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Posts from the ‘C-Suite’ Category


C-Suite Challenge

By Karen Huffaker

While sitting in a Friday afternoon Roundtable discussion recently, our C-Suite leader gave us all a challenge:

“Think about the little things – the things that you can do or impact by raising the bar, and striving not for giant feats, but the smaller things you can perfect within your sphere.”

After taking this to heart, I began my own self-examination and determined this might be a good time take on the challenge. Consider these:

  • Challenge what you do. How can you improve? Can you refine, add or skip a step, increase volume, shorten time lines, decrease tasks?
  • Challenge yourself – your approach. Why do you do it this way? Is there a better approach?
  • Challenge others. Why do we do this?  Is it effective, or could our time and resources be better spent elsewhere?


But don’t stop there. Ask more questions.  I once had a director whose mantra one year was to ask more questions.  Throughout the year we were constantly reminded to ask more questions.  This became more critical during economic downturns.  We knew the right questions to ask like is it really needed or a nice-to-have, what happens if we don’t do it, is there another option, another vendor? Leadership decisions were made based on the challenging questions that we raised, and the (sometimes surprising) answers we received.

Get more information. With the great wealth of information at our fingertips today, we have every opportunity to educate ourselves in matter of seconds. Then gain insights from the experience of others and seek their advice.

Information is knowledge, knowledge is power as the saying goes. Shopping for cars and computers – – I wouldn’t dare shop for either without studying up on my options.  How much more so in our ever-so-fast changing industry? Last week’s dazzling technology and bright ideas will be outdated and obsolete in a short time.  Keep current and keep an eye out on the next big thing.

And all that you’ve gained throughout the process can be used to facilitate change. You can influence outcomes and make a significant contribution by just starting with something small!

Will you take the challenge?


Make Your Presentation a Conversation!

By Kathy Hatala

I have never really been one to shy away from “presenting” or getting in front of people to communicate a message or an idea. For many, this can be a daunting task… just knowing yoKathy Hatalau are the next to speak can cause the heart to pound, palms to sweat and anxiety to kick  in. The key thing I try to remember is presenting is really about talking and having a conversation – whether there is one person in the room, or a full presentation in front of colleagues, executives, the C-suite, industry panel, etc. I tap into “my confidence factor” by being prepared on the subject matter and as ready as possible for any question or curve ball. Finding a passion around presenting usually has to do with the subject matter and speaking with authenticity. Through my Speakeasy training, I’ve learned that being a good communicator is all about tapping into what is uniquely you and connecting to yourself, which allows you to connect to others in the process.

One thing I do before a meeting, presentation, etc., is to think about what I am trying to accomplish during the time I’ve been allotted. What is the one thing I really want the listener(s) to leave with today? What is my desired outcome? At Speakeasy, we talk about “the change cycle”: unaware, aware, understand, believe and act. Where do I want my listener(s) to fall on that cycle after I am done talking/presenting? Do I want them to become aware of something? Understand the problem? Believe in my idea? Take action? It’s important to be honest with where you might realistically be able to move your audience to; change takes time and getting to “act” may not happen out of the gate. Once you determine your desired outcome, your content and messaging has to be results-focused and listener-sensitive to really make an impact and connection.

Preparation is a key element to getting it right. What I do is practice, practice, and practice. I’ll practice the presentation/talk on my commute to work, walking my dog (Maddie is a good listener!!), or better yet, take my smart phone and ask a friend or family member to video tape the presentation. There is nothing better than seeing yourself on tape and self-critiquing; or having a mentor, colleague, or coach look at the video and give you their thoughts. If you are presenting an idea over a conference call, record yourself on your phone and play back the audio, paying special attention to the energy and authenticity in your voice – are you talking in a natural voice/tone, or does it come across stiff and regimented? Remember, if you are presenting and using visuals (like PPT) don’t depend on technology – we all know it can fail at the worst moments. I try to know my subject matter so well that I can give the presentation/talk no matter what the circumstances or environment.

Planning for a presentation, or talk, does take some time but, if done right, it can help alleviate the feelings of dread and anxiety and help it to feel more conversational. I’ll share a personal story where I was not prepared. I worked for MTV Networks in Affiliate Sales and Marketing for many years. We were launching MTV2 at an annual, national cable conference. We had a suite prepared for clients to come and learn more about the new channel. I was in the room with one of the affiliate marketing leaders from MTV, who I assumed was going to pitch the network. Well, once the clients were ready, she asked me to take them through the PPT. I almost died. Not prepared, not ready and not good! I could feel the anxiety rise, my pulse increase and myself in the “hot seat.” I got through the presentation, but I can tell you, it was less than ideal. Lesson learned, and now I’ll never let that happen again.

The other key element to preparation, that I use all the time and learned through my classes, is breathing – yes, your breath. If you feel anxiety rising or “butterflies” start to flutter before your opportunity to speak or present, breathe slowly and deliberately from your belly and not your chest. I’ve learned that deep, deliberate breathing from your diaphragm really helps to calm the nerves and gets you into a sense of self and feeling “settled.”

Presenting and communicating during times of change and uncertainty can be one of the most challenging dynamics to undertake. This is where authenticity really has to kick in. Expressing yourself in your own words, owning what you say, looking at people in the eyes when you talk – not only with your head, but with your heart, can really make a big difference.

See communicating and presenting as an opportunity! Please don’t shy away from the moments in life to speak, talk, present and connect with those in the room. Own your authentic voice, be confident in who you are and what you can bring to the table and make it a conversation!

Kathy Hatala is SVP National Accounts/Managing Director – Atlanta at Speakeasy.


Leadership Interview: Susan Packard

Author of "The New Rules of the Game"

Susan Packard: Author of “The New Rules of the Game”

by Jordan C. Lofton

After our last WICT event, I was sitting in the audience.  I had just heard Susan Packard, retired Cofounder of HGTV and author of new book “The New Rules of the Game“.  The shy farm girl in me was feeling a bit intimidated.  But I had just heard all of the women on the panel speak about pushing past your fears.

I mustered up some gusto, and introduced myself to Susan Packard after the event.  Without any hestitation I asked if I could feature her in a WICT blog post so the entire WICT audience could get to know her.  I’m so glad I did.

Please allow me to introduce you to Susan Packard.

What is your name? Susan Packard

Where do you currently work? Previously I was the Cofounder of HGTV and COO of Scripps Network.  I left the corporate world 4 years ago.

What is your current role?  I currently work as an author, speaker, and mentor.

Where are you currently located (city/state)?  Knoxville, Tennessee

What is your favorite quote? Brene Brown “You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story & hustle for your worthiness.”

I like this because there are so many women who find themselves in a position of low self-esteem, but this quote really touches on a point in my book.  Women don’t need to prove that they are worthy, they need to own it.

Share 3 Personal Facts So Our Readers Can Get to Know You:

  1. I have two cats named Dot & Trudy.
  2. I grew up in a suburb in Detroit surrounded by family. It was a great childhood and everyone was very close.
  3. Just last weekend I gave a TED Talk called “Whose Am I”. It’s still being edited, but I’m very excited it about it.

Describe your journey to your current position.  Four years ago I left the corporate world because I wanted to do something new.  I’m very entrepreneurial by nature.  A friend, who was also a published author, recommended that I write a book about my journey.  It took me three years to write the book, and now I’m enjoying sharing it with women who are still in their corporate journey.  This year I have been on tour for the book and it has been very exciting.

What was the biggest obstacle you have faced in your career?  How did you overcome it?

When I think back about obstacles I think of them as personal.  I’ve been fortunate that most of the professional obstacles I’ve been able to push through.  But one that comes to mind that is both personal and professional is the adoption of my son Andrew.

We had to go to a third world country.  It was at a time when NBC was acquiring a new company and when I would call my boss there was always a bad connection on the line.  I am sure it wasn’t the timing my co-workers would have liked, but it was so important and valuable to me.  I had to work through that for my family and for my team.

How do you find joy and pleasure in your role?  How do you encourage others on your team to share in this?

What I enjoy about my current role is how women love to learn and love to focus on improvement.  It’s such an open audience.  When I had my day job I couldn’t focus on that, but now I get to focus on that full time.  I love working with women to see them face their fears and know they can succeed.

As far as my own team, I do the same with each of them.  The team is just a little smaller now.

What is your best career advice for an emerging female leader?

I tend to think of this in two ways: Technical and Behavioral.  On the technical side, getting involved in line work is so important.  The work that you do that directly impacts the bottom line of the company is the most meaningful.  If you want a seat in the boardroom, you have to know how the business runs.

On the behavioral side, you have to push through your fears.  If you’re getting stuck and staying still, that really puts you at a disadvantage because your peers will advance.  For example, I noticed for many years that my male counterparts used humor as a tool.  They used it to break the ice, cut the tension, and to build relationships.  For a long time I was uncomfortable using humor.  But I had to face my fear and move past it.  I spoke with a group last week and I incorporated humor into my talk.  Some of the jokes were duds, but I still made a choice to use humor as a tool.

Our theme this year is “Connecting”.  In what ways do you finding that “connecting” has helped you in your career?  How would you advise other leaders to incorporate these lessons into their approach?

Everyone should read Chapter 5 of my book.  It’s all about this.  In it, I talk about fan clubs.  I really emphasize the relationship of organizations like WICT and other affinity groups.  And one thing I would also advise is to maintain your relationships with girlfriends.  As I rose to the top, I didn’t take enough time to cultivate those relationships.  I didn’t cut anyone off, but I didn’t reach out either.  These relationships are important because the women in our lives keep us honest.  They’ll tell us what they see and be there for support.  I can’t emphasize enough the importance of building and maintaining these relationships.