Let me tell you about the best teammate I ever had.
If you have read my first blogs, you will see I shared a few stories from when I was a 19-year-old Cast Member at The Disneyland Resort. Continuing with that time in my life, I want to share the story of Phil.
Phil and I hired into the company around the same time. We had gotten to know each other through working similar shifts and locations. We became Trainers at the same time and shortly after became Leads at the same time. After our training was complete, we instantly became the new “night crew,” left to figure everything out together during a very busy summer.
In the beginning stages of our partnership, we would always make a plan for our day. We planned when our Cast Members would receive breaks, we planned how to prepare our area for the nighttime spectacular, we planned how to assist management with Cast check-ins, we planned who would perform the assessments on newly trained Cast Members, and we planned how to close our area down for the night.
As time quickly went on, we stopped verbalizing a plan. We knew what needed to happen, and how to make it happen. We had something better than a plan. We had alignment as we were in sync on what our Cast Member experience needed to be. Our thoughts were aligned on what our Guest experience needed to be and we both were in agreement on how to make it happen.
How, you ask, were our thoughts and actions so aligned? It wasn’t by mere chance. With every new shift, we taught each other to trust in our team a little bit more. We taught each other that we were reliable, that we were dedicated. In the 600+ hours we worked together, Phil never let me down. Working together for five days a week, several months in a row gave many opportunities for us to let each other down. However, it never happened.
We also taught each other that we were willing to share. We were willing to share the work, our passions, our goals, the difficult moments, our frustrations, our happiest moments, our laughs, and our wins. We are all taught to share when we are young, but it’s something so critical to a team’s success and we often forget to do it.
One of my favorite parts of our partnership is that we shared the fun. We really enjoyed making a magical moment for our Cast after a challenging shift. After the Park would close, we would hold a “spinoff” at the teacups for the Cast and let them spin as fast as they could. We would keep Peter Pan open and operate it for all our Cast to ride. We would have everyone ride King Arthur’s Carrousel while blasting a great rock song. We would take some of our Cast Members on exclusive tours of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle or other exciting backstage locations that typically only the maintenance personnel knew about.
We were a young team with huge responsibilities, and yet we had figured out the recipe for a successful team; share the work, don’t let each other down, and have fun. We were aligned in those goals.
It really was incredible that we were never threatened by each other. We had been consistently promoted at the same time, and realistically we were each other’s competition for the next promotion: manager. Phil was funnier than me, better spoken, extremely driven, and on top of that, everyone loved him. I could have chosen to be jealous, unsupportive, and closed off. Instead, I wanted to learn how he did it. I saw him as someone that I could learn great things from, and I saw him as someone who wouldn’t let our team down. From the beginning we had an unspoken agreement to never put one person above the other. We were going to each achieve our next goals eventually. So why not fully support each other and focus on building one another up.
What I hope you get from this story is that you too can build an incredible team yourself. Great teams take time. They take alignment. They take practice. They take communication. They take reliability. Most importantly they take trust. Actual trust. Rather than only focusing on you, have your teammate’s success be of equal value. In our competitive and ever-changing work environments, it is impossible to be successful without help. Build up your team members, and let them build you. Learn from each other. Assume you will each get to where you want to be and focus on building trust in your partnership.
A related point worth making is to never settle for a team that doesn’t jive well. Don’t settle for the “non-Phils.” Assume they too want to be “Phil” on your team and decide to put in the time to get your partnership to that level.
In closing, I wish you all a “Phil & Gina” team dynamic in your life, because that type of partnership is true magic.
Until next time,
P.S. Thank you Phil for setting the bar for me at 19-years-old for what I should expect in a teammate. While I haven’t had our exact dynamic since, I have never lowered my standards.