I went to a party last week that was two years in the making. Not because it was so fancy or ornate. Quite the contrary. It was warm and cozy.
But, two years ago, when Mary Ellen Brewington heard that her friend Susan Packard, a co-founder of HGTV, was writing a new book, Mary Ellen said she wanted to host the launch party for it.
The book, “Fully Human: 3 Steps to Grow your Emotional Fitness in Work, Leadership, and Life,” was published by Penguin Random House on Feb. 12. The party last week was at Historic Westwood, the headquarters of Knox Heritage on Kingston Pike.
“The book, at its core, is about how you can’t do anything alone,” Packard said during brief remarks at the party. “I tried. Until age 39, when I got this amazing job offer (to help start HGTV). I knew we could do it. But I didn’t know I could do it.”
The book is a heaping dose of lessons on emotional intelligence mixed in with the story of Packard’s own career at HBO, NBC and HGTV. Today, she makes a living giving speeches and coaching other executives. But, early in her career, a series of traumas caused her to “shut down” her emotions, which, she says, deeply affected how she functioned at work.
“Emotions drive workforce happiness, and happiness powers people to succeed,” she says in the introduction to the book. “This book is about bringing our strongest emotional selves to work each day, and how best to do that.”
I read the book — cover to cover. It’s really got something for everyone. Business advice, personal self-help advice, and exercises you can do to gauge your own emotional intelligence. The most difficult chapter to write, she said in her remarks at the party, was Chapter 10, which deals with her recovery from substance abuse.
What makes it a particularly fun and interesting read for anyone in the Knoxville business community is that, quite often, she relates stories involving Knoxville companies and executives. In addition to Cherokee Distributing Company‘s Mary Ellen Brewington, who appears throughout the book, Packard quotes Jim Ethier and Sara Rose from Bush Brothers & Company and John Clark of Vienna Coffee Company, as well as scores of nationally known authors, academics, coaches and other experts.
And the book is a virtual valentine to HGTV and its founders, several of whom, including former CEO Ken Lowe, attended the launch party. I loved seeing them all again, although, I have to say, it was bittersweet.
It was a reminder that, when they were here, Scripps Networks Interactive, the parent company of HGTV, was a huge supporter of the Knoxville community. It’s easy to believe that Scripps Networks, as a company, lived by the principles in Packard’s book: the executives there operated with their hearts as well as their brains. They were active in the community and supported dozens of Knoxville non-profits, most notably, the United Way of Greater Knoxville where, last year, contributions from Scripps and its employees made up 8 percent of the total.
Alas, with the sale last year of Scripps to Discovery Communications, all that has stopped. In addition to implementing many layoffs in Knoxville, Discovery has dropped its support of multiple community causes that were so important to Scripps. The company won’t even allow its employees to have United Way contributions deducted from their paychecks anymore.
Maybe somebody over there needs to read this book.