Updated: Jan 30, 2022
By Bob Deakin
To finish a book or any project is to be inspired. I look for inspiration anywhere I can find it and one source that has worked is Lee Cockerell.
If you’ve never heard of him, Lee is the former VP of Operations for Walt Disney World Resort, leading a team of 40,000 in charge of 20 hotels, four theme parks and everything else Disney in Florida as well as opening Disneyland Paris. His career spans much longer but in the past decade he’s taken to public speaking, consulting, authoring books on leadership, a weekly podcast and creating his own “Cockerell Academy,” a complete set of online courses on leadership, management, culture and customer service.
I discovered him through his podcast, Creating Disney Magic, and have listened to every one of the 350 he’s recorded with host Jody Maberry. They have a folksy touch in their 15-minute casts and discuss leadership, management, creating company culture and all ways to improve yourself and the company you work for, or are in charge of.
What I get out of it is constant reinforcement on how to approach things the right way while maintaining awareness of how others are involved in the process. I’m no manager and don’t lead a team at a job, but in writing a book and news stories, I’ve dealt with many along the way including editors, proofreaders, marketing experts, artists, publishers and friends who I ask for advice.
A few months ago I asked Lee if he would give me a few minutes at his favorite coffee shop in Orlando. I sent him an email and in no time he responded with a “yes” and we made plans for a few weeks later.
I’m glad I did. He was easy to talk to and at 76 looks like he still could run a few plays on the football field. I got the conversation going by asking a few questions then mostly listened as he answered nearly all the remaining questions I had on my list. I was primarily looking for advice on how to proceed in writing a book series while trying to maintain employment and a balanced lifestyle.
He provided all the above in a no-nonsense style with his renowned Oklahoma accent, which somehow added a level of authenticity. One of his trademarks is maintaining a daily planner to accomplish the things you need to do, which can be overwhelming. I adopted that habit a year ago and it continues to pay off for me, although I never get as much done as I want to.
It pays to reach out to those better than you at whatever it is to learn a few things. I’m grateful for his time and glad I reached out. He knows all things management and has a unique approach, always considering the feelings of, and never underestimating the abilities of everyone on a team.
I’ll keep listening to the podcasts and reading his books but now at least I know the guy behind the culture of success. He’s so confident of his abilities he posts his cell phone number on his site.
To discover more of Lee’s work and philosophies, visit the Lee Cockerell website.