Sweat is pouring into my eyes, but I can’t wipe them. I’ve lost all sense of direction. I can barely see where I’m going, yet know I’m surrounded by people. Oh, yeah, there’s one more thing that scares the heck out of me, a fear that is all-consuming … I hope I don’t step on someone’s child. Finally, my “handler” guides me away from the crowds and through the door that leads the backstage dressing room. I’m exhausted.
As I recover from my ordeal, I reflect on the last few hours and come to an amazing conclusion: Being Tigger isn’t exactly a walk in the park. This job wasn’t nearly as easy as I thought it would be. It took some convincing, though. I had to spend several hours encased in 20 pounds of bacterially-challenged fur. Better yet, I had to maintain my balance while supporting the massive helmet that covered my head. On top of that, I had to endure the endless pokes and prods from customers vying for my attention … pokes and prods that occasionally hit some sensitive areas … I guess they thought they were poking Tigger’s belly-button.
I, along with several other employees, got to be “costumed characters” as part of a job-sharing program at Disneyland. In addition to the time we spent in those amazingly confining costumes, we also got to meet the professional actors who work as the characters, full-time. We heard about the hours and hours of training they receive to learn how to “become” the characters they are portraying. We listened to their many stories of unique customer interactions with a newfound sense of respect and compassion. We asked a lot of questions: How could they do this job during those blistering hot mid-summer days? How did they maintain their sense of humor while being jostled by thousands of customers on a daily basis? After being Tigger for a day, I had a newfound respect for those employees who, at first glance, seemed to have the easiest job in the world. After all, no one ever yells at Mickey Mouse when the weather is lousy or when a ride breaks down, right? We learned a lot.
Job-sharing is a powerful tool for building strong teams. Hearing about or, better yet, doing the job of a colleague who is on a different shift, or who works in a different division, is a powerful leadership and customer service tool. At a minimum, job-sharing can reduce the barriers that often develop between employee groups−the infamous silos that can destroy collaboration and communication. It can minimize or eliminate the inevitable “grass is greener on the other side” petty jealousy traps that plague so many teams. In some work environments, job-sharing can be used as a cross-training tool. And, it can be as simple as a noontime brown-bag-lunch event where employees share the pros and cons of their jobs.
You can make job-sharing as complicated or as simple as you want. The benefits are endless and I’ve never heard an excuse for not doing it that couldn’t be overcome … with a bit of creativity and flexibility.
After my day of being Tigger, I went back to my regular job at the Disney University with a new sense of appreciation and motivation. Yes, there would certainly be tough days and challenging meetings, but I was overjoyed knowing that I wouldn’t have to endure the character challenges: the unbearably hot costume, the streams of sweat attacking my eyes and, most important … no more pokes in the “belly-button.”