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HB News & Events, Change Management

Applying Pressure: When to Lean In, When to Back Off, and How to Know the Difference

Is anyone completely confident in their ability to apply pressure appropriately, reading situations to know how and whether to proceed? We’re taking another look at the best of Catalyst 2019.  

A diverse panel of real estate executives gathered for a spirited and informative conversation on the art of determining when to lean in, when to back off, and how to tell the difference. If you weren’t there, here are some of what you missed.

Slide#7 Applying Pressure


Moderator: Michael Spies, Senior Managing Director, Tishman Speyer


  • Adam Paul, President and CEO, First Capital
  • Christy Hill, Managing Director, Americas Head of Asset Management, PGIM Real Estate
  • Luke Petherbridge, CEO, ShopCore Properties
  • Lisa Shalett, former Head of Strategic Innovation, Brookfield Asset Management

The conversation opened with a discussion of what mattered most, in terms of how time is optimally allocated. Luke Petherbridge, laid out his priorities in this order,

“What matters most for us are the people -- we spend the most time building our teams, and then aligning them to our cultural mission. If you get the right people on the bus,  then it all comes together, allowing us to lean in on new tech or assets.” 


Once the right team members are in place and understand their roles, successful leadership means letting go, relying upon the people you’ve empowered to get things done. If you’ve leaned in to build the team, now is the time to back off, because when the team is successfully aligned, this next step doesn't require much pressure. For Adam Paul,

“Once the business grows to a certain size, you get most done through other people, making the assembly of people/team super important.

As teams mature, leaders can shift their priorities to new initiatives, knowing the team is ready to operate with autonomy.  

Brookfield Customer Story

Unleashing a well-prepared team gives leaders a healthy distance from which to objectively observe their approach, and also another insight on the challenges their team faces.  Lisa Shalett elaborated saying,

“People get used to doing things the way they've always done them because they don't see the constraints. They’re no longer having conversations about their pain points.” With distance and perspective, leaders stay ahead of today’s challenges, “constantly scanning the environment.” This permits them to see opportunities that might not have occurred to the team given their granularity. They might also see challenges or opportunities beyond the original scope of the team’s responsibility.  


How do you decide whether an initiative is worth the focus of your limited energy and time? What are some key indicators that tell you something is worth your time? Sometimes determining when to lean in on a new initiative isn’t based solely on whether you have the opportunity to implement an innovative technology or new process.  

Christy Hill offered great insight on determining how you prioritize,  suggesting this question,

“Is this worth the distraction from our core business? 

For her, it is critical to identify the areas that are broadly impactful for the business, where the team can make changes with broad, transformative impact.  

Luke Petherbridge offered an additional assessment for determining priorities,

“When you look at successful projects,  agility matters more than anything. Staying flexible, a key component in the AGILE method may allow you to start solving things that weren't even part of the original idea.” 

Brookfield Customer Story


Next, the conversation turned to how to achieve consensus, and how to measure success. So, how do high-achieving leaders get buy-in? Lisa Shalett said,

“The best way I get buy-in? By conveying ideas in the language common to the team. People resonate with the things they know. They recognize it, and are more inclined to get behind it and give it their full support.” 

Adam Paul reminded everyone that there is an inevitable point where something must be done, saying that maintaining the “status quo will lead to a broken company. Inaction is AN action.”

Choosing to do nothing is still a risk, and when large initiatives are on the table, “not doing” can be expensive. It is important to measure every option, including asking “what's the risk of not doing this thing?” before deciding how and whether to proceed.

There was spirited Q & A among attendees wanting to understand how to keep pace with change, and which strategies are most inclined to overcome resistance.

Finally, Christy Hill delivered the lasting takeaway, challenging the audience,

“Set the bar higher than good enough; you need to think about how we can make it the best it can be.”



Rochelle A. Carter-Wilson

Written by Rochelle A. Carter-Wilson

Rochelle is the Content Marketing Manager for Honest Buildings. She creates stories and other on-brand content to inform and engage owners and other members of the Commercial Real Estate industry.

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