“Disney is built on partnering,” says Austin Brock, facilitator and content specialist with the Disney Institute at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Partnerships thrive in a collaborative culture, and creating such a culture is one subject Brock covers in her keynote presentations to corporate groups. We asked her to relate the topic to meeting planning.

Financial & Insurance Meetings: What is the benefit of a collaborative culture within a meetings department?
Austin Brock: If you get more minds involved in a project, you will end up with something that is much more than you thought it could be. We are constantly being invited to brainstorming meetings and thought-process meetings. Walt Disney believed in listening to everyone—that you never know where the next best idea is going to come from.
Also, if you have built a collaborative environment, you have support when times get tough. Being stressed is a part of business. But we believe going through the fire is easier when you have friends with you.

FIM: How can meeting leaders create a collaborative culture?
Brock: Disney leaders have an open-door policy. And they mean it. Don’t just tell people what to do but tell them why. Then they will trust you. If you bring me in as collaborative partner, then I feel invested, and I feel you care about me, and I am going to give more. Also, if we have an important message to deliver, we communicate in person. Of course we use phone and e-mail, but you do see leaders striving for face-to-face as much as possible.

FIM: What about partners outside the meeting department? Why collaborate with colleagues who may not understand what planners do?
Brock: It doesn’t matter. Embrace that everyone has a wonderful individual perspective. Smart people get it pretty quick: They just need to put their feet in the shoes of your attendees. When we generate great ideas here, it’s all guest-focused.

FIM: How can meeting planners balance collaborating with wanting to keep control?
Brock: It’s the age-old idea that if I do it myself, I know it will be done right. At some point you have to trust that other people can do it too. It’s easy to say, but it’s much more difficult to do when you are in a pressure situation. We’re convinced that people aren’t really control freaks. What happens is they come up from the ranks and when they get to the point of doing visionary work, they are less hands-on. So when they try to tell others how to do something, they are just adjusting to not being hands-on anymore.

FIM: There is a lot of talk about partnerships between planners and hoteliers now, as we all try to come out of the recession. What are your thoughts on a creating a collaborative culture between buyers and suppliers?
Brock: It’s important. The closer you build relationships and the more someone knows about your organization, the more invested they become in your organization. And that’s what we’re looking for: promoting a caring environment with our Disney partners and our outside partners. If we can help each other, shouldn’t we?

Find more information about Disney Institute presentations and programs, available both at Walt Disney World or at your location, at the Institute Web site.