As if I didn’t have enough to do when my CEO walks in and says he wants me to attend a people management course at the Disney Institute.
I would say that I am a pretty likeable person and I get along with ninety nine per cent of the people I meet, so why do I need people management training? Well how about saving time, saving money, sustaining good employees and developing a strong corporate culture to name a few. After all, a few days at Disney can’t be all bad and they do employ a lot of people and they do have a pretty successful track record. Why not?
After the training, and filled with newfound knowledge, I decided to put my new skills to work at Barcamp Sarasota. With my Disney training manual close at hand, I proceeded to emulate the giant mouse. Barcamp is a type of 21st century ”unconference”, a facilitated user-driven unstructured conference usually based on a technological theme. When you arrive you can sign up to give a presentation or just meet other like-minded individuals.
The Disney approach to people management focuses on four main themes -recruitment, training, communication and care. Now this is where Disney weaves it’s magic. Their attack strategy (so to speak) is to create an overall mood by way of incorporating beautiful visuals and audio into their training and literally everything else they do. They attack your senses and arouse your emotions. You are rendered helpless. They create a magical formula that leaves an everlasting impression on anyone who enters their domain. This was now going to be my new approach to organizing Barcamps, hiring employees and helping to develop an enviable corporate culture.
My first plan of action was to create a buzz, not just interest, but hype and buzz and excitement that Voalté, a prominent, young, local start up, was an organizing sponsor of Barcamp Sarasota. The word started to spread that we were coming and also seeking to recruit a couple of summer interns for software testing.
At Barcamp Sarasota I gave a presentation about Voalté, who we are, what we do and what our goals are. Borrowing on Disney’s captivating audio and visual approach I included pictures, videos, and music to enhance my presentation and motivate my audience. Before the presentation began I put up an image of the four co-founders of Voalte wearing our signature black and pink scrubs. In the background the Pink Panther theme was playing. The mood was set.
After my presentation I was approached by many young hopefuls who all wanted to intern at Voalté . Because of the overwhelming response, I now had to set up a round of interviews. Once again, I had the opportunity to focus on my new people management skills.
The first item on my agenda was to prepare a plan of action prior to the interviews.
The plan included having the interns being interviewed individually by the four co-founders whose photos they had already seen at Barcamp. Next, I prepared the conference room where the interviews were going to take place. I wanted their first impression of Voalté to be stellar. The conference room also included images of our advertising campaigns and trade shows. A little attention to detail helps set the mood.
Fortunately we were able to select two interns from our pool of applicants.
Voalté is a mobile development shop where we create iPhone and BlackBerry applications. Now our two interns had to be trained on how to use our computer systems, how to use our development tools and how to build our software. Training and communication was key.
Everyday became a new learning experience for our interns. Daily they met with me for 30 minutes to review work they had completed and to receive their marching orders for the day. They were also included in the daily developer briefings (scrum) and by the second day they were giving the other team members an update on their progress. By the end of their first week not only did they manage to find a couple of bugs but they also completed their first test report and summary. Everyone was very impressed. As a reward for their hard work and efforts I took them out for lunch at the end of their first week. Even Disney agrees that by celebrating success you create an environment of success.
When you break down and analyze the Disney “dynamic” it literally all boils down to common sense and simplicity. Disney did an amazing job of articulating and presenting their blueprint to us. It consistently works for Disney and many Fortune 500 companies. It’s really very simple if you follow the blueprint and implement the concepts. You’ll be amazed.