creating magical moments for your guests

Episode 77: Leadership Lessons from Bob Iger: Part Two (Transcript)

Feb 7, 2023



Yasmine (00:00):
Hello, and welcome back to Pixie Dust and Profits. I’m Yasmine. And I’m Nicole. And today we are kicking off part two of our discussion of Bob ER’s core leadership philosophy. So in our previous episode, we talked about optimism, courage, focus, and decisiveness. And if you haven’t listened to part one, we highly encourage you to do so. We dive into you know, some pretty big themes that drive the success that Bob Ira has had. In this week’s episode, we are gonna be looking at curiosity, fairness, thoughtfulness, and integrity. So curiosity is where we’re gonna kick things off. And the quote that he said about that is something that we’ve heard quite a bit, and that is the path to innovation begins with curiosity, innovate or die. And I’m not gonna lie, as a former mba, former mba, I still have an mba. As an mba.

Yasmine (00:57):
I kind of love that quote because one of my favorite favorite books in business school was Michael Porter’s, like Five Forces Theory about you know, how innovation has to happen in businesses. And, you know, the classic example is like Netflix and how Blockbuster was given the chance to buy them. And they said no, and now they’re left in the dust. And Netflix is like this huge streaming company that has sparked other more traditional media companies to also launch into the streaming space like Disney. Disney Plus we know has been you know, a pretty big success until recently where kind of lost quite a bit of money under the helm of the former Disney c e o, Bob Chapa. But I feel like innovation was key to how Bob ier ran Disney and really transformed it. I mean, when he came in, in 2005, Disney was in trouble.

Yasmine (01:58):
We’ve gone through some of the challenges that Disney had in earlier episodes and we’ll link them down below in the show notes. But he came in and basically took a company that was starting to crumble and completely revolutionized it. Disney’s theme parks grew, those like hit movies came back and all of this happened under Bob I’s Home because he knew that in order for Disney to really grow it had to look beyond what it was. And that included a lot of IP acquisitions. We talked about how he bought, or he, not he bought, but he led the purchase of Marvel. The greater partnership with Apple and Pixar Lucas Film and Fox. The, that was his brainchild and that was what he led to like really grow Disney’s ip. So, you know, we have more than just our Disney princesses. He really expanded Disney’s presence across the globe. It took him two decades to build Disney Shanghai. And he knew that if Disney sort of went along the current path of just like animation and you know, theme parks that would only go so far. They needed a new audience. I mean, back then people thought once they kids became teenagers, they were a little bit too old for Disney. Nicole, I don’t think you ever really felt that way, but, you know, we’re, we’re of a, we’re a different breed. We’re a different breed

Nicole (03:24):
Of people. Yeah. Yeah. And we also, you know, everyone has different kids who value different things. Yeah. My, my niece and nephew are all about the roller coasters and my son wants to do scavenger hunts for Chippendale in Epcot. So . Yeah. Very different personality types. That’s all good. And there’s times for different things. Absolutely. I think what’s interesting about curiosity when it comes to Bob Iger is that it also pairs with focus, which is what we talked about mm-hmm. in the last episode because he really just adamantly said he had, you know, three strategic objectives for the company and that was it. And everything that he, every decision he made, every, everything that he asked people to do revolved around that. And one of them was about basically content, you know? Mm-Hmm. , making sure that they have that storytelling library to pull from.

Nicole (04:14):
So the curiosity side of things comes in when you sit in a room and it’s like, alright, what, you know, if our goal is to, you know, have the best storytelling and the best stories ever, what can we do? And, you know, someone throws a dart out there and they’re like, that would be amazing if we had Star Wars. And then it, it goes from there, you know? And so the playfulness and curiosity, you can still have focus barriers around it. But I think some of this is why Bob Chap was, you know, taken down from the role of CEOs because

Yasmine (04:52):
He was not a storyteller.

Nicole (04:53):
He was not a storyteller. And also one of the first things he did when he became c e o was to centralize. And basically, if you’re ever worked in corporate, like you’re trying to make the org chart a little bit leaner and just have straight up lines instead of having all these branches everywhere. And so he was trying to consolidate a lot of the creative teams. And the easiest way to stifle creativity is to make everyone feel fearful that they’re gone next. That they have to choose safe ideas or, you know, they won’t be the chosen one. All of that, I feel like we’re starting to get into fairness, which is the next one. Yes. But they all go hand in hand. And that curiosity, that playfulness, that creativity was stifled under the previous short term c be because he brought that pessimism into the workplace of, you know, have a hit or we’re not doing it.

Nicole (05:51):
He made some interesting choices with what to release on Disney Plus versus the theater. And, you know, there was that lawsuit with Scarlet Johansen. Like, those things aren’t great for pr and it also sends a very clear message to your creative team that, you know, you’re not important to the business anymore cuz I’m just gonna do what I want and accept the lawsuits. And that definitely messes with people. And so, you know, getting into fairness, which is his next point, he talks about how strong leadership embodies the fair and decent treatment of people. That empathy is essential. People commit honest mistakes, they deserve second chances. And judging people harshly just gives fear and anxiety and discourages communication and innovation. And so we, we just kind of talked about that, where like, you know, centralizing, firing, getting rid of some key staff members just breeds that fear and anxiety.

Nicole (06:50):
And the other thing with fairness, I think we talked about this a little bit in the last episode, where you have very strong fans of this brand. Whether it be the entertainment side or the park side or, or whatever may be. And it’s, it was an interesting choice to kind of punish your biggest fans with the park changes mm-hmm. in lieu of something else. And so it, it, it was a very interesting time to be someone who liked Disney. I I obviously have friends who are big Disney people and we would talk about how, you know, I’ve never thought about selling my D V C before, but I’m kind of considering cuz I’m just not seeing an end to all of this nickel and di I believe we actually mentioned this on an episode back in October before the Bob Iger news, we were talking about how, you know, we’re just feeling like the magic is gone, that we’re just a paycheck to, to this brand.

Nicole (07:55):
We’re not, you know, celebrated in any way. I know the pandemic had some things to do with that, but there were things called gosh, what are they called? Those magic nights that they have for DV c owners. And it’s just like, you know, after the park closes, you can get three hours in a park and they have a couple of rides open and you get a free dinner voucher, and things like that. Were going away. And, you know, they don’t guarantee parks for Moonlight Magic and other events just by buying a timeshare. Absolutely. But it really took a swung to, is this fair? I feel like this is the one-sided relationship right now.

Yasmine (08:32):
I just love to talk about another aspect of fairness that we really saw come into play under Bob ER’s leadership, and that is the inclusivity mm-hmm. that Disney is accepting to anyone and everyone, no matter what family you come from, whether they’re like, you know, a traditional nuclear family or not. You know, we saw Disney come out with a bit of a, a pride collection a couple years ago and, you know, you could say it’s just rainbows, but they were really, you know, taking a stance and showing their support for Disney fans regardless of, you know, who you love. We’re also seeing it with the exploration of different cultures. You know, over the past couple years we’ve been seeing different, like princesses of different ethnicities and really diving into their cultures in a more like genuine manner In term, like with Encanto for example. You know, we’ve,

Nicole (09:29):
Well, you know, there’s still problematic elements to it. Absolutely. We could talk about how Tiana is a frog for half of the movie . But they are redoing Splash Mountain. It’s actually closed as of the other day, two day two or three days ago. They, it was down and they’re reaming that, and so I hope they do a really great job with the theme. One of the stories he talks about is Black Panther and giving the green light to that project and having that project move forward. I mean, he was repeatedly told that no one would go to the box office to see a black superhero. Like people actually said that to him. And he said, no, they will. And, you know, green lighted that project and it went on to be one of the biggest Marvel sellers there were. And, you know, whether he saw that as dollar signs or the right thing to do, he talks so much about fairness, integrity, which we’ll get into later.

Nicole (10:21):
And just, you know, being a decent person because that’s what will translate to your business, you know mm-hmm. you’re not gonna say, oh, they’re a really good person, but they’re, you know, their business is terrible. Like they’re ex exploiting people or something. Mm-Hmm. , they usually don’t go hand in hand because if your values are here, you, you can’t change your values so much that the company is completely different. Absolutely. So I think that that’s just like great examples of how he’s bringing fairness into everything and, you know, how can we do this in our businesses?

Yasmine (11:01):
There’s so many ways. I think like, one is if you’re looking at, just like inclusivity is really thinking about like your hires and ensuring that you’re bringing in people from different backgrounds and perspectives that can add so much richness to how you move forward with your business. Because different perspectives really help you look at things through a different lens and help you improve your product, improve how you’re delivering your product and messaging to your audience. I mean, I’m, I’m gonna throw in like just a couple of stats for Disney, but you know, 50% of their employees worldwide are women, which is pretty sweet. 49% of their series leads and regulars are people of color. And we’ve been seeing that more and more, especially with like Disney Plus. We’re seeing a lot more representation on those channels. And 46% of their US employees are people of color. So I really feel like they’re not just, you know, doing it for the sake of saying like, we’re inclusive. Like they’re, they’re walking the walk.

Nicole (12:03):
I think they recognize that they’re a brand about storytelling and mm-hmm. , you can’t tell just one specific a

Yasmine (12:10):

Nicole (12:10):
Percent subset of human beings stories. Right. I mean, the whole focus on getting Shanghai Disney was a huge talk about all of this, where it was making something authentically Chinese but distinctly Disney. Or maybe it was the other way around, but it, it was about translating the Disney Parks experience to a different culture in a way that was respectful, appreciated, fun for them. You know, just the different belief systems that people have, the haunted mansion is completely different in China and there’s a reason for that. Culturally. They really made sure to think about that in a holistic view. And I, and I just wanna add this quote he has, which I think is so important. I mean, this may, again, this is probably my scars from working in corporate, but he says, when hiring, try to surround yourself with people who are good in addition to being good at what they do, genuine decency and instinct for fairness and openness and mutual respect is a rarer commodity in business than it should be.

Nicole (13:14):
And you should look for it in the people you hire and nurture it in the people who work for you. And I think that is so important. Even as small business owners, making sure we have fair hiring practices, even if it’s just a contractor, we’re paying them fairly. We’re paying living wages, you know, we’re not taking their labor and using it to make multimillions, but paying our staff 5,000 a year, you know, it’s, it’s just being fair and nurturing that in your team and yourself. I I just think it means a success, more successful long-term operation than just a get rich quick mm-hmm. type of scheme.

Yasmine (13:57):
A hundred percent. So this kind of leads us into the next point, which is thoughtfulness. And, you know, we can talk about thoughtfulness in terms of just like consideration, fairness, but in the context that Bob Iger mentioned, it was about taking time to really like, think things through with intention and to develop informed opinions. And again, I feel like we saw this in play very recently with some of the big decisions that he made where he took the time to really like listen and review the feedback of, you know, what ultimately makes Disney money, which is its audience, right? And think about the long term impacts to make these decisions to roll back some very unpopular either like slightly pre pandemic or post pandemic things that rolled out like the, we talked about this in the previous episode, but it was parking at resource.

Yasmine (14:54):
You had to pay about 2015 to 25 bucks a night to park your car. That’s gone. It’s free if you’re staying on site. He’s rolling back the limitations around park hopping before you couldn’t really go to park until like one or 2:00 PM Now it’s being rolled back to 11:00 AM as of February 4th. Another big thing is Disney has been increasing their chicken prices, like it feels like nonstop, literally. So pandemic, like, I feel like it used to be like once a year, I, it might still be, I mean, I’m sorry I didn’t fact check this before like saying this point, but like, it honestly feels like, like every like couple months it’s like, oh, prices are increasing again. Better get your tickets and looking at the price of tickets, for example, that I paid in just before 2020 and now it’s like almost 50% more expensive, which is wild.

Yasmine (15:45):
And I know, I know there’s inflation going up, but like not 50% inflation, especially considering Disney Parks has been more profitable post pandemic than it was even pre pandemic. It’s wild. So one thing that he decided to do was not necessarily roll back prices. Cause I think that’s a little bit hard to do, like once you release them to take make tickets cheaper immediately. But the days in which Disney tickets are going to be at their cheapest, they’re expanding that significantly. So rather than it being like, you know, 30 days out of the year that you can get tickets starting at like 1 0 5, it’s being expanded to like 90 to a hundred days. So he’s really trying to, you know, bring back that sense of inclusivity and fairness. So that Disney really can be for everyone. And he’s taking these ti he’s take, lemme do backtrack and it might seem like it was like, you know, a rush decision. But keep in mind Bob Iger was chairman this entire time, so he’s been taking in this feedback. He’s been really looking at how these changes have been impacting the Disney community. And while the decision seems swift now that he’s CEO again, I’m sure that they’ve been percolating for quite a while.

Nicole (17:00):
Yeah. And it, it talks about I mean the thing with thoughtfulness is he says it’s so underrated, right? Mm-Hmm. . And he actually said in an interview years ago when he stepped down as c e o, that he resigned for a very specific reason. There was just a light bulb moment he had and he was like, it’s time he had tried to resign before they renegotiated another year, and then it turned into two. And it it’s something you so rarely see in leadership. And he said that he just started listening less to other people. And whether that was cockiness or ego or the fact that he had so, so many successful deals along the way, or just that he had been CEO for 15, 16 years and he had gotten complacent. He said, I used to listen to people, people a lot more.

Nicole (17:49):
I used to defer to others. And I just started listening less. And he said, you know, that was an early sign to him that it was time and it wasn’t like the only reason why he decided to resign, but it was a contributing factor, right? And so I think that’s such a level of thoughtfulness to like sit back and take a moment of like, okay, I’ve been leading the charge and I’ve kind of been telling people like, this is what we need to do. And you know, when you are running a creative business, you can’t be making all the decisions. And so I, I think thoughtfulness is huge there. And this also plays into integrity, right? Not only did he have those feelings personally about why he should resign because he was like noticing that maybe there’s some things going on here and maybe it’s time, but he actually said it in an interview.

Nicole (18:34):
Like he actually stood up and said, you know, I want to be a good leader. I want to be remembered as a good leader. I make mistakes too, and it’s time, it’s time to move on because I’m just not at the point where I can be leading this creative company anymore. And the other part of integrity that I think came across really strongly and his book was about the high quality of the storytelling mm-hmm. you know, when he took over Disney from the last Bob when he had took it over, they were in a point where they had had multiple flops in the box office back to back to back. And Pixar was really what was saving the brand. And Pixar felt like they were the ones saving the brand, and that’s why the relationship with Disney started going sour. And so, you know, he talks about that high standard of quality quantum, that timeless feeling.

Nicole (19:30):
And, you know, that was his number one goal with the brand. And he started in 2005 as c e o. And you know, if you think back to maybe the last 10, 15 years, you’ve got Frozen and Moana and I mean just so many blockbuster timeless stories in the last 15, 20 years. And I think that it just goes to that high quality product and treating people with high integrity. And this is also why we’re starting to see some of those rollbacks from the decisions that Chap made. Mm-Hmm. . So he talks about integrity being like this how you look at your business in the long term, right? It’s knowing who you are, understanding what’s right, what’s wrong, and it’s really about trusting your instincts to lead the business forward, that you’re not putting the business in a place that is not going to be in a few years.

Nicole (20:28):
And when you look at some of the decisions traffic made, they were very short term decisions that if continued could have brought the brand to a different place in the long term. And I think the board saw that and they saw this is not the direction that we want this brand to be heading into. We need to course correct and get back to where we we were before. Because even though it was time for a new c e o, that path was the path to success that we wanna see. That’s the path we feel like we’re connected to and that this brand stands for. And so, you know, they just were going in two very different directions and they needed to course correct and talk about a brand like Disney making an overnight decision almost , it was like a weekend decision to not only get rid of the c e o that they had just extended a contract to a contract renewal, but to bring back the one before it.

Nicole (21:21):
If there is no case study big enough for you as a small business owner to say it’s okay to make mistakes, to admit it publicly and course correct publicly. Just look at that. I mean, that is insane to think about how Disney just flipped a switch over a weekend. News was breaking out on a Sunday night on Twitter. I mean, and they told cast members first. They told them before they told the media. I mean, when you think about that, like it’s okay to make mistakes and move on, that’s such a level of integrity that people need to be aspiring to. Absolutely. All right. We hope that you loved this Ted talk around all of Bob ER’s leadership lessons. We barely scratched the surface and I don’t even know that we did an amazing job doing it, but hopefully something in these two episodes spurred some sort of like, yes, rallying cry, I can do this, I can leave my business.

Nicole (22:12):
These are, you know, things that, you know, I mean, he quotes Brene Brown on the book mm-hmm. , if you, these are all such related storytellers and concepts, please just go read his book or watch his masterclass. You will learn so much. You’ll, you might not think you’re working on your business by doing it, but you are. And I, I don’t recommend books lately and it’s easy to, you know, tongue in cheek look at things and be like, oh, this is, you know, it was probably ghost written or whatever. You know what, even if it was, it was his words coming outta his mouth and sitting and watching his masterclass. It was his words coming outta his mouth. He didn’t look like he memorized this stuff. It looked like he was sharing these stories that he knew well. And he has an entire history in broadcast and TV and storytelling. So he knows how to tell a story. So it’s, it’s a good non-fiction book that I think will really get you thinking. We have one more episode left to this season y’all. So make sure you join us for that one. Subscribe on iTunes, send us a DM on Instagram @pixiedustandprofits. We would love to hear from you. And we have some, a special last episode of the season and we’ll see you real soon.



loving the podcast?

Leave us a review on iTunes!
It helps us know you're listening and ready for more!

you said

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

leave a comment

even more pixie dust!

bonus BUSINESs builders

get access

We're magically breaking down big-business strategies for your small business in this pack of 3 mini-workbooks and 2 bonus audio files!