Lee Cockerell’s message is that:

It’s never too late to get better

It’s never too late to learn something new, or challenge yourself.


Never forget the influence you have on other people

Everyone is important, and everyone plays a part in the show that your business is running. Great leadership means treating everyone to the same importance and care.

We have the power to create a better life for our workers.

Never underestimate what you can achieve in your life.

If you want to be excellent, everything matters.


Hire for the ability to “Burn the free fuel”:

  • appreciation
  • recognition
  • encouragement

These three things drive excellent performance for a business.


“Great service follows the law of gravity,”


Time Management:

No one is being taught time management in their schooling.

This is about taking your life under control: where are you spending your time? and where should you be spending it?

Everyone of you have problems that you have been putting off for years. Go out there and pick one, work at it for the next couple months until it goes away! Get it done! Get used to doing hard things.

Show Transcription

[00:20] Welcome to The Ziglar Show, where we inspire your true performance. I’m your host Kevin Miller and imagine running Disney, numerous resorts and 40,000 employees. Imagine barely making it out of high school, not having a college degree, having a hard upbringing with a mom who married and divorced five times. Being adopted twice. Having the only solid figure in your life being a grandmother who you were taken away from as a child. This is Lee Cockerell who spent 10 years as Executive Vice President of Disney. In this candid interview he shares what helped him succeed, even as in his late 60s when his wife almost died, he suffered severe anxiety and depression. You do not expect the humility you will find here, from a guy who ran a small nation. You will be moved and motivated! Here is an interesting tidbit, in his book he talks about the value of staying in touch and accessible to people, and actually gives his personal phone number. Most people don’t believe it’s for real, but he gets calls! How cool is that?  Get Lee’s four books, the online Time Management Course and subscribe to Lee’s “Creating Disney Magic” podast at LeeCockerell.com

[02:46] OK friends, here I bring you…Lee Cockerell!

[02:53] Lee, you had a magical career that we could say culminated with 10 years as executive vp of disney, with charge over 40k employees and scores of properties and more. But I’m guessing you’d say the culmination of your career is what you are doing now.

[03:12] I think it is, I’m having a lot of fun not only have my own business but I’ve decided that it’s people say you’re just out there speaking and I said Actually I think I’m a teacher now and that’s what I always wanted to be. And I guess that’s how you leave a legacy be a good teacher, so that’s what I’m doing every day and I’m enjoying it.

[03:31] When I asked you what the primary message you had for The Ziglar audience was, you said, “Teach them that it is never too late to get better, to never forget the influence they have on other people and never underestimate what they can achieve in their life.” I take that statement with great gravity…and want to dig in to it. “It is never too late to get better”. With 40k employees and probably thousands of others in your life, tell us why this is a top 3 standout to you?

[04:10] The thing I worry about the most and that’s why I do a lot of speaking to high school students and middle school students and all kinds of people is I really believe that a lot of people hold themselves back because they’re insecure, they grow up or they don’t have a college degree and they get all these reasons in their brain and don’t realize that they shouldn’t be done that. I had a very disruptive life growing up in a family and my teachers if you told him I ran Disney World ten years ahead; they think I am crazy. And I found out it was never too late to get better to learn how to be a better manager, how to be a better leader, how to be a better husband and father and I keep trying to tell people don’t be looking back I mean there’s a lot of time ahead of you.

[05:36] “Never forget the influence you have on other people.” As a human, I’m not sure any of us spend much time thinking enough of the influence we have on other people. Maybe on our kids and spouse, but it doesn’t seem a common pondering of how we…in the workplace, co-workers, managers, bosses, employees…influence others. That we actually alter their realities and circumstances. Tell us how you see this?

[06:16] I didn’t realize that when I was to first started my career but as I groomed and learn more and had to understand that I needed to trust people and not to speak of the bully that was pushing people to do what I wanted them to do, because of abusing my position, maybe in my title. I learned over the years I’ve gotten so much feedback from people saying thanks so much for that conversation you had with me., I really do understand the importance of role modeling behaving yourself, being careful what you say and do every day, not saying inappropriate things or being sarcastic and making people feel uncomfortable and I went through those things myself I was in secure enough I don’t need to be making other people insecure. And I think a lot of people do that you know always you people who are at secure the ones who try to beat you down or raise their voice to you, intimidate you. I can spot an insecure person a mile away and it used to be me and I learned the lesson that I can help people get better, I could well want to do things. I can have, I can make them have a better day or worse day and I decided to go toward the better.

[10:24] Then… “never underestimate what we can achieve in our lives”. I assume you’ve experienced that most of us do…underestimate?

[10:37] Yes and what I learned was now if I was going to do whatever I did in my life I would have thought no way but I think I saw it, when I am want to do something and I don’t know how to do it I go find somebody that’s an expert, ask them to help me. So I have a professional writer I work with, I have websites professional takes care of my computer, finance people take care of my investments, I don’t really do much but I get people around me that can help me make sure I am right and then I learn from it. I mean I must say I know more about writing books now and I was thought I would know and I didn’t know anything just a few years ago. But I got a couple experts and they took me down the path and worked with me and showed me what to do and how to do. I trusted them and it worked out well.

[11:38] You worked with big companies…massive. Marriot and Hilton. But what was different about Disney? Was there truly some magic and how did it alter your life?

[12:03] Well I learned that I really learned the technical part of the business that Hilton, how to do things you know how to do it I didn’t learn much about management really just. At Marriott I really learned how to be a good manager because they are very Policy procedure operating guideline, there’s only one way to do it you, you’re responsible for your profit loss statement, your expenses and you’ve got to be on top of the business and then when I went to Disney I just found out it was that plus more. I mean what I learned in Disney is everything matters from a bush not being dead in the parking lot to the nothing on that no trash on the ground spotless bathrooms to everything matters. It’s really stuck in my mind today and I tell a lot of companies I work with, if you want to be excellent everything matters, if you want to be average everything doesn’t matter and it can be easier but that concept of everything matters and just always be try to do the right way.

[18:13] Your first book was Creating Magic – 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies From a Life At Disney – 2008. I want to turn it around from ‘this is what successful leaders do, to…this is what you should do to BECOME a leader…an influencer, and I’d say from that…someone who can serve others. Some highlights are: Everyone is important. For everyone listening, how do we shift our perspective and action, in everyday life and family and work, to embrace this ideal and from it, become a person of influence?

[19:27] You know I think we’re number one again we’re very careful what kind of leadership we hire and who we promote into leadership jobs because they’ve got to it’s not just what they can get out of it, it’s how they get it. We’re not going to trample on people, we’re not going to intimidate people, we’re not going to abuse people and so when we get the right leadership in place of really we make sure they understand everybody matters the guy cleans the bathroom or makes a bed or executive, these people are part of the show here and the show can work with you and by the way if you’ve got people that don’t matter then you shouldn’t have them. It will save the money. So everybody does matter and I preach this story hard around the world, anybody got bigotry and racism in their bones, they just better give it up because we welcome everyone. Everybody matters, we show respect to everyone and if you can’t do that there’s not going to be a good place for you to be because that’s one of the non-negotiable.

[22:08] One of the primary points that you pull out in creating magic is developing character. So when you say that develop it we get the idea but I think for the average person all of us at some degree OK OK I need better care where do I start and I think you’re a great guy to ask with as many people as you lead, where do you get somebody to start on that aspect of developing character OK I understand where, give me step one.

[22:38] Well I think a lot about people I say what I really want to work for that person. Integrity to me is everything people tell the truth, they have the ability to be a kind of person who can have hard discussions like and make hard decisions, they cannot make the right decision versus the easy one. To me a lot of that is people that are willing to do the hard things because they’re right instead of take the easy route because when you go easy all the time when everything you do in your life, life gets harder and when you do the hard things like it’s easier so and I personally have a lot of trouble working with anybody I don’t trust and so things that are important to me you know I would say that integrity. I trust you, I can tell you anything I want to, you can tell me anything you want to know where in this together.

[31:15] Your next book is The Customer Rules – The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service – 2013. In our Ziglar audience we have a majority of business owners, independent contractors and people with a side business. So the majority have customers for a product or service of message they are working to put out there. Again, I want to go over some highlights that are relevant for us all. Customer service is not a department – we all tend to view ‘customer service’ as a part of the business. But are you saying it is our business?

[32:02] Absolutely it’s got to be who you are I think you know when you have a problem at a store, they want to send you to the customer service department has it that’s going to you’re going to end up being at the customer aggravation department. Usually they have no authority laid can help you very much and by the way at Disney we to everybody owns customer service, whoever you come into contact with when you have a problem responsible for solving your problem, not going to get a new manager, not putting you on hold, not transfer you to another number, not tell you will get back to you on a few years, I mean and it’s a state of mind. Everybody has got to be so it’s just got to come out of them, they don’t have to think about it like we have an engineer in the parking lot of a hotel it is named they see a guest struggling with their luggage, well that engineers jobs to go fix toilets but he’s going to stop what he’s doing and go take care of the guests and help them. And those are the kind of things we want to happen that everybody is totally focused on our guests, our customers and when you see a opportunity you step in I don’t care if you’re the cook or a chef, an engineer, air ride operator it’s instead of a what you do because we talk about it a lot and we allow it. We don’t tell people they got to get permission to take care of the guest, they have permission to take care of the guests financially and with good judgment.

[38:23] Great service follows the law of gravity. Tell me more?

[38:30] It’s the boss that starts at the top, it starts at the C.E.O., it starts at the president and starts at the owner of the company. And goes downhill I mean the number one thing I think a lot of businesses do is they’re not good role models, they don’t state clearly what their expectations are, what they want to be, how to treat people, what the boss wants is what you get. And I think they’ve got to remember that and we’ve got a lot of bad behavior in businesses today. People are not behaving themselves and get in trouble and say inappropriate things and do inappropriate things and the values and I believe the expectations are set at the top and when you look at Fed Ex I mean that’s just math. I mean he is the man, he started that company one people told him nobody could do it, wouldn’t never think that anybody can do, they adore him, they get treated right, they treat their people right and it goes right down hill. And I thought you know when I was running Disneyworld operations if I was respectful and treated people properly then my managers did, I hired the right kind of people and it got all the way down to the guy having to clean those bathrooms and make beds. That everybody treats everybody the right way and so it doesn’t go down hill. And we, you know companies that have bad people at the top and you see what happens down below, because I really believe that we all adjust to the culture and the environment we hang out there you know if you stay in a company that’s abusive you know probably become that way but to survive that’s what happens we adjust.

[46:05] In 2014, you wrote Time Management Magic – How to Get More Done Every Day, Move From Surviving To Thriving. But right off the bat you state the book is not just about time management, it is about Life Management. I know the natural questions to ask are “what are the primary things we should DO…to help us manage our time? But I’m always curious as to the primary culprits that are sabotaging our time management?

[46:51] Well I think the biggest problem is nobody is being taught how to do this in high school and college. I know there’s no courses in high school they teach you subjects you know a lot about stuff but you don’t know how to get anything done. My grandson who discovered degree in biomedical engineering from university Miami said you know I know everything about biomedical engineering, I don’t even know how to open a brokerage account or what I should be doing with my pension and savings through the errors and all those little things. And I’ve started working with schools I just did a program for one hundred school districts in Texas, it’s about implementing time management courses how to keep your whole life under control, your health your retirement, your relationships, your clients, your exercise, you’ve got to think about where you spend your time where you don’t spend where he should be spending it and most people don’t even know the top three or four things.

[50:20] Career Magic – How to Stay on Track To Achieve A Stellar Career – 2016. This issue I feel is much bigger than at pure face value. A stellar career I’d say is one of purpose. There is more and more info every day in regards to true success…fulfilment and life joy…being a result of having PURPOSE. So I’ll pose this to you. I’m a husband. I have purpose there. I’m a father of, well…many. That gives purpose for sure. I’m a child of God with an eternal calling. But we still spend a lot of our days, weeks, months and years and decades doing…something. Working at something. Where would you rate the importance of that work…having purpose.

[51:27] Well it is I woke up every morning, I wouldn’t say every morning but on balance I was happy doing what I was doing and I would say what I thought about it I said I didn’t work for Hilton, Marriott or Disney and I worked for me and I did a good job when I was making eighty dollars a week. I did a great job, I didn’t change my work habits, I didn’t change being on time to work or doing a good job or being reliable and credible and I think people need to be doing it from and you know I’d love my reputation to be better than business and better than mere heads and better than Hilton. And I excelled and that takes hard work to put head down and you’ve got to make sure that you stay late, come early and do what you got to do and treat people right you know that oath area is I think the system at Disney is hire them right, train them right, and treat them right. And then you’ll have a greatest company you ever want to have but if you’re missing one of those you know and a lot of it’s not treat them right. So we’ve got to hire better take more time figure out how to do it and we got to train him better and we got treated better and that’s the purpose is really at the end of the day in our purposes.

[57:05] Well friends, can we agree there was magic in that interview? I just love Lee’s authenticity personally, and his foundational success built on doing the right thing and taking care of people. Would we want it any other way?? Again, get Lee’s four books, the online Time Management Course and subscribe to Lee’s “Creating Disney Magic” podast at LeeCockerell.com. Coming up next, we go behind the scenes with Lee into his personal habits for success, going over the 7 spokes in the Ziglar Wheel of Life. Some highlights after I make a call out to a great sponsor: OK, highlights from our Habits show with Lee: He works to maintain the same weight he was in the army at age 20, and he’s 74 today. He has a Starbucks decaf every day, on no medication with great blood pressure. He spends a lot of time with family and stresses to his employees to never miss family, not even for work! He views his brain as having malleable software and works with experts to help him manage and succeed. He grew up poor and feels it hardwires the brain. Today he is still frugal, driving a decade old car and relies on his financial advisors. Spiritually he needs to do more work, he says. Has had some rough times, has been the bad guy and wants to be a better person. He built his career on discipline and empathy and admits he loves public speaking because he needs the “people clap”. Till then, thanks for letting me walk with you as we inspire our true performance together!