing things on self improvement and time management and leadership. Can you tell us a little about the Cockerell Academy?

Well, I always wanted to do it. I always thought I had a lot of content. I had great jobs with Hilton, Marriot and Disney and big, great successful companies. I worked my way up from the bottom. So I knew all the levels, what the good, the bad and ugly. And I always kept putting it off. And then the recession or the pandemic showed up. So I didn’t have an excuse anymore. Cause I had nothing to do. I had no speeches, no planes, no nothing. And so Jody Maberry guy I worked with on my podcast, we said, “look, why don’t we get this thing done?” And we started recording and we just got at it. And we did it every day, week after week after week. And we got the first course and then the second course done and the third course and fourth, and now it’s up to eight courses and there’s a steady flow of other things.

Little five minute videos on something you might be working on. We started the main street leader, a little newsletter to cut it, to give you people every month they remember that they should be doing certain things like right now is a good time to be shown a lot of appreciation to your whole staff and team during these holidays when people are even more stressed out, as we say in there today or tomorrow, make sure you pick out two or three people and make their day by saying to them how happy you are. They are on your team and they go home and tell their wife about that. And you, they sleep better and you’ve done a good thing. And I think we need to be, have those reminders. Somebody said, well, how can you do all this with technology today? And people are working from home.

And all I said, listen, I called my mother every Sunday. Even though I lived all over the world and I called my grandmother every Sunday and they made them the happiest people in the neighborhood because it didn’t matter if it was me there. It was me calling them and having a conversation with them and they look forward to it every week. And I know, I mean, if, if you want to do it, you’ll do it. And you got to put it in that little daytimer to call Mary and tell her how you doing over there. I know you’re working from home. We miss you here. You’re doing a great work. I hope you stay with us. You’ve just made her day. I mean you, in three minutes, you’ve gotten productivity up 25% and probably U unlikely. She’ll leave the company. And she, I mean, it’s just, we all want to matter.

That’s the problem. I would tell you. The most satisfaction I get today is when I hear from somebody saying, thanks a lot for spending that time with me and thanks a lot. I get comments. People write me and say, thanks for those books. They made me, they changed my career. I never thought of that stuff. Nobody ever talked about leadership. I thought you just got a job and you got it done. And, and perspective, getting new perspective. And I think encourage you people to read more and to look at those new ideas and the internet with the Google today, you have no excuse for not knowing something. You need to know. If you don’t know something and five minutes later, you don’t know that’s because you didn’t go check it out. And I even looked up volcanoes this morning because I wanted to know more about volcanoes. I said, I know what they are, but I want to more deeper Howard, what the hell’s going down there. So,

Well, then when I googled main street leader, actually it sort of like went backwards. I’ve read your newsletter through the Cockerell Academy, and then I found that name and I picked up on it. I trailing backwards through Google that there was an actual newsletter at the Walt Disney world that you would put out every Friday. Yeah. And it was like the happenings to your 40,000 cast members. I think being some transparency, letting them know projects, updates. And in fact upon retirement, your name somewhere, although I haven’t seen it, I’ll be on the lookout. Your name somewhere appears on the actual main street today in Walt Disney World. True. Not true.

It’s true. I have a window above the watch shop right on main street. That’s surprised me. I got that. Most people don’t get it unless they’ve been here 25 years, but they gave me one of those and it’s supposed to mean you did a good job and you made a difference. The Main Street Diary was that newsletter. And I did it every Friday for, I think we had 250 episodes by the time I left. And I, it was just congratulating people, giving people new ideas, how to take care of a customer, just a lot of encouragement, recognition, appreciation. And people need that. That’s you know, people say, what is business? I said, the key ingredient in a company is leadership. It’s like the yeast and bread. If you don’t put it in there, you’re not going to build out very good. And it’s leadership and reminding people are people and they need it. I mean, we all thrive on it. You know, that’s why we tell our kids every time we see them we love them and great. It’s like we have to have it.

Well, I’d like to think Lee that you made an impact on Disney. I know you certainly are in my feel right now and a lot of the stuff that I’m taking back to my own company. How does somebody Lee get in touch with you or the Cockerell Academy?

Yeah, I make it pretty easy because I’m getting old. I don’t want to forget where everything is. So it’s at my website, LeeCockerell.com and there’s also a CockerellAcademy.com. But if you go to leeCockerell.com, the Cockerell Academy’s on there, the main street leaders information’s on there, everything I do is on there. The books, the courses, everything we do, one place and-

Well Lee, thanks so much for coming on. I appreciate it. And if anybody certainly wants to reach out to me on more of my experience with the Cockerell Academy, always happy to talk about it. Again, been great and I can’t thank you enough for coming on the podcast and spending the time to share some of this insight. And in some reason on what’s out there for others to learn, grasp, and grow with,

And you need to get the Shaw Academy up for your team.

That’s right. That’s right. Well, you what I did start is what we call in our firm, The Judd Shaw University JSU. And a lot of that Lee comes from the kind of things they learn from you and you know, different events. And we’ll do a training episode on how to show empathy. We’ll do a training on emotional intelligence and awareness and we do that. So we do actually have JSU and reward our team for joining those things. But you know, I can’t tell you enough that the content that you provide through your books and the academy been a big part of JSU. So thank you so much for just your mentoring and your generosity and your time and your knowledge.

That’s good to hear. Thank you so much. You guys have a good holiday out there and behave yourselves.

You too Lee. Thank you so much. And everybody thank you so much for an unbelievable season. Appreciate your staying with me for the year. We’re going to come back with season two in 2022, another 10 episodes. And of course, if you want to reach me, you can email me at juddshawinjurylaw.com or podcast@juddshawinjurylaw.com. And of course, if you want to email me personally, request some swag for my company and will love to send you some merch from the firm. Anyway. Thank you very much. And Lee, thanks so much. Happy holidays, everybody.

Take care. Good. See you.



Name: Lee Cockerell

Short Bio: Lee Cockerell is the former Executive Vice President of Operations at Walt Disney World® Resort. One of his lasting legacies is the Disney Great Leader Strategies, which was used to train and develop the 7,000 leaders at Walt Disney World. Lee is now dedicated to public speaking, leading workshops, and consulting for organizations around the world. He runs the Cockerell Academy and has authored books on leadership, management, and service excellence.

Company: Cockerell Academy

Connect: Website



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