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Two-Way Communication: How Disney Intentionally Listens

December 10, 2013 by Bruce Jones, Programming Director, Disney Institute

DI Two Way Listening

Communication occurs every day in the workplace. Between emails, meetings, conference calls and conversations exchanged throughout the day, a successful organization relies on effective communication. Why, then, is communication often overlooked?

Many organizations view communication as one-way: Leaders talk, employees listen. At Disney, we know communication is two-way. Frequently, listening is more important than speaking. However, listening is not enough; listening must be intentional

Here are four tips to improve intentional listening in your organization.

  1. Listen with purpose: Be deliberate in setting aside time for conversations with your employees and colleagues. During these times, remove any distractions that could interrupt your focus including emails or phones. 
  2. Listen to understand, not to evaluate: Intentional listening needs to be free of judgment. Keep an open mind when listening to others’ opinions and embrace opportunities to learn from your colleagues’ differences. 
  3. Exercise emotional control: Be self-aware of phrases, behaviors, and words that trigger a reaction. Do not shut down another individual based on personal opinions. It is important to hear someone out completely and be open to all perspectives.  
  4. Focus: When listening, it is essential to direct all of your attention to that individual. Do not make mental to-do lists or check the time. These signal that you are preoccupied and not invested in the current conversation.  

Disney is a listening organization that believes every Cast Member has important ideas that contribute to the essence of our company. When a leader intentionally listens to Cast Members, new ideas are brought to life.  

For example, in Disneyland Tokyo, a Custodial Cast Member would create Disney characters out of flower petals for Guests to enjoy in the parks. Instead of dismissing this Cast Member, the leader listened to his suggestion and realized the unexpected value his art added to the Guest experience. 

Working with Entertainment and fellow Cast Members, the Custodial Cast Member changed the art from flowers to water, a resource he always had with him, to create “Water Mickey.” “Water Mickey,” a sketch of Mickey Mouse created with water and a broom, was introduced to the Custodial teams located at Disney parks around the world. This innovative idea stemmed from Disney’s two-way model of communication and an act of intentional listening.

What is a time when intentional listening led to change in your organization? 



Posted in Business Excellence | Tagged Team Collaboration, Communication Skills, Two-Way Communication, Intentional Listening, Corporate Culture, Bruce Jones | 0 Comments


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