Book Review: Gamesmanship is an Attitude that Can Lead to Success

by Mary Lee DeCoster

New Rules of the Game: 10 Strategies for Women in the Workplace, by Susan Packard, creator and co-founder of HGTV, was published in November 2014. Packard’s page-turning biography reflects her success both in business and in her community.

She began her cable TV career in 1980 at HBO and then moved to NBC, where she was part of the start-up team that launched CNBC. She joined HGTV in 1994 and became COO in 1995. Today, HGTV is one of the fastest-growing cable networks in television history; it airs in 175 countries and territories, and has about 99 million U.S. viewers.

Packard has received recognition from industry peers, colleagues, and employees as an innovator, pioneer, role model, and mentor. She received the Woman of the Year award from Women in Cable & Telecommunications, and was profiled in Modern Visionaries, a book that chronicles women's contributions to the cable and telecommunications industry. In 2008, she was inducted in the Cable Hall of Fame. She has held leadership roles on boards for seven schools and universities, has been recognized in multiple states for outreach and community service, and, in 2010, was admitted to The Committee of 200, a select group of senior women executives dedicated to inspiring future women leaders in business.

New Rules of the Game is her first book, written specifically for women in business. Packard was inspired by a business-writer friend who said to her, "You know, you have a pretty interesting story. You might want to consider telling it." So, she sat back and pondered, "What is the story? What made a difference for me?"

The crux of the book is the concept of gamesmanship, a strategic way of thinking—a set of behaviors, strategies, and an attitude—that can help you in the workplace. Each of the 10 chapters reveals a rule, and consists of a story wrapped around the rule that reflects the author’s personal experience and the experiences of others. Packard’s rules are very specific do’s and don'ts. She is candid—and humorous—when sharing her experiences. 

During an interview she referred to in the book, Packard commented about knowing the rules in business: "It’s a big playfield with lots of men and women running around on it. What I don’t want is for the reader to be standing in the middle of that playfield and not being a part of the game."

In Chapter 9, "Show True Grit," Packard shares details never before revealed about being assaulted in a hotel room while traveling on business. Her tips include how to make sure your hotel room is safe, and the importance of learning self-defense.

In Chapter 10, "Be a Team Player," she addresses the challenge of finding a work-life balance and advises, "One of the secrets to work-life balance is having girlfriends. Girlfriends hold up a mirror and help you to see yourself much better." She describes two teams: the Work Team and the Home Team. Her suggestion is that managing the home team is the "hidden secret to successful work-life balance."

Packard says she wants her readers to be able to participate in the larger game of business. "I love the image of the queen chess piece because the queen is the most powerful piece on the board," she says. "The reason she is the most powerful is because she can move in any direction, and to me that's a great metaphor for women and their talents. I'm passionate about this book, and I felt strongly about writing this book, because I managed to climb to the top, and I know the reader can, too; they just need to have some good strategies.'

If your objective is getting into that senior role, New Rules of the Game provides the guidance, tips, and strategies to get you where you want to be.

We are all game players or sports fans, regardless of whether it’s professional football, bridge, or even Solitaire on a smartphone. Packard defines the rules for playing the game well with stories from her career. Knowing the rules and playing well will give you the edge you need to succeed. Her book is entertaining, frank, compelling, and definitely a page-turner that’s difficult to put down. 

Mary Lee DeCoster is vice president, consulting services, Adreima, Phoenix, and a member of HFMA's Arizona Chapter.