The Language of Success: Creating a Culture of Happiness

Throughout my career, I had found that most people want to be involved in something greater than just being paid for a job. My basic story is about the two men laying bricks. When asked what he is doing, one man says, ‘I’m laying bricks.’ The other man performing the same task says, ‘I’m building a cathedral.’ – Van France, Disney University founder

Beginning with the original orientation at Disneyland in 1955, Van’s goal always remained the same: instill a sense of pride among cast members about where they work and the jobs they perform. Van was determined to make Disneyland a place where customers and cast members experienced second-to-none service.

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One of his strategies involved creating a whole new language that would reinforce the dignity of every job in the park.

What’s the difference between treating someone like a customer, and treating someone like a Guest?

The obvious analogy is that we do things differently when we bring Guests into our home. We spruce up the house. We dress up. We prepare something special to eat. We host them. We take care of their real needs.

Disneyland is a huge stage, so Van leveraged this by introducing show-business term. He reasoned that a new vocabulary, coupled with strong organizational values, could bring pride and energy to the job.

  • Employees became cast members, hosts, and hostesses
  • Customers became Guests
  • Good show was a job well-done
  • Uniforms were costumes
  • On-stage are actions visible to Guests
  • Backstage are the actions taken out of sight of the Guests.

However, merely changing nouns or verbs won’t ensure world-class customer service or create a motivated and engaged workforce – in any organization. Catchy words for Guests and team members have no value without leadership support.

The values instilled by Walt Disney and perpetuated by Van France at the Disney University are reflected in the daily actions of cast members at every organizational level.

What you do here and how you act is very important to our entire organization. We have a worldwide reputation for family entertainment. Here at Disneyland, we meet our world public on a person-to-person basis for the first time. Your every action (and mine also) is a direct reflection of our entire organization. – Walt Disney

Applying Van France’s Four Circumstances to ChurchWorld Guest Experience Teams

Innovate – Support – Educate – Entertain

 Putting People First

  • What is the culture of your organization?
  • How is respect conveyed to team members?
  • Do they know they are valued?
  • How are Van’s Four Circumstances (Innovate, Support, Educate, Entertain) used to communicate your culture?

Words Reflect Culture

  • Does your organization use unique words to identify team members and Guests?
  • Does the culture of your organization support those words?
  • How are organizational values reflected in words and actions?

Inspired by and adapted from Disney U by Doug Lipp

Disney U

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Disney U is one of the most significant resources related to the Disney organization, leadership, team development, and Guest Experiences available. During a recent 2-day trip to Walt Disney World and in numerous conversations with Cast Members, I was reminded again of the importance of the training principles found in Disney U.

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