Culture and Creativity

GL group’s ELP and the Disney Leadership Institute

We are excited to have a guest post from Lise Brewer, Customer Care and Office Manager at Peaceable Kingdom, our location in Berkeley, CA!

I’ve been with Peaceable Kingdom for almost six years. I’ve spent my time here in customer service and recently decided that I would like to pursue opportunities for professional development.  When I looked into GL group’s Emergent Leader Program (ELP), I knew it was the perfect opportunity!

ELP is a 12-month long development journey for high potential employees within GL group and is leadership’s way of planning to build potential future leadership. ELP includes a variety of training and education opportunities. Participants are paired up with an internal mentor from the Executive team and an external mentor. We are also responsible for creating and presenting a business plan or people plan based on our experience. ELP also includes classroom training, team building exercises, presentations – and best of all, an opportunity to attend Disney’s Leadership Institute!

I think that all of us involved in ELP apply to the program for different reasons and with different goals in mind. I not only wanted to build my leadership experience but find a way to further immerse myself in GL group’s culture. GL group is primarily based in the St. Louis area. Those of us at Peaceable Kingdom are 2,000 miles away from all the action, so the ELP program was also a great way to get to know the company better, improve my knowledge, gain leadership, and bring some more of GL group’s amazing culture to California.

ELP has provided me with a number of interesting opportunities to build relationships with co-workers I would not usually have exposure to. I’ve learned a ton about all of GL group’s divisions and have been able to tell them a lot about Peaceable Kingdom.

We’re currently working on a business plan – and I’m not a business person! It’s been great to work with the team and to watch everyone’s brains turn and think about problems in a different way and get out of our comfort zone. At Peaceable Kingdom, we talk a lot about cooperation and collaboration so it’s fun to do that in a different way, with new co-workers.

The best part about ELP for me so far has been the Disney Leadership Institute. According to Disney, “For over two decades Disney Institute has been helping transform organizations through custom solutions grounded in the time-tested success and insights from The Walt Disney Company. Based on examples from within the businesses we operate, we offer a collaborative approach from insight to implementation.” It was quite an experience! We had good food, good conversation, and the leaders who taught courses were phenomenal, engaging, and told great stories. The GL group ELP participants also had a chance to bond as a team!

The seven of us “ELPers” attended the Disney Institute Approach to Leadership Excellence seminar and our group featured really interesting attendees from all different kinds of businesses including Kroger and Boy Scouts of America, and from places as far away as Australia. The majority of attendees were high-level leaders so it was interesting to hear so many different perspectives on business and to see how other folks approach leadership and deal with issues like communication or building a culture. But above all, my experience at Disney reinforced for me all of the things that GL group is doing right.

As part of our training, we were able to tour the park and interact with cast members. I grew up near Disneyland, so I didn’t expect that a behind the scenes tour would be magical, but it ended up being one of the best moments for me. As DI attendees, were encouraged to approach cast members and ask them a set of questions about their experiences. Everyone we talked to was very passionate about Disney and committed to the way Disney wants to intentionally provide magic for everyone – from guests to cast members.

Disney’s approach is very intentional. They anticipate the guests’ needs or cast members’ needs. Disney is so intentional with their own cast members as a part of their culture, that it translates to cast members being intentional with the guests! I realized how important it is that GL group takes the same approach. The ELP, Bring-Your-Baby-to-Work program, Wellness-reimbursement and other employee programs help us advance personally and professionally and that’s intentional. GL group’s intentionality is a facet of our culture that I want to enhance at Peaceable Kingdom.

I also learned that Disney is a well-oiled machine. Safety for cast members and guests is top priority. We took a tour of Hollywood Studios and our tour guide (a manager) was walking around with a trash grabber, picking up trash and twigs and throwing it away. While he’s doing that and telling us about the park, he was stopping and talking to employees. He knew them by name, where they were from, and even who was a new cast member on his huge team. He reminded me of Gary Jaffe, GL group CEO. It’s so nice to see leaders interact with their employees. It’s clear they believe leadership is a verb – it’s not what you say, it’s what you do.

A lot of us left feeling energized by the creativity at Disney. There’s something about being there and interacting with all of their imagineers – it sparked this creativity burst heading into our business plans!

As a whole, ELP has been a great eye-opening experience. Even though I’m separate from the majority of GL group, it’s clear to me that we can work toward our common goal and share our culture. From a leadership perspective, it’s been nice to be accepted and I really appreciate that the company is willing to invest in me even though I’m far away – it’s an additional expense but they’ve allowed me to grow and hone my leadership skills.  Leadership goes far beyond managing a team.  Becoming a servant leader focuses on giving back to those around you, and encouraging them to invest in themselves professionally and personally!  Leadership at GL group gives back to us, and that’s a WOW benefit!