As CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Iger is riding high this week with the release of Frozen 2 and news that the company's new streaming service, Disney+, signed up 10 million users in its first 24 hours. On November 13, The Wall Street Journal reported that Disney's stock reached an all-time high.
Iger is credited for the company's success, especially in the 15 years since he took the helm of the iconic brand. And now he's spilling the secrets behind his leadership strategies. This week, MasterClass released Iger's new online video lessons on leadership.
I watched all 13 episodes (about 2.5 hours total). Iger covers everything a boss should know--from creating brand value to managing your time. The lessons Iger shares in the third episode are especially valuable for any entrepreneur, leader, or aspiring CEO.
Focus on three priorities--and three only
In 2004, the board of the Walt Disney Company started looking for a new CEO. Iger was the only candidate from inside the company. He began long rounds of interviews with individual board members and the entire board. Part of the process of hiring any new CEO, of course, is learning about the potential leader's strategic priorities for the future of the company.
Iger invited his friend, a successful marketing executive, to help him prepare.
"What are your priorities?" the marketing executive asked.
Iger began to list the priorities he would tell the board. When Iger got to his fifth and sixth strategies for the company, the executive feigned a yawn and told Iger to stop. "You can only have three priorities," Iger's friend said. The more priorities you have, the less focused each one is, Iger explains. So instead he came up with three of them, and focused exclusively on those big ideas.
Iger's articulated his three goals for the Walt Disney Company and made good on them after he won the job. Iger's priorities at the time were:
- Invest capital in high-quality content from the most creative minds (Iger acquired Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm).
- Use technology to reach people in more innovative ways (Disney+).
- Grow globally, deepening connections to markets around the world (Disney Shanghai).
Once Iger became CEO, his next step was to clearly communicate the three priorities face-to-face with all stakeholders--not once but constantly. Although Iger can hold virtual meetings from his office in Los Angeles, he prefers to travel extensively to share the message in person.
"Sharp communication skills are essential," says Iger. He says that stating your strategies isn't a one-time event. Leaders must become "the living, breathing incarnation of your three strategies." Your strategy must be communicated verbally, in plain language and preferably in the same room with your audiences so you can tailor your vision to their day-to-day workplace experiences.
Use the "rule of three"
Regular readers of my articles know that I'm a fan of using the rule of thirds in communication. Simply put, the human mind is only capable of holding three or four big ideas in short-term memory. Don't overwhelm your listener with more than three--three features of a product, three reasons to invest in your startup, or three things you'll do after you're hired.
In his MasterClass, Iger reinforces the rule of three as a communication tool. And he takes it one step further. Over Iger's successful career, the rule of three has also given him a tool to focus his time and energy and the company's resources.
In a famous line from Disney/Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn says, "Your focus determines your reality."
That advice is worth remembering as you set your priorities for the new year. After all, when is the last time you wrote down or articulated your three strategic priorities? Don't try to tackle too many things at once. Stick to three.