9 Minute Read: How’s The Culture In Your Kingdom Summary

How’s The Culture In Your Kingdom

During the pandemic, Louisiana dental offices were shut down for seven weeks. It seemed that our state’s government didn’t consider our services “essential” yet people could still play the lotto and buy alcohol. No comment.

The much needed down time allowed me to rethink some things both on a personal and business level. I made some much needed life changes and have no regrets for the hiatus.

The time off also gave me an opportunity (along with many others) to become familiar with the Zoom platform. We even switched our in-person life group meetings to Zoom.

Dan and the crew

I was pleasantly surprised when I received a message from Dan Cockerell, former VP at the Magic Kingdom, about joining a group he was putting together online while we unable to work. I immediately accepted his offer and glad that I did.

If you’re not familiar with Dan, let me tell you a little about him and the funny story of how we met…

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Disney’s Keys To The Kingdom Tour


To celebrate my 40th birthday, my beautiful wife took me to “The Happiest Place On Earth.” While there, we decided to splurge and take one of Disney’s more popular “backstage” events called the Keys To The Kingdom Tour.

This 5-hour walking tour explores the creation and growth of the Magic Kingdom. The part that I was most looking forward to was gaining access to the famed underground “Utilidor” tunnels that allow people and supplies to travel beneath the park unseen.

Before the tour began, our group was informed that taking pictures while in the tunnels was prohibited. When you tell a redneck from Louisiana to NOT do something, then guess what? They’re going to do it!


So when our guide wasn’t looking, I took a quick pic with my cellphone of the tunnel map. I was hesitant to post it here but after a Google search, there’s plenty of them circulating on the web.

When I returned to our hotel room, I realized that there was a phone number on the map that the cast members (Disney employees) could  call to reach the Magic Kingdom VP.

So what did I do? You guessed it.

I called the number to set up time to pick his brain about the awesome customer service Disney instills for their guests. At the time, I was coaching other dentists about how to better their practices and thought this would be a great lesson to pass along.

Dan’s secretary graciously scheduled a phone meeting which was the first of many conversations we’ve had.

And now you know how I was able to connect with Dan Cockerell.

How’s The Culture In Your Kingdom


During one of our Zoom meetings, Dan informed us about a new book he’d been working on and sent me a copy to review.

How’s the Culture in Your Kingdom contains many of the lessons Dan learned during his 26 years at The Walt Disney Company.

The book offers advice and experience on what it takes to manage people in any situation. Think about it. We’re always in the process of managing whether it’s our family or employees. And to manage you must know how to lead. Dan’s focus is teaching us how to display ultimate leadership and hopefully confront future business challenges with a little bit of magic.

The book is broken down into four stages to building a healthy culture:
  • Leading Self
  • Leading Teams
  • Leading an Organization
  • Leading Change
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4 Stages To Building a Healthy Culture


#1 Leading Self

Physical Fitness

You’ve probably heard the phrase,”What’s the point in wealth without health.”

Dan points out that the world is full of overworked, stressed out, unfit leaders whose health is at a tipping point. Their quality of life is in shambles and they’re heading for disaster. You can’t effectively operate as a leader, spouse, or dedicated parent unless you’re healthy and fit.

He wants us to lead ourselves first to a better “you” and encourages scheduling so that we block our time for exercise. He goes on to say that we should defend that time as would for an important meeting.

A dentist colleague called me recently wanting help with scheduling. He claimed, “I want to be able to work out and play tennis like you do but can’t find time to do so.”

If you don’t make exercise a priority then it won’t get done.

Mental Fitness

A 2017 Harvard Business Review study found that the more we use Facebook, the WORSE we feel.

But wait…social media is supposed to make us happier, right?

Obviously not.

It seems that many of us keep trying to live up to the unrealistic standards of happiness on social media.

Society tells us that we always need more or something better and what we have now is NEVER good enough.

In today’s world, it’s not normal to step down. Once a certain level of income, spending, and lifestyle is attained, most will go into debt in order to maintain that level.

Stepping down to an affordable level is considered failure.

Comparing to others and trying to “keep up with the Joneses” can rob you of your mental health and increase discontentment.

“Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor. ” – Benjamin Franklin

Once you admit to yourself that your life isn’t perfect and we’re all flawed then you should admit to vulnerability and adopt a positive mindset. Simply admit that there’s ALWAYS room for improvement and then get to work!

A major point in How’s The Culture In Your Kingdom is that the journey to perfection is a never-ending one.

Organization, Prioritization & Planning

How’s The Culture In Your Kingdom suggests leaders do the right things at the right time.

One of the tools it recommends is The Eisenhower Decision Matrix.


This was developed during World War II by the 34th U.S. President, General Eisenhowser when constantly tasked with making tough decisions.

What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.” General Eisenhowser

The #1 reason why people don’t become better leaders, better investors, better parents, better whatever has to do with the “Not Important/Not Urgent” category.

We focus and spend most of our time here yet it has some of the biggest negative effects imaginable. The items that fall under this category bring little to no value such as:

  • social media 🙁
  • coffee breaks
  • pointless routines
  • UNproductive meetings

These items have to go! Delete and eliminate them.

A few years ago, I attended a real estate investing meeting in Dallas. One of the speakers discussed being more productive and wanted us to take action as soon as we returned to work.

He had the group write down the tasks that we didn’t want to handle anymore that we could delegate but had been hesitant to do so.

I came up with three tasks that ended up saving me 15-20 minutes a day. This began to open my eyes to begin delegating anything that falls in the “Not Important/Urgent” category.

Dan wants us to make our time count when we’re spending it with people that matter most to us (family, professional partners, friends, etc).

Time is a rare commodity that we can’t get back once it’s gone.

#2 Leading Team

In How’s The Culture In Your Kingdom, Dan spends a good amount of time talking about:

  • how to attract quality employees
  • identify talent in them
  • bring that talent out to the forefront

He’s had a great teacher…Walt Disney!

If you’ve ever visited any of the Disney parks, then you’ve more than likely experienced the culture that has been instilled in their employees (cast members).

I wanted to learn how Disney so brilliantly accomplishes this so a few years ago, I did something about it. Per a friend’s recommendation, I went through the process of applying and interviewing for a job undercover at Disney (even though I was a periodontist).


What I learned regarding about how they attract, train and retain their cast members was priceless.

Now I tend to view things through a “different lens” when visiting their parks.

For instance, while most guests focus on the rides (space mountain anyone?), I look down at the ground. Why? I’m simply AMAZED at what’s missing…candy wrappers, litter, or gum.

I’d always wanted to know how Disney was able to keep their parks spotless and found out firsthand during my interview.

It all starts with their onboarding process called “Traditions.” This is where their vision, customer service values and the four keys to make guests happy are instilled.

Disney exceeds in the customer service area as they know what people REALLY want….to feel important.

Here’s how they do it.

They use the Disney’s Seven Service Guidelines:

  1. Be Happy…make eye contact and smile!
  2. Be like Sneezy…greet and welcome each and every guest. Spread the spirit of Hospitality…It’s contagious!
  3. Don’t be Bashful…seek out Guest contact.
  4. Be like Doc…provide immediate service recovery.
  5. Don’t be Grumpy…always display appropriate body language at all times.
  6. Be like Sleepy…create DREAMS and preserve the “MAGICAL” Guest experience.
  7. Don’t be Dopey…thank each and every Guest!

Dan doesn’t want us to forget about walking the talk. He stresses that our employees are ALWAYS observing what we do and say all the time. Based on this, they determine what’s important to us and will then begin to emulate our behavior, good or bad.

So as you build expectations for your team, do remember that nothing will be more important than your own behaviors.

Reward & Recognition

One of my downfalls as a practice owner is that I don’t recognize and praise my team when they’re doing right enough. I realize that it’s human nature to mainly focus on the negative leaving out the positive. Shame on me!!

I do try to make it a point to tell our staff when they’re exceeding expectations but it’s something that I have to continue to work on.

Dan stresses that recognition is a major leadership tool that should be used to reinforce individual behaviors to motivate teams to be more productive. Employees matter, and they need to KNOW they matter.

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#3 Leading An Organization

How’s The Culture In Your Kingdom tells us that every decision in your organization should move you a little closer to your vision.

What? No vision? How will your team know what you really want?

Having a vision and then making sure your team knows it will help grow your practice/business.

Here’s an example:

After Walt Disney World, Sea World and Universal opened, Orlando became the busiest multi-park destination. Disney guests began to complain about the hassle of getting to and from their resort from the airport.

The Disney team went to work trying to figure out solutions and also differentiate themselves from the other parks. This is how the Disney’s Magical Express came to be.

The Disney leaders had to make sure the Disney cast members “employees” understood the benefit of Disney’s Magical Express. 

They had to “sell” them on the vision and keep them aware of the upside for the guests as there was a lot of moving parts that had to be implemented to make sure things ran smoothly.

The Magical Express is a fleet of buses that transports guests to and from the Orlando airport to their Disney resorts. The planning and forward thinking of Disney’s leaders help spread their vision that to this day is one of the reasons guests visit the park…hassle free travel.

Keep the vision simple and memorable

During my in-person interview, I was asked what I thought would be the MOST important part of becoming a Disney cast member.

I answered, “To make sure guests had a great/magical time.” Even though that’s one of the goals cast members share, it isn’t the MOST important. The MOST important aspect is SAFETY comes first.

In order of importance, their quality standards are:

  • Safety
  • Courtesy
  • Show
  • Efficiency

Makes sense. Who wants to drop their kids off at a theme park in a potential unsafe environment? Disney’s cast members know that they’re able to stop what their doing if they notice anything that appears to be unsafe.

For instance, they could be joking around with guests as they board Space Mountain, but if they realize that somebody isn’t safely secured, they know to stop the ride until the guest is safe.

All cast members understand this concept as it’s ingrained in Disney’s vision – provide a safe and magical environment.

#4 Leading Change

Change is inevitable in any business/organization in order to maintain growth. One of the ways this can be accomplished is by giving your employees a voice.

Sometimes one of their ideas solves a problem you weren’t aware of, simply because you’re not in their shoes.

Leaders who stay approachable and accessible will find their frontline employees walking up and supplying endless suggestions for continuous improvement.

Change is good, right?

Why are we so reluctant to change? Humans view any type of change as scary, difficult and uncomfortable.

We’re wired to resist change for two major reasons:

  • fear of losing something we value
  • not knowing what awaits on the other end

Remember these tips when bringing change to an organization:

  • Take time to think about everything you can rely on and will NOT change.
  • Learn to be an optimist.
  • Schedule time daily with your team and be visible and approachable.
  • Be straightforward in explaining the why behind the changes.

The Bottom Line

There aren’t too many organizations, businesses or practices that have a detailed leadership strategy. I know I didn’t when I started my practice over 15 years ago.

Dan Cockerell’s How’s the Culture in Your Kingdom can help you get started developing your own in order to set yourself up for growth. Remember, it’s all about people.