Bryan Paul Buckley 0:00
Episode 88 of the Elite Road Warrior podcast. Welcome to the Elite Road Warrior podcast where we believe you can leverage the road to transform your work, health, and home life while on business travel to ultimately master the business travel life. If you’re a road warrior, and a great chance you’re on the road right now than this podcast is for you.
Welcome to the Elite Road Warrior podcast. I’m your host Bryan Paul Buckley, fellow Road Warrior, husband of one, father of five yeah five and on a mission to help business travelers eliminate burnout and exceed those elusive results. I’m also committed, each and every business trip to becoming and remaining an Elite Road Warrior. And man I’d love nothing more than for you to join this master evil plan and worthwhile road trip.
Now I’m naturally drawn to books on personal Professional Development. And I came across a book covering both levels of development, which actually is energy of number five develop. And I found this book through the reads only podcast with Jeff Brown. And I was instantly drawn to reach out to this guy. And Wow, did we click just in a conversation and I couldn’t wait to have an interview with somebody who not only with such vast experience but could also speak specifically to the leaders of business travelers. So let’s meet our subject matter expert. Dan cockerel is the former vice president of the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Florida. Upon graduation from Boston University in 1991. Dan moved to Florida and worked, get this, as a parking attendant at Disney’s Epcot Center. Subsequently, he joined the Disneyland Paris management trainee program as part of the opening team and move to Viva La France in 1992. After spending five years in France, Dan relocated to Florida have held a variety of executive roles at the Walt Disney World Resort, both in the theme parks and resort hotels.
His last nine years with the company he was successful as a vice president of Epcot vice president Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and eventually vice president of the Magic Kingdom, where he led ready for this 12,000 cast members and entertained over 20 million guests annually. After a fulfilling and exciting 26-year career with the Walt Disney Company, Dan and his wife Valerie made the decision to set on a new venture and start their own consulting and speaking business. Dan provides customized authentic presentations, insightful workshops, and one on one coaching, focusing on leadership and management practices, drawing upon his extensive Disney career with relevant examples and inspiring storytelling, and he’s going to do exactly that in this episode, specifically for business travel leaders. And in a moment, I’ll be asking The following questions. What is the difference between a training program and a development program? And why do both even matter? What is the 30/60/90 day retention plan? Why are personal relationships so important for you and your team members? And why should it matter to a business travel leader? How and why did you implement consistent recognition with your teams at Disney? And how did you do it very uniquely to that individual? And in no additional charge, so much more.
It’s go time
I’m live right now with Dan Cockerel. Where are you and how are you my friend?
Dan Cockerell 4:04
Okay, I’m doing well. I’m in Orlando, Florida. I’m exhausted. We’ve been cleaning. We’re moving. So I’ve been moving all my stuff to a storage facility. And my wife is directing and won’t give me a break here. So I’m really glad we’re doing this podcast.
Bryan Paul Buckley 4:19
We can go for hours and hours, right?
Dan Cockerell 4:21
Yeah, I’m just gonna keep you here talking whether you’re on or not.
Bryan Paul Buckley 4:24
You know what end? I’ve got enough time we’ll make that happen on there. And it will maybe it’s maybe we’ll do three episodes of this here. Three different takes. Take one take. Two, take three, and that that’s all I do. Yeah, we also have a few common connections, a guy named Jody Mayberry, who is the host of your own podcast, and a longtime friend of myself as well. And then some guy named Lee, with the same common last name is yours. what’s that about?
Dan Cockerell 4:50
Yeah, well, um, you know, my dad, and he. He’s been a great mentor. You know, he retired from Disney at 63 had a whole second career, writing books and speaking and he’s got all kinds of stuff going on. So when I decided to leave Disney, he was a big part of my encouragement to have the courage to leave and go start something. So I’m really a, you know, my parents have done. They’ve been with me the whole way at 51 years old, and they’ve been married for over 50 years. So were they’ve done a good job.
Bryan Paul Buckley 5:23
Well, and I couldn’t speak more highly of your father, actually, God introduced myself to your dad, and on a former podcast that I had called the energy edge podcast. And I just so appreciate your dad’s honesty. Just how hard he went and how his health and crashed and I was able to rebuild that back and strengthened his marriage and helped him with his second career on there. So just nothing but the highest respect for your dad. And when you just well, man I’m excited, though, to talk about you. And I’m excited to talk about your book. So would you give us kind of that backstory of why you wrote the book, which is entitled
“How’s the Culture in Your Kingdom? Lessons from a Disney Leadership Journey” and a 30,000-foot view kind of is what I’m looking for right now of the book you could give us that Dan.
Dan Cockerell 6:11
Sure. Well, you know, when you
know, for a lot of people writing a book is it gives you some authority. You know, someone pointed out to me that the word author isn’t the word authority. So it gives you some credibility. And when I left Disney, I really sat down one night after a couple of months, and I said, Okay, what do I know? You know, what do I actually know that people want to hear about because when you work in the same company for 26 years, everything you do is sort of second nature. And you just think everything’s done this way. And the good thing is Disney does a lot of things really well. So I learned in a very, very positive environment of how to do run a business and lead.
Bryan Paul Buckley 6:53
You had how many positions while you’re at Disney?
Dan Cockerell 6:55
Yeah, 19 different jobs over 12 years. So I was always looking for that. Next learning moment I was I was an on the novice into my jobs. Most of my career I was in a learning mode most of the time, which kept me very on my toes and energized. So, one night I just wrote down, you know, okay, let’s, let’s go with the basics. What do I know how to do? Alright, communicate? Yep. I’ve learned how to communicate it does. What does that mean? I learned how to collaborate. What does that mean? I’ve learned how to build a strategy. What does that mean? And I came up with this big laundry list of things. And then I sent it off to a buddy of mine who’s a professor at the Cromer graduate school in Winter Park here in Florida. And I said, Keenan, I don’t know what I have here. I got a bunch of stuff. And within 24 hours, he sent me back he said, Dan, I’ve arranged everything you wrote and these little subtexts into three, three different areas. Leading self, leading team, leading organization, he saw it, it was clear to him and I was just like, so grateful to him to have seen there’s a there was a theme there. And that’s what my websites built my keynote speeches.
My book is set up that way, with those themes, and I, we added a fourth section towards the end of the writing the book called leading change, because that’s just, it’s seemed like a lot what I’d written could fit in that category. And that’s such a big issue these days, obviously, with the acceleration, of everything that’s going on. And actually, there’s something that really influenced me a book called, thank you for being late by Thomas Friedman. And he has he talks about the fact that between climate change and globalization and technology, technology is now actually accelerating and evolving faster than humans can adapt, and it’s causing a lot of stress. It’s causing a lot of confusion, ambiguity, and complexity. And so we talked about leading change. So I just started writing. And, you know, I wasn’t very organized. I’d never written a book. I’ve never really written anything. And so it’s just sort of stream of consciousness. So the editing process took a while because it was kind of a mess. But we hired an editor to help us out. And when I got a little burnt out on it, my wife took over. And she wrote about half the book. So when my daughter read it, she was Oh, I know which parts you wrote. I know which parts mom wrote.
Bryan Paul Buckley 9:11
And not just because she’s French, she wasn’t like she wrote in French. Is that obvious, right?
Dan Cockerell 9:15
No, no, no. But she, you know, she and she is a real creative writer. So we’re figuring how to be a really great team now. And so I’m super proud of it. Because you know, it took a couple of years to get done, and it’s just getting it done. It just seems like it’s never gonna end you get up every morning and the first year I wrote 10,000 words. And then this in the second year, in six weeks, I wrote the rest of the book 45,000 words. It was one of those moments where I just sort of had a panic attack and said, Dan, you’re failing you better get on this and I got up every morning for six weeks and finished it.
Bryan Paul Buckley 9:51
A get it done moment.
Dan Cockerell 9:53
Exactly. It was and so now it’s great. It’s a great way to introduce myself to people. It forced me to put my Thoughts down, it forced me to go back and remember lots of stories I had forgotten about. And the biggest thing about the book, from my perspective, well, first of all, the editor said, Dan, I don’t want to rain on your parade. But I just want to remind you, you’re not the first person to write a book on leadership and management. So you better be interesting, you better have some great stories. And that was important because people learn through storytelling. And the other piece of this book that I really, I like about it is at the end of every chapter, I share something called Fast Track results. Because I’m a big believer in a lot of these management, leadership books. They don’t give you anything at the end, like what should I go do tomorrow, you understand the concepts but you don’t know the behaviors. And so I really honed in on the behaviors if you want to become a better collaborator, a better communicator, better at giving feedback, better recognition. You know, here are 5678 things you can do, starting tomorrow to become that leader. And I’ve gotten a lot of really good feedback on that because people want tactics and I wanted to get in there with that.
Bryan Paul Buckley 11:00
great use of lingo calm the fast track there for those that know the Disney World on there. Well, it’s a great read, I just want to touch on one observation that I had on it, which is very unique. And we can unpack this at another time, because you actually talked about with Jeff Brown on the read elite podcast and we’re gonna want up, Jeff, good morning to both of ours. But nonetheless, you chose to lead with leading self at the beginning of the book, which probably cause a little bit of pushback. And I heard that in your interview, but actually loved it. Because if you can’t lead yourself, it’s hard to lead teams lead an organization and lead change any quick thoughts on that?
Dan Cockerell 11:36
Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s the editor we talked and he said, You know, people are expecting a management leadership book and it feels like a self help book. And so are you sure you want to have that the beginning might turn people off? And I said, Well, look, it’s common sense. Everyone knows it, but there are so few people that do it right. Eat right, get enough sleep, do stress. I have the right price. be organized. And it’s That’s why every couple years that a new magical diet comes out because no one wants to… They want a magical solution. They don’t want to do the hard work. And it’s like, you know what, if you burn more calories than you put in, you’ll lose weight period. And whether that’s a protein or whatever you want to say, and there’s no magical way to do it. So I wanted to, and Valerie, my wife, and I talked about it. She said, Well, Dan, if you really do think that’s the most important thing, if you don’t put it into the book, you’re telling people it’s not important. And I said, Yeah, we gotta make a stand. So we left it up front. And a few people said, it’s tough to read because you have to look in the mirror and go, am I really taking care of myself the way I should be? And as I get older, I find I get more discipline, and I find that I don’t take my health for granted like young people do. Does, you know we all used to be indestructible. You get older, it’s not about you know, it’s I mean, in my mind, it’s not necessarily about just trying to live a really super long life, which would be nice, but to enjoy it. You know, there’s today science will keep you alive for a long time. But are you actually enjoying it? Can you physically go do what you want to do? Can you mentally do what you want to do? And I think it’s important to just make sure you incorporate that into your habits as a person.
Bryan Paul Buckley 13:12
Well, as your editor said, there are a lot of leadership books that are out there. But there’s also a lot of exhausted overweight leaders out there as well. And to your point, you know, leading with that, and really putting that as a priority is a huge wake up call. And the focus of the remainder of the questions will kind of be on that leader of a business travel team. And Dan, you know, I don’t want to pull any punches or rugby hits in your sports past, you know, being a former rugby guy here. But, man, you have four primary areas of leadership that I’d love for you to focus in on translating what you’ve learned from your experience at Disney and as your life on the road warrior that you had sprinkled throughout your four main headings of the book. So we’re gonna talk about training, talking about development, talk about relationships, and talk about recognition. So you had a quote, Dan that I loved. And it was this. And people kind of would push back on this, you said too often we see training as a cost and not as an investment. So would you unpack that book?
Dan Cockerell 14:13
Yeah, it’s, I’ve seen that happen in a lot of companies and Disney, we’ve done that before, where we spend all this money to hire people to get them in, put ads out, get them to the interview process, bring him in, give them orientation. And then we start, we go into training. And once we get them in the door, a lot of times we sort of just say, okay, you know, good luck, you’re here now, and we’re going to give you someone to show you the ropes. And we don’t think about it in a way like, this is a really, really great way to get started off on the right foot with people and really set the tone of what the company is about and what the job’s going to be about. And we kind of just say, Okay, well how long is the training going to be? We need this person to be online and contributing. And I think if you really do it right, and take the time up front, you may have missed a little bit of time and productivity. But if you can get that, right, you set people up then they’re going to deliver so much more afterward. And we actually tested that out of Disney, we had a program called emerging leaders. And it took a few years to get this, but what would happen was a leader would leave the company or get promoted or transferred to another area Then we would post the job, we would interview for the job, we’d hire for the job, would bring the person in and take you know, four to six weeks maybe to train them. And during that whole time, their team is running short. And so we finally said to finance, “hey look, why don’t we start training people before the positions open up and give ourselves the gift of time?” We know there’s going to be turnover This is not going to be money that’s wasted. And so we started doing that, we actually would take leaders, interview them for let’s say, a job in food/ beverage, and then we’d have them do a little six-week training program.
But they’d be trained in food and beverage, they spend time in a location they’d have a mentor. They take classes On Time management, how to deal with the union, food sanitation. And at the end of that six weeks, they’d be sent back to their location to go back to their regular job. So when a job came open, we had now a pool of people who are qualified. The person you thought was the right person, you’d plug him in, you’d give him the local training, which took a few days just for the nuances of that location, and they’d be up and running. And what we found was this Emerging Leaders Program, they actually had more skills and knowledge than the managers who had been in the roles for like 15 or 20 years, because they just you know, if you don’t learn something you never learn it.
And you just keep working the way you work and you don’t know there’s a better way. And we realized we had to put all these other managers who had all this experience, put them back through training. So they learned all the things that had changed since then. So it’s just something that to your point, we just look at as a cost. And it’s like what could we do, the minimum, so people can execute upon the job rather than how do we set people up to be wildly successful and training is a huge part of that. And I’ve been in moments before, why didn’t get trained well, and took a hit on my confidence, my performance. It’s really not fair to put people in jobs and not give them the full breadth of everything they need to know to be successful.
Bryan Paul Buckley 17:13
But I love your spin on on Zig Ziglar quote, where you said, why do we spend all this money and time on training them, and they leave? But the response was, but even worse, what if you don’t train them well, and they stay? Right? And I thought that was great, because that’s what happens.
Dan Cockerell 17:29
Absolutely, they stay and every guest comes in, has a, you know, maybe a bad experience, or, you know, 2 out of 10 have a bad experience. And now they tell others now our intent to return goes down or intend to recommend goes down. And it’s, it’s part of a big, you know, it’s part of the plan. You’ve got to get… make sure you’re delivering a great level of experience for your guests all the time. And that’s done through many things, including training, which is a big piece of that.
Bryan Paul Buckley 17:55
And it leads into the other question of under training that you had an (I was very intrigued by this) 30/60 and 90-day retention plan for your new hires. So tell us about that. And why is that so important?
Dan Cockerell 18:08
Yeah, well, you know, it’s funny, Disney’s a pretty sophisticated place. And we came up with these, these ideas based on problems we needed to solve. And so you know, someone had done some data analysis and said, you know, what, most of the people, the highest percentage of people that actually leave Disney, leave in the first 90 days, Once you get people past 90 days, their retention rate goes way up. Because they’ve gotten used to the commute. They’ve got they’ve made friends or maybe they realize they can do the job. There’s but at the first 90 days, it’s really easy to kind of say, maybe this isn’t the right job for me, you’re not emotionally attached or connected yet.
You’re still the new person. You’re learning every day. So it’s stressful. You’re still learning how to where’s the cafeteria? And you know, there’s just a lot going on. And so what we realized was okay, well if we’re going to spend all this money to hire People, let’s spend more money to retain them. So they don’t leave, get them over that 90-day mark. And so we set up a program and we just said, leaders after one week, after 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, we want you to sit down with every new hire. And here’s a list of 10 or 15 questions you can ask them. How are you feeling about the job? Is there anything you want to be retrained in? Are you feeling comfortable with it? How’s it going in your personal life? Is there anything we can do for you, and just have that moment because you know, this is a big place and it moves fast. And it’s easy to be a number and people don’t know who you are, forget you’re there.
And so we wanted to make sure we had a process in place. And we and there was an impact. When people had great check-ins the leader was able to find out well, know I don’t feel as comfortable on the register. Maybe I could do like another day of training, or the commute is not like what I thought it was going to be. Can I get it take a couple of weeks off and get moved? And then we work with them on that. So when you take a personal interest in people and you really try to solve problems for them, you get repaid with people hanging around, because they know that you’re you put your hand out, you’re there to help them, you care about them, and they’re more willing to stay with you. And once you get over that 90 days, then you have a much better chance people still leave, but you’re at least protecting your investment.
Bryan Paul Buckley 20:16
And to the world of business travel, the quote is, if you invest in me personally, I’ll invest into you more professionally. So when I was reading this, Dan, I was thinking through my goodness, how many missed opportunities of companies that I’ve worked for that if they would have done that, for me going from non-travel to all of a sudden travel, and especially in a more of an intense clip, what that could have been like for me 30/60 and 90 days. So as you’re talking right now to be a leader of a business traveler, how do we take the application, the fast track results to this, you know, hiring and what did they say if I don’t train them well into this 30/60/90 days of being personal more than just, you know, let’s go after your Q1 MBO’s and KPIs and what are your results in those First 30/60/90 days, how do we take that personal side of your experience for that business travel leader to implement that in their world?
Dan Cockerell 21:08
Sure. But I mean, if you’re leading someone who, most of their job is travel, you really should make an investment to make them really good at that. And so, you know, hiring if you don’t, you know, everyone, there’s people out there who are have become experts in everything. And there are people like yourself who have become experts in travel. And I don’t know if you remember the movie, I’m sure you’ve seen up in the air with George Clooney. Right? And he talks about, here’s how you handle this. Here’s what you do with this and it because everyone has their…
Bryan Paul Buckley 21:40
30 seconds here, wasting a minute here.
Dan Cockerell 21:42
Yeah, they have their hacks, they have their you know, how do you get the right seat? How do you make sure and everyone has so you know like we do it at businesses with best practices. Why wouldn’t you take a leader who’s going to start traveling more aside and say, Look, I’m either going to find someone internally in the company who’s you know, a master at this. Or we’ll hire someone, or I’m going to send you to a class or here, here’s some materials or a podcast and YouTube channel. And here’s a list of all the things you really should have when you’re traveling, go ahead and expense them and have them available to you. And, you know, people learn it over time, but why not accelerate that learning process and find out and then when people get back, you debrief them, you know, how did the trip go? Anything that we should be working on had the travel agency do with your planning? And so what you’re doing here is a few things a, it’s continuous improvement, right? So you’re… because you know how I mean when it… when travel doesn’t go well. It’s like taking care of yourself. Other things don’t go well, you’re not as focused in the meeting. You’re maybe a little short-tempered. I mean, there’s a lot of stuff that goes along with that. So one is how do you continually make it better. And secondly, when you’re as a leader when you’re asking people how they did and that’s showing empathy, you care, you’re putting yourself in their shoes, to empathize with them. And when you start to show people you care about them, that you’re treating them as individuals, that’s what retains people that’s what guests of Disney World want. They want us to treat, make them feel special, treat them as individuals and our employees want the same. And so, you know, treat it like you would anything else, you know, when we, when you hire someone, you train them on a new software program or you train them how to operate a piece of equipment, why wouldn’t you train them how to travel efficiently? And with the right, all the right tips and tricks to really enjoy themselves and be able to take advantage of all the learnings maybe you had over time? And same with 30/60/90. You check in with them? Make sure how’s your family doing? I mean, we all know what the pressures are right?
Bryan Paul Buckley 23:40
Wait, wait. You mean, you talk about family? We’re talking about results here on the road and a quarter what why would a business leader ask about how’s your family doing and how tired you are? Why… Why would, Why does that matter, Dan?
Dan Cockerell 23:53
Yeah, well it comes back once again leading self you have to know that people will perform If everything in their life is in balance, and we all know for a fact that travel creates a lot of really tough situations for families, you know, if I know that you have a new baby at home, or I know that you’re a coach, or I know that maybe your son or daughter plays a varsity sport, I know that there is an interest there to be involved, probably. And if I can start talking about that, it doesn’t mean I’m going to just take say, Well, you know what, for the next five years, you don’t have to travel anymore. Don’t worry about it. But at least we can start working together and we can start negotiating, we can start having a conversation about it. Because most people say, Well, why would I bring that up?
I agreed to travel when I took this job. How can I go back now and say that I want to come home a day early? So I want to see my kids, it’s a great question and they can play and that should be in play that that conversation should be had because there’s lots of creative ways to do that. And once again, the more you help people reach their personal goals, like you said, they will be more likely to want to do more for you and find ways to give you more discretionary effort. And it’s a and you can help them a lot with that. And, you know, you and I talked when we met a couple of weeks ago, and we talked about that book, soccer-nomics, which was a sort of a lot like Moneyball it talked about which football soccer clubs in the world were really successful or not successful based on their spend. And it turns out that the town my wife’s from Leo, in the south of France, that team when you look at how much they spend, versus their results are one of the most efficient soccer teams in the world. They get the most results with the least amount of investment. And when they dug into it, they realized that one of the things they do, they have a great onboarding program and a great concierge program for all their players. Because a lot of these players you know, they travel from Brazil, Spain, Italy, UK, these countries, so they’re bringing their families with them.
They don’t speak the language they have to afford schools and Leo realizes You know what if we can take care of these families and help the spouse out and make sure the kids are being taken care of and get them in the right house, the right apartment and make sure they have the right transportation set up, they’re learning the language. Now the player can focus on playing, when he goes home at night, there’s not this sort of, I don’t want to be here. And he’s not on the field worrying about his family he knows are being taken care of. So it’s, it’s the whole package. It’s, you know, you want to take care of people. And if you put them in that, that situation, they’ll perform at a much higher level. But we seem to put those in silos and say, Well, your family is not our that’s not our thing where we pay you, we don’t pay your family, and people just don’t take a broader look at people’s lives.
Bryan Paul Buckley 26:42
And I love the example Dan, in fact, when we were kind of unpacking that conversation, I mean, even my first 90 days when I really really really started traveling hard in North America, and I’m gone most weeks, I didn’t know at the time that it was gonna be as much stress on my wife nor did she as a school teacher. And at that point, having really young kids didn’t know the stress that was going to be But the ability of, if I’d had a manager that I could talk to about that a leader kind of process, that of what that looked like and whether that meant I traveled less or whether that meant there is some assistance, you know, heading home. Like for example, you know, what if at that fourth day that the company paid for my wife to go out to eat on her own and pay for a babysitter. I mean, what’s a minimal cost for a company that’s going to be… but what would that say to my wife or I did you know, overseas and I came back for three or four weeks in a row and gone for like six weeks straight, international and all over the country. Well, the house is a wreck. What if there’s a few dollars and somebody came in to clean the house, what a difference that would have made so I absolutely love this stance. I really appreciate your taking that punch in a good way of why this is should be important to a business leader for business travelers. We’ll be back for the remainder of this interview. after this short break.
Overseeing a business travel Team is a challenge, especially when you just want consistent results. Is that too much to ask? There is a grind of business travel that has two levels of costs, if you consider the first is obviously the business traveler, and secondly is the company. When your business travelers only a short flight away from burnout due to the stress of the road, they’re costing you money and results the entire way. According to the Kingston study, 45% of the 200 frequent business travelers surveyed reported higher stress levels than normal while on work trips, and 31% said they’ve experienced emotional exhaustion, which is one of the major risk factors of burnout and this is on a weekly basis. Another study showed 80% of those who have experienced mental health problems, aka stress on the road, have never told her employer and you need to know you may not even realize burnout could cost you up to 200% of their salary. And this doesn’t even factor in the loss of productivity of that person going from busy to beat down to burn out. These stats are staggering. Get most companies continue to do business as usual or in this case, business travel as usual. Why? Too many companies who have business travelers and especially those that lead the road where your teams are just simply unaware of any signs of burnout, and as a result, elite road group has done the heavy lifting for you. We’ve created a resource called seven early warning signs for companies to avoid business travel burnout. You can find this absolutely free PDF resource at elite Road Warrior calm. Get your copy of the seven early warning signs for companies to avoid business travel burnout at eliteroadwarrior.com.
So I’m going to segue to we talked about training sometimes people just end With training, whether they only train for the product and services, or the extension of training, how to do business travel, how do you master the business travel life, but then it could stop there as well. You did a great job on packing in the book. There’s training, but then there’s also development, right? What’s the difference between the two? And why should both matter?
Dan Cockerell 30:22
Yeah, this started out. Interestingly, this concept. I have a cousin who went into West Point, and he flew helicopters army in Afghanistan. And he shared with us one time we were talking to him and his time had come up and he was trying to decide whether he was going to reenlist or leave the army and go work in the private sector. And he said he wanted to stay. But at the time, he said, You know what, the Army’s training me but they’re not developing me. And I said, Well, tell me more about that. He goes, Well, I know how to fly the helicopters. And they’re always investing me getting better at what I do, but they’re not helpful. Think about my future, they’re not looking at focusing on how I can better, have better relationships with people. And so training is sort of, I want to give you the skills so you can get better at your jobs, the company will do better.
And development is I want to give you training and skills is going to make you get better as a person that’s going to help you from a career long term. And a lot of companies just say, look, let’s get them trained. So they can execute X, Y, and Z. But that’s not enough. Because people want development, they want to feel like they’re growing. And some people, you know, they either say, well, you’re not getting promoted, so you can’t grow anymore. And I don’t think that’s true. I think you should continue to grow no matter what you’re doing. And there’s people at Disney and people I knew that they were fantastic at their jobs. And the worst thing we could do would be promote them because that they were in a perfect job. But we had to make sure they felt like they had a future. It’s not like I think what we end up doing is someone stays the same level too long. We start devaluing, saying, Well, I guess you hit your maximum, you hit your your potential. That’s fine, make those people feel great about what they’re doing. And they can deliver a ton of value for you. And a big piece of that is development, you can pay them more, you can do a lot of stuff. But a lot is development. And I think sometimes we only send the people who are moving up the ladder, and we look at sending them to do things we kind of take are solid people who did a really good job for granted. And I think making those investments in them is pretty powerful.
Bryan Paul Buckley 32:26
Especially if you want to keep them long term. And as a person grows and develops, you realize maybe I would like to do something different. So I love the focus of that in the book. And so let’s kind of turn it into relationships, though. So we obviously we dealt with the training and development side on here. But you personally, obviously are big on relationships. So is Disney because of obviously the four major values of that. So why is relationships so important to you and with your team members?
Dan Cockerell 32:54
Yeah. Well, it’s a couple things. I think, first of all, that’s sort of how I’m wired. I’ve always gotten things done through relationships. I always connected with people, I’ve always been pretty open minded. We traveled a lot when I was growing up. So I saw a lot of parts of the world, my parents were very raised me in a way and you respect everybody and we’re open and, you know, then in my career to be able to move to France, it really tested me to Okay, now you got to make relationships with people who don’t speak English. And how do you do that? And how do you connect with them? And so I do it naturally. But I’ve also come to realize if you make if you invest some time in doing that, it’s a great business strategy. It’s not, it’s not just like, well be a good person and be nice to people because that’s how you should be. When you have a relationship with someone, it gets rid of all kinds of friction. It gets rid of these small moments where you don’t trust somebody when you have a relationship. You just assume it’s a misunderstanding. Or the person or when you make a mistake, and you have a great relationship with someone. You can apologize and move on.
Rather than that becoming a point of breaking with the relationship. When you have a good relationship with people, when you want to give them feedback on something on performance, you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to set it up. You just tell them because you have a great relationship with them. And they’re more likely to listen to you because they know that you’ve spent the time to get to know them. And once again, it’s like if I want to, if I want to get the most out of people from a performance perspective, I have to get down to know them individually. I’ve heard people before say, Well, you know, in my department, there’s favoritism, everyone’s treated differently. I say, Well, good. Now, you know, I don’t I do I favor people who perform better. That’s true. And, so I said, I will treat people differently when I had a one on one with people. Some people we talked for a long time about their kids, that that’s what their thing was, and other people we talked for a while about their dogs, and other people we get right to business and just talk about business because they really didn’t I want to talk to me about their personal life that wasn’t their personality. And so I didn’t try to treat everyone the same. I tried to figure out how they’re individually different and connect with them there. And I once again it was up to me to get them the most comfortable that it could be to perform the role. And if I could get that relationship it just like you said, it greases the wheels and it made everything easier.
Bryan Paul Buckley 35:19
And you gave a great example that in the book, which surprised me, it wasn’t that difficult Dan, where you would take a new individual a new hire, it was on your team out to lunch, but it wasn’t to talk about anything of their job unless it came up. It was specifically to get to know them the personal side And to your point right here, whether they wanted to talk only business there or was really shy about their family or to find out for the example like you gave earlier, “well I got a newborn back home,” or “I’ve got two kids about ready to go to college” or “I have a special needs child” or whatever is going on in their life, that you could leverage that in a good way to serve them. Well, back to the quote, if you invest in me personally, I’ll invest more in You professionally. Right? You also gave, like a questionnaire to them. So can you talk just for a moment of why you did that? And what were the benefits of just taking a little bit of time, and handing out a questionnaire?
Dan Cockerell 36:11
Yeah, I just give a questionnaire and just say, Look, I don’t have a photographic memory. And if you can fill out as much as you feel comfortable filling out, but who’s your spouse, your partner? What is their name? And what are your kids names and ages? And when’s your birthday? You know, HR is like “we can’t ask them what year” I’m like, I’m not, I just want to know on their birthday to say happy birthday. That’s my goal. I want to talk to them about what’s your favorite snack? What’s your favorite restaurant? What’s your favorite song? What’s your favorite alcoholic, non-alcoholic beverage, your favorite snack? So then when we had a Christmas party, or I was looking to send them a basket to thank them for something or we were having a team outing, my assistant not only me, but my assistant could look at that list and call them and say look, I know you’re vegetarian. In the restaurant we’re going to these are the options they have. And now I’m treating them as individuals just role modeling how I want them to treat their people. And it was it wasn’t sort of this subtle thing. I just asked them straight out and said, Look, I’m not gonna pretend I remember all this stuff. But sure enough on the way to a Christmas party or reception somewhere, my wife and I would be driving and I’d say, okay, tonight, we’re going to see all the general managers here are their names, this is their spouse’s names, and she remembered a lot of them. And it made a big deal when she walked up and introduced and knew their names. And once again, it wasn’t like, I know a lot of people seemed it seemed a little calculated, but um, you know, we all have these computers in our pockets now called iPhones or androids and you can put a lot of data in there, so why not? Why not have this stuff, remember it? And, and then you can find these little ways to treat people special during the really busy times. You know, put a pack of Snickers bars in your office, like maybe you can forgot you’re like, wow, Dan, What a lucky guy. He didn’t know that was my favorite. Well, yeah, I did. He told me two years ago.
Bryan Paul Buckley 37:59
Exactly. You made it easy. Yeah, I know that we still need a long pitch, man, just because you got the questionnaire doesn’t mean you’re going to use the questionnaire. Right? You know, and what I would add for a business travel leader is what is your anniversary? And that wouldn’t be for the business traveler. It’s how can I make sure the business traveler is not gone on his anniversary or his wife’s birthday? And I failed at both those too many years. And it is a constant reminder, that boy, if I have a chance that I’d have to take that trip on a Thursday to make my wife’s birthday or make my wife’s for our anniversary would have made a huge, huge difference.
Dan Cockerell 38:33
And anticipating it’s so powerful. It really is.
Bryan Paul Buckley 38:37
So how and Why did you implement consistent recognition with your team? You got to know them. But then you constantly did recognition and you did it in some really unique and creative ways. Why is it important? And can you give me some examples?
Dan Cockerell 38:53
Yeah, once again, I think a lot of people think Well, yeah, recognizing people it’s a nice thing to do, builds morale and makes people feel better. Once again, it is a great business strategy. Because recognition, the side benefits of it are making people feel better building morale. Yes. But the purpose of recognition is to reinforce behaviors. When you do something that
Bryan Paul Buckley 39:16
Why did you do it again, because this is important instead of just because it’s the employee of the month. Nobody cares about, or knows it’s fixed anyway, or you get picked because you weren’t the last 11.
Dan Cockerell 39:25
So why do you do it? You’re reinforcing specific behavior. Exactly. So if I read a guest letter, and I read that, you know, as a cast member, someone said, You know, I was at the Emporium shopping at Magic Kingdom, it was my little girl’s birthday. And they went in the back and they brought out this balloon for her and they all sang happy birthday, and I want to thank John for making that happen. Well, now I can take that letter. I can let everyone know write John a letter and I can put his you know, picture on board and say, John, thank you so much for creating this magical moment for this family. Thank you for getting that balloon, and you know free balloon-like free balloon at Disney. I mean, those things are like 15 bucks. So a free balloon is a big deal. And now not only does john know Wow, I didn’t know that was such a big deal, but I’m going to do that again. Because apparently that’s a big deal here. Then you have all the other cast members looking at John going well, shoot, I can do that, you know, let me do that too. And now you’re building more of these moments. So people you’re just communicating to people about the things they’re doing are valued. And that can be things big and small. But it has to be about something specific. You know, a lot of people have the boss. Hey, man, I just want to say we really glad having you here. Well, that makes me feel good. The second time we like you on the team. Third time you’re like, Okay, why? What is it I do that you like me being here? It has to be specific.
So I know how to continue to do whatever it is you like that I do. And for a lot of people, something for most people I’ve found it’s peace of mind. It’s just going home, be able to tell your wife, hey, my boss said I was doing a great job today. So this week, we’re good because I know there’s a lot of mistrust out there and people are just They never know what’s going on and into someone for someone to tell you for now, but you’re doing a great job. And it’s like, all right, I don’t care what level of an organization you are, they love hearing that. And some people, it’s they’ll tell you, it’s not a big deal, but it is writing them a little note sending them a text message. You know, after the Christmas season, we work really hard, send him a couple of meal coupons for them and their spouse and maybe a bottle of champagne and saying, thank you so much for you know, being here, 14 days straight, great season, I really appreciate your commitment, in fact, throughout the park every day with your people, and it just you just keep reinforcing that. And it just… people will, well, at a minimum say, well, you appreciated it and a maximum they’re going to do more of it, because you’ve been very clear about what you value.
Bryan Paul Buckley 41:45
And, Dan, you mean, you mentioned that in the book as well. I mean, it’s this attitude of being personal but being specific, it’s the nuance of, well, what’s expected but just because it’s expected doesn’t mean it’s appreciated. And I even like how you touched on it, making sure you know about person’s, well, do they want praise or recognition publicly? Or are they prefer privately? Do they want it written? Or would they rather have it oral? Or would they like it monetary? Or would they like it to be, you know, an object or something like that. So I just really don’t want to make sure we fly by that all pun intended here. We’re talking about business travel, because of business travelers who out there doing it and sacrificing so much. There are so many ways as a business leader that we could come back and really, really serve them by recognizing, so I’m gonna hit you with some lightning round right here. Okay, here, Dan.
Dan Cockerell 42:44
Bryan Paul Buckley 42:45
Dan Cockerell 42:48
Bryan Paul Buckley I was just gonna say who’s your secondary, especially with you flying International. Yeah. window or aisle.
Dan Cockerell I go between both just depending on the length of the flight and
Bryan Paul Buckley 43:05
does that mean you’re a middle seat guy if you’d like to go between the two of them and just you in the row
Dan Cockerell 43:09
no one wants a middle seat.
Bryan Paul Buckley 43:11
Good point. Good point. One thing you always do on a flight?
Dan Cockerell I sleep. I’d love to be productive but man I can just close my eyes and out and I’m asleep and I can sleep through anything and that’s what I do on the plane.
Bryan Paul Buckley If we’re on the same flight and in the same row. I want you in the window, not the aisle, because I gotta go to the bathroom because I’m a chronic urinator on a plane. I drink too much water
Dan Cockerell 43:33
there you go those longer ones, then you don’t want me in a window seat.
Bryan Paul Buckley 43:36
Nice, nice, preferred hotel chain?
Dan Cockerell 43:40
Um, yeah, Marriott is we’ve had some great experience with Marriott. And you know obviously we don’t get to go there a lot but when you go to you know, four seasons is awesome. Although I’m always whenever I go there, I have a client for that one.
Bryan Paul Buckley 43:56
Well done. Well done and your dad was big Marriot guy for obvious reasons. rental car or rideshare
Dan Cockerell 44:05
rideshare I used to you know, get a car once a while but now I mean to me Lyft and Uber and all the scooters you can get and all that stuff I actually I was in San Antonio, I was at a hotel and I had a flight like four hours later and I got one of those little lime scooters with my suitcase and I scootered to a brewery about a mile or two away and then took a cab from there or an Uber from there so there’s all kinds of creative ways to travel But yeah, I love the rideshare very efficient
Bryan Paul Buckley 44:34
That’s awesome. Least favorite airports in the world.
Dan Cockerell 44:40
Gosh, um I don’t know if I have a least favorite although I do know that every time we buy off we’ll fly through Amsterdam and its gigantic airport I don’t know if it’s the way it’s designed, but it seems like we’re always about to have a heart attack by the time we get to the next gate. So, but generally, we’ve had some pretty good experiences the past couple of years since we’ve been traveling more with airports and stuff and we’re pretty organized but…
Bryan Paul Buckley 45:12
That helps. Yeah. favorite city to frequent?
Dan Cockerell 45:19
New Orleans. We used to do our tradition Actually, we I never had a T-shirt made but after December, in two weeks of December Christmas at Disney is two business weeks of the year. And I’d work every day many hours a day. And then the weekend after New Years, we would go to New Orleans and I called it the main street to Bourbon Street tour. You know, the kind of cleanest place in the world to the roughest places or exactly in a manner of speaking. Love going down there and having oysters and listen to music and *unintelligible*
Bryan Paul Buckley 45:52
last one biggest road trip pet peeve?
Dan Cockerell 45:56
yeah I don’t have a lot of pet peeves but there is something I always whenever I’m in a hotel I’ll write a note to the gym of I see this. You get up in the morning, and you get in the hallway and the plates from room service are still there from the night before. It’s just, it’s just not right. That’s an odd checklist. It’s just it just makes you feel like nothing is going good.
Bryan Paul Buckley 46:20
especially coming from your history with Disney and obviously how clean those rooms are and just how organized things I can only imagine what that is for you. So any closing thoughts for us as business travelers and especially business travel leaders?
Dan Cockerell 46:40
Yeah, I just want to re I want to come back to that idea that you know, when you’re under the when you’re under pressure to perform whether you’re traveling or not keeping yourself when I find I get under stress. I’m like, let me go take a run. I just feel better or go take a walk You know, and I know you drink a lot of water, there’s just a lot of these little habits that people just don’t realize are so important and are gonna make a big difference. They’re right in front of you. And you just got to take advantage of them. And I had just back in February, I won’t tell the whole story. But you know, my wife and I are pretty fit, we work out, we eat pretty healthy. And back in February, took a run, I had some chest pain, I ignored it.
Two weeks later, I swam, and it came back and we went to the clinic, then the cardiologists, and within 72 hours I had a heart catheterization, and my Widowmaker artery was 95% clogged. And so, you know, rushing around, we’re running our business, we’re busy doing everything. And I was literally, I don’t know, weeks away from dropping dead, and none of it would have mattered. And so I just think you just got to pay attention, pay attention to things. Go to the doctor. There’s great technology now. I mean, I did a heart catheterization, I was out running four miles, 48 hours. Later, I mean technology that is all there. There’s no reason you shouldn’t know if you’re not to your best health. And once you get that done, then go off and work do stuff with your family and figure out how to be a great business person and how to travel well and do all that other stuff but just don’t take the health part for granted because it’ll catch up with you.
Bryan Paul Buckley 48:19
I appreciate you saying that. And that’s the reason you started the book with leading self and to the title of your book. How’s the culture in your kingdom can obviously be you know, a double, double, or triple entendre you know with obviously Disney but it could also mean within our team, but also obviously means our self here. So if you are a business traveler or specifically a business travel leader, pick up the book how’s it culturing your kingdom? lessons from a Disney leadership journey. Dan, how can we find out more about you follow you hire you learn more about you and what you have to offer?
Dan Cockerell 48:51
Yeah, sure. You can go to Cockerellconsulting.com. My wife built the website and it’s fantastic. It’s got videos of us. It’s got links to everything we do. Do an article the week I started sending those out like 23 years ago when I first got email that would go outside of Disney. And every week I’d send an article to my managers and I’d send it to people and I built up a mailing list over the years and now that I left Disney I’m continuing to do it it’s I just collect articles I think are really good. It’s food for thought. And those come out every Friday morning. You can sign up on Cockerellconsulting.com, my podcast “Come rain or shine comes out every Thursday morning. We’re at like 105 episodes now with Jodi, and my cell phone number’s on there, my email’s on there and we do customized workshops. I do executive coaching, we do business consulting, we kind of we don’t say no to anything. If you’re looking to help with leadership or management things. We’ve Valerie and I’ve done it, so there you go.
Bryan Paul Buckley 49:49
That’s awesome. I’ll make sure all the links are in the show notes. Dan, what a pleasure, man. I mean, for the moment we had a conversation, to even actually even before that listening to the interview with our friends and ally Jeff Brown three delete podcast seems like a lot of shameless promotion for that guy recently, but earned, because of what he does brought us together, Jody, and I just love how things kind of come together. But most importantly, I want to thank you for being willing to take your experiences and put them into the world of the business traveler and the business travel leaders. So I greatly greatly appreciate that Dan.
Dan Cockerell 50:22
Thanks, Brian. I like I love your energy. I was excited to do this because you’re, you’re on all the time. It was good. I hope everyone enjoyed and thanks for doing what you’re doing.
Bryan Paul Buckley 50:31
I appreciate. Thanks, Dan. I’d like to thank Dan Cockerell for his time. Man, his challenges as a leader specifically going to us as business travel leaders of how we can maximize recognition, training, and development relationships so we can improve our business travel team and keep consistent talent and draw top talent. You can find the transcript and everything reference in this interview in the show notes at eliteroadwarrior.com/088 along with the free resource seven early warning signs for companies to avoid business travel burnout. I personally love to hear from you and you can connect with me on my primary social media pages. LinkedIn Bryan Paul Buckley. Also at the company page elite road warrior and on Instagram @eliteroadwarrior
but as I always say it is so critically important. Wherever you are on the road, do something anything, just not nothing to master the business travel life, leverage this interview with Dan cockerel to help you become and remain an elite roadwarrior today to eliminate burnout and exceed results. You got this! Man, I think that so much of Dan.