Walt Disney was on a first named basis with everyone.
That was the way he wanted it. He made sure that the people around him called him “Walt” and he called them by their first name.
Why did he insist on this? Great question.
The history of Walt’s life as assembled by a number of biographers seem to suggest at least two reasons.
Reason One : Walt wanted everyone who worked at the studio to feel equally valued.
Reason Two : Walt wanted everyone to feel the ideas they had and the contributions they made were equally valued as well.
Now, was he perfect at doing this? Of course not. But striving for those things and attempting to build value in people is always worth trying for.
In essence he was trying to open the lines of communication and was trying to help people understand they were important. Perhaps this is best illustrated by a little known story about Walt Disney. One of his favorite charities was the John Tracy Clinic for the Hearing Impaired. Spencer Tracy, the actor, was a dear friend of Walt’s and the two played polo together. Spencer’s son is the person the clinic is named after.
Walt Disney helped found the clinic in 1942 and then employed John Tracy as an animator for the studios. Walt worked hard to make the clinic a success. In the 1950’s and 1960’s he would volunteer his staff to cater and entertain at the clinic’s annual fundraising event. Walt himself was an active participate in these money making events. Now many would think that Walt would host the event, perhaps bring his television personality to the stage to emcee the event, or even be the featured speaker. He did none of those things.
The guests who came to the dinner would see Walt there to be sure, but he was working. He filled water glasses and mingled among the tables chatting with potential donors. Then before the speaker would take the stage Walt would be clearing dirty dishes off of each and every table.
Walt understood the value and importance of people.
He wanted them to understand it as well.
And a lost quality that Walt had that made him special was simple yet important. He had the heart of a servant.
In a day and age where most people seem to reflect a sense of entitlement…this attitude is not just needed but essential for culture today.
Bringing joy and discovering the joy of servanthood is what makes a difference in the lives of others…and it makes the life of the one doing the serving better as well.