Fiorina On Leaks And Her Legacy
Did you first trigger the investigation into the boardroom leaks at HP?
No. What I did when faced with a very damaging leak was to call a board meeting. I dealt with the issue directly with each of my board members. To me the leak was...a symptom of something bigger: dysfunction.
You didn't say: "We need to hire outside investigators"?
Absolutely not. I wasn't going to have someone run around behind the scenes trying to figure out what's going on in our board room. This was something for us to solve. Board member to board member. Figure out how to move forward in a productive way. That's what corporate governance is about.
Is there anything that you can look back at and say: "If I hadn't done this, things would have gone differently"?
Well, yes. I had great misgivings about Tom Perkins coming back on the board [in 2005 after retiring in January, 2004], and I should've listened to those misgivings. It was a mistake.
Because he became disruptive. And because there was a mandatory retirement age, and we broke our own rule. Rules are there for a reason.
Do you think Tom Perkins had integrity?
I think anyone who cannot look someone in the eye and discuss face to face a tough issue in a respectful, honest way lacks integrity. If you are in a boardroom, the mailroom, or around the kitchen table, you have to be able to deal with tough issues...with perspective and, hopefully, empathy. You have to speak the truth to one another. And when people can't do that, dysfunction occurs...and bad things happen. And when people say things and do things behind someone's back instead of to their face, yes, I think they lack integrity.
It seemed as though the board stuck by you for a long time, then the end was fast and furious.
The board and I did stick together. Every single decision made on my watch was a unanimous vote of the board. It was fast and furious in the end because the decision the board made was not about performance, it was not about whether we were aligned on strategy or execution. I think it was about the reality that I wasn't going to condone certain behavior and I wasn't going to cut corners on corporate governance.
Do you think the success of the company since you've been gone is a reflection of what you put in place?
Yes, [but] not completely. I'm certainly not sitting here saying that I deserve 100% of the credit for what's happened in the 18 months since I've been gone. But I deserve my fair share. The reality is…I transformed the businesswhen the economy was suffering greatly. The success the company enjoys today is because of the merger with Compaq…and the heavy lifting to turn HP into a meritocracy, a customer-focused organization, and a powerhouse innovator.
Some people feel that if you had been speaking less and not been on so many magazine covers, perhaps you would have been running the business better.
One of the hardest decisions I had to make about writing this book was whether I wanted to go out into the public eye again. I don't enjoy it. People have this image that somehow I just loved all that. That was the most difficult part of my job. Did HP benefit from the fact that I was visible? Yes. HP was viewed as a sleepy company falling further and further behind.... It became, in the course of my tenure, a well-known, well-regarded, hip company.
When you were fired, what gave you the will to come back?
I'm not going to deny that it was a tough blow and a tough couple of days and weeks, but I also don't want to convey that I fell apart and hid in a hole. I know who I am. I know what I accomplished. I know that I made a positive contribution. I know I conducted myself with honor and integrity.