VALPARAISO | Walt Disney’s legacy of positive leadership lives on more than 40 years after his death through the Disney Institute, a day-long training session that helps develop leaders in business and nonprofit organizations.
Some 100 leaders from around the Calumet Region and beyond learned how to apply Disney’s model of leadership excellence to their own organizations Thursday at Ivy Tech Community College's Valparaiso campus.
“I want to learn to improve my skills,” said Judith Falzon with the Virginia Tutt Branch of the St. Joseph County Library and adjunct supervisor at Ivy Tech in South Bend. “I hope it helps me in both my positions.”
The past, present and future figure into every institution’s legacy, said Mike Donnelly, one of the Disney Institute trainers.
“We must always look to the future,” he said. “All industries have to stay in front of the change to be productive.”
Gary native Kevin Gober returned to the area as part of the Disney Institute staff and explained that the institute is all about external training.
“This training is very, very personal. It’s personal to you as a leader, within an area you can totally influence,” Gober said.
There are four links in the Disney chain of excellence, the trainers said. They started with the fourth link, financial results and repeat business.
“We are in business to make money. Even if you are a not-for-profit, you have people you must answer to. … It’s about loyalty,” Gober said, adding that the goal of Disney and any business is to get people to return and recommend.
“Guest satisfaction” is the third link and Disney is intentional in calling its customers “guests” to create an emotional connection, according to the presenters.
As the second link, “cast excellence” feeds into the other links.
“If you take care of your people, your people will take care of you,” he said. Surveys indicate the better the leaders are, the more likely employees are to work with that leader and follow that leader to other locations.
It all stems from leadership excellence, the trainers said, encouraging participants to identify the qualities of leadership that last and influence the future.
Integrity, honesty, loyalty, safety and comfort were among the important leadership qualities that participants expressed during the sessions.
“You have to have respect for your employees and their opinions,” said Laura Rule, of Kerry Ingredients in Beloit, Wisc. “We could all be better at listening.”