Receiving a “Disney Legend” award is a rare honor that’s bestowed upon actors, employees, Imagineers, and others who’ve made extraordinary contributions toward making The Walt Disney Company the magical organization that we all love.
While I’m not going to share my opinion on the matter (although bribing me with a caramel apple from the Main Street Confectionery in Disney World may loosen me up a bit), I am going to help you connect the dots between the Michael Eisner quandary and your own career.
When Eisner was brought in to lead The Walt Disney Company in the early 1980s, times were tough and some thought that new blood was needed.
Under Eisner’s watch, a flurry of successful animation franchises were born (e.g. The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King, etc.), the Disney theme parks experienced major expansions (e.g. Disney-MGM Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Euro Disney, etc.), and investors were treated with a steadily increasing stock value.
After the close of Eisner’s “Disney Decade” in 2000, some argued that the company was stagnating. Influential shareholders and board members thought Eisner had peaked and it was time for him to step down.
Sadly, as campaigns were mounting against Eisner, he was portrayed in very unfavorable terms. News outlets published interviews and letters that favored his ouster and recent shortfalls started to overshadow his past successes.
Was he really that bad? Did Eisner deserve to have an angry mob chase him down (a la the scene in the popular animated film released under Eisner’s watch, Beauty and the Beast) and demand his resignation?
That’s where I’ll leave you hanging with my opinion on the matter.
Instead, I want to bring you back to my original point. Despite the tremendous successes of Michael Eisner, some people feel as if his chances of being honored as a Disney Legend are slim.
Unfortunately, we’re working in a “what have you done for me lately” environment. In other words, I’m arguing that there’s no such thing as a legend in today’s business environment.
While you may have been credited with a tremendous success one day, the next day carries a blank slate. Resting on your laurels is a career-limiting move. (Don’t read too far into this, I’m not saying Eisner rested on his laurels!)
Just because you set a sales record last year doesn’t mean they’ll retire your phone number when you leave the company.
Just because you routinely got high marks in your customer surveys doesn’t mean they’ll erect a statue in your honor.
The point of this message is not to discourage you about your career, but to encourage you to keep pushing harder each day. Walt Disney once said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
Like I said earlier, I won’t tell you my opinion on whether Michael Eisner deserves to be honored as a Disney Legend, but I will say that I would jump at the opportunity to have lunch with him so I could pick his brain.
Mr. Eisner, if you’re reading this….let’s do lunch! Have your people call my people.