Reopening Disneyland: What You Control, What You Influence, & What You Don't

Reopening Disneyland: What You Control, What You Influence, & What You Don't

It appears that the hedges of thorns preventing folks from accessing Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is getting thicker and thicker. Disneyland has announced that they will postpone reopening because of pending government approvals and in truth, union goodwill. In the podcast we’ll look at how this compares to Walt Disney World. And, we’ll look at not only the details behind this announcement, but lessons we can learn about what we can and cannot control and influence.

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Disneyland’s Announcement

“We previously announced a proposed phased reopening of our theme parks for July 17, pending government approvals. We developed enhanced health and safety protocols for both cast and guests at Shanghai Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort that have been approved, allowing us to reopen in a responsible manner and bring our cast members back to work.

“The State of California has now indicated that it will not issue theme park reopening guidelines until sometime after July 4. Given the time required for us to bring thousands of cast members back to work and restart our business, we have no choice but to delay the reopening of our theme parks and resort hotels until we receive approval from government officials. Once we have a clearer understanding of when guidelines will be released, we expect to be able to communicate a reopening date.

“Our Downtown Disney District will reopen on July 9 as previously announced with health and safety protocols in place for our cast members and guests. The opening of our Downtown Disney District has been previously approved in line with restaurant and retail openings throughout California. The Master Services Union, which represents our retail cast at this location, previously signed an agreement for members to return to work.

In order to reopen our theme parks we need to negotiate agreements with our unions to return employees to work. We have had positive discussions and are very pleased to have signed agreements from 20 union affiliates, including the Master Services Council, which represents more than 11,000 of our cast members. The signed agreement details plans that include enhanced safety protocols that will allow us to responsibly reopen, and get thousands of our cast members back to work.

We thank our cast and guests for their patience during this unprecedented time while we await approval from government officials.

Union Influence

According to the Los Angles Times a dozen unions that represent about 17,000 Disneyland employees sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom last week, saying that because of the coronavirus, opening the park would be unsafe. Disney’s Wednesday announcement alluded to the union apprehensions and said the company has reached accords that cover more than 11,000 of its workers.

State Government Response

Newsom’s office expressed support for the delay. 

“The governor appreciates Disney’s responsiveness to his concerns about reopening amid the recent increases in COVID-19 infections across many Southern California counties,” spokesman Nathan Click said in a statement. “The state and our public health experts continue to be in contact with the company and their workers — as well as other theme parks in the state — as we track and combat the spread of the virus.”

Disneyland’s Reality

The ability for Disneyland to reopen is really based on three things:

  • The center circle represents those things over which we have control. We may not control much, but whatever it is, that circle defines what we do have control over. For instance, a manager may be considered to have control over those who report to him or her.  
  • The next circle suggests those things we cannot control, but can influence. There are many things we can do to influence others, even when our ability to make a decision is not ours.
  • The outlying circle defines those things we can neither control nor influence. This portion is important because it suggests that which we shouldn’t bother to focus on.

We often focus on what we control or manage. As a society, we often focus greater attention around who makes the final decision. But real leadership is not defined so much by what we manage (though it encompasses that area). Rather, great leaders are defined by what they influence. The larger the size of the influence circle, the greater a person is as a leader. Indeed, those leaders who stand the test of time—Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi—are noted not for what they in charge of (control), but for how they influenced the lives of those around them; and subsequently, how they influenced the lives of others beyond the relationships they created.

What Disneyland Controls

  • The Choice Not to Open
  • Policies & Procedures for Operating Safely

What Disneyland Does Not Control But Can Influence

  • The Choice to Reopen
  • Union & Cast Member Support
  • Local & State Support
  • Guest Support

What Disneyland Can Neither Control Nor Influence

  • Public Sentiment Toward the Virus
  • The Politics of The Virus
  • The Spread of the Virus and its Mutations

An Earlier Lesson: Disney’s America & Disney’s Animal Kingdom

A Tale of Two Theme Parks. Those living in DC for some time may remember that the Walt Disney Company once made an effort to build a theme park on the outskirts of the beltway. When Disney first proposed the park, they thought the citizens of Washington DC would fall in love with having their own Disney park. Disney’s America was a $650 million development that would celebrate America’s heritage. And many citizens and neighbors were excited for the project that would have created 19,000 jobs and 47 million in annual revenue for the state. 

But the project had active and vocal critics against it—namely historians and environmentalists. The National Environmental Defense Fund led a coalition of 30 groups that opposed the project. Opposition also came from the Department of the Interior and even the Sierra Club. Fearing that opposition would slow movement on the project, Peter Rummell, president of the Disney Design and Development Company, noted: “Despite our confidence that we would eventually win the necessary approvals, it has become clear that we could not say when the park would be able to open, or even when we could break ground.” 

So when Disney embarked on creating Disney’s Animal Kingdom, they knew they needed some of the most respected minds in zoological and animal studies/research to get behind them on this project. Judson Green–who headed Walt Disney World, and Rick Barongi–who was Disney’s first animal/zoo expert to join Imagineering, thought to recruit an advisory committee of leading zoological and conservation experts. For instance, Roger Caras, president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was one such member. Another member was Jane Goodall, who over the years, had become a leader in championing conservation and animal research in Africa.

The result of bringing these people on board early was that the park moved forward and opened with hardly any protest. Since then, it has become the most popular zoological experience in the world, and has been a leader in animal conservation.

You can read more about Jane Goodall’s work with Disney over the years here.

Souvenirs for Your You and Your Own Organization:

Here are some things to consider and ponder about the world you live in:

  • What are areas of responsibility we have control over? How are we accountable for the success of those areas of responsibility? Can we effectively control others when we exercise little influence?
  • What are areas we have no control over but do have influence over? How can we better influence the outcomes of issues that impact us, but we have no final say in?
  • What are areas we have neither control nor influence over? How can we put aside our concern and attention around those areas we do have control or influence?
  • In what ways could we better focus our time and energy in enlarging that circle of influence?  

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J. Jeff Kober