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Posted by Martone, Andrea at Monday, 05/21/2012 12:28 am
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
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3.2 from 29 votes
By Reut Schwartz-Hebron

Julia was Michael’s manager for more than two years and had great respect for his comprehensive thinking, especially when it came to solving complex issues. Michael was one of the team leaders Julia really wanted to see succeed. He was kind and considerate, and he was one of the only managers on her team she could strategize with, thanks to his deep understanding of systems and his strategic scope of thinking. However, other people didn’t see him the same way.

“The team is frustrated with Michael’s management style. I was told more than once that the questions he asks and the details he tends to insist on often seem irrelevant and that he tends to be scattered when the team most needs his direction. While his team appreciates him personally, they don’t trust him enough to follow his leadership. My experience with Michael is quite different. I often consult with him on complex problems and he asks excellent questions and can often come up with solutions no one else thought of…it would be wonderful to figure out where this discrepancy comes from and help Michael support his team in a way that will benefit everyone involved.” Senior manager, insurance industry

As we discussed in Part I, pleasing teams have great communication skills, an intuitive and perceptive understanding of people and complex situations, they are most innovative and creative, and they deeply care about other people. They also let things that don’t lead to desired outcomes linger, trying to reduce conflict and discomfort even at the cost of productivity and performances. Like Michael’s response patterns, pleasing teams are generally more comfortable with integrative or associative thinking, spending little time in focused or analytical thinking. They are likely to spend valuable time in meetings, talking to people at length; focusing on minutia and neglecting the focus to drive people to systematic action.

Some response patterns are more effective than others. Highly effective response patterns have higher likelihood of leading to desired results; they apply to a large variety of different situation and hence are preferred by the brain over old response patterns. We call these highly effective response patterns “Key Strategies.” Pin pointing which Key Strategies are needed and supporting the lasting acquisition of these new response patterns optimizes the performances of leaders and team members like Michael.

Pleasing teams and individuals need to gain access to three new Key Strategies:
·       Self Acceptance and Self Forgiveness
·       KindExcellence™
·       Synthesis vs. Analysis


In essence, Self Acceptance and Self Forgiveness is the ability to treat oneself with respect and appreciation, moving quickly past any negative emotions that are associated to oneself. Pleasing teams come from a place of humility and are often self-diminishing. They tend to linger in self critiquing behavior, focusing on pleasing others and defining their success or failure based on the perception of others. This slows them down and makes it nearly impossible for them to make needed changes, because the need to please others postpones resistance, blocking change as a result. In addition, pleasing teams will want to focus on what they are doing wrong, dwelling in the past and in self-dismissal which makes it impossible for them to change. This new Key Strategy takes away the emotional baggage that is associated with learning opportunities.


KindExcellence™ is the ability to balance the need for connection with the need to maintain boundaries, move toward goals and meet expectations. Executives sometimes assume that managers should never be nice or build warmer relationships with their team if they care to get people to make needed adjustments. Pleasing leaders are a clear example that the other extreme is not the answer either. A far more effective response pattern is a balanced combination of both kindness and excellence, both caring about people and about business results and balancing the needs of others with clear boundaries that foster the success of the team. Pleasing teams need to acquire KindExcellence™ so they can better set boundaries before they can benefit from applying other strategies.


Most people are more comfortable using either synthesis or analysis as their primary way of thinking. This Key Strategy is the ability to effectively choose when to use synthesis or analysis based on the task rather than on people’s natural tendency. Pleasing teams prefer synthesis and often confuse the two abilities, using synthesis when analysis is needed and vice versa. Michael used both synthesis and analysis equally, but not in the right places. Michael micromanaged, using analysis instead of synthesis when he needed to allow free flow thinking and giving his team members the opportunity to deliver with independence and accountability. On the other hand, he used synthesis for tasks that required analysis. In certain instances, when the important thing was to stay focused and aligned, Michael would take the team off topic or distract the team into discussing non-critical aspects of the project.

For Julia, Michael, and his team, the new Key Strategies provided access to new dynamics and much greater productivity. “The impressive thing about this solution is how fast it affected both Michael and his team. The team started noticing changes in Michael’s performances in a matter of weeks and I can say without reservation that this is the single most impactful thing we could have done for Michael and the team.” Senior manager, insurance industry

Napoleon Bonaparte was quoted as saying that the secret to success lies in careful preparation followed by speedy and decisive execution. In leadership positions, people who need the Key Strategies of the pleasing cluster will cost their team promotion opportunities, making decisions for the wrong reasons, increased overload as a result of taking on too much and an inability to solve conflicts. Trying to resolve conflicts when a team depends on a pleasing manager will feel a lot like swimming in place. The manager will listen, acknowledge the understanding of the situation, but then avoid dealing with it in any way possible. But more than anything, working with pleasing individuals and teams can be difficult because they are so hard to change.

Most importantly, the right Key Strategies and guiding pleasing teams to acquire them in a lasting way, makes it possible for pleasing teams and individuals to resist. These three Key Strategies bring back independent thinking, self acceptance, the ability to set boundaries, and the critical thinking of analysis. These are the foundations of resistance that pleasing teams are missing and with a healthy degree of resistance, pleasing teams can change in a lasting way.

Next week: In this final series, we’ll talk about ways you can guide the pleasing team to overcome resistance.

Reut Schwartz – Hebron is the founder of Key Change Institute (KCI) - a national organization that provides groundbreaking business performance improvement and strategy execution consulting services rooted in brain science and experience-based learning. KCI helps businesses overcome resistance to change and optimize productivity and profitability to achieve impactful, lasting results. She is also the author of the new book The Art and Science of Changing People Who Don’t Want to Change Giving Teams Access To Their Full Potential

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