First Things First

Helping Women Succeed in the Workplace

Susan Packard was 25 and working in a sales position at Home Box Office when she saw an opportunity to advance in the organization.

“I went to my boss, Bill Grumbles, and told him I thought I was the right person for the position,” says Packard, co-founder of HGTV and author of Rules of the Game: 10 Strategies for Women in the Workplace. “He paused, looked at me and said, ‘Susan, do you want to run a company some day?’ I replied yes. He proceeded to tell me why I did not want to take that particular position and educated me on the types of jobs that would best position me for my future aspirations.”

That was the first of many educational moments for Packard as she began her ascent to the C-suite, becoming founder of Scripps Network Interactive and co-founder of HGTV.

“A few years ago, a friend of mine said she thought my story was interesting and I ought to consider writing a book for women on navigating the workplace,” Packard says. “The more I thought about it and the more time I spent mentoring women in the workplace, I realized my friend was right. There are many lessons I have learned through the years that could be beneficial for other working women.”

Packard’s book serves as a toolkit of behaviors and strategies, which she refers to as gamesmanship, to help women advance in the workplace.

“In the book I talk about why it is a bad idea for women to act like men, the importance of composure, why women need to create a network around them of people they trust, how to dress and why competition isn’t a bad thing,” Packard says.

Another strategy in Packard’s book is the art of brinksmanship to gain an advantage without clearly stating your goal. In poker, this is the art of reading “the tell.”

For example, Packard tells a story of taking her HGTV CEO to meet with the head of Tele-Communications, the leader in the cable industry at the time. They arrived for the meeting and had to wait two hours. When the meeting finally began, the guy stated his company’s position which Packard believed was ridiculous. About fifteen minutes into the meeting, Packard stood up and declared the meeting over. Once they were in the car, the CEO asked why the meeting went so badly, to which Packard replied, “It did not go badly. We actually won that round. They wanted us to beg. We needed to tilt the power in our favor.” It took two years, but they eventually closed the deal. Packard contends it is that kind of dealmaking that helps perfect the art of business brinksmanship.

The book cover has a queen chess piece with a king chess piece in the shadows. Packard explains that the queen is the most powerful piece on the chess board. She is the only one who can move any direction on the board. Similarly, women in the workplace are adaptable, mentally fluid, and typically can juggle a lot of balls at the same time. Women have this unique opportunity to come out from behind the shadows of men and shine in a powerful and positive way.

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