Apple CEO Tim Cook waves from stage after an Apple special event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 9, 2015 in San Francisco.
Stephen Lam—Getty Images
By Jack Linshi
March 26, 2015

There’s one thing that will make or break you at Apple: cultural fit.

In an exclusive interview with Fortune published Thursday, Apple CEO Tim Cook says that it took him some time to learn the importance of cultural fit after he fired John Browett in 2013 just one month after the European electronics exec had been appointed Apple’s head of retail.

Browett, according to Apple execs, didn’t fit in at Apple, and frequently angered store employees by changing their schedules. After being fired from Apple, Browett said in a speech that he was shocked that he was let go due to not fitting in with company culture, even though he was qualified for the position.

As Cook explained to Fortune, it’s all about people skills:

That was a reminder to me of the critical importance of cultural fit, and that it takes some time to learn that. [As CEO], you’re engaged in so many things that each particular thing gets a little less attention. You need to be able to operate on shorter cycles, less data points, less knowledge, less facts. When you’re an engineer, you want to analyze things a lot. But if you believe that the most important data points are people, then you have to make conclusions in relatively short order. Because you want to push the people who are doing great. And you want to either develop the people who are not or, in a worst case, they need to be somewhere else.

Of course, that isn’t the only way to get fired at Apple. Tim Cook hasn’t been afraid to toss even high-ranking employees if they make mistakes. When Apple Maps flopped, for example, Cook fired Scott Forstall, the head of mobile software.

Read the rest of Fortune’s profile of Tim Cook here.

Read next: Apple CEO Tim Cook Lashed Out Against Google and Facebook

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