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Coalition Lessons Learned from Walt Disney

My husband, our three grown children, their spouses and five grandchildren just returned from a vacation aboard the Disney Dream and at Walt Disney World. Walt Disney strived to “always exceed expectations”, and, once again, we weren’t disappointed. The adults and children in our group had a wonderful time, while enjoying exceptional service.

How does Disney manage to create these fun memories for families time after time? The company focuses on five core areas that work synergistically to deliver sustained positive results: Leadership, Culture and Employee Engagement, Service, Brand, and Innovation. I’ll summarize these competencies here and illustrate how they can be guideposts to help coalitions thrive!

Based on the belief that everyone has the ability to lead, Disney proactively works to develop leaders who engage employees through shared values and vision. Leaders who nurture an environment of mutual trust and respect create stronger employee performance, exceptional customer service and, ultimately, greater results.

In coalitions, leadership is about taking actions to create sustained, positive transformations within the organization and the greater community. Encourage leaders to passionately communicate the values and vision of your coalition, align them with those of their partner organizations and operationalize them. Cultivate committed staff and volunteers who strive to lead as well.

Culture & Employee Engagement
IMG_8866Disney’s culture of excellence is honed through employee selection, training, care and communication. Disney hires individuals who exhibit the desired behaviors that best align with the company’s values. Once people are hired who want to excel, orientation and training reinforces the company’s principles and imparts new skills and knowledge.

To increase engagement and a culture of excellence, your coalition must provide the necessary education that helps staff, leaders and members develop and excel in their roles. The methods by which your coalition communicates with and cares for its members will determine how closely they align with your coalition’s desired culture.

 helps individuals reimagine their results by transforming exceptional customer service into a culture that is unified by a common purpose. Once people, places and processes are aligned with a common purpose and quality standards, employees are empowered to deliver extraordinary service by equipping them with the right tools, clear expectations and feedback. In short, Disney employees feel valued and appreciated and make sure their customers do as well.

For coalitions, excellent service does not simply come from a friendly transaction or helpful technology. It comes from truly understanding the expectations of coalition members and putting the right guidelines and service standards in place to exceed them. When the community being served is at the core, exceptional service becomes possible. Loyalty and positive results follow when a coalition makes a meaningful and credible promise to the community, and then delivers on that promise over and over again.


IMG_9126 Disney is one of the world’s most trusted brands because it promises to consistently provide high-quality entertainment and experiences for children and adults. When a brand experience exceeds customers’ needs, they become more attached and create value to the organization far beyond repeat purchase behavior. Disney views the customer experience as the outward expression of its organizational values; therefore employees must apply the brand promise to everything they do.

Coalitions, too, must develop their brand and promote it widely throughout the community. Every member must become a brand ambassador to ensure consistent, quality delivery. By continually reexamining and growing the brand, your coalition will retain current partners and attract new ones.

IMG_9140Walt Disney understood the power of stories. By communicating new ideas through a clever narrative, people became engaged and emotionally connected. At Disney, idea generation and innovation are encouraged and systematically implemented. Employees are empowered to use their imaginations because they see their ideas put into practice. Thus, creativity is translated into innovative products and services.

Your coalition is filled with creativity. The challenge is to cultivate and harness its full potential. A brilliant idea can come from anywhere, so tapping into the diverse perspectives of your members can lead to extraordinary results. In order to embed creativity in your culture, coalition leaders must encourage collaboration that is fueled by trust, passion and calculated risk taking. Innovation happens when creativity and organizational processes are integrated successfully. It doesn’t always mean dramatic change. Your coalition’s impact may involve incremental improvements over time.

Walt Disney once said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” So, I’ll quit talking and you start building an exceptional coalition that sparks community change.

Walt Disney Institute. Our Core Competencies. https://disneyinstitute.com/about/our-core-competencies/