Susan Packard’s lessons we need to heed

From left, Bill and Susan Packard with former HGTV CEO Ken Lowe and CFO Jim Clayton at a launch party for Susan Packard’s new book last week.

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.

Susan Packard making a few comments at the launch party.

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.

From left, Tommie Rush, Dee Haslam and Mary Ellen Brewington at the launch party for “Fully Human.”

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.

It was great seeing Cynthia Gibson again. She was executive vice president, chief legal officer and corporate secretary at Scripps Networks Interactive.

From left, Scott and Annette Brun, both formerly with Scripps, former Scripps CFO Jim Clayton, who is mentioned a lot in Packard’s book, and Jim’s wife, Rhonda Rice Clayton of the Knoxville Chamber.

The author, right, with Richard Jolley and Sherri Lee.

From left, Cynthia Gibson, Annette Brun, former Scripps Chief Operating Officer Burton Jablin, and Knox Heritage CEO Todd Morgan.

The atmosphere in Historic Westwood is very pleasant for mingling.

Chef Simon Hall with Joan Cronan, Women’s Athletics Director Emeritus of the University of Tennessee.

These avocado toasts had quite a kick to them — in a good way.

The beautiful cheese and charcuterie platter.

My favorite was the smoked salmon cheesecake!

Kelly Absher and Julia Bentley.

Susan Packard with Carolyn and Burt Rosen. He’s the CEO of Knox Area Rescue Ministries. Party guests received a free copy of the book if they would give a contribution to KARM.


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13 Responses to Susan Packard’s lessons we need to heed

  1. Phyllis Y. Nichols, on February 27th, 2019 at 2:23 pm said:

    Congratulations to Susan Packard on another successful leadership book. I have such admiration for her accomplishments. Sadly, the celebration doesn’t reflect the diversity and community that made Scripps Networks Interactive such a vital part of Knoxville.

  2. AlanCarmichael, on February 27th, 2019 at 2:28 pm said:

    I am sure our Leadership Knoxville 2000 classmates join me in congratulating Susan on her book. I know it will be useful to a lot of folks.

  3. Cynthia Moxley, on February 27th, 2019 at 2:39 pm said:

    Phyllis: That is a fair comment. Scripps was known as a company committed to diversity in its workforce. I actually looked over the last three parties covered by the Blue Streak and there is a lack of diversity. We need to do better.

  4. Maria, on February 27th, 2019 at 3:00 pm said:

    Excited to see that the book is available via Union Ave Books! Thanks for calling our attention to local sources of inspiration.

  5. Pat, on February 27th, 2019 at 3:44 pm said:

    I am ordering the book right now. How do I book Susan as a speaker?

  6. Cynthia Moxley, on February 27th, 2019 at 3:56 pm said:

    Hey, Pat: Susan has a website. There’s a person’s name on it that you can contact. Here’s a link:

  7. Mary Ellen Brewington, on February 27th, 2019 at 4:13 pm said:

    Cynthia, thank you for writing about this event and wonderful book, Fully Human, by Susan Packard. AND thank you for coming to the party! You support so many great organizations and people in this community. It is truly appreciated. xoxo Mary Ellen

  8. Cynthia Moxley, on February 27th, 2019 at 4:31 pm said:

    Hey, Mary Ellen: It was a great event and a great book! I loved every time you popped up in it! What a treat! I think everyone in Knoxville will enjoy it. It’s fun to see folks you actually know in a book! Appreciate the invite, too.

  9. Susan Packard, on February 27th, 2019 at 5:27 pm said:

    Hello Pat, just send me a note directly re speaking.
    [email protected]

    Cynthia, thank you for this lovely description of an especially lovely night, thanks to Mary Ellen, Annette and Simon! Love all of you!

  10. Monique Anderson, on February 27th, 2019 at 5:42 pm said:

    Susan is a great person. This is wonderful news. We roomed together at Arrowmont during our Leadership Knoxville Retreat. Class of 2000…best
    Class ever!!

  11. Sara Rose, on February 27th, 2019 at 7:03 pm said:

    I so look forward to Susan’s takeaway from my conversations with her. Unfortunately I was out of town when the launch event took place.

  12. Susan, on February 27th, 2019 at 8:30 pm said:

    Sara, how can I get hold of you? I have a book for Jim and for you- your words and Jim’s too will enlighten a whole lot of readers. Could we get coffee in the next couple of weeks?

  13. Cynthia Moxley, on February 27th, 2019 at 8:57 pm said:

    Sara: I will send Susan your contact info.

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