Susan Battley

Author Archives

  • Five Ways to Sink a Meeting

    By Susan Battley

    We’ve all had to sit through meetings that could bore the bumps off a dill pickle.

    More than 10 million meetings occur every day in America, and the average professional attends about 60 every month. Studies suggest that at least one-third of those meetings are unproductive. But they don’t have to be.

    If you value your time and the time of the people who work for and with you, consider the following five meeting threats and take steps to avoid them:

    1. “Potemkin” Tactics
    General Potemkin, Catherine the Great’s military leader, erected phony villages to mislead an invading enemy.  Too often, meetings that purport to be substantive turn out to be just window dressing, or address issues not relevant to the people invited. Using “Potemkin” tactics is a sure way to lose the confidence and trust of attendees, who cotton on to the deception soon enough.

    What You Can Do
    Communicate the meeting’s agenda and goals completely and accurately ahead of time. This will help ensure that the right people attend the meeting, and come with reasonable expectations.

    2. MIA Sessions
    When people critical to advancing the meeting are “missing in action,” you have a MIA session. This can delay decisions and in many cases lead to the ultimate time-waster – scheduling a second meeting to tackle the same issues as the first.

    What You Can Do
    Identify everybody who needs to be present in order to accomplish the goals of the meeting. In many cases this may involve additional people beyond the regular cast of characters.  If you cannot accomplish the meeting goals because key players are unavailable, reschedule or cancel the meeting.

    3. Hijackers
    When one or more attendees seizes control of the agenda or monopolizes the group’s time, your meeting has been hijacked. Tactics can be overt or subtle, as in “This will only take a minute.”

    What You Can Do
    Stop the hijacking before it starts. Once a meeting is hijacked, it may just take the Green Berets to regain control. Instead, make agenda items and time limits clear from the start, then enforce these rules early and often.  What if the top gun is responsible for the meeting deviation? Then you’ve been rerouted, not hijacked.

    4. Techno-Fog
    When meeting attendees are busy with mobile phones, PDAs, or laptops and give speakers only part of their attention, a cloud of techno-fog has rolled in. Holding productive meetings in this kind of climate is difficult because interruptions and multitasking compromise memory, information processing and decision making. It’s also rude.

    What You Can Do
    Clear the fog by laying down the law. Whenever possible, adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward electronic devices. This will increase the quality of attendees’ attention and can also lead to shorter meetings. Consider too that if you don’t need everyone’s full attention, why hold the meeting in the first place?

    5. SOP Meetings
    When meetings occur too frequently or always use the same format, they can become SOP, or Standard Operating Procedure. Meetings that in actuality are rituals – all form and little substance – add little or no value. Quite the contrary, they consume valuable and, in the case of time, nonrenewable resources.

    What You Can Do
    Perform a “meeting audit” of all regularly scheduled meetings. This audit will determine: Whether you are meeting too often, whether the format is productive, and whether the right people are attending.

    To get the most out of meetings, you should be sure that the meeting is necessary, then structure the format, agenda, and attendee list to support the meeting’s goals.  Remember too that meeting norms, such as arriving on time, paying full attention, keeping discussion on target and on track, get established one way or another – either by conscious intent and influence or haphazardly.

    Copyright © Susan Battley. All rights reserved.

  • Do You Look the Part?

    By Susan Battley

    Recently, the chief executive officer of a Fortune 50 company had to deliver very tough news about the company’s performance and prospects. At an internationally televised event, he delivered a detailed corrective plan that included major layoffs over the next years. And I do mean detailed. He read page after page of his presentation, seldom looking at the standing-room only audience.

    To be sure, his was an unenviable job. But when he said the words “I am fully confident…,” they just did not ring true. He was going through the motions of reading a scripted message. No eye contact, flat tone, hunched posture. His non-verbal behavior completely contradicted what he was saying. This leader certainly wasn’t ready for his close-up.

    When it comes to important communications, do you “look the part”?

    People look for congruence and consistency between what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. They want to be looked in the eye. Whether you’re on network television or speaking before a small group of clients or sponsors, you need to master a “whole person” range of communication skills to be effective.

    Research confirms that people make almost instantaneous inferences about a person’s competence based on his or her looks. The good news is that you can use this information to your advantage.

    Here’s What You Can Do

    • Be sure to maximize first impressions. This means dressing and projecting the appropriate image.
    • Practice your material until you know it well. You don’t need to memorize it, but you should be able to tick off your key points without notes.
    • Videotape yourself and review it with someone who will give you frank and helpful feedback.
    • Consider getting professional coaching on platform skills and media training. (Some years back I did, and found the experience a valuable investment.)

    Being fully prepared nowadays means more than knowing your material. You must deliver the “whole person” communications package or risk striking out.

    Copyright © Susan Battley, PsyD, PhD. All rights reserved.

  • Dr. Susan Battley Contributor in New University Press Handbook

    STONY BROOK, NY, February 2, 2009 –  Dr. Susan Battley has been chosen a contributing author in the upcoming Handbook of Lifelong Learning to be published by the Oxford University Press (OUP).  Her chapter will focus on 360-degree feedback and executive coaching programs and benefits.  The volume editor is Dr. Manuel London.  The Handbook of Lifelong Learning will part of OUP’s Library of Psychology Series. 

    Dr. Battley is an internationally recognized expert on leadership effectiveness and strategic change management.  She is the author of Coached to Lead:  How to Achieve Extraordinary Results with an Executive Coach, the first consumer’s guide to executive coaching.  Her articles have appeared in both business and academic publications.  She is the founder and CEO of Battley Performance Consulting, Inc., a firm specializing in executive and organization effectiveness.

    Dr. London, who was selected by Oxford University Press to edit this landmark volume,  is known worldwide for his research and publications on performance management, adult learning and organization behavior.  He is Professor of Management and Organization Behavior at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.  Dr. London serves as a special consultant to Battley Performance Consulting.

    Contact:  Jennifer Rai, Coordinator, Battley Performance Consulting; Ph 631.615.7920;


  • The “Invisible” Productivity Solution…Sleep!

    By Susan Battley

    There’s something more than a little discouraging about presenting to a room full of yawning professionals at 8.30 AM. And especially if the topic is executive productivity. So, finding myself in this situation, I started off by polling the group on how many hours of sleep they typically got a night. No one admitted to more than seven hours. Some claimed they got by very well on five hours. But the yawns and lack of energy in the room told another story. This was a seriously sleep-deprived group.

    Let’s look at some basic truths. No one can perform at peak levels without adequate sleep. And getting sufficient sleep is one of the most powerful ways to insure that you are mentally sharp, even-tempered, and stress resilient.

  • Keeping the Spark Alive: How to Avoid Executive Burnout

    By Susan Battley

    Finding or otherwise buying “down time,” is one of the most common problems I hear from harried executives. Workload and the relentless demands of juggling multiple priorities and constituencies can be so extreme that serious “battle fatigue” ensues. Often, the first sign that something is wrong occurs when the person has an unexpected breather, and finds himself or herself unable to enjoy it.

    That is just what happened to a very successful -and busy – VP of National Sales at a leading pharmaceutical firm.