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Practicing Emotional Intelligence, with Susan Packard

Practicing Emotional Intelligence, with Susan Packard

Episode 162: Practicing Emotional Intelligence, with Susan Packard

After hearing the consumer needs, Susan Packard, author and co-founder of HGTV, became one of the masterminds behind the household TV channel, HGTV. On this episode, Susan shares the story behind HGTV, her new book, and all about emotional intelligence. She discusses her tips on how to practice emotional fitness, how to know when to leave a job and when to slow down, as well as the importance of knowing yourself and becoming more self-aware.

Episode Transcript

00:12 Kristy Wallace: Hello and welcome to the Ellevate podcast. This is your host Kristy Wallace, with my co-host Maricella Herrera. Good afternoon Maricella.

00:22 Maricella Herrera: Hello Kristy.

00:23 KW: I was just trying to think what time of day it is.


00:26 KW: I looked at you and went, "What time is it right now?"

00:29 MH: It's a blur and especially in this room. Do you remember when we used to do these in the little closet back in the old office?

00:35 KW: How could I forget? It was so much fun.

00:38 MH: I kind of had forgotten, I think I had blocked it a little bit.


00:41 KW: Well, we've been doing the podcast... So if you really think back to when it all began, we're going on two years with the podcast.

00:50 MH: More I think.

00:50 KW: Longer. And it started way back when we were at the co-working space.

00:55 MH: Yup, the one with the mice.

00:58 KW: Mm-hmm. And we had to buy all of these, we bought these drapes that we would hang around the room to keep it quieter.

01:05 MH: And still didn't.

01:07 KW: Yes, still didn't. The sound quality of when you listen to some of our older episodes, it's not as good, although we've always had the best producer in Katharine so she's been with us the whole time, she's great. But yeah, it's a long history. I was thinking about it actually today on my way to work 'cause I've been doing this whole Throwback Thursday series on LinkedIn 'cause I meet so many people and I'm speaking at events and I'm doing a lot of great things in the podcast but I'm not always great about posting regularly on social media. I like to sort of just live in the moment and then I always take pictures and say, "I'll post this later" and then I don't.

01:48 KW: So I started doing this whole series and part of it, I was thinking back at all the podcasts and the guests we've met over the years who've just, I've learned so much from and been so inspired by and become really good friends with many of them and it's been really a powerful experience and we're talking about how happy we are, that's thinking about the podcast and what that's meant has made me really happy.

02:11 MH: It's fun. I really, really enjoy doing this. It's a nice change of pace, getting to meet really great people, hearing stories, getting inspired, using as a therapy session.

02:22 Katharine Heller: Three years this month, May 2nd.

02:24 MH: Oh wow.

02:25 KW: Katharine's saying three years this month.

02:27 MH: That's crazy.

02:29 KW: So when we talk about the great guests and I know Susan Packard who is the guest today and you had the great honor of speaking with her. She's an absolute rockstar.

02:39 MH: She is. I kind of fan-girled a little bit, I'm not gonna lie. I did tell her HGTV is one of my happy places. I mean...


02:47 KW: I mean, how can it not be? It's the best.

02:52 MH: Actually, every time I'm in El Salvador, I spend quite a bit of time watching HGTV with my mom, I'm not gonna lie.

02:58 KW: Yeah.

03:00 MH: So Susan Packard, co-founder of HGTV has an amazing career in entertainment, building networks, not just HGTV but also she's an author, just came out with her second book and a lot of it has to do with something that, when I say it, you're going to smile, I know because it has to do with emotional fitness. So going one step above emotional intelligence, empathy, building a culture and what they did at HGTV to build that great internal team culture. So you know we spend a lot of time talking about this and...

03:39 KW: We do and I'll tell you, I really appreciate business leaders and visionaries who give back by sharing that insights and expertise, 'cause we've learned so much from reading books. We now have a book club at Ellevate and we all as a... Anyone who's interested will read books and we're doing things for the feedback.

04:02 MH: Love it.

04:04 KW: So I just think that there's this aspect of sharing what you've learned and what works and what doesn't work and how other business leaders can grow and scale based on having that in their tool kit. So thank you, Susan. I'm saying thanks for your expertise and insights.

04:24 MH: Yeah, her book is called Fully Human and I actually did tell her I am nominating it for our book club, so we might be discussing that next...

04:34 KW: Well, I have a copy on my desk, so I should probably hide it and make sure that no one...

04:39 MH: You still have that? 'Cause I went looking for it.


04:43 KW: I just had it earlier today.

04:45 MH: I swear I was looking for it, I kept asking where the copy of the book was.


04:49 KW: I stole it. I stole it. See, I already knew it was gonna be a great book and I stole it. Yeah, amazing. Well, I cannot wait to hear from Susan and just her powerful insights and expertise over a career of being a visionary, a change-maker, a leader and thank you, Susan, for sharing your knowledge.


05:24 MH: I am extremely excited for our guest today. Susan, thank you so much for joining us.

05:30 Susan Packard: You're welcome.

05:30 MH: I'm not gonna lie, I'm a little bit fan-girling here. HGTV is one of my happy places, just watching that.


05:41 SP: Well, thank you for saying that. It's a lot of people's happy places.

05:44 MH: It's such a comforting... I don't know, it's something about it. But I would love to hear a little bit about your career journey and sort of what led you to actually co-founding HGTV.

05:55 SP: Well, I was on the startup team of a number of cable networks that were coming of age, HBO and CNBC and with that experience, Ken Lowe, who HGTV was his idea, he had heard about my background and experience in the industry. So he reached out to me and when he shared his vision for this business, I really was awestruck. My experience before that, truthfully CNBC, that idea was one where NBC kind of backed into it based on the assets that they owned but this one, he thought it through. His vision for it came from the consumer and there were just so many applications and nobody was doing anything on a 24/7 basis. So I was sold, so he hired me and then we fanned out and we hired a team and one thing led to another.

07:08 MH: That's great ideas and great people who make them happen.

07:12 SP: And I do think that whenever you're starting something up, always looking at it through the minds of the consumer and never stopping to do that. In other words, that is fundamental at least my experience, it's really foundational to the success of at least the ventures that I've been involved in.

07:38 MH: That is important and I don't think we always see it that way or think about it that way and many times, we forget particularly when you're so ingrained in something, to kind of stop and look around and look at what your consumer wants.

07:55 SP: Yeah, and keep asking.

07:58 MH: You're also an author, I know your newest book, Fully Human, was just released in February. Can you tell me a little bit about the book and the inspiration behind it?

08:09 SP: Sure. Fully Human: 3 Steps to Grow Your Emotional Fitness for Work, Leadership and Life, long title. [chuckle] The emotional fitness idea came from my knowledge of an application of emotional intelligence, something that I've always been fascinated with. This was the skill that was given to the workplace in the '90s and it was something that helped me to succeed.

08:44 SP: And just to remind if the listeners don't know, it's two things: It's having self-awareness to know what your own emotions are and to manage them. That's the first part and the second part is to be able to read other's emotions and to respond to them effectively.

09:04 SP: So as I went through my career, I had that second part down pat. The responding effectively, 'cause I have empathy and I'm curious about people. So I had all of that down but then as I started looking a little bit more at emotional intelligence and realizing there's this whole first part, which is self-awareness. I realized that I really had very little self-awareness of my emotions. I'd sort of stuffed them down for over a decade so anything that was unsettling to me, whether it was uncertainty or disappointment or frustration or anger or fear, any of those things, I just kept stuffing them down because that's what our culture teaches us to do.

09:52 SP: And so as a result at 39, when I took over, when I was doing the HGTV work and hundreds of employees, I felt I needed to answer these questions for myself. 'Cause I realized I didn't know enough about myself. I didn't know what I stood for, what values, what principles, all of those things and I knew I needed to know those things if I was gonna be a good leader.

10:22 SP: It's a long answer but always interested in emotional intelligence, thought that I'd done a really good job with it, it was one of my reasons for being as successful as I was but then as I came to know it a little bit better, I realized I only had half of it down and probably, it's the important half perhaps but really both are what's going to help you to be a great leader.

10:50 MH: This is so interesting to me. I've spent quite a bit of the last few months, working on a program at Ellevate that's on building inclusive workplaces and really what we've learned from the years that we've been doing this and what we're trying to convey through this program is the importance of having managers who can build inclusive teams. But more than that, the importance of empathy as a way to develop those managers and those leaders.

11:24 MH: Which is very much in line with what you're saying about emotional intelligence that second aspect of reading other set of emotions and responding to them effectively and you're right, we don't usually think about the first part.

11:36 SP: Collective intelligence is something I talk about in the book, which is, what is the team's emotional intelligence? How does that do when people come together to work on a team? And I spent some time at Carnegie Mellon and I talked to a professor there who's done a lot of research on this and what's interesting is... But maybe not shocking, is she said that teams need at least 50% female, for there to be strong collective intelligence. If it's less than 50% female, then the team structure itself will suffer. So, we as women and I'm not suggesting every woman carries empathy but it is a trait that we can marshal and it helps us to be successful leading teams.

12:35 MH: And yet we don't see that, right? [chuckle]

12:39 SP: Right exactly, yeah.

12:42 MH: So how can we grow our emotional fitness? Tell me a little bit about those steps, we should be taking?

12:49 SP: So, the three steps, it's a three step practice and it's a practice meaning you don't do these three steps once and think that you have it down. One of the reasons I called it emotional fitness, is like physical fitness in getting fit, you know you need to go back to the gym a bunch of times, not just once, unfortunately, I wish it could be like that. So in the same way, emotional fitness is a practice of three steps for both work and life, for your larger life outside of work and the first step is willingness and that means willingness to gain some critical self-awareness and that's everything from what you may have already been exposed to in career which is taking a Birkman or taking a Myers-Briggs or Hogan or just finding out about your temperament and if you're an introvert or an extrovert, all of those are important.

13:51 SP: But in my self-awareness process for EQ-fitness, I ask you to go deeper and to go through a process of inner alignment. So are my inner values aligned with my outer work and my larger life? And we need to ask these questions if we're gonna grow into leadership and also how is the fit of my job for me, the way I'm made, is this a good fit for me?

14:28 SP: So job fit and then the other thing is culture fit. Is this the right culture for me? Because I worked in a leadership position before HGTV and it was a winner-take-all culture, very profitable but after six years, I knew it was time for me to leave. I was actually probably there a little longer than I should have been. So, that's a really important... All these get to your satisfaction and happiness and peace of mind with your work.

15:04 MH: I just wanted to ask because you did mention that you were at a place probably longer than you should be, you should have been. That's a hard decision to make. How did you get to that?


15:15 MH: I know.

15:18 SP: Well, what happened was there was actually an event that happened. We had just finished a contentious round of negotiations with our cable clients and I was at a trade event and one of our clients, he wasn't mine but I knew him from the industry, he came up to me and he thumped me on the chest and he said, "Susan, your people were pigs." And I thought to myself, "I've been trying to send, I've been try to communicate to my leadership about things that needed to change including certain client issues and it was going nowhere." And so when he said that to me and then there was one or two other things, I realized, it kinda shook me and I realized that, "This is not the place, I wanna... I wanna have long-term relationships with my clients." So that's what did it.

16:23 MH: Well that would do it.

16:24 SP: Yeah, I think it would do it for you too if it happened to you.

16:27 MH: Probably. No, yes, absolutely. But it's really great that you could walk away, which is something I think about a lot and we talk about here, the being able to understand when it's time to do something else.

16:47 SP: Yeah and especially when you're in your 20s and 30s because that's when you're really building and growing your career and some of that is a process of elimination. It's, "Oh okay, I don't like this" or "I love this" or... And so you try things on. The olden days of, "Okay, I got an MBA and I am gonna go into business and I'm gonna be... " Yeah, people are still getting advanced degrees and all that but there's a lot more I think, good and smart experimenting today than say the generation before today, when we just kind of saluted and stayed in places without asking these deeper questions, not thinking about our own peace of mind and happiness and enjoyment of our work. When you spend so much time at work, how could you not have that be a critical consideration?

17:58 MH: Yeah, I agree. I think the definition of success has changed quite a bit in the last generations and not so much the definition of success as a whole but people being able to define what success means to them.

18:15 SP: And it being different and tailored to the way they see the world and the way they, their maps that they've created that give them guidance and those are... At least people are paying attention to those and it may be that you have a hunch about something and you dive into it and you find out, "You know, this isn't what I thought it would be."

18:44 SP: Was talking to a woman at the airport today, who's an old colleague from the F&I days and she dove into a job and not in F&I, she left and she got into this job and she said it wasn't at all what I thought it was gonna be and so now she's making some decisions about what she wants to do but she's asking the questions and that's what matters.

19:10 MH: I love that. So before we actually got on to the questions you were... You mentioned creativity.

19:18 SP: I was telling you about the three steps. [chuckle] Oh creativity, yeah. And by the way, I never mentioned all three steps. I only gave the first.

19:24 MH: Yeah I was gonna say, you're right. Let's go back to that.


19:28 SP: Alright. The other thing about willingness to become more self-aware is you get grounded in self-respect and self-worth when you go through that process and it's really critical when you're gonna be a leader that you have that. And it's also... It helps you when it comes to building relationships of trust because you can't give to someone something you don't feel worthy of receiving yourself. So trust building is the second step and I've got 10 strategies for trust building in the book.

20:10 SP: And the last one is what I call 'We Principles' and that's when you really step up to leadership and you go from seeing the world only through your own eyes, 'me', to 'we' and creating healthy, sustainable, emotionally strong cultures and successful places for people who wanna come and... So that people will enjoy their work there and that they'll be open and honest. All of these things are what I learned we needed to have... Those were the descriptors of HGTV in the culture that we tried to build there.

20:57 SP: So we tried to use 'We Principles' and since then, in the coaching I do and some of the other work with companies, I've recognized that it's a common theme of successful companies.

21:10 MH: I'm smiling. I'm making a note that I have to submit this to our book club. [chuckle]

21:16 SP: Oh, good. I love that. Thank you.

21:21 MH: It's really refreshing to me to hear because it's stuff that is... It's very much on... Like you said, it's emotional intelligence, which I love well, emotional fitness, which I love that it's coming... It's something we're talking more about but more than that, I love that it is the culture that you build in the company that you built. So you saw it first hand and you saw how it also works.

21:46 SP: Yeah. Yeah. I've been very very lucky to be able to, again, collectively with a group of people road test this stuff and see that our hunches were right about it and really, at the end of the day we're talking about treating people with kindness and respect and this is not rocket science but companies get it wrong more often than they get it right.

22:15 MH: Yes. And I think a lot of it too as the workplace changes and as the... Both... If you see new generations coming into the workforce, workforce becoming much more diverse than it ever has in all senses of the word. It's even more important to be able to build that culture of trust where people can bring their authentic selves to work, give their all, feel respected, feel part of a team that they wanna be part of and create the best that they can create.

22:54 SP: Right. Right. And you then as the employee, you're motivated just as you said, to do the best work you can do because your heart is in it. You feel like you have ownership of it. That's the one great benefits of start-ups, is that the people that hang in there and that grow with the start-up, they feel ownership of it so it's very precious to them and that's been my experience too.

23:32 MH: Yeah. And it becomes part of... It's funny. I did not have a start-up or a small-business experience before being here at Ellevate but just seeing how it becomes everyone's role to make sure that the culture stays the culture that you want, is really exciting and inspiring.

23:52 SP: Yep. I agree.

23:54 MH: Just to kind of close this off, what do you think are the biggest takeaways or lessons learned from your experience and from writing this book honestly? 'Cause it feels like you did go into a lot of the stuff that you did in the past but also a lot of self-reflection.

24:19 SP: Yes. It's a much more personal book than the first book which was more focused on our surface, our outside behaviors. How we navigate and are successful with behaviors and how we carry ourselves and communicate and dress and all of those things which are external.

24:44 SP: And this one is really the rest of the story, which is building an inner life and when you build that inner life, you get to answer these really important questions that at some point you need to answer them if you're gonna live your life in a place of steadiness and peace. And, we don't wanna slow down enough to do that. Again, western culture but we need to 'cause we need time and solitude and silence and stillness to really settle into the depths of who we truly are.

25:31 SP: So, this was learning in the last few years for me that as I reflected on what we've done at HGTV and the rest of the story, I recognized that there was a book here to focus more on how we answer those deep inner questions that great leaders ask of themselves. But it does require slowing down a little bit. [chuckle] I sent a text to a friend today who I was trying to tell her she's gotta slow down a little bit, because... Well, she's making a lot of mistakes for one thing and she knows it and she sent me the wrong... She sent me an answer but she didn't really mean to have that answer go to me. She meant for it to go to somebody else.


26:26 SP: And I said, "See what I mean? Slow down." But that's more a frame of mind. It doesn't mean that you're not getting as much done. In fact, you get more done when you learn how to be more thoughtful about how you approach work and people.

26:47 SP: And the other thing is, everyone can gain some new self-knowledge. Doesn't matter what, you may think that you know yourself in and out, you do not know yourself as well as you could and so there's a lot of tools in the book to help with that but gaining that self-knowledge is all about finding a place of sort of balance and happiness in the work that you do and in the life that you lead. So you can look at it two ways. One is "Oh no, I have more work to do." But the other is, there's really a tremendous pay off in doing it.

27:27 MH: I love it. I will be reading that book and I will be making a lot of people in this company read that book.

27:33 SP: Oh, good.

27:35 MH: So I really, really can't thank you enough for jumping on the phone today and talking to me and joining us for this podcast.

27:44 SP: Oh yeah. No, thank you. I appreciate it. I've watched all of it, Ellevate, since it was... What was it? 85 Broads?

27:51 MH: 85 Broads back in the day. I started when it still was 85 Broads, which is kind of hard to believe.

27:58 SP: You too?

27:58 MH: Yeah. It's been a fun, fun experience.

28:03 SP: Yeah and it's grown and it's evolved and so you've seen if firsthand.

28:07 MH: Yeah, it's been interesting and it's grown a lot and it continues to have that same vein of women supporting each other and trying to change the world so it's great. Thank you so much.

28:26 SP: Thank you.

28:29 KW: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out, subscribe to the Ellevate Podcast on iTunes. Give us five stars and share your review. Also, don't forget to follow us on Twitter @EllevateNTWK, that's Ellevate Network. And become a member, you can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website And special thanks to our producer, Katharine Heller, she rocks and to our voiceover artist, Rachel Griesinger. Thanks so much and join us next week.