Leadership Lessons from Disney Cruise Lines

A few weeks ago our family had the privilege, or should I say massive expense, of going on a Disney Cruise. Yep. It’s true, we pulled the trigger, saved up, and did it. Truly a very cool experience. But, as a leader, everything I do or go through I see through the lens of “What can I learn?” So, as we are on this cruise I jotted down some LESSONS THE CHURCH CAN LEARN FROM DISNEY CRUISE LINES.

THE EXPERIENCE MATTERS

As we walked this massive shift we realized that every detail was planned out so that your entire group can have an incredible experience. The church must create an experience every time they open the doors of their facilities.  Take people on a journey in every service. Give people something to remember.  People still talk about the service where I came out as a Jedi Master with a light saber in hand and that was 2 1/2 years ago. Make every church experience memorable!

IMPROVE CONSTANTLY

Disney did not waste time while at port. They ran drills, painted the exterior, and were constantly cleaning the outside windows. Don’t wait until staff meeting to improve. Improve all the time. Improve before the 2nd service begins.  Improve before anyone else notices. Life is about improving. Keep improving. Keep growing. Take your church to a new level.

PROVIDE SOMETHING INCREDIBLE FOR ALL AGES AND STAGES

I am not sure how Disney does it but they reach everyone. Every single person ever created was represented on that cruise. The church should be more unifying than Disney. We have Jesus. Our churches should be willed with people from every age and stage, every race, every culture.  If Disney can do it the church should do it so much better!

CONSISTENCY IS AS IMPORTANT AS CREATIVITY

The DNA of Disney was seen in every detail, but they had loads of consistency. Schedules repeated. Shows repeated. The right people must be visible at the right times.  There are things you can change constantly and should, but then some things must be consistent – DNA, vision, integrity, etc.  Never sacrifice character for creativity.

CUSTOMER CARE IS A TOP PRIORITY

No matter where we were on the ship we were told the same thing: “We are here to make you happy.” So, every night for dinner, no matter what I ordered, I also ordered a side of steak. And every night they brought me a side of steak.

CAPTAIN HAS MINIMAL CONTACT WITH GUESTS BUT IS IN CHARGE OF ENTIRE SHIP

The person with most power is hardly visible. He is behind the scenes making sure everything runs smoothly. Sadly, the captain was the least friendly person. But, I would rather have an unfriendly captain who knows what he is doing than a friendly captain who is clueless. Just because the pastor is not visible or accessible does not mean he is not doing his job well.

SOMETIMES YOU GO AROUND THE STORMS AND SOMETIMES YOU GO THROUGH THEM

You see, not everything is automatic. On Day 6 we were running toward a storm. When you looked left and right there was no way around it so the captain chose to go through it. It was rainy and windy, but the captain was in charge and he knew the ship could handle it. The pastor knows what the church can handle more than anyone else. Sometimes he has to take a church through the storm.

ONLY COMMUNICATE WHAT YOU HAVE TO

I noticed a difference between the Captain on a Cruise Ship and a Pilot on a Plane. When we were going through the storm on that ship no one said anything we just sailed through it. Yes, it was bumpy.  Yes, the shipped moved a lot more than normal. But then on the way home we are flying and we hit some major turbulence. The pilot says, “Please return to your seats. We are in for a very bumpy ride.” The people behind me, as we went up and down, kept saying, “I am so scared.”  Sometimes leaders should not say all that they know. Communicate what you have to.

That’s some of my leadership thoughts from an incredible cruise with my family!

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