If your emerging leaders program includes this – maybe change programs – here’s why…

The reason we called our company Next Evolution Performance, was because one of our clients started calling us the “Next evolution of leadership coaching” when they were describing us to their leaders internally.

We immediately thought that was a pretty cool way to describe us, so we totally took the name and ran with it. And luckily we trademarked it because there have been plenty of other people since then who also thought it was a great name… but I digress…

Like many companies we see, they offered some courses in basic leadership principles.

And like many of these courses, there is usually a component which philosophically shouldn’t be needed in any good leadership course.

So what’s that module?

Yep it’s the old chestnut of “How to have difficult conversations.”

Yikes, cringe, eeewwww.

Here’s the thing… “Difficult” conversations really only arise when there is a mismatch of expectations.

That’s pretty much it!

Any mismatch of exceptions is generally a result of subpar leadership – i.e. not setting clear expectations in the first place.

And any conversations perceived as “difficult” take a bucket load of cognitive energy (energy credits in our speak). Therefore the quicker you can stamp out the need for them, the better for everyone involved, and the more you are optimising collective cognitive energy which of course increases productivity and profitability.

Therefore, leadership programs should include frameworks on how to set very clear expectations.

Sounds simple right – where there’s a lot to “get clear” on.

Research on high performing people in high performing teams shows that when they are being led well, they will say that they clearly understand what’s expected of them.

That clarity is not just about what they are working on. It extends well into the culture and the behaviour, activities and mindset expectations. It extends to expectations around delivery, conflict resolution and so much more…

And just to be clear (see what I did there 😊 )… holding someone to account is NOT a difficult conversation. Neither is a conversation where people disagree. When good leadership was shown in the first place, holding people to account, and dealing with disagreement, is normalised as something constructive that should be embraced. This makes these become conversations feel far more rational and far less icky.

So what should your leadership programs include as a starting point?

Overall the job of a leader is to maximise the collective cognitive energy of the people they are leading. Get this right at the grass roots levels and strategy and execution flows from that.

So the following are great places to start but certainly not the whole package:

  • Understanding leadership outcomes – according to research
  • Understanding the neuroscience of cognitive energy and how it applies to leadership and performance execution
  • The neuroscience of ambiguity and how to remove it (from all directions)
  • A very, very deep dive into accountability and psychological safety – the mindset, the behaviours, how to coach it, how to normalise disagreement and how to normalise being held accountable;
  • The neuroscience and psychology of leading advanced performance mindset
  • And so much more.


Leadership is hard, neuroscience helps.

Without frameworks based on research, many leaders will spend a lot of time and energy second guessing themselves because they lack clarity.

This lack of clarity leads to a mismatch of expectations which leads to icky conversations.

Don’t coach people how to have “difficult conversations”. Equip them with leadership skills that make “difficult conversations” a thing of the past.

And that saves energy credits for all involved.

If you are interested in supporting your emerging leaders in a way that will provide result in excellent implementation and ROI for your company (and not just a tick a box exercise) let’s discuss if you might be a fit for our programs in a performance call.