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Tough Choices: A Memoir

Tough Choices: A Memoir

3.8 11
by Carly Fiorina

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Behind the headlines-one of the most talked about business leaders in the world tells her own story.

Abridged CDs - 5 CDs, 6 hours


Behind the headlines-one of the most talked about business leaders in the world tells her own story.

Abridged CDs - 5 CDs, 6 hours

Editorial Reviews

"The worst thing I could have imagined happened. I lost my job in the most public way possible, and the press had a field day with it all over the world." The February 2005 ouster of Hewlett-Packard CEO and Chairman Carly Fiorina caused ripples in expected places; even Jay Leno joked at her expense. In Tough Choices, Fiorina speaks her mind about what it feels like to be the most powerful businesswoman in America one day, unemployed and the butt of jokes the next.
Publishers Weekly
Fiorina may have had tough choices, but readers have an easy one: start at page 150 and read the Hewlett-Packard story first. As Carly Fiorina, the famously fired CEO of HP, vividly dissects the company's business, board and structural problems, her management views and talents are clearly visible. She also makes a compelling case for why she deserves some credit for the 2005-2006 turnaround. Less compelling are her claims that her introduction as CEO of HP was marred because "the one question we didn't prepare for was the question most frequently asked... about my gender." (Uh-huh.) When Fiorina dishes the board members, it's delish, especially when citing George "Jay" Keyworth's stated belief that "anyone who had leaked confidential Board conversations to the press shouldn't be allowed in the boardroom." (A wonderful irony since he initially refused to resign during the recent HP scandal when he was revealed as the source of confidential leaks.) Much of what Fiorina writes about the board will be in the news around this book's release, but her revelations are valuable beyond gossip because shareholders are demanding accountability from boards, it's fascinating to be inside a deeply dysfunctional boardroom. And it's just plain fun to see her settle some scores. The start of her memoir, however, is a tedious telling of her rise through the corporate ranks at AT&T and Lucent. It's not clear exactly what the business challenges were the main thing she emphasizes about Lucent is her fondness for the "bold, red logo." These early chapters are filled with numbing passages: "In other words, our value-add would be to get everyone on the same page. Any organization is stronger when people are aligned to act together, instead of working at cross-purposes." While I didn't come away with a sense of Carly Fiorina's personality much of what she writes about herself is unconvincing her book does shed light on the complexities of running a giant corporation. I also learned that I'd bought into media coverage of Carly Fiorina that was superficial at best and misleading at worst. I owe her an apology for that, and she owes her readers one for not hiring (or heeding) a good editor to make her message more riveting. (Oct. 9) Robin Wolaner is the founder of Parenting magazine, former CEO of Sunset Publishing and author of Naked in the Boardroom: A CEO Bares Her Secrets So You Can Transform Your Career (Fireside, 2005). Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
Business Is About People
After she appeared on the cover of Fortune magazine as "The Most Powerful Woman in Business," Carly Fiorina's mother told her, "Who knows? Maybe someday you'll become the CEO of Hewlett-Packard." Her mother's comment surprised Fiorina, considering the mother and daughter had never spoken of the company. Fiorina's response was "Well that's never going to happen!"

Following that conversation, she received a phone call from HP board member Jeff Christian in February 1999; nonetheless, Fiorina was almost certain the HP board would not offer her the available CEO position for a number of reasons: She had never held the position before, she did not have a background in engineering, she wasn't from the industry and she was a woman. On July 19, 1999, Fiorina was proved wrong as HP publicly announced her succession of Lewis Platt as CEO.

Law School Dropout to CEO
After earning her B.A. in medieval history and philosophy from Stanford University, Fiorina completed a short stint at UCLA Law School, dropping out after she realized that law wasn't the career for her and that she couldn't always please her parents with her choices.

Fiorina joined the business world, spending her first 20 years cutting her teeth and climbing the corporate ladder at AT&T and Lucent Technologies before accepting the challenge to lead, as CEO and eventually as chairman, the technology giant Hewlett-Packard. To many people she had seemed an unlikely candidate, but Fiorina managed to lead HP through a number of large internal changes, a significant technology slump, and the Compaq merger, which is considered one of the most controversial mergers in the industry.

While many remember the former Hewlett-Packard CEO as the woman who opted for 7,000 layoffs during the 2001 business downturn, Fiorina positions herself more sympathetically in the book, proclaiming her belief that "in the end, business isn't just about numbers; it's about people." She was not the only one behind terminations at the company. She writes, "One of the great myths of HP was that employees never lost their jobs. The truth was Bill [Hewlett] and Dave [Packard] fired people when they thought it was deserved."

Leadership Has Nothing to Do With Title
Throughout the book, Fiorina offers her business wisdom and personal advice in a palatable style. While at AT&T, one of the women engineers in Fiorina's team came to her, conflicted over raising a family as well as maintaining a career. Fiorina told her, "You cannot sell your soul. Don't become someone you don't like because of the pressure. Live your life in a way that makes you happy and proud. If you sell your soul, no one can pay you back."

In reference to her time spent at Lucent and the leadership roles she experienced, Fiorina claimed,"I have believed all my life that leadership has nothing to do with title or position. Leadership is about the integrity of one's character, the caliber of one's capabilities and the effectiveness of one's collaboration with others. Anyone can lead from anywhere at any time."

On February 9, 2005, Fiorina was fired by the HP board. She writes, "Life isn't always fair, and I was playing in the big leagues. Yet I realized I had no regrets ... I had made mistakes, but I had made a difference."

Why We Like This Book
For those readers who have not followed Fiorina's career - most notably her termination from HP - Tough Choices provides a relatable tale that anyone could enjoy, male or female, business savvy or not. Using her straightforward style, Fiorina allows readers into her life, showing them her professional achievements over the decades and drawing them into her personal life as a daughter, wife and stepmother. Copyright © 2007 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

Tom Perkins
A very engaging read. If Horatio Alger had written a gender-correct sequel to Tom the Bootblack, this is what you might expect.
Richard Waters
Still bent on self-justification and revenge, the book lacks a proper dose of self-awareness and humility. Yet it still serves as a reminder of the undeniable courage and talents of one of the most notable business leaders—male or female—of recent years.
—Financial Times

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 5.74(h) x 0.79(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

IN THE END, the Board did not have the courage to face me. They did not thank me and they did not say good-bye. They did not explain their decision or their reasoning. They did not seek my opinion or my involvement in any aspect of the transition. Having asked me to come to Chicago for a meeting, they left me waiting in my hotel room for more than three hours. As I waited, I knew whatever came next would be a turning point. After I finally received the call to rejoin the meeting, I thought about each Board member as I rode the elevator down past those twenty four floors. I didn't know what to expect, but I assumed I would be facing them. I wasn't prepared for the empty conference room I entered. Only the two designated messengers and a lawyer remained in the room. The chair of the Nominating and Governance Committee said, "Carly, the Board has decided to make a change at the top. I'm very sorry." I knew he had opposed my ouster. And then the new chairman said they wanted my help in "positioning" the news. She said they thought I should describe this as my decision: I should say I thought it was "time to move on." I asked when they wanted to make the announcement. "Right away."

The meeting lasted less than three minutes. I asked for a few hours to think and I left the room.

I believe the truth is always the best answer, whatever the consequences. Less than two hours later I sent a message to the new chairman saying we should tell the truth: the Board had fired me. When the announcement was made, I simply said, "While I regret that the Board and I had differences over the execution of the strategy, I respect their decision. HP is a great company and I wish the people of HP all the best."

I had always known I might lose my job. I was playing a high-stakes game with powerful people and powerful interests, but I had not expected the end to come in this way. I knew we were on the verge of reaping tremendous benefits from all our hard work, and I thought the Board knew this too. I wanted so much to be able to gather my team one last time and tell them how proud I was of all we had accomplished together. My heart ached that I was not give an opportunity to say good-bye to the people of HP, whom I had grown to love.

I knew the announcement would be big news. I was a woman, and a bold one at that, and things had always been different for me. All the criticisms that had ever been leveled against me would be recycled and thrown back in my face with new delight: "She's too flashy." "She's just marketing fluff." "She's too controlling." "She's a publicity hound." "The merger was her idea and it was the wrong thing to do." "She's imperious, vindictive and employees didn't like her." The coverage would go on and on, and the critiques would not be balanced against the facts or my contributions or the positive changes that had been made. It would be ugly and it would be personal.

I knew all this as I steeled myself for the public announcement on February 9, 2005. The reality of the coverage was even worse than I had imagined. It hurt me, but it hurt my family and friends more. I felt lonely, but no lonelier than I'd felt for the past six years. I was deeply sad that fellow Board members I had known and trusted would not pay me the simple respect of looking me in the eye and telling me the truth. I felt betrayed when I considered that some Board members, having spoken outside the boardroom, had broken their duty of confidence to one another and to me.

I felt all these things, but after a lifetime of fears I was not afraid. I had done what I thought was right. I had given everything I had to something I believed in. I had made mistakes, but I had made a difference. I was at peace with my choices and their consequences. My soul was still my own.

Meet the Author

Carly Fiorina was president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard from 1999 to 2005, and chairman from 2000 to 2005. Before joining HP, she spent nearly twenty years at AT&T and Lucent Technologies, where she held a number of senior leadership positions. She has a B.A. in medieval history and philosophy from Stanford University, an M.B.A. from the University of Maryland, and an M.S. in business from MIT’s Sloan School.

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Tough Choices 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book should be read, even though I gave it only three stars because it gives the perspective of a very successful woman who rose to the top of the business world. She must be admired and respected for that accomplishment. It is the first autobiography of a successful business woman that I have read and I plan to read more to see if Ms. Fiorina's experiences are representative of other women in business. My impression is that she is defensive and has trouble trusting others, especially men. As a result, she comes across as somewhat cold and impersonal, which may be why some of the HP executives left under her tenure. The picture on the cover of the book, where she does not smile, is consistent with this image. She would be much warmer and appealing if she could soften some of what comes across as a hard edge. Also, I wondered if she used fictitious names for the people she mentions. If not, a lot of them will be pretty offended by her comments. I would never call people out like she does in such a public forum. The strongest part of the book is the three pages where she describes her mother's death. I could not help shedding a tear, which I have never done when reading a business book.
Janet-Christy More than 1 year ago
I found Tough Choices by Carly Fiorina an interesting read for several reasons. She provided great detail so that mental pictures could be formed; this is very different from the sound bites we have become used to. Sound bites frustrate me, so I liked the details. The book and her career built logically on each chapter and story; there is no sudden appearance of a situation or fact that the reader can't link to the ones in the immediately previous chapter. As a female sales employee of AT&T (specifically Southern Bell) during the same time as Carly, I found the Chapters about AT&T and Lucent like a trip through a memory book. She did an excellent job of creating a word picture of that time and culture. Because of this I assume she did the same kind of good job of creating a picture of HP during her time. Carly does admit that she wrote the book partially to present her case, but I think from the details I know to be true that she is a stickler for the truth. Granted the book is her view and may not include every fact or opinion of someone else.

On the personal side I saw a strong woman able to lead and willing to make decisions when no one else would. But I also saw a woman that, like most of us women, wanted people to like her. I am not sure if she meant for this to come through, but I applaud her for being brave enough to tell her stories with so much honesty that you can still see her emotions. I agree that it would have fleshed out the story to have learned a little more about her personal life, but I don't think a lot of "home stuff" would have added to the purpose of the book. But that is my opinion and I am the kind of person who likes the television "who done it" shows until they bring in too much personal drama.

I am not reviewing Carly's life, just her book. And I think the book is a worthwhile read if you want more than sound bites or crucifixions. I wish I could get more of my women business owner clients to understand that they have to take the necessary steps and actions and give themselves permission to succeed, which does include making money. My book "Capitalizing On Being Woman Owned" gives them the actions, maybe I can get them to read Carly's book and it will give them the courage.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dear HP Survivor, I believe the word you were looking for is catty and not caddy--unless you are implying that she was carrying golf clubs. Besmirch was a good word though. And if Michael Capellas did anything less than put Carly at ease in his company, then he was not the operations expert that you suggest. This book is as it should be: Carly's viewpoint.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Carly Fiorina should be proud of herself! Few CEOs, whether male or female, would have the courage to write not only about their successes, but the mistakes that were made in achieving them. This is a truly human story and sends a strong message that if one wants to make meaningful contributions in life, then one has to work long and hard as Ms. Fiorina obviously did to become one of the foremost figures in the business world. I applaud Ms. Fiorina's courage. Her honest portrayal of her own trials and tribulations in the business world will help others understand what it truly takes to become an outstanding leader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"tough choices" is one of the most remarkable bestsellers writtion by a very smart bussiness woman who was won of the top ceos of hewhewlett packard and brought many sales to this company from her smart abililities this book shows everyone how to use your every day talents and how you can use them to the best of your skills. carly fiorina is now running for the us senate and it gave me a greater understanding about her and her leadership abilities great gift idea also avalilible in cd audio.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
At last, Carly Fiorina speaks for herself. The controversial Hewlett-Packard ex-CEO starts at the beginning, which means that anyone interested in her perspective on the HP/Compaq merger and her subsequent firing should skip straight to chapter 20. Nevertheless, her full story is important. Willingly or not, Fiorina remains a role model for women in business. The devil is in the details ¿ in this case, her breathlessly earnest descriptions of the inner workings of various AT&T business units (not as interesting as all that precedes and follows), and numerous slightly preachy digressions on the challenges and virtues of leadership (her leadership, of course). Despite these flaws, or perhaps because of them, Fiorina reveals herself as a human being who cries, takes risks that don't always work out and agonizes over difficult decisions. She introduces a kinder, gentler woman to readers who may know only her ruthless reputation as reported by outsiders. We think this memoir makes fascinating reading for managers at all levels.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is more than a business book. I want every woman in their 20's to read it becasue it will show them they have choices and the power to take their lives any way they want. It makes business interesting...better than Barbarians at the gate
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having worked closely with Carly Fiorina and Michael Capellas before, during and after the infamous merger of HP and Compaq, I know first-hand how their relationship played out during this very difficult time. I can sum up Carly's attitude toward MC in one word: Intimidated! Everyone acknowledged then and it¿s still true today, Michael Capellas is an exceptional Operations guy. Case in point: He pulled MCI out of the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history. Anyone who worked closely with Carly knows she didn't like going head-to-head with anyone who was obviously a smarter business person, especially if that person was inside the company. Sure, she could hold her own in conversations with powerful executives of partner companies and big clients, but pitted against an intelligent HP executive who knew the inner-workings of the company, she would become caddy and defensive. Being a celebrity is a perfect role for Carly. However, grasping the complex operations of a multi-billion-dollar company isn't her cup of tea. Carly, you were fired because you weren't getting the job done and you were chasing away or avoiding executives who could have made you successful. Writing 'Tough Choices' might have been a good idea if you had only applied a little humility and acknowledged that many of your so-called `tough choices¿ would also prove to be wrong. It's okay to be human. For the most part, people are very forgiving. Perhaps you should consider writing a sequel to your 'Memoir' and call it, 'Worst Choices'. Chapter one could address the choice you made to write a memoir that portrays yourself as a flawless and powerful leader. For Chapter Two, you might consider apologizing for the stupid choice you made to besmirch the good names of some very successful business leaders. Carly, I give your book a very, very poor rating.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An exceptional book detailing the life and tough choices of an exceptional executive.