3 Lessons from a Shocking Ouster
Bob Chapek was fired as Disney CEO earlier this week. His dismissal has some key lessons for us.
One of the most accomplished CEOs in recent memory is back in the corner office after a retirement that lasted less than a year.
Earlier this week, Disney announced Bob Iger will return to the company as its No. 1 — while Bob Chapek, his hand-picked successor, is out of the top job after less than 24 months.
The abrupt shakeup has three key lessons for us as leaders:
1. Fast starts aren’t fast finishes
Disney came roaring out of the gates under Chapek. In August, it reported a nearly 50 percent jump in profits and had big plans for major blockbusters like “Avatar: The Way of Water” and new theme park rides, according to The New York Times.
But less than three months later, the park rides disappointed, challenges at ESPN arose, and the company reportedly posted a disastrous quarterly report.
It’s a key reminder for us that when we take over, we often think early wins are indicators that we’re on the right track and bound for more success. But our results can change in the blink of an eye if we grow complacent or don’t put the right future strategies in place.
2. Don’t gaslight reality
Among the factors that led to Chapek’s ouster were his earnings calls with analysts and investors in which he reportedly sugarcoated whopping losses and came off as delusional about the hardships Disney faced, The Times reported.
Having a fatalistic view when hardship arises isn’t the right strategy, but we also have an obligation to be truthful about tough times and base our communication in reality. Admitting struggle is hard, but being candid about the circumstances and offering specific strategies to address the adversity is paramount.
3. Be careful about succeeding a legend
It’s an honor. We’re working for a program or organization that has an elite reputation because of our predecessor. But following in the footsteps of a giant isn’t always all it’s made out to be. Vince Lombardi’s successor was fired after three years. Dean Smith’s lasted three as well. Kevin Rollins lasted even less after succeeding Michael Dell at Dell Inc.
Iger returns to Disney with countless challenges and high expectations ahead. But the most relevant lesson for us may be in the termination of Chapek.
The magic of today can easily be gone by tomorrow.
HR professionals are expected to be the recruiter, the onboarding specialist, the mediator, the resident COVID expert, the Chief Culture Officer, and the CEO’s personal sounding board.
At the same time, the workplace is undergoing a monumental shift. With the so-called “future of work” comes the insane responsibility of rethinking the way that company culture is built.
Every company is a loosely-functioning disaster, but yours doesn’t have to be.