Lee Cockerell is the former Executive Vice President of Operations for the Walt Disney World® Resort. He has held various executive positions in the hospitality and entertainment business with Hilton Hotels for 8 years and the Marriott Corporation for 17 years before joining Disney in 1990 to open the Disneyland Paris project. Lee now operates his own company, Lee Cockerell, LLC, a leadership, management & customer service consulting company that specializes in leadership and management training with an emphasis on how to create world-class customer service through great leadership.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up on a farm in Copan, Oklahoma. We were very poor. My mother was married five times and I was adopted twice and got my name Cockerell when I was 16 by husband number four. He had money so I got to go to college but flunked out because I never went to class so I joined the army.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
Education is vital. I wish I had focused more on my early education.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
We are only here to make money so do whatever you have to do to accomplish that.
You have to be nice instead of fair and firm to get results.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
I suffered from anxiety and depression when my wife was sick for two years and almost died. It was the darkest place I had ever been. I did not think I was capable of becoming depressed. It taught me to appreciate more the present and to hold loved ones close.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
I decided the best leadership style was to be a teacher and not a boss.
I have empathy and discipline which serves me well.
What is your morning routine?
I get up at 5:30 a.m., watch the news, go for coffee to my favorite coffee place with my day planner and laptop and plan my day and get some work done plus meet with people who want to meet with me for advice.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Daily planning. Sitting and thinking about what I need to do today, tomorrow, this week, and this month and this year and then schedule a time to do that which includes exercising watching my diet, and getting enough sleep. Not feeling well is the biggest reason for procrastination.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
Daily planning for the responsibilities I signed up for, (Wife, Kids, Grandkids, Health, Business, Investments, Parents and Grandparents assistance as they age, relationships both personal and business, Keeping current with areas related to my expertise and with world events,( reading, seminars, websites),
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. It is easy to understand, practical and effective.
The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker. It gives great advice on how to be a more effective and respected leader.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
“It’s never too late to get better.” “Do the hard things or life gets harder.” Never underestimate your influence.” “Make sure everyone matters and they know they matter.” “Culture is not part of the game, it is the game.”