HR Resources
Guide to Empowered Management I: Adopting the appropriate posture

Guide to Empowered Management I: Adopting the appropriate posture

Emma Palmer
Guide to Empowered Management I: Adopting the appropriate posture

Congratulations, you’re here because you’ve decided to invest in yourself, to take control, and to push yourself to grow into the manager you’d like to become.

Wave’s guide to empowered management will help you gain a better understanding of the tactics and approaches top management use in the context of their role, while providing concrete and actionable frameworks to help you along your way.

“…management is one of the skills that is most important to me, and the one I feel my company doesn't do a good job at helping strengthen - alias Apricot Alouate - Marketing Manager

In most companies, the natural progression for a career track is to become a manager. Individuals start by mastering their trade, then pivot toward managing others in their former position. At this point, their success is no longer dependent on the work they produce themselves, but on the work produced by the people they manage.

Despite an abundance of management schools, an average of 1 in 4 managers report having received no formal management training (and up to 38%, in certain sectors*). Yet management is not something that can be improvised and learning how to lead efficiently takes time, patience, and practice.

I need to learn different management styles to adapt to each team member so that I can make all of them progress.” - alias Vermilion Goldfish - Head of Financing

At Wave, 73% of our clients are first-time or seasoned managers, both looking to gain confidence in their management skills. And 67% of the founders, co-founders and C-level executives we work with have mentioned management as one of their key struggles during their coaching with Wave, noting a lack of adapted management skills or a struggle to combine managerial duties on top of other tasks.

I have just taken a new management position and I have to manage former colleagues. I am afraid to do too much and to lose the link I created with the teams.” - alias Fuchsia Shark - CFO

Among managers, we often see challenges around:

  • Management style:  ”How can I be pushy and friendly?”, “What’s the right trade-off between benevolence and excellence?”
  • Feelings of legitimacy:  ”Am I doing what’s expected of me?”
  • Inner fears:  “Will my team love me if I decide to stop allowing remote work?”

*According to a Digits study, an average of 26% and up to 38% of managers in the UK have received no formal management training

A different way of looking at management

As a manager, your role can be broken down into the 2 Rs:  Results and Retention. Ultimately, your objective is to both help people perform at their highest potential, and simultaneously drive their desire to remain within your organization. Today, research has proven* that doing so requires trust.

However, trusting working relationships aren’t built overnight. Just like in coaching, trust is achieved progressively when a manager remains mindful of two important elements: the process and the posture.

This led us at Wave to develop the following framework to support our clients in their ongoing reflections on management:

Of course, this is not a magic recipe but this framework provides a medium for reflection, to help you define your unique combination of skills and posture as a successful manager.

*Research has proven that felt trustworthiness by subordinates in their leaders has a positive influence on their performance, organizational citizenship behavior and job satisfaction. (

This guide is divided in 2 different posts:

  • Part I: Adopting the appropriate posture ← This post

Part I: Adopting the appropriate posture

As a manager, your role can be defined as having a high impact on your team’s Results and Retention, and meeting these objectives resides in fine-tuning your working posture to match your role.

While some people are natural leaders - even the best managers need to be mindful of their demeanor in order to be perceived as legitimate within their role. Demonstrating the appropriate posture creates trust and trust is the cornerstone of performance.

At Wave, we encourage our managers to develop the three pillars of trust in order to promote healthy and trusting relationships with their subordinates.

3 Pillars of Trust

  • Active Listening & Care: building a two-way conversation
  • Assertiveness: knowing how to make requests and say no
  • Benevolent feedback: finding the balance between positive and critical feedback

1) Active Listening & Care

Communication is at the core of management, and effective communication starts with active listening, which will allow you to nurture trusting and caring relationships at work.

Active listening allows you, as a manager, to gain clarity around what your direct report both says and wants. This means both parties feel heard and understood - the base of any empowering communication.

Essentially, actively listening means having both the intention to listen and focusing on what is being said (and not said). By being present to your direct report, you can gain a more comprehensive understanding of their position. Paying greater attention to verbal and non-verbal cues leads to providing appropriate and high-impact feedback and mutual understanding.

3 Techniques to help you listen actively

Welcoming silence

Though some may feel uncomfortable when faced with silence, it can be a powerful tool to encourage your discussion partner to express themselves more thoroughly. By providing the right level of silence, your subordinate will feel empowered. You’re letting them know they can share their thoughts with you and be taken seriously.

Be careful to let your report reach the end of their thoughts - premature interruption can convey a lack of interest or impatience, which will have the opposite effect.

It is important to keep in mind that silence doesn’t mean:

  • letting your mind wander to other responsibilities and tasks
  • letting the conversation draw on too long
  • becoming too engrossed in your report’s situation

It is a tool to confirm that you’ve fully understood the other’s point of view, and consequently, you’re able to communicate this understanding to them, with the help of reformulation.


Reformulating your discussion partner’s comments is crucial to letting them know they’ve been fully understood. By synthesizing what has been said, both parties have the opportunity to assess if they’re on the same page.

It also helps your subordinate to take a step back on what they’ve shared with you, allowing them to add nuance or rectify what may have been communicated inappropriately.


Report: “I feel stressed because I work on nights and weekends and I just can’t see myself continuing this way…”

Manager: “So the way you’re currently organizing your time isn’t working for you, and something needs to change.”

Report: “Yes, but I think I also need to re-evaluate how we prioritize certain topics as a team so that I can better manage my time.”

Asking the right questions

Taking the time to ask questions has multiple benefits including: showing a keen interest in what your rapport is sharing with you, allowing you to clarify that you’ve understood them correctly, and helping you to investigate further.

The questions themselves can be simple, as long as they have an impact on moving the situation forward.



  • “What exactly do you mean by…”
  • “What does that represent for you?”

Investigation into feelings, facts and opinions with open-ended questions:

  • “How do you feel / What do you think about…”
  • “Who in the team is implicated in this situation”
  • “What do you think could be done to solve the problem?”

Seeing every conversation as an opportunity for you to cultivate trust can be a helpful mindset to adopt. It’s important that the members of your team feel comfortable approaching you when they have questions or concerns, or when they need clarification on what's expected of them.

If your employees don't believe they can reach out to you, there’s a risk that problems or concerns will go unaddressed and only come to light when it’s too late. Being a manager should mean preventing fires early on - not only knowing how to put them out once they’ve started.

2) Assertiveness

Another key aspect of communication is your ability to make yourself properly understood by the other party, without being perceived as aggressive or too authoritarian.

Assertiveness could be defined as a method of communication, or even a disposition, which couples self-assertion (requiring a certain level of awareness of oneself and one's needs) and the respect of others. It is all about achieving a balance between being firm and caring.

This attitude aims at achieving a win-win situation in each of your working relationships and is one of the bases of non-violent communication. Assertiveness is particularly important when it comes to making requests and delegating to your subordinates, and requires you to be both clear and specific.

Differentiating between facts, feelings and opinions

When being assertive, it’s important to remain aware of the difference between facts, feelings and opinions. Facts give us common grounds that are indisputable, while opinions are often sources of conflicts and discord.

  • Facts: what exists, what can be proven, in other words: what is reality. It is verifiable, quantifiable, and observable, and provides a base for an indisputable affirmation that both parties can agree on.
  • “It is 30° outside today.”
  • Feelings: express an emotion or an impression. It can be discomfort, annoyance, fear, satisfaction…  They come from within each of us, and are indisputable yet ever-evolving.
  • “Summertime makes me happy.”
  • Opinions: express judgment, a point of view, an assessment. They are a result of our individual values, but also our upbringing, our culture, or our beliefs. Opinions are always debatable and can result in arguments and conflict.
  • “It’s warm outside.”

2 Keys to Communicating with Assertiveness

Prep work

Assertive communication is based on preparation and can take you less than a minute depending on the situation. The important thing to keep in mind is that you’ve met the two main requirements:

  • You know what you want out of this interaction (your objective, or your role).
  • You can do this by: always setting aside a few minutes before each discussion to set your intention. Remember, addressing one subject at a time is critical, it’s complicated to get to your destination if you don’t know where you’re going, or you’re setting out in too many directions at once!
  • You enter the discussion with a neutral disposition (not angry, annoyed, or impatient..) so that you can better empathize.
  • You can do this by: engaging in different mindfulness practices like breathing exercises, to help take a step back and reset your energy. Remember, it’s hard to remain impartial when our own emotional state is electric!

There are several techniques that can be used to help you find a space of neutrality before entering into a discussion, including box breathing. It is used by people in high-stress situations to achieve inner calm (athletes, emergency response teams, etc.) to reduce feelings related to stress.


As a manager, communicating with assertiveness is key to clarifying your expectations and needs to your reports in the form of tasking, delegating, and providing guidance. Using the DESC framework can provide a simple and efficient roadmap for the interaction itself, helping you reach the desired level of clarity.

DESC Framework

  • Describe: Give the context, using facts**.**
  • “We have a target of X to achieve”
  • Effects: Explain WHY you’re asking and what’s at stake and the impact (for the company, for you, for them)
  • I’d like you to finish this report this morning so I can use it in for the meeting this afternoon so that everyone at X can get a clear idea of what we’re working on and better measure our availability.
  • Share & Find Solutions: Addresses how you’ll both know the target will be achieved and suggest what you’d both like to see in terms of future behavior or what can be done. Ideally, you’re inviting your subordinates to share their solutions and suggestions or leaving some space for autonomy and creativity on their behalf.
  • ”This analysis will show that X and Y”
  • Commit:  Align on a clear deadline or schedule committing to the actions, results, or the next steps that need to be taken. This can look like giving them a recap that they can validate. Don’t forget to express your trust in the solution you’ve come up with together.
  • ”X needs to be ready by Y, and I’m confident you can make it happen by taking two hours to work on this after our meeting.”

3) Benevolent Feedback

Frequent and transparent feedback is instrumental in building trust. Learning to give the right kind of feedback, both positive and negative, is an essential part of a manager’s posture. It helps to correct the course when things go astray, and handle difficult situations with nuance and diplomacy; but it is also integral in how you give praise and show you care.

Constructive Feedback

Although it may be a source of discomfort and angst for many managers, knowing how to provide constructive feedback is a key skill set to add to your managerial toolkit. It’s intrinsic to cementing the foundations for a balanced and trusting relationship with your reports. In order to be able to have faith in your praise, your reports need to believe that you’re also willing to tell them when something needs to be adjusted or improved.

For many, providing constructive feedback feels challenging, here are four tactics that can help frame the situation:

1) Prepare for the discussion

Preparing the discussion in advance can help you to express yourself more assertively rather than letting your discomfort lead your behavior. Giving negative feedback can be challenging but it’s not something you should be afraid of.

2) Use a structure (based on non-violent communication)

  • Facts: Explain the situation using facts
  • “You arrived late 3 times this week”
  • Feeling: Share your feelings using “I” rather than “You”
  • “I’m frustrated because*..*”
  • Needs: Express your needs and don’t forget to explain the WHY **(why it’s important for the company, the person’s development)
  • “As your manager, I need…”
  • “At company, we need…”
  • Requests: Share your request in a positive for
  • "Please do this," not "Don't do that"

3) Choose the right settings:

Ideally, these conversations should take place in a two-way communication setting, either face-to-face or by video call so that you can perceive your discussion partner’s reaction, and in turn counter in with the appropriate level of acknowledgment and care.

4) Ask for permission:

A simple but effective way to give your subordinate a sense of agency is by extending a warning of what's coming. It can be enough to say: "I have something to communicate to you, is now a good time?".

Sharing Praise

Although pointing out what’s wrong without blaming is important, an even stronger lever of motivation can be achieved by drawing the receiver’s attention to things that are done right and thanking them for specific actions, and not a general personality trait:

  • "Thank you for taking the time to go over the two versions and highlight the discrepancies, I know that required a lot of number crunching."
  • "Thank you for making a point of explaining how X works to John."


  • "Thank you for being so rigorous."
  • "Thank you for being so kind."

Pointing out every time you notice your team members doing something right may seem excessive, but this kind of positive reinforcement shows that you’ve noticed their work and efforts. This motivates them to reproduce the level of effort required in hopes of further eliciting your notice and appreciation.

It is important that your praise is sincere, otherwise, it may have an adverse effect. If your reports feel like you’re paying them lip service, the value of your esteem will decrease. Remember, it’s not the quantity of positive feedback that will lower its perceived value, but rather the quality.

Giving specific praise can be achieved by keeping in mind the 4 elements of the FAIR Praise framework:

  • Factual: it’s based on the hard facts
  • ”The presentation you lead was successful, everyone understood our vision …”
  • Action-oriented: you recognize what the person has done, and not who they are
  • “You did a great job of explaining the new sales initiative clearly in the presentation” vs. “You’re a great speaker”
  • Impact: it showcases the positive impact of their actions on themselves, their work, their team, the company
  • “The benchmarking work you did for the X project is really detailed, that’s going to allow our team to get really specific on what we’ll need to do this quarter, and ultimately help our company really have a chance at competing in the market. Thanks!”
  • Real: both you and your report feel that the praise is well-deserved and sincere
  • “I can see did a lot of detail work on the presentation, that’s the kind of thing that makes our investors feel connected. Well-done.”

If you want to keep reading, go to Part II: Providing clarity through processes.

Interested in starting working on your goals? Book your first session now.

Read more

Guide to Empowered Management II: Providing clarity through processes

Guide to Empowered Management II: Providing clarity through processes

Wave’s guide to empowered management will help you gain a better understanding of the tactics and approaches top management use in the context of their role, while providing concrete and actionable frameworks to help you along your way.

Emma Palmer
 Unlocking Employee Satisfaction and Performance

Unlocking Employee Satisfaction and Performance

When it comes to improving employee satisfaction and performance, coaching offers a unique and powerful solution

Emma Palmer