Last week while completing a course from the Disney Institute, I was treated to a fun and insightful exercise.
If you want to try it for yourself, all you need is a blank piece of paper, a writing instrument, and a flat surface.
Ready? Okay... you have sixty seconds to draw Mickey Mouse, from memory.
Now, when I completed this exercise, here's what I came up with:
I know, I know. That's... not great, especially for someone who's been obsessed with Disney for almost forty years. In my defence, there's a reason I'm a writer and not an artist.
But here's where the course delivered the insightful part:
"Your drawing might look a little bit different from how we envision Mickey. But, how could you have known how we wanted your drawing of Mickey to look? It's critical to clearly communicate the values and vision that our Disney artists follow to bring this iconic character to life. So, you were not able to align your values and vision with those of the organization. The result? Well... your drawing might be a mouse, but it is not Mickey Mouse."
The course then asked me to watch an instructional video that communicated the "right way" to draw Mickey Mouse. Fortunately, it's available on YouTube, so you can watch it too:
And my second attempt, while still not perfect, was significantly better:
I'm never going to be a Disney animator, but with the proper instructions, my work improved dramatically.
The lesson is fairly obvious: leaders must intentionally communicate their needs and expectations if they expect the results they had in mind to be delivered.
That's something to keep in mind the next time you're asking someone to complete a task.