Book Jeff

Be Mr.Wilder!

How many meetings do you attend in a day, a week, a month, a year? How many of these meetings do you remember?

Better yet, what’s the worst meeting you ever attended?

Mine was a bit more than fifteen years ago when I was still working as campus dean in Arizona, and we were trying to start up a new Teacher Education Program. A nearby sister school was sponsoring a weekend education conference, so I attended. I thought it would be a great place to recruit professors for our new credentialing curriculum. On Friday night, the facilitator kicked off the meeting by asking everyone in the room why they were passionate about teaching. An arm shot up in the first row and a seasoned gentleman barked out, “I’ll give you three good reasons: June, July, and August!”

The room burst into applause…and the meeting never recovered. Forget “quiet quitting.” This was Not-So-Quiet Quitting, large and in charge!

We want to think that The Great Resignation, quiet quitting, being short staffed, and unengaged employees is a symptom of COVID and getting on the other side of the global pandemic. It’s not.

Our friend from the past three weeks, Jesse Cole of the Savannah Bananas (and many others), was talking about this issue long before 2020. Realizing that 70 percent of employees are disengaged, and team members last an average of only thirteen months, Jesse knew he had to love his employees most. Yes, more than his product and even more than his customers.

Earlier this week, I was watching The Most Magical Story on Earth50 Years of Walt Disney World. In it, I heard an executive confess that Castmembers have always been “Disney’s Secret Weapon.” It’s no secret this started with Walt. He didn’t believe in organizational charts, he carried himself like an “ordinary guy” so he treated everyone else accordingly, and most importantly, he motivated and inspired his team so that he brought out the best in everyone around him.

Are you doing the same?

Fortunately, my meeting with educators was redeemed. Eventually. A few years ago, I was invited to speak at a Kickoff Breakfast for a school district near Riverside, California. After the event, a teacher who had worked in that district for more than thirty years excitedly shared with me an email he had received just a few days earlier from a student he had taught more than a dozen years prior. With his permission, I want to share it with you now:

Hi Mr. Wilder!

Thinking back on a journal assignment you had us write in the second grade about what we wanted to do when we grew up…I wrote about wanting to work at Disneyland and my dream was to be Mickey Mouse. You left a comment in my journal telling me if that’s my dream then I should go for it. We are about 12 years down the line now and I’m proud to say I AM Mickey Mouse at Disneyland. Thank you for your encouragement to do something I always wanted to do since I was 7 years old. I just thought I’d share this with you.

To inspire, motivate, and engage your employees, you don’t have to be Walt Disney, Bob Iger, or even Jesse Cole. My encouragement to you is to love your team enough to have the courage to simply be Mr. WilderFigure out who they are and who they want to be, and help them get there. When you do that, they will go through walls and move mountains on your behalf and on behalf of your vision.

Even in June, July, and August!

“In my organization, there is respect for every individual, and we all have a keen respect for the public.”

–Walt Disney

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