Advice about goal setting applies to creating talking points: less is more

I just finished reading the highly informative, educational and entertaining book The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger. In it, he reveals how he rose from an entry level position at ABC Television in 1974 to eventually become CEO of the Walt Disney Company in 2005.

Obtaining the CEO job was certainly not an easy task for Iger, even though he was previously the number two person at Disney. The Disney board (and many shareholders) were not happy with the company’s operations and financial performance at that point. In addition to considering Iger, the board was also looking outside the company for a possible new CEO.

It was then that Iger met with a highly regarded political consultant, brand manager and former ABC consultant, Scott Miller. Miller advised Iger he would have to launch what would amount to a political campaign to convince the board members to choose him as CEO.

The advice Miller gave Iger about how to run that campaign struck me like a thunderbolt. I realized that it did not only pertain to Iger’s position, it could also apply to many media interviews and even crisis situations.

Miller told Iger not to focus so much on the past, when Iger was reporting to the former CEO (who the board felt had made mistakes).

“You cannot win on the defensive. It’s only about the future. It’s not about the past,” Miller told Iger.

Iger admits in his book that this strategy was a revelation to him. He decided to answer board complaints about the company’s performance up to that point by saying: “I can’t do anything about the past. We can talk about lessons learned, and we can make sure we apply those lessons going forward. But we don’t get do-overs. You want to know where I’m going to take this company, not where it’s been. Now here’s my plan.”

I think that’s great advice for dealing with a crisis. Yes, acknowledge the mistake made. Apologize if necessary. But then shift your focus to the future and what you’re doing to improve the situation.

Miller then told Iger to determine some strategic priorities for Disney’s future. Iger writes that he had already thought of this and started ticking off five or six. Miller shook his head and said, “Stop talking. Once you have that many of them, they’re no longer priorities.”

Not only do you undermine their significance by having too many, but also nobody is going to remember them all, Miller added “You’re going to seem unfocused,” he said. “You only get three.”

Wow. That is such great wisdom. And doesn’t it also match what media experts have been preaching to us for years in terms of prepping for an interview? Limit your talking points to three at the most, many advise. And thanks to Iger’s book, we can see the foundation for that advice.

P.S.: For those of you who are interested, the three priorities Iger set were 1) Devote most of the company’s time and capital to creating high quality, branded content. 2) Embrace technology to the fullest extent. 3) Become a truly global company.

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