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The magic of the hospitality industry

Walt Disney World Resort is famous for its impeccable service and staff. On Sept. 18, students learned how to succeed in every aspect of their lives and why Disney World remains the happiest place on earth.
The guest speaker, Lee Cockerell, is the former vice president of operations at Walt Disney World. He is a close friend of Florida Gulf Coast University hospitality professor Scott Lee, who uses Cockerell’s publications as the required texts for his classes.
Cockerell worked for Marriott for 17 years before he was employed with Disney, a job he held for 16 years.
“I joined (Disney) in 1990 and retired 7 years ago,” Cockerell said. “But I still have a contract with them. I do a lot of their speeches and workshops. Scott and I knew each other, and he asked me to come here. I love to infl uence young people while they still have open minds.”
Cockerell is known for his riveting storytelling and his impeccable treatment toward guests and staff.
In his presentation, he focused on the four basic rules that managers and leaders should take into account when dealing with guests or customers: make the guest feel special, treat the guest like an individual, respect the guest no matter what, and have knowledgeable people working.
“The main thing I hope students take away from this event is never underestimate how successful they can be,” Cockerell said. “They can go out and be anything they want, and I try to make that point during these kinds of presentations.
“I try to give them things to focus on, such as getting them organized. I hope they think about being good leaders every day. If you do that, then everything will be great.”
According to Cockerell, a leader has good communication skills, organizational skills, time management skills and is a good role model. Managers need to have a good reputation because everyone is watching.
“Make sure people know that they matter,” Cockerell said. “If they do something well, tell them. It’s the driving force people need to do their job, right and it builds loyalty and commitment.”
Lee set up the event in hopes of teaching his students the value of being great leaders. He brought Cockerell in to talk about Disney’s style of leadership and customer service.
“Both of those things are really important to my students,” Lee said.
Lauren Gomes, a resort and hospitality management major, was required to come to the event.
“This event made me a better intern,” Gomes said. “He really inspires me with his storytelling and it shows me that there are ways to pull through everything. I learned to individually improve myself. [I also learned] the difference between a manager and a leader, [which] really spoke to me. A manager just goes through a list of duties while a leader actually makes an impact.”
FGCU alumna Catherine Vigliano came back to the University to attend the event. When she heard who would be guest speaking, she made it a point to be on campus.
“Dr. Lee was one of my favorite professors,” Vigliano said. “He always breathed Disney in and out of his classroom. Knowing that there would be a speaker from there that held such a high position, I couldn’t help but not come.”

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