At Disney theme parks, mamas of babies take good care of mamas with babies.
How do I know? Back in the mid-90s, I was fresh out of college and lucky enough to be working at Guest Relations at the Disney MGM Studios (now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios). I worked with some incredible people who became lifelong friends. Among them was a woman named Maritza, whom we all nicknamed ‘Mama Maritza.’ She brought her best self to work every day and in doing so, she reminded our whole team of what it means to work with purpose.
Baby Care is located just inside the Guest Relations lobby at the main entrance to the theme park. It’s a private space intentionally designed for parents (mamas mostly, back then) so they could care for their little ones away from the crazy busy-ness of a theme park vacation. I remember the decor was trendy mauve and pastel green (very 1990s!). There were changing tables, high chairs, and a quiet curtained off area featuring rocking chairs and soft lighting. It was the perfect oasis for moms and their nursing or feeding babies.
Our whole team was responsible for every area of Guest Relations, including Baby Care, but Mama Maritza took ownership of this special space and made it her own. As a mom of three children, she knew what moms want most: a clean, safe place to change, feed, or just decompress with their little ones. And that’s just the kind of environment she created at the Baby Care station.
She was fastidious about her role as the unofficial supervisor of Baby Care. And she kept the place SPOTLESS. After each visitor, she wiped down the feeding trays. She pushed the pan and broom on the floor to scoop up stray Cheerios crumbs. And she sterilized the changing tables with a mix of Pine Sol and water. (To this day, the smell of Pine Sol brings me right back to Maritza’s meticulously kept Baby Care station.) When she worked, Baby Care was always ready for a new mama or a little one.
But of course, she couldn’t be there all the time. On her days off, the rest of us had to step up and maintain the Disney standard of cleanliness and “good show” she so expertly modeled. Rather than leave it to chance and remain a silo of excellence, she pulled us all into her sphere and made sure we all knew how to create the same level of excellence and Disney magic that she did for mamas and their little ones.
Not only did Maritza create a checklist of things to do at opening, closing, and after every guest, but she also made a photo album complete with pictures of how each element in the Baby Care space should look in its ideal ~ or picture perfect ~ state. She did that so that we would know how things should look, no matter who was in charge that day.
Many areas across Disney have a “picture perfect” binder, but back then it wasn’t very common. Maritza took pictures and developed them herself and then inserted them in a photo album with specific instructions for those of us working an opening, mid-day, or closing shift.
By creating that book, Maritza taught us how to fish. She showed us how to create magic even when she wasn’t there. Through a simple photo album, she showed us exactly what was expected so we could deliver it consistently to every guest, every child, every day.
Guest Relations was also the place where people could leave a compliment about cast members. I remember she got a lot of compliments from content parents. And the one thing they all noted was how they felt cared for and welcomed. Maritza was a mama with babies who made it her mission to care for mamas with babies. She did it better than anyone I knew. And, by teaching us how to fish, she made sure we knew how to deliver that same level of excellent service when she wasn’t there.
I think every organization has so-called star players. Those people who seem to go above and beyond to create a great experience. But how many of them share their secrets? How many of them are operating within their own silos of excellence keeping all their best techniques to themselves? As leaders, the people you think of as your star employees could be your weakest link. Imagine how patients or customers feel when they have an exceptional experience with the overnight nurse but then a horrible experience with the person working the next shift? Your star nurse has set the bar so high that when someone else delivers less than, it can be perceived as being much worse. It sets the whole organization up for failure because no one is working toward the same goals. As leaders, we must harness all the good stuff our star employees do and then share it with every employee so they are empowered to create great experiences, too.
(As a side note, I returned to Guest Relations baby care about ten years later with my two-year-old daughter. The set-up, surroundings, and mauve colored decor had been replaced (thank goodness!), but when I entered the Baby Care facility to feed and change my daughter, I rocked my little one in the rocking chair and smelled the familiar smell of Pine Sol. The place was clean, warm, welcoming. Just as Maritza had left it.)