New Rules of the Game | Book Review

Susan Packard shares timely, personal and practical stories centered on how women may succeed today in her subtitled 10 Strategies for Women in the Workplace, with additional lessons, insights and reminders for men. Seven rules form Part I (Chapters 1-7), whose practice lead to emotional maturity skills in Part II (Chapters 8-10), together comprising an authentic leadership lifestyle.

Think Games and Sports

Packard introduces a convincing career & coaching sports analogy via Joan Cronan, University of Tennessee’s Athletic Director, who had no trouble competing with boys. (pp. xv-xvi) Each chapter starts with a game (sport) context, then correlates the theme to business, followed by relevant stories with numerous successful female leader’s stories. Each chapter ends with Your Turn – questions to ask yourself, appropriate for a personal Action Plan.

Packard’s use of the term Gamesmanship reminds one of Dan Pink’s term Moving in To Sell is Human, in that these terms center on lasting influence, rather than current fads. Dr. Jane McGonigal, from Institute for the Future, advocates four positive traits of video gamers: Urgent optimism, Social connectedness, Blissful productivity and Epic meaning; offering supplementary context. (pp. xvii-xviii)

Be an Athlete

Men enjoy competing, and typically that is the framework of business. Correlating findings in Goldsmith, Lyons & MacArthur’s Coaching for Leadership, Packard notes many women focus on self-mastery, or perfection, rather than leveraging existing talent via competition (p. xxi). She does not sugar coat realities for women, or persisting inequalities (p. xxiii), such as bossy (women-bad) and aggressive (men-good). She also includes typical female advantages such as collaboration, observation and listening (think Energize2Lead, or E2L personality profile).

Know Yourself

Chapters 1 and 6 discuss conditioning and practice, starting by “getting in the game” via line experience, financial knowledge & global perspective. (p. 3) Packard recommends a creative posture, as many positions today may constitute indirect line functions. Linking a Personal Leadership Philosophy (PLP) to the future mission of an organization is a great application and Dean Gilbert provides an  example how looking ahead in a larger organization (pp. 8-9) can spark innovation.

Packard recommends learning company metrics (p. 13) and broad financial knowledge (e.g. Dow Jones Industrial Average, p. 15). She also emphasizes most of the world’s customers live outside our domestic borders and (p. 22) learning the importance of trust (instinctive E2L dimension) leads to lasting partnerships and professional relationships.

Referencing Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success, (p. 108) Packard advocates active (vocational) practice, (p. 111) postscript meetings similar to an After Action Review (AAR), as well as rehearsals. She includes a terrific story about staying curious on pp. 112-113, and the recommended habit of lifelong reading (e.g. Forbes, Fortune, Wall Street Journal). Her ideas to balance industry learning by day (reading) with fun reading at night, demonstrate wise energy use and prioritization.

You Are Being Watched

Chapters 2, 7 and 8 highlight how women may be perceived, encouraging self-awareness. Packard mentions how women are being watched and evaluated all the time (p. 27), especially for their “hot buttons” (think Conflict Leadership Workshop), and corresponding emotional responses, similar to Goldsmith’s Triggers. She also stresses body language awareness, keeping in mind voice tone and body language (Communication Workshop) may convey far more than words. Likewise, what you wear to work every day is part of your workplace brand - does your wardrobe align with your leadership philosophy? Packard also advises (p. 33-34) economy of words very similar to the military BLUF – Bottom Line Up Front style.

Packard cites how Padmasree Warrior, Silicon Valley leader, meditates each night to “reboot,” stressing energy management (p. 39-42), and knowing your personality type, especially instinctive needs. Similarly, she advocates attitude control, using an example of being turned down for a promotion as a choice to learn or be a victim. As an example, Colleen Repplier stayed professional while losing a promotion opportunity, creating relational capacity, which allowed her to become President of Tyco Fire Protection Products. (pp. 144-145)

Your Personal Leadership Philosophy and Career

Chapters 3-5 address (career) development, and likely challenges along the way. Packard encourages asking for what you need to be successful, diplomatically, and how this differs from old school assertiveness (illustrative story p. 50). She shares her (p. 53-54) early vision of a future cable network as an example. When we incorporate leadership development and vision in our PLP, asking “what’s next” is natural not aggressive.

Similar to Academy Leadership’s Conflict Strategies matrix, is Packard’s Brinksmanship Strategy. Collaboration (win-win p. 63) is the ideal goal, but keep in mind you may be on a playing field requiring more assertive competition. Carly Fiorina offers good advice from Tough Choices, don’t take competition personally. Packard takes this further, recommending humor, trust & working well with men, citing The Levity Effect: Why it Pays to Lighten Up by Scott Christopher and Adrian Gostick (pp. 86-87). When forming HGTV, Frank Gardner’s No Asshole Rule – or let’s not hire anybody who will blow up the place, considered the opposite of humor in corporate culture.

Altogether, women wishing to run a company need to work on competency, results & trust, yet often (p. 93) do not want to take the time. Recall, trust is the most important (instinctive) part of our personalities. Supporting themes in Working With Men: Engage constructively, Manage Confrontation & Build Rapport, while always adding value (p. 102), finish the point.


Chapter 9, Show True Grit, dominates Part II. Imagine taking care of your (E2L) instinctive needs over time, and allowing emotionally mature habit formation. Packard sees Grit as Resilience, as Defense, and as Courage, reminding us Michael Jordan missed over 50% of his shots and that professional baseball players bat under .400. Angela Duckworth’s study of grit finds perseverance and conscientiousness more predictive of success than intelligence. (p. 154)

Packard includes Diane Coutu‘s (Harvard Business Review) synthesis of organizational resilience factors:

1. An acceptance of reality
2. Deep beliefs in larger value systems
3. Remarkable ability to improvise

Honesty and feedback within an organization, clear vision and aligned values, and continuous improvement via After Action Reviews align well, respectively, with these three factors.

Packard shares a difficult and personal story on pp. 159-160, demonstrating her own grit and courage, eventually seeking professional help. In a way, this is similar to asking for feedback via our leadership philosophy, except the circumstances are most extreme.

Pages 167-170 features an outstanding set of fear or conflict-avoidance questions many career women (and likely men too) have. Like our hot buttons, if we do not control them, then our fears control us and hold us back.

Your Lifetime Leadership Philosophy

Chapter 10, Be a Team Player, posits we have both a work team and a home team. (p. 173) Packard defines culture as combination of leadership, values, and how the team gels to carry out its mission, and that a company can be successful, at least in the short term, with corrosive values (p. 175), including lack of trust.

She shares how HGTV formed, focusing on the importance of great culture and trust (p. 177), and the general importance in picking the right team – or company – to join including the smart idea to ask HR for examples how the organization lives its values. Packard finishes with thoughtful meditation on work-life balance, girlfriends, and purpose, especially after achieving professional success.

Athlete Becomes Coach

Packard’s epilogue is a gem, sharing her leadership realization:

“The big aha moment was realizing it was no longer about racking up my own personal wins.” (p.199)

She follows with networking and women’s advocacy stories, coming full circle to her current role as coach and mentor.

A must read for professional women and anyone serious about coaching.

Note: Susan Packard generously provided a copy of her book for review.

JE | December 2015