Disney mom and manager, Valerie Cockerell, helps leaders draw practical examples of leadership lessons from common experiences in motherhood.

Leadership Lessons from a Disney Mom and Manager Valerie Cockerell – BtR 391

Unlock the profound wisdom of a Disney mom and former Walt Disney Company retail leader, Valerie Cockerell, as she unveils the remarkable leadership lessons from motherhood and her career.

Leadership Lessons from a Mother

In a recent episode of the podcast “Beyond the Rut with Jerry Dugan,” Jerry had an insightful conversation with Valerie Cockerell, a former Disney leader and author of the book Manage Like a Mother: Leadership Lessons Drawn from the Wisdom of Mom

Valerie shared her experiences and wisdom gained from both her time at Disney and her journey as a mother. This post provides a summary of the episode, highlighting key takeaways and valuable leadership lessons.

In this episode, you will be able to:

  • Clear expectations are important in both personal and professional relationships
  • Raising children and leading a team requires flexibility and learning on the job
  • Each person is unique and requires different approaches to leading
  • Storytelling activates certain areas of the brain and creates emotional connections
  • Each person on a team plays an important role, like puzzle pieces fitting together

My special guest is Valerie Cockerell

I met Valerie through a good friend and bridge to the Cockerell family, Jody Maberry. She’s married to Dan Cockerell and daughter-in-law of Lee Cockerell, two Walt Disney Company executives we’ve had on Beyond the Rut in the past.

She is sharing how the connections she’s drawn from being a mother and the leadership principles she has taught in workshops around the world in the retail and customer service industries can help you boost your impact as a leader.

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00:04:41 Learning And Growing Through Independent Travel

00:08:06 From Paris To Disney: A New Opportunity Unveiled

00:10:22 From Disneyland Paris To Disney World: A Surprising Journey

00:14:55 The Importance Of Support And Encouragement In Training And Development

00:18:08 The Analogical Relationship Between Parenting And Leadership

00:21:19 The Power Of Storytelling: Wisdom Passed From Generation To Generation

00:24:37 Setting Clear Expectations: A Different Lens For Leadership And Management

00:26:47 Learning From Mistakes: A Valuable Lesson In Career Growth

00:28:53 Importance Of Effective Communication For Leaders

00:33:46 The Value Of Individual Contributions In The Bigger Picture

Below are my three big takeaways from this conversation I had with Valerie Cockerell.

Clear Expectations and Effective Communication

Setting clear expectations is essential in both personal and professional relationships. When expectations are not clearly communicated, misunderstandings can arise, leading to frustration and disappointment. In the episode, the speaker emphasizes the importance of effectively communicating goals and objectives to avoid these misunderstandings and achieve desired outcomes.

Clear expectations can help establish boundaries and ensure that both parties are on the same page. Whether it’s discussing household responsibilities or defining the terms of a romantic relationship, open and honest communication is key. By clearly expressing expectations, individuals can avoid unnecessary conflicts and build stronger, more fulfilling relationships.

In professional settings, setting clear expectations is crucial for effective teamwork and productivity. When team members understand what is expected of them, they can align their efforts toward achieving common goals. This clarity helps to minimize confusion and ensures that everyone is working towards the same objectives. 

Additionally, clear expectations provide a framework for evaluating performance and providing constructive feedback, leading to continuous improvement and growth.

The Power of Storytelling

Storytelling is a powerful tool for connecting with others on an emotional level. Whether it’s a parent sharing life lessons with their child or a leader inspiring their team, storytelling has the ability to captivate and engage listeners. In the episode, Valerie highlights the significance of storytelling in creating lasting impressions and fostering meaningful connections.

When parents share stories with their children, they pass on wisdom and values from one generation to another. These stories not only entertain but also teach important life lessons and shape the child’s worldview. By using storytelling as a means of communication, parents can create a strong bond with their children and instill important values that will guide them throughout their lives.

The leadership lesson is that storytelling can be used to inspire and motivate teams. By sharing personal anecdotes or success stories, you can create a sense of purpose and unity among team members. Storytelling activates certain areas of the brain, making the message more memorable and impactful. It allows individuals to connect with the emotions and experiences of the storyteller, fostering a deeper understanding and commitment to the shared goals.

Value of Individual Contributions

Every person on a team plays a crucial role, just like puzzle pieces fitting together. Each individual’s contribution is valuable and necessary for the success of the whole. By understanding the value of their contributions and creating a sense of ownership, individuals feel motivated and engaged in their work.

When individuals recognize the importance of their role within a team, they are more likely to take ownership of their work and strive for excellence. This sense of ownership fosters a positive work environment where individuals feel valued and appreciated. It also encourages collaboration and cooperation, as team members understand that their contributions are essential for achieving the team’s goals.

Furthermore, recognizing and appreciating individual contributions helps to build strong relationships within the team. When team members feel acknowledged and valued, they are more likely to support and encourage one another. This sense of camaraderie and mutual respect leads to increased productivity and overall job satisfaction.


In conclusion, the episode highlights the importance of clear expectations, effective communication, storytelling, and recognizing the value of individual contributions. By implementing these principles in both personal and professional settings, individuals can foster positive relationships, achieve desired outcomes, and create a sense of purpose and fulfillment in their lives.

Valerie Cockerell – Author of Manage Like a Mother

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Valerie was born and raised in France where she graduated from Institut Pitiot-Lyon II with a degree in Business hospitality. She participated in the World Showcase Fellowship program at Epcot in 1987/88. After working in a bank in France as an investment advisor, she eventually joined Disneyland Paris in 1991 as a retail manager and ran multiple merchandise locations in the Resort division. She eventually joined the Merchandise Buying Office and oversaw the assortment planning for all Resort merchandise locations at Disneyland Paris.

Upon moving to Florida in 1997, Valerie worked as the Assortment Planning Manager at Downtown Disney and Epcot Center. She eventually moved to Merchandise Brand Management for both Epcot and the Disney Cruise Line. Valerie left the company and started consulting for outside organizations in the retail world. She returned to Disney in 2013 to become a contract facilitator for Disney Institute. She facilitated professional development classes and custom programs in both French and English. She drew from her international management experience in retail and operations to teach Disney’s approach to Leadership Excellence and Customer Service.

Since May 2019, Valerie facilitates workshops with her husband Dan and shares her expertise in building great culture in organizations and delivering outstanding customer service.


Subscribe to Beyond the Rut Podcast on your favorite podcast player.

Other episodes and articles you’ll enjoy:

The 3 E’s of Career Magic with Lee Cockerell – BtR 330

Dan Cockerell’s 27 Years of Leadership Lessons Working for Disney – BtR 147

Creating Career Magic with Lee Cockerell – BtR 072

Connect with me:

Leave a voicemail at (469) 608-0355.

Send an email to [email protected].

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Hosted and Edited by Jerry Dugan


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