Snow White and the “Lost Princess:” How Would Your Team Handle This?

This story will rip the callouses right off the most callous person.

Wiping the tears from my eyes, I cleared my throat, straightened my tie, and then stepped onto the stage and into the spotlight. The first few words out of my mouth lacked the usual “pop” and energy I am so used to summoning. Barely able to focus on the confidence monitor containing the first slide of my presentation, I simply gazed into the audience, soaking up their emotional response. I have given thousands of keynote presentations over the years, yet never had to choke back such emotion moments before speaking at a corporate event.

The executive introducing me at this conference had just shared a very personal story from a recent vacation he, his wife, and 6-year-old daughter enjoyed at Disneyland Resort. He brought a room full of 400 General Managers (mostly men) to tears.

My client company, like many around the world, is on a campaign to help its managers better connect with employees and customers; balancing technical competency with interpersonal warmth is the new norm in corporate culture development. To set the tone for the conference, the executive introducing me spent 15 minutes describing in great detail his family’s experience at a Disneyland Resort Princess Lunch … and he flat out nailed the message. His daughter, like many young girls, longs to be a princess. So they signed up for the private lunch with Disney Princesses (along with a number of other families). In preparation for this once-in-a-lifetime event, they bought their daughter a beautiful—and quite expensive—Snow White gown.

Midway through his introduction of me, he shared that his daughter has autism, and then described some of her symptoms.

Continuing his story, he vividly described their much-anticipated Princess Lunch. As Snow White and Belle entered the packed ballroom, they were greeted with welcoming screams and laughter from their young admirers. His daughter, overwhelmed with the stimulation from the noise and activity, bolted from the room. Rushing outside, she latched onto the patio railing, staring into the distance. In crisis, she was not about to move.  According to my client, it usually takes 60-90 minutes for his daughter to recover from such stress. And, if anyone tries to “talk her down,” she gets massively more agitated.

As you see in this picture taken by his wife, Snow White saved the day … literally. With tears in his eyes, my client described how Snow White came out to the patio and said to him, “I understand we have a lost princess.” After he explained his daughter’s autism, Snow White simply knelt down next to his daughter and adopted her body language; staring out at the water and otherwise not engaging her.  Within a few minutes his daughter recovered, whereupon she and Snow White enjoyed an energetic dance on the patio.  Vacation saved. Life-long memory created. Cost of Princess Lunch …? Long forgotten.

How do you and your team connect with customers, clients, or patients during those trying moments?