Lee Cockerell is the former executive vice president of operations for the Walt Disney World Resort. He also host the show Creating Disney Magic: Lessons in Leadership, Management, and Customer Service.
Is it better to get an education or the experience that comes with a promotion? Education pays off down the road. Take the opportunity to get an education over the chance for a promotion. Sometimes you have to make decisions that will pay off later. Passing up the temporary rewards of promotion in favor of getting an education is one of those times. A promotion pays off now, with more money and responsibility. But you can get that and more if you get an education. Promoting too fast can even take away the opportunity to get experience, exposure, and education to help you later in your career. Do the hard things now so you can have a better life down the road.
Early in my career, when I worked at Marriott, I begin working away from my office. A Library was the first place I worked away from the office. At Disney, I used to leave my office and work at an unoccupied office or work from the California Grill when it wasn't open. Now, I still do work away from my office, which is in my house. There are too many distractions at home. My productivity has gone up while working from a local coffee shop. When you are working outside your usual setting, you get more inspired. For me, I get more energy. Put yourself in the right environment to get the work done. There are jobs where you can't leave to work in a different environment. But you could still consider doing paperwork, catch up work, or your planning time away from where you work. Working in the right environment will help you move items from your ToDo list to your Done list. The more you get done, the better your life will become.
Is it better to have experience with a Brand Name company or a bigger role with a small company? This is something to consider, especially early in your career. When you have a brand name like Disney on your resume, people notice. If you have worked at Disney or Marriott, other organizations will know you have received a high level of training and know how to serve customers. On the other hand, you may be able to get a better spot at a smaller company to gain experience. Leadership experience with any organization can be valuable. Smaller companies can be risky, though. Are you willing to take on more risk? Or, do you want a more comfortable and stable job? Hilton, Marriott, and Disney provided brand name experience for me. But I was also willing to move for the right opportunity. So I had the best of both worlds; brand name experience with the chance to take new roles for the experience. Don't worry too much about the first 5 to 10 years of your career. Get as much experience and exposure as you can. No matter what job you take, do a great job. Focus on making yourself better every day. If you do that, it won't matter as much what job you have and which company you work for. For more insight into my career, check out my book Career Magic.
People are looking for experts to help them. The more you know about your products, the more people will trust you. Knowing everything you possibly can about the products you offer will lead to better customer service. Product knowledge doesn't happen by accident. You have to be deliberate. Schedule time to get out in your operation and see what is really happening. Use your product in the way customers will use your product. If you are going to make it happen, you have to schedule it. Do it on purpose. When you are done, schedule when you will do it again. Never let up on the pressure and pursuit to know more about your product and how a customer does business with you. Knowledge will help you control the business. You will know what is going on and people will want to help you. If you work with vendors and third parties, it is your responsibility to make your expectations clear and hold them to a standard. Don't recommend a product, service, or person unless you have first-hand knowledge. Click Here to get my free Morning Magic Planner.
The customer is not always right, but they are always the customer. Sure, people are going to take advantage of you. But overall, you still shouldn't make your policies too strict because a few people will take advantage of you. Treat the customer like they matter to you. Mr. Marriott told me, "Always give the customer the benefit of the doubt." Go in favor of the customer. If you find a trend or something, in particular, getting abused and it becomes a problem, then you can make a policy dealing with it. If a request is unreasonable, it may be time for the manager to get involved. But you will be better off given front line staff the ability to deal with customer requests. Customers are more likely to continue to do business with you if you treat them with respect and make it easy to do business with you. You will have to continue to find ways to get better faster. And find ways to serve customers in new ways.