Ep. 12: Ask Me Anything!
February 19, 2019
Carly Fiorina takes audience-submitted questions for the entire episode! Topics covered include:
Habits that enabled her to be successful
Why she ran for President, and when she decided to drop out
Whether she'll run for office again
How to begin challenging a failing status quo
Her favorite leadership quotes
Her favorite meal
What book she is reading now
Have a question for an upcoming episode? Email email@example.com!
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I'm Carly Fiorina, and this is By Example. On this podcast we sit down with leaders of all types to explore examples of real leadership, and the qualities of all great problem solvers. I think we get really confused about what leadership is. On my example, we lift up the real leaders, people who are focused on changing the order of things for the better, and solving real problems that are right in front of them, leading by example. Hi. It's Carly. Today as I advertised on my Instagram page last week, I am answering your questions. First, thanks so much to the many people who sent questions in, and while we won't have time for all of them, we'll certainly do this again, so keep sending those questions. Let me bring in Unlocking Potential Foundation CEO Casey Enders to ask your questions and help lead this discussion. Hi, Casey. Hi, Carly. How are you doing this morning? I'm good. I'm very excited to be here because unlike Carly, I have gotten a preview of some of the questions and they're fantastic, so thank you guys frankly for asking some questions that I'm curious to hear the answers from. Carly, we're covering everything from Carly's favorite meal to questions about her tips on leadership in business, and we'll even talk a little bit about her future political aspirations, which is a question we got asked a lot. I have not seen any of these questions, so. That's right. These are all new to Carly, so we're getting her responses on the spot. Sorry to put you on the spot, Carly, but ... It's all right. Won't be the first time. All right, well, we'll dive right in, so this first question is from [Madel 00:01:49], who says, "I'm such a huge fan, Carly. What habits did you build early on that helped you to be successful?" Thank you so much. Madel, or perhaps it's Model. I'm sorry if we're mispronouncing the name. Thanks so much for that question. First, work hard. I know that sounds so basic, but the truth is there is no substitute for hard work. As I've gone on in life, I've seen people who probably were frankly enormously more talented than I was, or smarter than I was, but they didn't work as hard as I did, so hard work is incredibly important. The second thing is a focus on excellence. Again, it's pretty basic. You hear that all the time, but there is sometimes a relatively small difference between a job that's done in an average or mediocre way, and a job that's done in a truly excellent way, and focus on excellence is a discipline. I try to focus on excellence no matter what I'm doing, whether it's making a meal and setting the table, or working out, or completing a task or achieving an objective. Excellence versus mediocrity is a discipline that all of us can master, and then of course the fundamental problem solving disciplines and behaviors that we talk about in my upcoming book, Find Your Way. Courage, which takes practice and requires discipline. Character, understanding how to keep going when the going gets tough, and the going always gets tough. The humility to realize when you can't do it alone, and you don't know it all. The empathy to actually hear what others bring to the table, and the imagination to see possibilities. Those things, courage, character, humility, empathy, the ability to collaborate with others, and the imagination to see possibilities are things I hope I practice every day in addition to hard work and a focus on excellence. I think they make a difference in everyone's life, my own included. Awesome. Thank you, Carly. Shifting gears a little bit, Sandra wanted to know, why did you decide to run for president? Can you talk about how you made the decision to drop out of the race? Sure. I didn't have a plan to run for president. If you had said to me even two years before I decided to do it, "Are you gonna run for president?" I would have said, "That's not my plan," but my reasons for entering the race, which I still believe in wholeheartedly to this day, were several fold. First, I think that citizens, not governments, are best able to affect lasting change, and in particular in this country, citizens are sovereign, not government. I think that power concentrated for too long in too few hands is destined to be abused. I think we see that in Washington DC, over many decades and in both parties. Finally, I think our country, just like each of our citizens, our country still has vast potential waiting to be tapped and we need more problem solvers and leaders focused on unlocking that potential. That's why I got in, but it was pretty clear to me after a disappointing outcome in New Hampshire that the campaign needed to end. When there is no possibility for winning, it's time to step back and let someone else continue. We flew back to Virginia, my team and I, after a long hard fight, and a very long night in New Hampshire, and got home at about one in the morning and the next morning I got up, and went through my normal routine, and reflected on all that we had done, and asked several of my teammates to come over and meet me later that morning to discuss what we should do next. When my campaign manager Frank Sadler arrived, I opened the door, and greeted him, and said, "Well, frank, I think we need to get out now. I don't think there's much point in belaboring things.", By the way I tell the story as well in my upcoming book, Find Your Way, but one of the things I learned later was that frank had spent the evening in a sleepless night, agonizing over what he was going to say to me, and how to broach the subject of dropping out of the race. He said later that he was just stunned when I opened the door and greeted him because he said, "Gosh, you know, you look totally pulled together, and happy, and the dogs were cheerful, and you didn't seem upset at all," and he felt in that moment when I greeted him that somehow I didn't understand what had happened the night before, and that I didn't understand where we were. Of course the truth is, I understood exactly what had transpired, and what it meant for all of us as a team. I had given the presidential race my very best energy, my best intentions, my best passions, my most creative thought while keeping my character intact, but frankly, having given so much to that race, for which I have no regrets, to step away from the race at the time I did was simply the next right decision to make. It wasn't a failure. It wasn't cause for devastation, or grief, or regret. To think that way would have been to hand my power over to emotions. It would have been to say that it wasn't worth doing unless I became president of the United States, and I didn't feel that way. I had begun my campaign knowing the odds were very long. Of course, I was sad that I hadn't won, but I also knew that I would learn a lot, had learned a lot from this leg of the journey, and that I would continue to move forward. To summarize, perhaps, I would say I was prepared to win and do the job of President of the United States, but I was also always prepared to lose, and to make a contribution in a different way. [Vania] has a slightly different question. The last two have been, I think, really meaty and inspiring for me. I'm sure for our listeners as well. Vania wants to know, and she says actually to start, your life has inspired me to serve my community and asks, what is your favorite meal? First of all, Vadia, thank you so much for serving your community. I'm sure you make a big difference in that community, and it's exactly what Find Your Way is all about, to inspire people to solve the problems in front of them and make an impact right where they are instead of looking to others to solve problems. What's my favorite meal? I have an Italian last name, and I married an Italian American, and I spent a year in Italy, and so a lot of people assume that I am Italian. I'm not, but I should be, because in addition to all those Italian associated things I just gave you, my favorite meals are always Italian. If I have to pick what I always, always want is pasta. Italian pasta with some great tomato sauce and a salad on the side. Eric, can we get some pasta in here? I'm hungry. Karen writes in, how do you start the process of creating change when you recognize the status quo is no longer working? I know change is needed, but where do I begin? What a great question. The first thing that is required, and we provide these tools in Find Your Way, but I think the first thing you need to do is find like minded people. Find people that you can collaborate with, who also feel as though change is required. The reason that's so important is because nothing worth doing is ever accomplished by someone acting alone. Nothing worth doing is ever accomplished by someone acting alone. Period. It's always true, and so you need collaborators and team mates with you. They don't have to agree with you on every single thing. In fact it's better that you don't agree on every single thing, but what you do need to agree on is that the status quo isn't acceptable. Then you need to spend some time with those likeminded people, analyzing what's wrong with the status quo. We call this current state analysis, and it takes some rigor, and some discipline. It is an analytical tool. How would we describe in a clear-eyed, realistic, complete way our current state? The reason that is such an important first step is because so frequently people have the energy for change, and the passion for change, and they sort of head off in the direction of change, but they haven't fully understood where they are starting from and without that full understanding, clear-eyed, realistic, complete view of the current state of the existing status quo, change will not be satisfying. Change won't be executed appropriately. Change won't be sustainable. After that current state analysis, then with your colleagues and teammates, you need to focus on what do we want the future state to look like, and this is where you can be ambitious and visionary, but as well, clear-eyed and complete in your assessment. What is it we're trying to do? That's how you start, and then as well in Find Your Way, we give you a tool called the leadership framework to help you think in a very complete and holistic way about all the things that need to be considered as you move from the current state, where you are, the status quo, to where you want to be, the future state. Karen's question was about how you get started. Norman has a question for folks that have already started and are making progress. He asks from a business perspective, how do you keep your team members actively motivated and advancing when your vision has been accomplished and level of growth and achievement have reached a plateau? Ah, such a good question. One of the things that I have observed as a business executive, or a board member, or leading Carly Fiorina enterprises is, in a way the period of greatest danger for an organization is when they've achieved their goals. Perhaps that's where you are, because you've gone through this incredible period of growth, and achievement, and wow, we've accomplished our vision, and that's the moment at when people start to slack off, get a little arrogant, get a little complacent, get a little comfortable. It's why you so often see businesses of all sizes achieve these incredible things and plateau and then begins the unfortunately all too inevitable, slow, but perhaps inexorable decline. It's because everybody's sort of backed off. It's why we're so impressed when we see sports teams continue to achieve at the very highest levels. Whatever you think of the New England Patriots, what's amazing is they continue to achieve at this extraordinary level. The short answer to your question is, you have to imagine another future state. There is always more that can be achieved, and the interesting thing about this is that we live in such a fast changing world. If you settle on your laurels, someone will zoom past you. That's just the nature of the world, and so don't rest for long. There is a moment for celebration and that's incredibly important. There is a time when you need, the word I use sometimes with my team is bask. There is a need when you need to bask in your achievement, and really appreciate what you've accomplished, and then it's time to say, "What else do we need to focus on?" Because the second you stop thinking about the future state, imagining the possibilities that are still out there, if you're not doing it, someone else is. Molly asks a question that I think you get a lot, Carly, which is, what advice would you give a young female college student who is ready to take the corporate world by storm? The first thing I would say is good for you. The second thing I would say is, when you get into whatever corporation you're going to join as an employee, don't take the world by storm on the first day. I'll take you back to, and I would give that advice to men, to women, to anyone. Remember when you were a little kid, and someone when you were three or four, maybe even younger, someone would say to you, they would take you by the hand before you crossed the street and they would teach you, stop, look, listen. That's the advice that I would give you when you show up at work the first day. Don't run in there with your college degree, ready to tell everyone how smart you are, and you're ready to take the world by storm. Do exactly the opposite. Stop. Look around you, and listen to what's going on. You need to understand the context in which you're entering. You need to understand how things work. You need to understand the culture of the organization that you are joining, and in particular you need to understand who is around you, what they bring to the table, how you can collaborate with them. What is the value that they bring? Start out humble. In other words, not full of piss and vinegar. I am not saying to you, don't be as good as you are. Don't be as smart as you are. Don't be as brave as you are. I always advise people, don't hide your light under a bushel, but what I am advising is that you recognize, be humble enough to recognize that other people have been there a bit longer than you have, and maybe they have something to teach you, so stop, look, and listen, don't hide your light under a bushel, but understand that others have value to bring to the situation as well. The final lesson I would say to you is don't get a chip on your shoulder. You're going to get knocked around a little bit. Maybe, perhaps especially as a young woman, not everyone is going to treat you with the respect that you think you deserve. While you should never tolerate behavior that is truly objectionable, or disrespectful, it is also true that for every bad thing that might happen to you, there are going to be a lot of good things that happen to you as well. Don't get a chip on your shoulders. Seek out the people who care about your success. Seek out the people who will lift you up. Don't pay a lot of attention to the people who are just there to tear you down, and criticize you, and assume the best of people unless they show you that that assumption is not valid. I'll just add, Molly, I'm not that far removed from being a young female college student, and I also felt like in order to take the world by storm, I had to prove my competence at every turn. I read a lot of books, and I read a lot of articles, and I talked to a lot of people that essentially told me to do exactly that, and what I can tell you from watching and learning from Carly along the way is that taking that stop, look, and listen approach, it doesn't mean that you're not smart. It doesn't mean people won't reward you and provide you opportunity. I would say that is, I've learned many things from Carly. That's one of the most important, and she's mentioned the book she wrote. Absolutely. If you're a young college student, pick up Find Your Way. It walks you through in a very thoughtful step-by-step way, how you think about doing exactly what Carly just outline, so absolutely. If you're a college student, be on the lookout. April 9th. Find Your Way. All right. Changing tacks just a little bit. Peter would love to know, what's your favorite leadership quote? I could say I'm a very stable genius. No, just kidding. Just kidding. Just kidding. Actually, a couple quotes from my good friend John Maxwell come to mind. I've had the pleasure to spend a lot of time with John Maxwell in the recent past, and we'll be spending a great deal more time with him in the future, and so I've been focused on many of the things he said. I guess I would have to pick two. Sorry, I can't just do one. Peter, two. One is, respect is earned on difficult ground, and I think that's so important because sometimes our instinct is to avoid what's tough, but the truth is it's the tough times. It's the challenging times, where we learn what we're made of, but it's also in those times when other people learn what we're made of and they respect us. The second one I guess I would pick is, life expands or shrinks in proportion to our courage. I talk about courage as the first ingredient in leadership, and the reason I always start with courage as the first ingredient is because if we cannot conquer our fear of failure, our fear of making a mistake, our fear of being criticized, our fear of not fitting in, if we can't conquer all those kinds of fears and we all have them, then we put ourselves in a box, we hide our light under a Bushel and we never ever achieve our full potential. I think John summarizes that so beautifully when he says, "ife expands or shrinks in proportion to our courage." That is really true. Elle asks a question I think is really interesting, that, I've heard you could ask a lot of questions. Carly, I don't know that I've heard this one. She asks, "What do you want to be the first thing people think of when someone says Carly Fiorina?" Problem solver and leader. I love that, and Aubrey asks a really important question that I think we all have interest in, which is, who's your favorite employee? Oh, no. I can never answer that question. I love, and respect, and appreciate all of my employees equally. It's like I can't choose between Max and Snickers, my dogs. I think that was a [crosstalk 00:22:40]. Or Karen Morgan, my granddaughters, Tracy and Laurie, my daughters. That was a very fair, evenhanded response. Not the one I was hoping for, but I guess we'll take it, and actually speaking of your granddaughters, Taylor asks, "I'm looking at changing jobs and my parents don't understand that I might not be at the same place for 30 years. You and Frank have granddaughters. What would you tell them?" You have to find your own way. There's a reason the title of the book is Find Your Way. I was convinced when I was graduating from college that I was going to please my parents and become a lawyer like my dad. The hardest decision I ever made was to disappoint my parents bitterly and drop out of law school before the first exam, and that was the best decision I ever made. What I would say to you is what I ultimately ended up doing myself as young woman, and what I say to my granddaughters, find your own way. What that means is that you have to work hard to figure out who you are. You have to have courage and character and all those things that we've talked about today, but you can't please someone else. It is your life. I know it sounds so corny to say, but we only get one life, and it's ours. It's not someone else's, and I think in a way all of us growing up are burdened by other people's expectations, our family's expectations, are friends expectations. In a way, I think the burden of expectations is even heavier now and in part because of social media, because wow, people are spending so much time judging each other on social media. I know so many young people spend so much time curating their image on social media to make sure that people see the right things, and have the right expectations. What I would tell you is what other people think of you is not as important as what you think of yourself, and building your own life by living your own life and unlocking your own potential is the greatest gift that you can give not only yourself, but all of those around you. Because when you unlock your own potential, you will have a greater impact and you will be far happier, besides. Pamela wants to know, what book are you reading now, Carly? I quoted John Maxwell before, so I recently finished John Maxwell's upcoming book, which is fantastic. The one I just finished reading is called The Fabric of the Cosmos. I love books about space, and science, and physics, and that's just a fascinating book about how the universe works. I didn't realize you liked those types of books, Carly. That's cool. Now I- I do, and you know what's interesting. The more, for me, the more science I read, the deeper my faith becomes. Some people will say, "Oh, how can you believe in God if you believe in science?" I actually find the more science I understand the deeper my faith in God becomes. I love that, so we've had this question a lot. We heard it from some combination of Haley, Madeline, Collin, Dorin, Aaron, William, and others, who all want to know, Carly, what is your political future? Will you run for office again? The short answer and then I'll explain it is, I don't know, and the reason my answer is I don't know is because that's the way I've always lived my life. If you think about what I said on how I entered the presidential race last time around, I didn't have a plan. I didn't have a plan to become a CEO. The way I've lived my life is to be true to those disciplines and behaviors that I think define leadership and problem solving that we've talked about, courage and character, and the humility and empathy to collaborate with others, and the imagination to see the possibilities in front of us, particularly the possibilities in other people. I try to live my life that way every day, and I've learned over time that if I will focus on those things, solve the problems in front of me, that opportunities will knock, and then I'll make the right choice when the opportunity is in front of me. That's how I'm going to continue to live my life. I had a ... Not to get too heavy here, but when I battled cancer most of my young adult life, I was afraid of dying. You'll read about that in Find Your Way. I don't know exactly why, perhaps because both of my parents lost their parents at a young age, but I was always afraid of dying, and when I was diagnosed with cancer, of course all of a sudden now the threat of death is near and present. What I learned going through that is that life isn't measured in time. Life isn't measured in title, or wealth, or fame, although those things can be very important. Life is measured in love, in moments of grace, and in positive contribution, and so those are the things that I hope I have in my life every single day. When opportunity knocks along the way, I usually have the courage to walk through the door. Thank you Carly, and thank you for sitting down with me today and for answering our listeners' many questions. I don't know about you. I've had a ton of fun, and I feel like I've learned a lot about you, a lot about leadership, and a lot about problem solving. I think Eric's over there nodding. He agrees, so I'm sure we'll do this again, so folks out there that want to submit questions, certainly check Carly out on a variety of social media platforms. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, @carlyfiorina. Send her the questions you want answered. We'll make sure they get in front of her, and if you aren't on social media, find her at www.carlyfiorina.com. I've enjoyed this as well. Casey. Thank you much and I just have to have a special shout out for two of our questioners. We got questions that we answered early on in this podcast from Karen, and from Norman. Why am I calling out Karen and Norman? Because we appreciate questions from all of our listeners, but Karen happens to be Eric's mom, and Eric as you perhaps know, or if you go onto our website, you'll see his picture, Eric leads our communications, and he is the awesome producer of this awesome podcast. Norman is Jeffrey's dad. Jeffrey has built our coaching effort. He is just an awesome member and executive in this team, and so Norman, thank you for your question. Karen, thank for you for yours, and thanks for being the mom and dad, respectfully, respectively of Eric and Jeffrey, two teammates that I love just as much as all the rest of our colleagues here.
Awesome. Thank you, Carly. I'll make sure to let John and Kim Enders know that they're are dropping the ball over here, but thank you again for participating today, and I can't wait to do it again. Me, too. Thanks, Casey.