This month I read The Ride of a Lifetime by Bob Iger. Bob has spent his career in the entertainment industries, starting at ABC (TV/news etc.) and is the current executive chairman of Disney. Many of the experiences Bob has had over his career have little relevance to the plans I have for my business or the work I do, but when someone has done as much, worked with as many companies, and been through as many big deals as he has, I think it’s always a good idea to see what lessons they can teach you.
One of the biggest lessons in the book is interestingly enough something that’s very Disney, and that’s about who you are as a person and a leader. To be someone others can respect, trust, open up to, rely on, and be led by, yet someone who is humble, asks lots of questions, doesn’t pretend to know stuff they don’t know, and recognizes how important it is to have great people surrounding and supporting them (and that without those people the vision could never become reality). These are the characteristics that many of us have seen in the Disney shows and movies we’ve seen and while no one is perfect, they’re things Bob not only learned throughout his career are important, but they’re things he’s tried to live up to.
One of the other things this book goes through in detail are the many acquisitions Bob was part of from one side or the other and what it takes to get deals done, especially on the big scale that is often done in the entertainment world. Deals, decisions and offerings aren’t created to have market share, but because putting them together or offering them increases value to the company/companies, team members and customers. With each deal and decision there were tons of questions and research and conversation that had to be had, especially along the lines of making sure that cultures remain intact, value will be added, growth/innovation will be almost guaranteed, and that it all can be done in a way that shows vision, priorities, clarity and as appropriate, unity.
Finally, the last lesson I wanted to share about was something that the book started with and is another iconic aspect of Disney and that’s crafting a good story. The book started out with the story of one of Bob’s more intense weeks both as a person, father and person in charge of the legacy that is Disney. It was an incredibly engaging way to start the book, and was something that continued throughout it. I often say that everyone, every company has a story. Why? Because behind every company is a person or group of people and their ideas that started that company and has (usually) guided every step forward that it has taken. Bob shared in the book that he has always been interested in a good story, and I think that’s one of the reasons that he’s succeeded as he has. Not only has the story caught him, but he learned how to share that story in a way that caught the attention of others and added value in one way or another.
As silly as telling stories for a living may seem, Disney is a huge business that employs thousands throughout their various connected corporations, and has touched the lives of billions since 1923. The steps the book shares that they made over the past couple of decades shows that they’re committed to carrying on the vision of the Disney brothers who started the company for many years to come. What about you? Are you adding value every day through your business? Committed to your team and recognizing how essential they are to the company’s success? Sharing your story because it matters to you and is something others can connect with? Whether you plan to only be in business for a season or hope to have the years of a company like Disney, how are you leading that company?