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Walt Disney Kept Employees Motivated, and It Got Results

Posted by Dean Asher on 5/20/15 11:00 PM
Topics: retail management, student employees

Forbes contributor George Bradt recently took to the web to share a conversation he had with Mike Vance, motivational speaker, former Disney employee and pioneer of the phrase "think outside the box." It sounds like Vance's former boss, Walt Disney himself, also thought outside the box when it came to keeping his employees motivated. (You can read it in its entirety here.)

While your store surely doesn't have the monetary resources to keep your staffers working hard in quite the same way Disney did, the animation and theme park tycoon showed he understood that going above and beyond to recognize performance helps keep those top-performing employees working even harder to come up with great ideas. What are you doing to motivate your employees?


Walt told Mike, “My brother won’t give me money to make movies. Can you help get more money out of the park (Disneyland)?”

Mike pulled together a team of seven people. One of the women on the team put up a calendar of what happened in the park day by day. At that time, the park was open Wednesday through Sunday.

“Let’s open the park on Mondays and Tuesdays,” she suggested.

“No one will come.”

“We’ll form a “Magic Kingdom Club” and let corporate members give their employees discounted admissions on those days.”

The plan worked beyond expectations as the families that got discounted tickets spent more in the park on toys for their children.

Christmas day the doorbell rang at the homes of each of the seven team members. They each opened their door to find Mickey Mouse standing there with an envelope. Inside it were 100 shares of Disney stock, 25 $1,000 bills and a hand-written note from Walt: “It’s fantastic. You’re fantastic. Do it again.”

That afternoon, Christmas afternoon, all seven were back in the office.

This time the same lady put up a clock with what was going on in the park at different hours. There was always something happening in the park 24 hours a day since all the heavy maintenance was done when there were no guests present.

“Let’s open the park late on Thursday nights in May,” she suggested.

“No one will stay.”

“We’ll invite and limit it to graduating high school seniors and call it ‘Grad Nites.’”

The plan worked beyond expectations as well as the high school students bought all sorts of food and drinks for their Grad Nite dates.

A few weeks later the doorbell rang at the homes of each of the seven team members. Again it was Mickey Mouse with envelopes, this time containing 25 $1,000 bills, a car key and a hand-written note from Walt: “It’s fantastic. You’re fantastic. Do it again.”

“Mickey – what’s the key for?”

Mickey pointed to the brand new red Ferrari in each of their driveways.

How are you surprising and delighting your high performers?

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