Meg Whitman, President and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprises, and Chairwoman of HP Inc. In her previous role as President and CEO of eBay, she oversaw the company’s 10-year growth from 30 employees to 15,000 employees and $8 billion in revenue.
In her first job out of HBS at P&G, “They asked me to figure out how big the hole the shampoo cap has to be. I thought about saying ‘This is the dumbest assignment.’ Then I thought, I’m going to do the very best job that I can. I’m going to nail it. I’m going to come up with very best methodology and analysis. … They wanted to teach the discipline of how things got done at P&G…I came up with focus groups, gave consumers shampoo, and measured product usage.”
At Disney a few years later, she learned a meaningful lesson in assertiveness. “I had to learn to stand up for myself. It was a male-oriented culture. Frank Wells, who was COO, told me, ‘You are just as smart as these guys. You have to speak up in meetings. You have to make yourself say stuff.’ That was an important turning point to me. I had thought that unless I say something brilliant, I shouldn’t say anything. Three quarters of the other people were saying stupid stuff.”
“I make decisions. I take in all the data. A fast no is better than a long extended no or long extended yes. It helps knowing that when you make mistakes, you can always fix mistakes… You have to be prudent. People can get frozen. If you think about every bad thing that will happen, you freeze. This is where pattern recognition is really helpful. I’ve been doing this for so long; I’ve seen the movie before.”
Forbes, photograph via Speakerpedia