April 22, 2014

What do DisneyWorld, Zappos and Camp Arowhon have in common?

I heard a radio documentary about training incredible staff. They talked about the superb staff at DisneyWorld, and how Disney’s staff training is the best there is – Every single staff comes out of that training living the Disney ideals (like that or not). They also talked about Zappos, the internet clothes and shoes giant. Apparently Zappos pays people to drop out of their training! They used to pay $1000 for that but have recently upped the payout to $2000 because not enough people dropped out.

They want people to drop out of their training because if you don’t have a strong inherent desire to please people, they don’t want you answering their phones. A lot of their business happens on the phone, and it’s all about pleasing the customer. To the tune of billions of dollars a year. So we know it’s working. Bottom line Zappos has figured out: You can’t train somebody to be nice.

Same deal, apparently, with Danny Meyers restaurant mini-chain in New York. I’ve been to a few of these (all delicious) but even more striking than the food is how incredibly sweet the staff are. I always want to take the server out for tea! (Or something stronger) It turns out that Danny Meyer hires a little like Zappos. They look for servers who are inherently kind. Because you can teach the other stuff.

It’s like that with camp counselling. We hire staff who are inherently caring – because you can teach the other stuff. We’ve learned through experience that people either are or aren’t caring and sensitive to the needs of others. And that you can’t teach it. It’s a values fit. We teach our staff how to operationalize and leverage their empathy to be effective leaders and teachers. But we don’t make them be sweet. They come that way.

You can't train people to be kind

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