Q&A with Carly Fiorina: Unleash Your Highest Potential – Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast

Q&A with Carly Fiorina: Unleash Your Highest Potential – Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast


– [Craig] Hey, welcome to another episode of the Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast. You’re in for an amazing treat. We have a bonus episode today, and I’ve got Carly Fiorina, an incredible business
leader, an executive at AT&T, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard, leader and a coach to multiple
nonprofit organizations. Carly is a world class leader. She’s a cancer survivor, even a onetime United States
presidential candidate. I’m excited for you to hear from her. Let’s now go to the
interview with Carly Fiorina. (light electronic music) – [Narrator] This is the Craig
Groeschel Leadership Podcast. – [Craig] Hi Carly, it’s an amazing honor to
have you with us today, and I’ve admired your
leadership for many, many years. I’ve learned from your wisdom, and I’ve been really looking
forward to learning more about you in this leadership conversation on your amazing new book. Congratulations, just out, “Find Your Way, Unleash Your
Power, and Highest Potential.” Congratulations on a
fantastic, powerful book. – [Carly] Well, thank you so much, Craig, and thank you for your kind comments. You are an inspiring leader as well, and have accomplished so much, and it’s great to
reconnect via this podcast. – [Craig] Well, thank you. What I love about your book, Carly, is it’s both incredibly
practical, and down to Earth. And at the same time it’s
massively inspirational. And as I was reading it, I kind of felt like you are
my personal leadership coach. Like we’ve been friends for 30 years, and like we’re sitting across the table, and you were counseling me, giving me advice to make
my leadership better, but you’re doing it in a way that made me, you’re like ready to go, and attack so that your writing style is, is so personal and again, both practical, and inspirational. So I’m really excited to
dive into the content, and let you share that
with our broader audience, and that I know they’re
gonna want to go get the book when they’re through listening to this. So let’s kind of go back to
the story behind the story, or the story before the story. And you could you tell us, Carly, a little bit about your childhood, your family, where you grew up, and include what you thought
you do later on in life when you were starting out as a child? – [Carly] Well, first of all, thank you so much for those kind words. I think so many people right
now are feeling helpless, and powerless, and
hopeless, and frustrated, and none of us are. And I’ve learned in my own life that we all have so much more
potential than we realize, and sometimes we can’t
unlock that potential unless something unexpected,
and challenging comes along. And in a way that’s the
story of my own life. I had wonderful parents who
taught me wonderful things. My mother said to me
when I was about eight, “what you are is God’s gift to you. “What you make of yourself
is your gift to God.” And those words landed with
me for a couple reasons. Number one, because I didn’t feel gifted. All of my life really,
through my 20s was about being scared and insecure. Everybody was always so
much, you know, smarter, or better, or prettier, or
more prepared, you know? And so her words sort of
felt like a promise to me that I had gifts, but they
also were a challenge. What you make of yourself
is your gift to God. And she was telling me, you have gifts, you have to find them, you have to apply them. And so when I got out of college, and while I was in college, it was sort of the plan that
I was gonna go to law school. And so, okay, I go off to law school, and I go off to law school
with my parents’ expectations weighing on me very heavily. I wasn’t gonna be the kid
that disappointed them. My sister was rebellious. My brother was rebellious. I wasn’t gonna be the kid
that disappointed them. I was gonna go to law school, and you know, do what
they thought I should do. But I got there, and I
hated it, really hated it. It made me physically ill almost, how much it was not the right path for me. And so one day before the
first final exam, thankfully, I really feel as though I
got this message from God. I truly do, because it
was this revelation, this moment of revelation where
I realized this is my life, and I can’t live it based on
other people’s expectations, even my beloved parent’s expectations. And so I went downstairs,
and I said I quit. And at that point they
were very concerned, as you can imagine, what are you gonna do? You’re never gonna amount to anything. You don’t have a plan. And I didn’t have a plan, and I had no idea what I was gonna do, but I knew I had to go get a job. So I did. And I became a receptionist for a nine person real estate firm, and typed in file, and
answered the phones. And what get me going in that
period was words from my dad. He had always said to me, Carly, no matter what you do, work
hard, focus on excellence, do an excellent job. And so I said, okay, I don’t know where I’m going. And you know, this isn’t the dream job, but I’m gonna work hard, and I’m gonna do an excellent job. And what I learned is if you
do that opportunity knocks, – [Craig] Well you obviously did that. And it really means a lot to me personally to hear you talk about your insecurities. And I think that’s what I love
about your writing is you, you know, we know you from the headlines, you’re you know, previous
presidential candidate, you were the amazing
CEO of Hewlett Packard. And so we see this
massive, powerful leader. And yet you, you didn’t
see yourself that way. In fact, I think there was
there’s a quote in your book from Mary Oliver that seem to
almost move you out of a state of complacency into the
ability to take risks, even though you might’ve
felt a little insecure, and unprepared for. Can you tell us about that quote? – [Carly] Yeah, so the
quote from Mary Oliver is one in which she describes life, each of our lives as a
wild, and precious thing. And I think it’s such a beautiful way to describe the potential that
each of us have in our lives. I believe that people
are created on purpose, and for a purpose. I also know that many people
never get a chance to find, or fulfill their purpose. And I know that fear, or insecurity, or doubt holds so many
of us back from finding, and fulfilling our purpose. And so that decision to
drop out of law school was the first decision
that I had ever made where I literally had
to overcome my own fear. And the reason that was so important is, because as I went on, it
wasn’t that I became fearless, not at all. In fact, one of the things I’ve learned is everybody’s afraid, everybody’s
afraid of something. And most of the time we’re afraid of some kind of silly things. But all those kinds of fears hold us back. And so it was interesting, I was with a group of people yesterday, and this man asked me, he said, where have you
found all this courage that we see you display? And I said, you know what? Courage takes practice. And until, and unless we
can get over our fears, we will not have that wild, and precious thing that
Mary Oliver calls our life. And we also will never
fulfill our potential, and we won’t make the kind
of positive contribution that we’re meant to make. – [Craig] So I’m curious, as you grow in your leadership expertise, and as you have successful on the way, does the fear diminish, or do you just get better
at dealing with it? – [Carly] Well, a little
bit of both, honestly. Yes, the fear diminishes in the sense that the small things don’t scare you anymore, but there are big things
that still might scare you. For example, by the
time I got to be a CEO, I wasn’t afraid of people’s criticism. That’s a good thing, because criticism is always
the price of leadership, and you have to be able
to withstand criticism, and you have to be able
to say what other people say about me doesn’t define me. What defines me is my own character, my own behavior, my own
choices, my own impact, and so you get better at bigger fears, but fear is part of the human condition, and all of us have it. Courage takes practice. – [Craig] I love those ideas,
Carly, courage takes practice, and then it kind of hit me. And I can imagine some
people listening right now that you get better at bigger fears, because I know like right now
I’m facing some things that, I almost said it out loud last night, but I was feeling it. I almost told my wife, I actually feel afraid that I’m not gonna be able to do this. And so that speaks to me. And I think one of the
things about your heart that just comes through
on every word of the page is your belief in the limitless
resource of human potential. Can you talk to me about that phrase, and how that could inspire someone to have the courage to attempt to do more? – [Carly] Think about for a moment, every resource in the world is
limited except our potential. That’s just true. And we so often overlook
people’s potential, because of their circumstances, or because of their appearance, or because they don’t agree with us, or because we don’t
really understand them. And so we’re suspicious of them. But the truth is all of
us have God given gifts. And all of us actually have
more potential than we realize. – [Craig] That’s so helpful. In fact, in your book you
kind of wrote a little bit about that, that that
people can get locked up, and even everything you said can move them past that. I think one of the biggest
things that you write about, and I’ve experienced as well is that our self limiting beliefs
often hold us back from living to our full potential. I think in that vein you say that it’s really more important
if you’re gonna max out, and fulfill your potential that you write about choosing path over plan. Can you unpack that idea for us, Carly? – [Carly] People feel they
get all these messages from the culture that says you’re supposed to do
things a certain way, and one of the things the culture lifts up is success means very specific things. When are you getting married? How many kids are you having? When are you graduating from college? How much money are you gonna make? You know you have to achieve
this title by this point. You have to get the perfect job. You have to have all these things to prove that you’re successful. And what I’ve seen happen over, and over, and over again is people get
so fixated on the destination, on the plan that they miss all
these amazing opportunities all around them. And what they miss so
often are the opportunities that will actually unlock them, and free them to focus on the things that they’re really
meant to be focused on, or the things that will give them joy, or the things that will
give them fulfillment. And so what this book talks
about is get on a path, get on a path to unlocking your potential, which involves key behaviors like courage, and character, and
collaborating well with others, and seeing possibilities. Get on a path, and don’t get hung up on the destination. – [Craig] So helpful. Carly, I’m curious, a lot of CEOs, they, they’ll talk about knowing, you know, they always wanted to be a CEO, that was a destination for them. I’m curious for you, was that something that
you had in your mind when you started out, or did somehow the path lead you there? Talk a little bit about how
you ended up achieving that. – [Carly] Well, first of all, no, I didn’t think about, oh,
I’m gonna be a CEO someday. In fact, so far from that. When I finally got an MBA, and I finally landed in corporate America in a entry level job,
honestly my prayer was, please let me keep this job. And so here’s the thing that happened. I saw problems everywhere. And so honestly what I did to go from secretary to CEO
was not get on the plan, and I’m gonna be a CEO someday. No, it was there are a bunch
of problems all around me. There always are, there are a
bunch of people all around me, and they have a lot of potential, and they have a lot of good ideas, and so we’re gonna get together, and we’re gonna solve these problems and we’re gonna make a difference. And when you do that, you find out what you’re made of, you find out what other
people are made of, and results get noticed. – [Craig] I think that’s so helpful, because it’s really
tempting and you’re right, culture and social media kind
of defines what is success. And so we end up creating goals that may end up either not delivering, or take us to a place that
really is under our potential. And I love Carly, the way you write about those who are closest to the problem. And in fact, you just
kind of mentioned it, that you say those that
are closest to the problem are most insightful about the solution. Would you mind telling us
the illustration you gave in your book about the person
who supervised at AT&T, that was able to solve a problem that the organization
never even knew existed? – [Carly] Yeah, so here’s an example. The person you’re
referring to is named Jim. He was an engineer. I didn’t know anything about engineering, but you know, he was, in
my very small organization. Jim was a guy who I sat down
with early on in my job, and said, Jim, do you see any problems? And he said, well,
yeah, I design circuits. That’s what he did. Jim was, by the way, you talk about judging someone
by their circumstances, or their appearance. Jim was totally unremarkable. Everybody just sort of overlooked him. He, you know, he didn’t play the game. He didn’t manage up. He ate lunch at his desk every day. He was just completely unremarkable. And he said, I design circuits. And I noticed that when we’re
billed for those circuits, the bills don’t match the designs. Now, the bills weren’t his job, the bills were accounting’s job. And so often what happens
is in big organizations, people focus on management, and say things like, well, the
bills aren’t your job, Jim, just do your job. But Jim saw it as a problem. And so I said, well, what
do you think we ought to do? And he said, I think we ought to check. I think we ought to check
the bills against my designs. So at first he, and I
started checking the bills. And the more we checked, the more we found an eventually
I gave him the resources, provided the resources to him, where he could supervise
a whole group of people. And $300 million saved later, nobody was overlooking Jim. – [Craig] I guess not, $300 million later. In fact, I think it’s interesting, because you dove in directly. A lot of leaders may avoid problems. I don’t want to know about them, and you ask him specifically, do you have any problems? I love what you write in
your book about problems and this may shock some people, but the first thing you say is problems are an opportunity for growth. I think that’s a little obvious, but you also say that the
problems were a signal that we’re on the right path? Can you talk about that idea? – [Carly] Yes, well, first
I think you’re correct that there are a lot of
people who avoid problems, and I would tell you
that they’re not leaders. They may be managers, doesn’t make them bad people. A manager will do the best they
can with the way things are, and the way things are
includes some problems that have been around a long time. That’s okay, not my job. I’m just gonna do the best I
can within the way things are. Again, it doesn’t make them bad people, but they’re not leaders. Leaders change constraints,
and conditions. Leaders change the order
of things for the better, and therefore leaders have
to focus on problem solving. That’s how you change the
order of things for the better. There are always problems, and so it is a key difference
between leaders, and managers. If the purpose of leadership is to change the order
of things for the better, then they must run towards problems. But it’s also true that if
you want to unlock potential, if you want to achieve more, if you want someone to figure
out what they’re made of, they have to tackle something
hard, not something easy. Jim Learned so much about
himself by tackling a problem. Now, Jim needed support
to tackle that problem. He needed leadership
to catalyze his ability to tackle that problem, but had he never tackled that problem, he’d still be sitting in his desk, unremarkable Jim, eating lunch every day, and just doing his job as a manager. And so problems, the hard
stuff, not the easy stuff, the problems that have festered, that’s what leaders apply their energy to, their potential too, and it’s how they unlock
potential in others. – [Craig] Carly, I love the
way you talk about that. And in fact you told a story
about a problem that you had, and I think one of the things that made me love your book even more
was that you tell stories in a way that all of us can
relate to everyday life. For example, sometimes when
we talk about leadership, we tend to think you cast vision, you defined your values, you’re gonna create systems, you’re gonna build the culture, and those things really, really matter. But sometimes leadership is dealing with a really difficult person who’s sitting right next to you. How do you do that? You tell what’s kind of a funny story, and yet really powerful, about a guy that you were
paired with named Carl that put you in an
incredibly awkward situation. And yet you seem to learn a lot about dealing with fear and courage. Can you tell us a little
bit of that story, and what were some of the big takeaways that you got from Carl? – [Carly] Well sure, if you
want to collaborate effectively with other people, you have to be willing
to deal with people that you don’t always agree with, or you don’t always like, or that you’re not
always comfortable with. So Carl was a great lesson in that. So Carl was my first teammate when I joined the corporate America AT&T, at that entry level
position I talked about a few minutes ago. There weren’t a lot of women, and you know, look, my resume
reads medieval history, and philosophy, law school dropout. Okay, she has an MBA. I mean, no one was real impressed with me. And so he didn’t really
like being teamed with me. So the very first meeting that I was going to have with his clients who are now also going
to become my clients, he showed up at my desk, and said, you can’t come to the meeting. Why not? Well, because we’re going to a strip club. And so I had to really think about that. And I remember going to the ladies room, and sitting there for literally
hours saying to myself, what am I afraid of? What am I afraid of? Because I was terrified. Well, I was afraid, because I’d never been in that situation. I was afraid of looking stupid. By the way, I did. I was afraid of so many things. But then I had to say to myself, what’s worse than being afraid of going into this strip club, is being knocked off my ability to do my job the very first day. So I went, and I looked stupid. And you know, it was a very
awkward, several hours. I was humble enough to understand
I have to work with Carl. I don’t know these clients. I don’t know this company. I need some of the knowledge, and the relationships that he
has, if I’m gonna do my job. But I also began to have empathy for Carl, because it turned out
the Carl was afraid too. What Carl was afraid of was being kicked to the side of the road after a lifetime of a
career that he was proud of. And so with that combination
of humility, and empathy, and Carl figured out he needed me, because I would attend to the
details of getting things done that he wasn’t very good at. So we became good colleagues,
and good teammates. And the reason I tell that story is not just to illustrate that
we’re all afraid of things, and courage takes practice, and you got to overcome your fears. I also tell that story to say, look, there are bad people out there
that engage in bad behavior, and that needs to be confronted, but most people aren’t bad. They may be thoughtless,
careless, clueless. They may be afraid of
something themselves, but they’re not bad. And we have to figure out to
how to work with all of people, if we’re gonna solve problems, and we’re gonna unlock our own potential, and we’re gonna change the
order of things for the better. So humility, and empathy are important if you’re gonna collaborate with people. – [Craig] I thought that
story was really interesting, because there are so many different ways that you could have responded to that, and I think a lot of people
would have been angry, would have disconnected, would have recognized he was kind of having a power
play against you, or whatever. But you seem to engage with him in a way that built respect, and trust. Can you tell us what did you learn in your kind of own discovery about your ability to still have relational
power when someone else might’ve been leveraging up against you? – [Carly] Well, I’ll
tell you another story to illustrate this perhaps. I had a boss who was introducing
me to my new subordinates, and who introduced me with the line, this is Carly, your new
boss, she’s our token bimbo. That was another attempt at
diminishment and dismissal, and in that case I didn’t
confront him publicly, but I went into his office after the fact, and shut the door, and said, you will never
speak to me that way again. There are times when
confrontation is required, and an honest conversation,
not an angry conversation, not a judgemental conversation, but an honest conversation is required. You will never do that to me again. There are other times
when you make your point. I went to the strip club, and then you settle down, and figure out how to work with someone. I couldn’t rely on position, or title to demand respect from people. I didn’t have a position, or a title. What I had to rely on was my own capacity, and the capacity of others. And what I had to figure out was how do I work with other
people to produce results by changing the order of
things for the better? And that was a huge blessing. – [Craig] I like the way you contextualize the extremes of both those stories. You had two examples of people that were incredibly
disrespectful, dishonoring, and one guy with Carl, you stepped into his world, and you ended up having empathy for him, and then another person when
they were really out of line in a public way, you realize that that took an
entirely different approach. And so when I look at your
leadership from a distance, and try to determine, you know, what are the
big contributing factors that brought you to such
a high level of impact? I see so many in reading your book, gives me more insight, and I could list, you
know, 15, or 20 things that rise to the top immediately. I think though, when I look at it, one of the things that really
stands above anything else is that you are principled
in your leadership, always trying to do the right thing. And I think that your
idea of path over plan helps illustrate this. You’re gonna do the right thing. You’re gonna take the next right step. I’d love for you to bring some commentary around the whole idea of when you were running for president, and you became clear that you didn’t have a
good path to presidency. Can you talk about that realization, and how choosing path over planned, doing the right thing, how it helped you right
size that circumstance? – [Carly] I knew when I ran
that it was a very long shot. It was a long shot, because people didn’t know who I was. I mean, the leadership summit
audience may know who I was, but most people didn’t. I was an outsider. I didn’t have infrastructure,
so I knew it was a long shot. I don’t mind challenge as
perhaps you’ve picked up on, I kinda like it. But at a certain point it became clear there was no way to win, and continuing on a plan just because a destination
beckons isn’t helpful. It wouldn’t have been helpful to voters. It wouldn’t have been
helpful to the process, and it wouldn’t have been helpful to me. And so when it became
clear that the long shot has become impossible, it
was time to step aside. And so people remark on that decision, wow, that must have been so difficult. But honestly, it wasn’t
very difficult for me. It was very obvious to me that this was the right
next decision to make, to the point of not getting
hung up on the plan, and the destination. I was prepared to win the
presidency, and do the job, but I was always prepared to lose, and to do something else
to make a difference. And so I think when you are prepared for all kinds of outcomes, when you’re open to all
kinds of destinations, but what you’re focused on is
I will behave with courage, and character, and humility, and empathy, and collaborate with others, and see possibilities all around me. When you focus your energies on that path, instead of getting hung up
on a specific destination, the right choices are easier, not harder. – [Craig] So helpful. I
want to make sure, Carly, that our leaders know
the name of your book is “Find Your Way, Unleash Your
Power and Highest Potential”. And I want to thank you
for the years of sacrifice, and faithfulness, and the price you paid
to get to where you got. And then to take the time to sit down, and to write a book that is so personal, so inspirational, so practical. It’s been a real honor just to get to know the
leader behind the headlines. And I’d love to kind of close
out with giving you the chance to offer a final encouragement
to our listeners. And maybe you can answer this for us. If leaders could do one thing today to find their path in life, I want to be on a path, I’m not trying to follow a plan, but I want to be on the right
path to live out their wild, and precious life as as
you quoted in the book, what would you say would be
the very first step we do to get on that path to
fulfill the potential that is put inside of us? – [Carly] Find a problem
that’s close to you, and that you care about. Don’t pick an abstract problem. Find a problem that’s close to you, and that impacts you, and think about why you
care about that problem, and then begin to gather others
who care about that problem. And that’s the kind of practical advice I give some practical advice about how to find the right problem. And then when you get afraid, when you come up with all the reasons why you shouldn’t do it, you couldn’t do it. No one will understand. You’ll get criticized. Then take a big pause, and ask yourself the basic question, what am I afraid of? What’s the worst that can happen? But in the end, honestly, success, a successful life is not defined by the
destination you achieve. It’s defined by love,
and moments of grace, and positive contribution. And I’ve considered my
life, despite its setbacks, and it’s travails, and its troubles, and those are part of every life. I consider my life a great blessing, and a life filled with joy. Solving problems can bring joy, in addition to unlocking
your own potential. – [Craig] I love that so much. I try to tell myself this, success isn’t something that
you accomplished in the future. Success is being obedient,
and faithful today, and that kind of idea just run through
everything that you write. And so to everyone listening right now, I hope that you hear the heart, and the passion behind Carly’s words, that, find a problem. There’s something nearby
that you care about, that’s not right. And leaders tend to make
things wrong, right, and that could be your next assignment. The book is called, “Find your way, Unleash Your
Power of the Highest Potential” go out, and get it right down. And Carly, it’s been amazing to have you at the global leadership
summit in the past. I’m excited about the global
leadership summit this year. I have the honor of serving again. I’ve got a new idea that
we’re gonna talk about, and we’ve got an amazing faculty, so I know we’ve got
leaders all over the world that still have time to be a part of one of the global
leadership summit sites. Carly, thank you for your amazing book. Thank you for your example. Thank you for your heart, your passion, and thank you for writing a book that was, just like you’re my leadership coach. Thank you for being my
mentor through your book, and all that you’ve done. It’s been an honor to
spend some time with you. – [Carly] Well, thank you so much Craig. This has been a very wonderful
conversation for me as well. – [Craig] Thanks Carly. If you’re new with us, we come out with a brand
new leadership teaching on the first Thursday
of every single month, so I’ll look forward to sharing
that with you next time. If this podcast is helpful to you, it means the world to me when
you share on social media. Thank you for doing that. Please rate it, review
it, get the word out. I can’t wait to share more with you. We always say this, be yourself as a leader. Have confident, and what is inside of you, because people would
rather follow the leader who’s always real, than
one who’s always right. – Thank you for joining us at the Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast. If you want to go even
deeper into this episode, and get the leadership
guide, or show notes, you can go to
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6 thoughts on “Q&A with Carly Fiorina: Unleash Your Highest Potential – Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast

  1. Great episode. Thank you for working so hard to bring relevant content through authentic people. Love the transparency that you have always displayed and the fact that you bring on guest that display that. Thank you.

  2. Ordered Carly's book before the session was half over. Love Fiorina's communication skills and appreciated hearing her agaihn on the Leadership Podcast. Now, I need to go find a problem I care about.

  3. This has been amazing. Carly is a very good communicator and spoke specifically to me as a woman in manufacturing in a male dominated company. Thank you.

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