To thine own self be true. 

It sounds like a famous-last-words-type claim, but if anyone has the cred to make it, it’s Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company. Disney is turning profits like no other entertainment company in history—and the company’s rise over the last 15-odd years coincides exactly with the tenure of Bob Iger. 

A onetime TV weatherman, Bob landed a job at ABC in 1974 and steadily worked his way up the ranks of the network, mostly in the sports division, before becoming head of ABC Entertainment in 1989. 

Five years and a few rungs up the corporate ladder later, he became President and Chief Operating Officer of ABC’s parent company, which was purchased by Disney in 1996. Bob was promoted to President of Walt Disney International in 1999, then to President and COO of The Walt Disney Company as a whole in 2000. In 2005, Bob was selected to succeed Michael Eisner as CEO of Disney, and in less than a year he had mended a fraught relationship with Steve Jobs (more on that later), acquired Pixar Animation Studios, and begun a wholesale transformation of not just Disney, but the entertainment industry as a whole. 

Here are my favourite takeaways from watching Bob Iger’s Masterlass.com Session on

Disney’s annual net income has increased more than 400 percent under Bob’s leadership, 

Status Quo is a losing strategy

Use your Time Effectively:

Work. Sleep. Leisure. Pick two. 

That basically sums up the experience of being a business leader. Even doing one thing besides work can, at times, feel like a luxury.  But there’s also a fourth component of a balanced life that cannot be neglected: stillness. Placing undue emphasis on busyness can rob you of the time you need to step back and process, and problem-solve creatively. 

Deliberate stillness—combined with dedicated time for exercise, media consumption, family, and creativity—makes for an efficient day, even if it doesn’t feel like every minute is being “used” productively. 

Less Work Often Means Better Work 

Limiting your work to 40 hours or fewer per week increases efficiency, concentrating your total focus within a shorter span of time . According to a study by Stanford professor John Pencavel:

Working more than 55 hours a week kills productivity so much that doing work almost becomes pointless.

Too often, busyness is not a means to accomplishment but an obstacle to it, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang writes in Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. Your brain needs space to play and rest, which in turn prepares you to come to work with a clearer head.

Focus, Strategies and Priorities

Once you’ve explored the multiverse of possibilities, though, it’s time to rein yourself in. At this stage, you’ll want to develop a succinct list of priorities. You can only have three priorities. That’s what one of Bob’s friends, a marketing and political consultant, Scott Miler told him, and it proved to be a solid idea. Any more than three priorities and your pitch begins to sag. Your vision for the company becomes muddled—to customers, to investors, to the board of your own company. For Bob, the three elements he decided to incorporate into his strategy for running Disney were: 

  • Invest most of Disney’s capital in high-quality branded content (i.e., creativity). 
  • Use technology to make more compelling content and to reach people in more innovative ways. 
  • Grow globally, deepening connection to markets around the world. 

The Art of Negotiation

Let go of zero-sum-game thinking. Instead of seeing yourself as the winner or loser of a negotiation, you instead open yourself up to the ways both parties are benefiting.  Bob approaches negotiations with the desired outcome in mind and tries to focus on efficacy and clarity of communication without letting his ego muddy the waters. 

Creating a Brand Value

If a consumer aligns with your values and recognizes you as “one of us,” your brand becomes a shorthand for those values in the marketplace. 

Brand is a very, very careful balance between legacy, or heritage, and innovation.

Bold business leadership requires a tolerance for risk and failure and, perhaps most importantly, a capacity to forge ahead in the wake of defeat. 

As Bob emphasizes, thoughtfulness is as important to leadership as courage is. Careful study and calculated decision-making are what reduce the likelihood that your risks will blow up in your face. You have to do the cost-benefit math. 

Here are a few things that could be on your list of brand values: 

  • Commitment to sustainability and the environment 
  • Integrity and transparency 
  • An insistence on simplicity and efficiency 
  • A casual, fun sense of accessibility 
  • Interconnectedness—the feeling of welcoming consumers into a community 
  • An emphasis on progress, on providing a cutting-edge product 

Because brand is inherently value-charged, there will be times when the values of the culture shift and you’ll have to adapt. In a changing world, stewards of healthy brands have to be on their toes, ensuring authentic relevance. 

Respect vs Reverence

  • Reverence insists that the brand remains frozen in time, replicating the structure of past success with diminishing returns. 
  • Respect recognizes the reasons a brand was valuable to begin with and brings those values forward, tailoring them to a changed world. 

ANTICIPATING WHAT CONSUMERS WANT 

Creating products that reinforce the core values of the brand while deviating from prior patterns to reflect the world we actually live in—that’s an on-ramp to steady profits. 

The Black Panther example further demonstrates the tenuous value of cold, hard data. Data can be immensely valuable, but it shouldn’t be the only thing guiding your decisions—especially if you’re in a field as unpredictable as Bob’s. 

If you don’t go, you can not grow

Without boots-on-the-ground experience, you’re going to miss out on the ways your consumers are interacting with your product. You have to touch and feel and listen, Bob says. You have to engage intimately with your market. Experiencing your market firsthand is something that no amount of Googling will enable you to access. 

Walt Disney Imagineering—the R&D arm of the company—“Blue Sky” Approach to Ideation “

A key component of its approach is the “blue sky” stage of development, where no idea is too outlandish to be laughed out of the room. 

THE IMPORTANCE OF RISK-TAKING 

Stasis equals death. You have to know how to evolve.  Which means you must be comfortable embracing risk, and with it, failure. 

Anything that is new and different is risky but necessary.

As Bob emphasizes, thoughtfulness is as important to leadership as courage is. Careful study and calculated decision-making are what reduce the likelihood that your risks will blow up in your face. You have to do the cost-benefit math. 

Do your home work

Once you’re established in your business, you’ll always be threatened by the disruption of the status quo. Seek out opportunities—even in success—to wield the power of disruption yourself. Be the disruptor instead of the disrupted. 

Bob Iger’s Tenets of Success

  • Foster Curiosity
    Curiosity is the root of innovation. Bob defines curiosity as having a desire to learn new things, have new experiences, visit new places, and meet new people. 
  • Be Authentic
    Admit what you do not know. Don’t fake it. Authenticity involves the synthesis of the above two tenets: candor and optimism. You have to balance both. 
  • Operate with Integrity
    Set high standards for yourself. Bob Iger quotes Warren Buffet who was a board member of ABC:

We look for three things when we hire people. We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don’t have the latter, the first two will kill you, because if you’re going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb.”

  • The Relentless of Perfection

As a leader, the success of your employees and ultimately your company is dependent on your commitment to yourself, your team, and your brand: At the end of the day, you get out what you put in. 

  • Be Fair even on your own mistake

Give people an opportunity to state their case…to give you a sense of who they are.”

Be present to the people who work for you, and show them that you have a vested interest in them: Find out who they are, and bring an attitude of empathy with you when you engage in criticism. When someone who works for you makes a mistake, learn to see when it can be turned into an opportunity for growth. 

  • Practice Candor

You should be clear in your expectations and evaluations of others, Bob says, but then you should also expect them to be candid with you. This includes a tolerance for hearing criticism, which can be tough. But it’s also essential. As a leader, you need to encourage your employees to be honest with you and accept responsibility for your failures. 

  • Take Responsibility for your actions
  • Be Decisive

Do work behind the scenes to become the kind of person who can make decisions efficiently and definitively, and once you make a decision, stick to it. Even if the decision you’ve made is turning out to be the wrong one, don’t agonize over what could have been. Accept the consequences, embrace failure as an opportunity for growth, and move on. 

  • Project Optimism

If your company is in hot water, own up to it. Then, when projecting your expectations for the future, learn to frame the tough situation as a learning experience and chart a course forward that guarantees growth. 

  • Practice Candor

You should be clear in your expectations and evaluations of others, Bob says, but then you should also expect them to be candid with you. This includes a tolerance for hearing criticism, which can be tough. But it’s also essential. As a leader, you need to encourage your employees to be honest with you and accept responsibility for your failures. 

The Bib Iger’s Masterclass Session is a very good watch as it contains lots of insights and strategies from Bob’s Illustrious career. I would highly recommend it.

All the Best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with passion.

Write A Comment