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

By accepting the CEO job at Hewlett-Packard, an iconic company that had lost its way, Carly Fiorina confirmed her status as the most powerful businesswoman in America. But she also made herself a target for everyone who disliked her bold

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

By accepting the CEO job at Hewlett-Packard, an iconic company that had lost its way, Carly Fiorina confirmed her status as the most powerful businesswoman in America. But she also made herself a target for everyone who disliked her bold leadership style and resented her rapid rise.

For six years, as she led HP through drastic changes and a controversial merger, Fiorina was the subject of endless analysis, debate, and speculation. She appeared on the cover of every major magazine and her every word was scrutinized. Yet in all that time, the public never got to know the person behind the persona.

Tough Choices will finally reveal the real Carly Fiorina, who writes with brutal honesty about her triumphs and failures, her deepest fears and most painful confrontations-including her sudden and very public firing by HP's board of directors.

It's an amazing life story: Fiorina was a liberal arts major and law school dropout who didn't even consider a business career until her mid-twenties. But soon she was blazing through big jobs at AT&T and then Lucent Technologies, with a growing reputation as a creative, hardworking, visionary leader. Her career path would have been remarkable for anyone, but in an industry dominated by men, it was unprecedented.

Tough Choices shows what it's really like to lead a major corporation in a time of great change while trying to stay true to your values. It's one woman's inspiring story, along with her unique perspective on leadership, technology, globalization, sexism, and many other issues.

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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.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.24(h) x 1.13(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.

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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.