Skip to main content
Norm Bilsbury, Ph.D. | Champaign, IL


Leaders and managers can easily and unpredictably find themselves caught between the tensions of two very important organizational dynamics: the need for accountability and the need to develop talent.

This might not seem like a big deal, but unless this is managed with a high degree of awareness and intentionality our team members may not know how to effectively receive conversations regarding performance management feedback.

Why does this matter?

Neuroscience teaches us that under stress the brain releases cortisol and epinephrine. These chemicals produce a heightened awareness which prompts the “fight or flight” mechanisms. Which is why many people often perceive a performance management conversation as a stressful one.

If we as leaders initiate developmental conversations on the heels of an evaluative conversation, the brain is not in a position to fully process or comprehend well-intended developmental feedback.

To avoid these situations, we should begin developmental conversations by explaining how as leaders we wear two hats. The first hat will be a “Supervisor/Manager/Leader Hat” and the second is the “Coach Hat”. It is imperative that our team members understand which hat you are wearing during a conversation.

By separating out our leadership roles we accomplish two things. First it helps us as leaders to avoid being perceived as a persecutor, while eliminating a team member’s confusion on what type of conversation is taking place. Secondly, when substantive coaching conversations are genuinely occurring, your team member will be in a place where they can neurologically receive the developmental messages you are sending.

As leaders this is what we do: build a team; set goals; assess performance against those goals; measure the gap; coach or train to the gap as needed; and recalibrate.

Use the “Two Hats” concept to help your team members understand how you will communicate with them and when it’s happening. They will respect you for your up front approach, and appreciate the clear communication being offered.

Make a comment

Share this article: