Episode 76: Leadership lessons from Bob Iger (Transcript)

Jan 24, 2023



Nicole (00:00):
Hi everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of Pixie Dust and Profits. I’m Nicole. And I’m Yasmine. And this week we have a special treat for you. This is actually a tea part episode, so we’ll have this one coming out this week, and in two weeks you can get the other half of it. And we are talking all about leadership lessons from Bob Iger, who, if you have listened to this podcast at all in the last few years, you know that we are Bob Iger fangirls. We just really think that he has a smart business mind and articulates himself well. And he’s kind of a fun c e o to get behind. You know, I think there’s a lot of brands out there where you probably don’t even know who the CEO is. Steve Jobs comes to mind, you know who they are when they’re speaking on the stage, and Bob Iger is kind of like that for us.

Nicole (00:45):
And as you probably know, he has come back into the role of CEO for Disney. This happened back in November and it was a very abrupt changeover. So it kind of brought us back to Bob Biker’s book and his philosophies, and we thought, let’s revisit it. Let’s share it with everybody. So first and foremost, we are just going to try to share some of the lessons he’s had. If you have not read his book, we highly recommend it. He also has a masterclass, and I think it’s on the platform called Masterclass. Mm-Hmm. , which is basically just a video format of his book. I wouldn’t say it’s him reading it, but it’s the stories that he tells in the book, because this man is a content genius because that’s what’s put him in the helm of Disney. And so those are all really amazing.

Nicole (01:32):
I’ve read the book, I’ve watched the videos, I recommend either platform, whatever you can get your hands on. There’s some great lessons here if you’re a small business owner. And even if you’re not, just how you treat other people comes through loud and clear in in the books and the stories. I guess where should we start? Like a little bit of info about Bob Egger maybe? Sure. So he’s in his seventies. He’s 71 I believe. He started working for quote Disney back when it was ABC in 1974. So he was kind of on like the broadcast side of things, and that’s really important to know because of the direction that he took Disney in years later. He really focused on content, you know, he was instrumental in getting like Disney Plus and Marvel and Star Wars and all of these big engines going.

Nicole (02:19):
And I think that’s because he has that background in, in tv. So you know, he started with the b ABC in 1974, and then he became the c e o. He, he went from 20 years ago. Yeah, 2005 was when he became c e O and he was at the helm for 15 years and retired and then came back a couple months ago. And you know, they say that his first role at ABC was just kind of like the lacky on the sidelines, grabbing all the equipment people needed and running it around the set all the way up to ceo, which is just crazy. Like these stories don’t really exist anymore. And I love that his entire book, even though it’s non-fiction and it’s typically something that would be dense material, it’s all story based mm-hmm. . so yeah, that’s just like a little bit about that.

Nicole (03:08):
So some of the really big things that we know of that he’s been behind in 2006, he bought Pixar in 2009. I say he, I mean the Disney company at his leadership of course Marvel 2012 was George Lucas. And Lucas Films 2018 was Fox which was the 21st century Fox, although like movies and catalog they had. And he was also really instrumental in getting Shanghai Disney opened in in China, and that took him about two decades to do. So those are some big projects and that completely glosses over all of the little projects in between. But I, I think it’s just important to talk about like the content and how that has been the thread for everything. And we’ll get back to that a little bit. The first step, I’d love to just talk about his, he has like eight philosophies he says around leadership and I mean, you can take these eight words and run with them. So yeah. Yasmin, where do you wanna start with the philosophies?

Yasmine (04:07):
Nicole, why don’t you talk about optimism?

Nicole (04:09):
Oh, sure. So he says in his book that optimism is that even in the face of difficult choices and less than ideal outcomes, an optimistic leader does not yield to pessimism. Simply put, people are not motivated or energized by pessimists. And it’s, this is such an obvious statement, which I think all of these are at your core. You kind of already know these things, but putting them into action and practice is the difficult thing. And you know, he’s, this isn’t just for his book. He’s had interviews where he talks about this with his optimism even years prior where he’s saying he said, I remember as a kid seeing a World War II movie and you’d have some caption or a captain or whatever, an officer of some sort, and they would say, we’re gonna come over this hill guys. Is anyone gonna follow the pessimist?

Nicole (04:57):
Who thinks they’re gonna lose? Or who constantly thinks that, you know, things aren’t gonna work out for the best? No. and so that’s I think something he took to his core and was really like, we can get through hard times. We have to make difficult decisions. Even though he was not c e o when Covid was happening, I think there was some overlap. I think Covid was like February, 2020 and he was already scheduled to retire. He might have retired like December 31st, this whole situation, he was still chairman of the board at that time and really led them through the pandemic. And I think in the face of having to shut down the parks and everything else that came with it, he was an optimist. And you know, that is kind of the timeline where Bob Chap took over and you saw the morale of cast members going down, like basically starting from when he took over until Bob Iger came back.

Nicole (05:56):
And you know, we’ve heard stories and reports, we’ve seen things on Twitter, we’ve seen things in Forbes where, you know, the cast members, once they got the announcement that Bob Iger was back, it was like an overnight instant like stress relief off their shoulders. And I think that tells you a lot about this, like following an optimistic leader versus following one that, you know, wants to do things by the book. And it’s all about the numbers and it’s all about efficiency and all of those things. I love those things, but there’s a human element, especially to a business like Disney

Yasmine (06:25):
For sure. And I think one of the stories that came out was when Bob Iger came back as c e o, it was like a house had dropped on the witch and the munchkins and mu were all like rejoicing because Ding Dong the Witch is dead. They were really excited that Bob Iger was back and you know, Bob Chap wasn’t continuing to to lead because he didn’t really seem like an optimistic leader. In fact, in a lot of ways as we’re going through this list, I feel like his leadership style was like the opposite of Bob Iger. Oh yeah. Did you say Nicole? Yeah.

Nicole (06:58):
Yeah, it definitely feels that way. I mean, you know, Iger has said that hi, his dad battled with depression. And so he constantly felt that you can’t do everything right and you can’t do anything right, because you never knew what happened would set off your dad’s depression or anger or whatever it may be. And so when you take that into like a business sense, it’s like Disney is in the business of fun, right? They, you, they sell those fairy tales, they sell the happily ever after. And that, you know, through all bad things you can persevere. And to have a c e that doesn’t embody that, just you can feel that clash that would exist

Yasmine (07:43):
For sure. And like, if you’re thinking of how does this apply to my own business? Well, yeah, like ev anyone can, you know, be an optimistic leader, but with the economy being in the state that it’s in, like, you know, a lot of people are coming down on like tough times and I think it can be hard to sort of like see the light at the end of the tunnel, but you know, entrepreneurship flourishes in times of recession. So that’s something that you can maybe think about as you get through 2023 with your business. So speaking of, you know, getting through and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I think like courage was another one of Bob i’s core tenants and leadership philosophies. And I think one quote that he said that really like stood out to me was like he didn’t wanna be in the business of playing it safe because he wanted to create possibilities for greatness.

Yasmine (08:35):
And as business owners, I really feel like there, in order to really get into business, like you have to have that curion, you have to take that risk and you have to take that leap of faith. And often what happens is once we do that, things go well and we fall into a, you know, period of complacency. And Bob Iger didn’t do that. He was constantly pushing for innovation, pushing for growth within the Disney company. I mean, Nicole talked about some of his major accomplishments acquiring Marvel, acquiring Lucas Film, acquiring Fox, like those were three major standalone like studios and brands that have rolled into the Disney company that really fed a bigger project now, which is Disney plus. Like, in addition to having that incredible IP and being able to continue telling those stories and creating like the Marvel cinematic universe and the Star Wars prequels and like the films that came after all of this really helped Disney Plus launch with a really robust platform. Like heck, the entire Fox portfolio was massive. I read today that The Simpsons, which is again a show from Twain Century Fox has 50 times, I believe more viewership than any other series on the Disney plus platform. Isn’t that wild? And,

Nicole (09:59):
You know, yeah. Way I wouldn’t have thought that, but yeah, I guess,

Yasmine (10:02):
Yeah, 50, I think it was 50 plus. Like, we’ll, we’ll fact check that in the show notes. But that was again, an acquisition that Bob Iger really led and that courage and forethought to, you know, look at Disney’s beloved ip, but really ex ex add to that to expand their audience base and their viewership has led to some of the amazing things that we get to experience today as part of like the Disney ecosystem. And one other thing that he said about courage that sort of relates to this is in order to be brave, you kind of have to be comfortable with failure, right? Because if you’re not willing to accept that things might not always work according to plan, you’re not gonna take these great risks. You’re gonna play it safe.

Nicole (10:50):
I also wanna say with courage, you know, he made these big moves with Marvel and Lucas films and one of the stories around that that stuck out to me was with Apple and Steve Jobs, like at that point mm-hmm. , Pixar, they really thought that those two brands had basically disintegrated and the relationship was gone. And to have the courage to just reach out and say, Hey, let, maybe we can mend this bridge. Maybe we can get in a room with a whiteboard and figure this out. And I just think that that’s really powerful because some people won’t even take that step cuz they’re already afraid of the no. And you were talking about how courage comes with the fair conquering the fear of failure or at least being like, okay, or accepting a failure. And I’ve learned this so much as a parent that when you try to make things so simple for your kids or you try to protect them too much, they don’t fail, and then when they do fail or something gets hard, it’s really hard for them to get over that because they never learned that muscle, right?

Nicole (11:51):
Mm-Hmm. . And so I, I just think that it’s such a great lesson. And so when it comes to your small business, you know, are, are, is there something you’re doing that is you’re kind of afraid of or you have some anxiety around? And it doesn’t have to be big, it, it can literally be, you know, I wanna take this from part-time to full-time, that’s big. But it could be something like, I’d really like to try and, you know, raise my rates with my clients even though it doesn’t feel right right now, but my, my bills are increasing and I need to do this. And it’s scary to have that ask. It could be just, you know, reaching out to collaborate with someone or asking them to appear on their podcast or whatever it may be. Is there something,

Yasmine (12:32):
Or even launching a different product, like yeah, you know, moving into launching digital proj products for example, you might think like, oh you know, I really wanna release this, but who’s gonna want it? Well put it out there and learn who’s gonna want it. And beyond that, like it’ll teach you other ways that you can potentially market this. What does work, what doesn’t? Like no one goes into business knowing things are gonna work out a hundred percent of the time. A lot of it is trial and error, it’s fact-based trial and error. Like, you look at best practices, you go with, you know past experiences, but you can never guarantee someone who’s gonna work out a hundred percent of the time and you’re not gonna know unless you try.

Nicole (13:15):
And it goes back to the optimism too, right? Yeah. So if you have courage and you’ve built this culture of optimism in your brand and your business, then you can accept what’s coming and you’re rallied around the positives or the possibilities. And you know, I think that’s also a piece of courage where when you’re doing the work, you’re also trusting your team and in what you delegate them in doing because you have created that culture for them. So I mean, these things are all related and you can see how having courage in a not so good environment might lead to some choices that are extremely risky and put a lot of things at risk courage. Mm-Hmm. in an optimistic environment might be a little bit different. So definitely don’t do one of these in a silo. Think about it all as a whole. I’d really love to move over to his next focus area, which is focus .

Yasmine (14:12):

Nicole (14:13):
Do you like that

Yasmine (14:14):

Nicole (14:15):
? So this is all about allocating time, energy, and resources to the strategies, problems and projects that are the highest value. And it says that it’s imperative to communicate your priorities clearly and often, and I think we talk a lot about this throughout all of the episodes of the show about, you know, having focused not letting shiny objects syndrome come in and get you you know, we have that kick squirrel syndrome to the curve download that you can get that kind of walks you through, like, here are focus areas in your business, so you only do one thing at a time. But there was one piece of this book while I was reading that I was like, underlining, highlighting, I loved it so much and I think it’s, you know, scars from when I worked in corporate and how I wished my corporate job was, but it wasn’t.

Nicole (15:03):
And so I just remember highlighting this passage and it, it was just basically about you can do a lot for the morale of the people around you and therefore the people around them just by taking the guesswork out of their day-to-day life. A lot of work is complex and requires focus and energy, but this is fairly simple. This is where we wanna be and this is how we’re going to get there. And I think it was so smart because there are so many times in our small businesses as in our digital businesses, especially when we’re bringing on team members or we’re just even trying to get work done ourselves, we can’t articulate what it is we want our team to do mm-hmm. so they don’t get the things done. And then we either judge them harshly or decide, well, you don’t want to, you know, keep working with this contractor or, or just, you know, say, oh, that idea was bad or that product line was bad.

Nicole (15:58):
And really it, I think so many times it comes down to did you put focus in this? Did you communicate clearly? And often this is the goal we’re working toward. We are going to launch X, y, z we are gonna do, you know, this in the first quarter of the year and you know, it’s January right now, this will air at the end of January and you know, maybe you’ll have some time for reflection, but definitely think about whether you have team members or not. What is your focus gonna be for the next few weeks? You know, you don’t wanna waste time doing, thinking about what to do. It’s such a waste of time. So many of my clients will say, I just want a boss to tell me what to do on Monday morning, . And you know, when you make out your projects and your goals for the year, you can kind of get to that point where maybe you do have a boss.

Nicole (16:48):
It’s just the notes you had from last week telling you what to do next week. All right. So the last one we’re gonna go over this week is decisiveness and we’ll do the remaining four in our next episode. But we would love to hear from you if you’re listening along, like are you nodding? Are you thinking about how you bring optimist to optimism to your business? Are you bringing courage and focus? Next up is decisiveness and we’ll talk a little bit about that, but just interrupting with this little promo to come to Instagram @pixiedustandprofits and send us a dm, let us know, you know, what, what’s resonating with you right now.

Yasmine (17:25):
Yeah, we would love to know. So on decisiveness, one of the things that Bob Iger says is that he’s always instinctively felt which means like sometimes he uses as judgment to decide what direction to go into. And I think like beyond that, it’s also a really good lesson that like sometimes you just have to make a choice and the failure to make a choice can impact you negatively in the long run. I mean, an example that I can think of right off the bat that of an experience I’ve had with the client and that I’ve actually seen lots of entrepreneurs go through which ties a little bit back to focus and courage, but is it’s, it’s a bit of a failure to launch and not decide because they can go in one direction with a project or another direction, but they don’t know which one will be better, which one will yield them the most success.

Yasmine (18:15):
So they sort of come to a standstill and they can’t make a choice. And that lack of choice slows us down, holds up the project, causes to do a lot of rework. And often what I’ve seen is their failure to make a choice and just pick a direction just to see how it’s going to play out. Results in someone else sort of beating them to the punch, launching a similar project, opening up you know, a similar shop or something where they you know, attract a bit of the same audience. And, you know, there’s always that benefit to first mover advantage, but you know, that’s not to say that you can’t like still come out with your product improve, but with Bob Iger, I feel like he’s always, you know, made decisions, taking the data into consideration, but really focusing on what the outcome will be.

Yasmine (19:08):
Not just for like, you know, the bottom line, but for like the broader Disney community that includes the employees and the audience. We, we saw this a lot in like the parks, right? Recently Bob Iger has ruled back some of the previous decisions that have been made under Chap X rate and a few of his own. For one he’s brought, he’s really listened to the park community and the park like audience and fans. And while, you know, charging anyone who’s staying at a resort, a nightly parking fee definitely helps ramp up the revenue. It was also making it so that Disney was starting to become too expensive for what’s really always been their core audience, which is like the average everyday family. We’ve talked about the value chain that Disney has, that they really meet every customer where they’re at from the value customers who, you know, are spending their money for this once a lifetime Disney trip and might not have a huge budget, but can still experience it all the way to, you know, the people who want to like stay at the Grand Floridian every time and have the most like luxurious Disney experience like Disney really is for everybody.

Yasmine (20:22):

Nicole (20:22):
The parking fee really felt like a slap in the face too. Yeah. And they took away magical express, so you had no way to get to Disney anymore for free. You know, it’s not really free, it’s baked into all your ticket prices and everything, but you had no way to get from the airport to Disney anymore. So now you had to spend more to rent a car or take an Uber or whatever it may be, and you’re paying for parking overnight if you did rent a car, it, it added, you know, $1,500 to every budget easily. So it, it did really feel like a slap in the face. And you know, they just released last week that those charges won’t exist anymore. So that’s a quick decisive action. You know, he came into CEO EShip in November and probably looked at where, what are some quick wins we can get to, you know, boost our PR and also like, you know, won’t terribly impact the bottom line.

Yasmine (21:16):
Yeah, a few other like big changes that he made were like sort of relaxing the limits on park hopping. So for the longest time you couldn’t visit another park until after like one or 2:00 PM and beginning February 4th, that’s changing till 11:00 AM so you can go to like Magic Kingdom and then, you know, head over to Epcot for lunch by noon and not have to wait until like 1:00 PM to go. He also has brought back free on ride photos. So one of like the biggest travesties of the magic or the annual pass changes, other than the fact that like you can’t just get them anymore because they’ve limited the number of purchasers due to the fact that Bob Chapa considered them unfavorable audiences.

Nicole (22:02):
Yeah, because we didn’t spend enough money. But I, I can at attest that once you become an annual passholder, you start buying merchandise you never bought before

Yasmine (22:11):
. Yep. Because that 20% discount’s quite sweet. But he brought back the ride photos so you no longer have to like, you know, spend an extra like $99 a year or a trip to like get those photos. Like you can get them back. Which again was a decision that didn’t make a lot of annual pass holders happy. And I think Bob Iger understands that like, you know, the longevity of this like fandom and I think the future return it has beyond like the most immediate impact on the bottom line. I mean, heck, Nicole got me to buy D V C after like talking to her for like one weekend.

Nicole (22:49):
It was a, it’s a good investment. You’re, it, it’s amazing how, I don’t wanna say more inexpensive trips are, but when you aren’t paying for the hotel room and you fly on points and you have an annual pass, like that’s why we end up going once or twice a year, like usually once a year and I go a second time for, for pixie dust and profits. And so for to hear things like annual pass holders are not, you know, revenue generators, it’s just mind boggling to me because there’s no way without DVC that I’d be able to do this or want to do this, you know? The other thing about decisiveness, it talks about making decisions in a timely way mm-hmm. . And yes, when you were talking about this with clients, and it was like you were in my business because I, I have a client for the last few weeks who like, they’re ready to launch, like they’re on the springboard, they need to jump, we have everything ready.

Nicole (23:42):
And it’s a constant like, okay, we’re ready. I’m about to like hit the red button and then they’re like, oh no, I need to look at it a little longer. And like you said, it delays the project, it delays the opportunity, it delays that you’ll, you’ll get out there first. And you know, there are in these situations, this isn’t even something where there is an audience they have to build first. They actually have people actively applying for this opportunity and they’re ignoring them by continually double checking and having to rethink it. And so at some point the interest starts waning because they were interested and you’ve stopped talking about it because you’ve been thinking about it. You put it, you took it out of the action pile and you put it back into the like head strategy pile. And so decisiveness, I think more than any of the others can, can definitely be, I don’t wanna say a business killer, but it can be a huge spiral that you can’t get past because once you start second guessing everything, it gets really hard to get back into that action phase.

Nicole (24:47):
And so I think a lot of the work that Yasmin and I do with our clients is, is kind of trying to be that fairy godmother, that business fairy godmother we talk about where we just kind of tap you on the shoulders and maybe give you a gentle kick in the butt mm-hmm. with some pixie dust. And we tell you, you know, this is good what you have. People will want this and you know, we can pivot, but we need to send this first piece into the world, see the response, see what people want, see this, and then we can make our next decision quickly based on that information. But if we never get this first foot out the door, we’re, we’re just gonna keep staying in the house.

Yasmine (25:27):
And, and that’s the key thing. It’s like making decisions based on information. Like, it’s not like Bob Iger is like going like, Hmm, you know what? I think I’m just gonna do away with parking. Like I’m sure he’s looking at data and he’s thinking about maybe the long term impact instead of like the immediate bottom line. But if you don’t put something out there, you don’t know if it’s gonna work. Like a product that is like hasn’t been released is a failure as far as I’m concerned because it, it’s not out there. You don’t know if it’s successful or not. And you need to put something out there, like Nicole said, to get that initial feedback and then make adjustments. Adjustments and optimizing, optimizing in like the vacuum of like pre-launch mode only does so much a few weeks here and there. Yes. But constant pivots like you don’t know if this is gonna work better than the previous product. Cuz again, you have no data, you’re like literally going on a whim, a hunch. And you know, we do believe in trusting your gut, but you need information and data to sort of feed those bigger decisions in your

Nicole (26:30):
Business. There’s so much I wanna go into with Jeck and, you know, those decisions he did make about all of these price increases and everything else, and how even with feedback he didn’t, you know, reverse those decisions. I, there’s a part of it that feels like it was opportunistic because hundred percent of the pandemic pandemic going on and you know, to never walk back on those things. But you know, in the next episode where we go through the next four parts of Bob Bagger’s leadership lessons, it, we talk about fairness and I think that that conversation can come in there, but it definitely felt like decisiveness, but you also need to respond to the people who are talking. I think some of that was what felt so disrespectful as a longtime like Disney in investor in the sense of like, you know, I don’t see myself as just a guest anymore because of how much money I’ve spent there over the years.

Nicole (27:23):
But you know, to make these decisions and then not stop and think like this whole, you can go to a park after two o’clock, but only if you go to a park before two o’clock. And all of these rules that made no sense really were really difficult to follow even for people who’d, who’d gone there a million times. Mm-Hmm. . And not to reverse that decision after everyone started getting vaccinations, all the rules have changed and still to act like we need to keep these things in place, it felt a little bit disingenuous. And so I think we’ll get into this around fairness. So if you haven’t caught on, there’s a second part to this episode, it will be out in two weeks. So make sure to listen to them together, subscribe to us on iTunes, send us a DM on Instagram @pixiedustandprofits and we’ll see you real soon.



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