Walt Disney World Resort has always been a favorite destination for my family because of the friendly service and attention to every detail. Disney World is a place where you can leave real life behind for a few days and lose yourself in a world of childhood fantasy.
Recently I was at Disney World on a daddy-and-son trip with my 5-year-old, little Mark. As is usually the case at the Magic Kingdom, there are lots of crowds and long wait times for rides and food. It was while we were waiting in a long line in a crowded restaurant called Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn that something very interesting happened.
Little Mark, like most young boys at Disney, was jumping up and down and swinging his arms wildly. Customers were walking by with trays heaped with hard-to-balance containers of fries, drinks, burgers, and the occasional chicken salad. I asked – ok, told – Mark to settle down before he made someone spill their tray, with no result. I asked again with the same result – no change in his actions. Finally, in desperation, I said very directly, “Can you please be still for just one minute?”
It worked. Little Mark stopped jumping and stopped swing his arms. I did it. I am a great dad with an obedient child, and life is good. Then he began to count: 1, 2, 3, 4, ...60. He started jumping up and down and swinging his arms again. I had to laugh as I had just been outsmarted by a 5-year-old. Little Mark had done exactly what had I asked him to do, but not what I really wanted him to do.
This is a pretty good business lesson. I only got one minute, I was unsuccessful in creating the long-term behavior change I was going for. My instructions were too specific, and little Mark did not truly understand the problem he was creating by his actions.
I also did not consider that he was loaded with energy and was excited because he was hungry and about to get his favorite food. The next time, as a parent or manager – and there is always a next time – I vowed to handle the situation better.
I received this opportunity the following day at a crowded Orlando International Airport. Little Mark was jumping up and down and swinging his arms in the crowded seating area. I stood up and said, “Mark, come with me.”
We walked to an area by a window that was completely unoccupied. I said, “Let’s see how high you can jump and how fast you can swing those arms.” And we burned out his energy before the flight.