Susan Battley

Author Archives

  • Don’t Put Customers First, and Other Contrarian Commandments –

    By Susan Battley

    Here we are with one month already ticked off our calendars. Perhaps your New Year’s resolutions included new professional and business priorities. But have you considered the activities you should not be doing? I offer three contrarian commandments that challenge conventional wisdom and the unintended consequences of daily executive focus and decision-making.

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  • Seven Crucial Actions for Leading in Complex Times

    Complexity is a fact of management life in our interdependent global marketplace.  Paradoxically, the more complex things become, the greater the need for leaders to be able to extract, focus and act on core essentials.

    Thriving in complex times involves seven crucial leader performance areas.  Do you consistently deliver in these areas? ‎

  • What’s Your Return-on-Time?

    Performance Tip

    Twice in recent weeks I’ve found myself in small-group meetings that included senior executives who did not need to be there.  After one of these meetings, I asked the chief operating officer, someone I know well, why he was at a gathering that clearly did not require his input or endorsement.

    “Damned if I know,” he replied honestly. “Few people here seem to value my time.”

    To finish the year strong, you and your team must exercise discipline with time allocation so that priority tasks and commitments are completed thoroughly and well.  What activities fall into this category?  Performance reviews, budget decisions, and customer care leap to mind.  These areBusinessman Writing in Scheduler not activities to be rushed.  Yet in reality they often are, with the result being missed opportunities to maximize talent performance and bottom-line results.

    To help calculate your Return-on-Time (ROT), check out our online Meeting Value Calculator Tool. It can help you determine the “cost” of a meeting for planning purposes.  It can also help you determine after the fact whether a meeting yielded a reasonable ROT.

    ©Susan Battley.  All rights reserved.

  • Building A Winning Top Team – Huffington Post

    Lessons From Obama’s Cabinet Picks

    by Susan Battley

    Full Article:

    The beginning of President Obama’s second term seems an appropriate time to look at what makes a winning top team. Four years ago, he conceived of his Cabinet as a “team of rivals,” taking his inspiration from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s best-selling biography of Abraham Lincoln. Just as Lincoln appointed former rivals for the presidency to his Cabinet in 1860, Obama appointed former Democratic presidential competitor Hillary Clinton as his first Secretary of State. In 2008 he told Time magazine, “I don’t want to have people who just agree with me. I want people who are continually pushing me out of my comfort zone.”

    By contrast, Obama’s second-term appointments thus far appear to place an emphasis on personal familiarity and extensive interaction, as suggested by his replacement choices to head the State, Treasury and Defense Departments. All three appointees — John Kerry, Jack Lew and Chuck Hagel, respectively — are trusted allies.

  • Executive Acceleration: From Technical Expert to Leader


    Eric had intellectual firepower to spare. With a PhD in electrical engineering and more than 50 scholarly articles to his credit, he was an acknowledged expert in his field.  He also had a successful track record as the team leader of a $10 million international project. Due to the sudden retirement of the Executive Director for health reasons, Eric was promoted to the top position on the basis of his past project successes and his technical reputation. His responsibilities now included oversight of the organization’s 1,500 employees and spearheading an acquisition of their largest competitor.

    As a newly minted leader, Eric was acutely aware of what he did not know. He was also passionate and committed to succeeding in his new position.  When the retiring Executive Director suggested that he work with an executive coach to scale up quickly, Eric seized the suggestion enthusiastically as a just-in-time service to support his successful transition.


    Eric’s executive acceleration program included a custom assessment or fact-finding phase. His coach conducted one-on-one interviews with all key stakeholders, including board directors and his senior management team of direct reports. Some of his direct reports had been his superiors formerly.  He also undertook a comprehensive behavioral battery, his first ever, which shed light on his thinking, communication, and interpersonal styles.

    Eric’s program focused on his immediate needs:

    • Elevate his executive presence
    • Raise his strategic focus to enterprise-wide issues and opportunities
    • Enhance his interpersonal communications with key constituencies inside and outside the organization.


    His coach’s initial fact-finding confirmed Eric’s thinking about appointing a chief operating officer to handle the day-to-day aspects of the business acquisition.

    Eighteen months later, Eric became the organization’s first chief executive officer in recognition of solid post-acquisition business results and the retention of key talent.

    That’s brilliant execution!

  • How to Be A Great Leader-Coach

    When it comes to core capabilities that prepare a person for the highest levels of executive responsibility and success, bosses loom large as role models, mentors and coaches.  They are major influencers of how top-performing professionals develop on the job.

    At the management level, professionals regularly tell me about key lessons learned from their superiors in self-confidence, executive outlook, managing relationships and handling adversity.

    To unleash their potential and deliver consistent winning results, top talent needs to be guided and inspired by great leader-coaches.

  • Top Five Things Leaders Should Say

    Opinion research shows that public confidence in business and political leaders is middling to very poor.

    For example, a Gallup poll (December 2012) found that only 21 percent of Americans rated business leaders as very high in terms of honesty and ethical behavior. Members of Congress fared even worse in the poll, coming in second from the bottom of 22 professions. Only used car salesmen rated lower. (Nurses came in first place.)

    These findings are a pointed reminder that leaders need to act in ways that build trust and stakeholder engagement, not erode them.

    To help raise the performance bar, here are five communication behaviors that leaders should use to supercharge their effectiveness in this success-critical domain. Some may seem obvious. However, in reality I find they often fall into the category of the “Invisible Obvious.”

    Five-Point Leader Communication Checklist

    1. Say the TRUTH. This is the Prime Communication Directive. There is no room for spin, half-truths or multiple versions of the truth if a leader wants to gain and keep buy-in from employees, customers and other stakeholders. Reputation is a leader’s most precious asset. Once it’s compromised, winning back credibility and stakeholder trust is extremely difficult and sometimes downright impossible.
    2. Say THANK YOU. Expressing appreciation and recognition of others’ efforts and contributions is another key communication priority. This is an aspect of emotional intelligence — meaning the ability to identify and control emotions in oneself and others – that research shows differentiates great leaders from good leaders. Whether a leader is an elected official, a university president or a senior executive, showing sincere gratitude wins hearts as well as minds.
    3. Say WE, NOT I. This point is not new, but it bears repeating. It takes a community of dedicated people to deliver consistent winning results. Highly effective leaders don’t hog the limelight, but instead speak about the team, the community or the organization. They don’t talk “down” but rather inspire and motivate “up” by being other-focused, not self-focused.
    4. Say TELL ME MORE. Successful leaders are inquisitive. They are constantly on the lookout for information that will give them a competitive edge. They want to hear good news, but – even more – they want to drill deep when receiving bad news or differing opinions. In this way, they create a culture of healthy discussion, high-quality decision making and innovation.
    5. Say NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT. Leaders are the final arbiters of their organization’s values and reputation. They should have only one response to suggestions or actions that violate — or appear to violate – those values or general business ethics.

    A key point I make to current and aspiring leaders is this: People have to buy into you before they will buy from you. Incorporating these five behaviors and phrases into everyday actions sets a positive “tone at the top” and strengthens engagement and organizational performance overall. Use them consistently to execute brilliantly.

  • Memo to Congress: Kick The Bad Habits in 2013 – Huffington Post

    by Susan Battley

    The 113th Congress was sworn in this week, adding 12 new senators and 67 new representatives. A fresh start is desperately needed.

    A year from now will anything be different in Washington? Or will the same political gridlock caused by dysfunctional behaviors prevail?

    It all depends on whether our political leaders can kick their bad habits and replace them with behaviors that promote bipartisanship and public confidence and trust.

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  • Battley: Congress…Shed Your ‘Deadly Leadership Behaviors’! –

    With the clock ticking, it is anyone’s guess whether Democrats and Republicans come up with a bipartisan resolution to the looming fiscal crisis, or instead take the country over the cliff into catastrophic free fall.

    In a recent New York Times article, Mr. Bipartisan himself, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who is retiring from the Senate in January 2013, faulted both parties for the current “cancer” of congressional paralysis and finger-pointing.

    Full Article: