The importance of exercises for team building is greatly seen as a tool to make people at work be productive in any way possible. Without the sense of teamwork, there is nothing great working for a company that doesn’t practice cooperation. Here is the tenth chapter of the Disney Years.
I had mentioned before the fact that we held a meeting every morning at 8:00 AM in the Facilities Division office located conveniently in “the tunnel”, the first floor where all goods and personnel moved into the park, to discuss the day’s activities along with any issues that needed to be addressed then and there, as well as any other problems that may (or may not, as was the case many times—people sometimes misidentified issues where none ever existed) have come up the day prior to the meeting itself. Normally I would meet with my boss Bill Blandon the day prior to the meeting and give him a thorough brief on the day’s activities and any issues I thought should be addressed once we were at the meeting with the others. Ultimately, he would be briefed on any subjects that would potentially be brought up during the next day’s meeting with the Facility Divisions Superintendents (under the direction of Neil Gallenger, the operations manager of the Facility Division). I remember this meeting in particular because it branched off on an issue regarding a minor accident with one of the operators in the Technical Services department the day prior. That there was an accident at all was an issue, of course, but responsible companies and crews have contingencies in place for such things, and Disney was no exception. The welfare of the worker wasn’t the issue—we were concerned, obviously, but they didn’t suffer anything debilitating or life-threatening. Simply put, when accidents happen you have to make sure everyone knows that the accident has happened. The folks in charge can assess the situation and determine if it’s necessary to implement more training or to revise current safety standards. We needed to make sure everybody heard the news so they could discuss any further action we would take.
The meeting started off with Neil asking Bill about the incident, and Bill referring to me to answer the question and status of the incident, which I did to his satisfaction. This wasn’t unusual for us; I’d come to be Bill’s eyes and ears around the park and answered on his behalf much of the time (with his permission, of course). However, this upset Neil Gallenger, who stated that he was tired of Bill always referring to me to answer questions he asked regarding the Technical Services Department. Bill tried to explain my role as well as his within the department’s operations. Neil was not happy with Bill’s response and told him he was displeased with his leadership of the department and fired him on the spot. Far from dignified, it was the last thing Bill deserved, and yet we were powerless to stop it.
This upset me to no end, as it was never my intention to create a situation like this for Bill. All I was doing was following my philosophy of making myself indispensable to Bill and the department to make his job easier and more effective. All I wanted to be—and all I was trying to do—was to be a good employee. I’m pretty sure Bill knew and understood this. More importantly, I believe he appreciated this. I wasn’t sucking up or trying to be a bootlicker. For me, it wasn’t about personal ladder climbing. While I did want to prove my worth, it was ultimately about making everything run more smoothly as a team. Regardless, I don’t think I was the reason for Bill losing his job. I think that perhaps there was more to the story than my participation in the operation of the department. I was very happy where I was. Bill had given me three promotions since he hired me, and he wouldn’t have done that if he wasn’t very happy with the job I was doing for him and the department. Bill was a strong asset to the department (and Disney as a whole, I think) because he was such a talented technician with a strong knowledge of the technical side of the department. I, on the other hand, was strong only in the operations side of things. Good lord, when I started working there I didn’t have a clue about how to even turn on a sound system or operate it! I did learn fast but was never in league with Bill Blandon’s capabilities. I don’t think anyone expected me to be; it would have been such a high, unreasonable bar to pass.
At this point, with Bill gone, I wondered what was going to happen to my job and responsibilities within the department going forward. I was sure he wasn’t fired because of the role I’d been given and had been serving in, but at the same time, there was a small part of me that wondered if whatever upset Neil could quickly be applied to me if I unknowingly stepped out of line. I was valuable to Bill, but where did I stand with the other higher-ups? I felt that Bill was indispensable; one of the few people who was absolutely irreplaceable on the team, but with that notion shattered I had to question my own sense of job security. Through it all, though, I can say Bill never blamed me for what happened that morning. If he did, he never told me so after he left. But in our time together he never struck me as the kind of guy who would withhold something like that from a person. He was a kind but honest man.
Anyway, I didn’t have to wait long to know where I stood. I received an answer about my future later in the day when Neil called me into his office and promoted me to the position of superintendent (head of the department) and doubled my salary. To be honest, it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. A part of me was absolutely thrilled and another part of me was still crushed over Bill. No amount of money was going to make losing that man any easier. It was a blessing, however, as my wife and I just had a child which we proudly named Christopher.
A point I’ve been trying to stress throughout these chapters is that when you’re on a job and working as part of a team, you have to be flexible and adapt when things go off track. If you don’t, things begin to fall apart. Think back to everything I described in staging the grand opening of Walt Disney World and you’ll see how many times we had to be quick on our feet or risk letting everything fall to ruin. There’s a similar lesson that I feel is just as important, and that’s seeing the best in every bad situation. Losing Bill was a heavy blow to all of us, no doubt about that, but the promotion gave me the chance to grow professionally. There was certainly a time to dwell on his firing, which I did, but I also had to move forward if I was going to continue my own journey as a professional. Someone like Bill understood that, too.