I love carousels. I’m not exactly sure why, it’s just sitting still and going around in circles, but I’ve always enjoyed them. My kids feel the same way and riding the Cinderella carousel at Magic Kingdom was definitely a high-light of our trip. We rode it in the day time and the evening to enjoy it both lit and unlit. I would have noticed if there was garbage on the floor of the carousel, or if the horses were chipped or cracked. I may even have noticed if a chunk of lights were burnt out or the music was playing too slow. After all, those are the sorts of things employees at a theme park are paid to pay attention to. But like I talked about in my last post, Disney doesn’t stop there.
Did you know that the gold leaf paint on the carousel is in fact 23 karat gold leaf paint. The best quality gold leaf paint there is.
I talked before about how they pay ‘fantastic’ attention to detail, but the details I meant were things that directly affect a guests experience, things more along the lines of staying in character whenever people can see you so as not to break the ‘Belle’ illusion. The gold leaf paint goes beyond that, to the details the company pays attention to that no one may notice, the things that indirectly affect the experience.
The phrase used to describe this is ‘Everything walks the talk’ and goes hand in hand with ‘Everyone walks the talk’.
Does it matter that the gold leaf paint is 23 karat gold? Not in the slightest. Except that it really does.
Think for a second about all the teachers you ever had. One or two will probably stick out in your mind. Teachers who were passionate about their subject matter. Teachers who gave their time to help struggling students. Teachers who seemed happy to be there, who seemed to love doing what they were doing. Now think about your grades in school. I’m willing to bet that you made better grades in the classes where the teachers were passionate about teaching.
The gold leaf on the carousel highlights this for Disney employees. That paint serves to remind that the carousel is putting on it’s best face everyday. When the paint starts to fade it gets a fresh coat. But that paint goes largely unnoticed, just like the hand stitching on the clothing in the Hall of Presidents, or the upbeat music when the park opens becoming mellow music at park closing. These details indirectly affect the guests experience but are important. Can you imagine trying to coral your over-tired toddler to the parking lot while characters are popping up all over the place and the music is loud and jumpy and all the street carts are making fresh food? It would be beyond chaos. And Disney knows that. So at park closing everything mellows out a bit, and that helps a toddler mellow out a bit too, and that helps a mom mellow out, and that helps everyone leave in a mellow state of mind, recalling the fun of the day and ready to come back and do it all again tomorrow. Everything walks the talk.
In the same way Disney employees are encouraged to be ‘aggressively friendly’. They’re the stories you hear that make you start planning your next Disney vacay. Things like the restaurant hostess overhearing you talk about it being your 25th wedding anniversary and without you even asking dessert is on the house. Or when you grab your daughter an ice cream for while you wait in line at Splash Mountain, only to find the line moving fast and she still has ice cream left when it’s her turn. You are flabbergasted when an employee offers to hold her ice cream while she’s on the ride, (and even more so when you get off 20 minutes later in 100 degree heat and the ‘same’ ice cream cone is in that employees hand.). Or the amount of times my children were offered stickers mid-tantrum. Or when Peter Pan sat down to play pat-a-cake with my kids and when autograph seekers swarmed him he replied; “I never went to school, I don’t know how to write my name.’ and kept playing with my kids.
The employees know that the best gold leaf paint available is on the carousel and this raises the bar for them to also offer their best every day. This commitment to actively seeking opportunities to create valuable experiences is at the heart of Disney. The way they sprinkle Pixie Dust throughout the day. And it’s not something made important by writing it on a plaque or demanding it at staff meetings. Attitude is caught, it’s leading by example.
Like Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “What you do thunders above your head so loudly, I cannot hear what you say.”
This is something that I’m just beginning to work on at home. I love when my environment feels a certain way, when it’s decorated and has an ambience. But we’ve been living in toddler land for the last 8 years and there’s that t-shirt slogan, “I’m the reason we can’t have nice stuff.”; which has truth to that phase of life. But as we’re exiting that stage those little details like candles and throw pillows can once again compliment our space. And by and large I’ve done the bulk load of chores around here, and I’m not complaining because I could include the kids, except that is more work than doing the chores myself. Or at least it was. Now they are capable of doing things on their own and doing them well and I need to shift to encouraging and expecting that.
It’s time that everyone in our house begins to walk the talk, and for our environment to match the experience we want to have at home. Ideas abound here about how to do that, but right now they’re just ideas. I’ll keep you posted on how they play out.
How about your home: what role does your home play in your life and what details do you incorporate to make it say that? Or your family/ housemates: how do you work together to take ownership of your space and place importance on your relationships?