Wave’s Guide to Empowered Management
Welcome to Wave’s Guide to Empowered Management
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 https://www.digits.co.uk/news/management-training-survey-results/
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. (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/107179190301000203)
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.
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.
- 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.”
Interested in starting working on your goals?
Start for free
Part II: Providing clarity through processes
In the first part of this document, you learned about what an appropriate management posture entails and how to adopt it.
In this second segment, you’ll gain clarity on how you can provide your team with an understandable and coherent structure and maintain it over time. After all, a posture without process simply isn’t as effective.
When building your processes, it is important to keep in mind that you’re creating a setup in which:
- individuals are able to thrive
- collective team spirit can develop
- you can continue to develop and nurture your personal coaching posture
Building this frame starts early, and can be broken down into two distinct timelines:
Before a new joiner begins
After they have integrated the team
- Defining specific moments for interactions
- 1:1 meetings with each direct report to address specific questions
- Team rituals, which are important to create a routine and a dynamic
1) Before - Recruiting & Onboarding
Everything begins with recruiting the right people and making sure everyone is aligned on what they are supposed to do. This is critical for both the team members and the manager. A clear job description that describes the expectations and responsibilities of a role is essential in ensuring that everyone is on the same page.
Often, managers’ expectations lack clarity, and they expect their reports to fulfill a need, requirement or task that has been formally expressed. In order to avoid frustration and dissatisfaction on both ends, and promote a healthy working relationship based on mutual understanding from the get-go, job descriptions should be sure to include:
- Clear responsibilities
- You will be responsible for dealing level 1, 2 and 3 PII breaches within our code
- Expectations in terms of interfaces/relationships with other team members or teams
- “Will be working in a fully remote setting, with regular communication via online chat and video platforms. This requires extra attention to detail and nuance and communication savvy to keep healthy, caring and empowering working relationships.”
- Expected behaviors in terms of required skills but also and equally important, values. These values should match those of the team overall but should be declined individually based on the person's scope
- “Accountability, strives for excellence, always mindset, takes initiative”
- A draft of projects they will be involved in during the first 3 months to provide a concrete understanding of the scope of the role
Each of these elements will not only help the recruitment process itself, but provide a clear trusting context over the duration of the recruitment stage and pave the way to a well-aligned onboarding process.
When a new hire begins, it is important to keep in mind that they have very limited knowledge and understanding of your company, your ways of working, and your team dynamics. If you ask the new hire to start the position on Day 1 without context, there is a high probability that they will miss the mark, and in doing so, you may be setting them up to fail.
Onboarding is a crucial period to get a person up to speed, both on the role itself, but also on how you and the team work, together and apart. The employee should be able to use this period to gain clarity on what is required in their role, and what is the expected behavior in your team.
Being explicit about your ways of working and your expectations for their role is key, and will allow the new recruit to become functional and proficient in each than simply assuming they will pick things up, or learn through observation.
This period can also be used to investigate your new hire’s style and identify their zones of comfort/discomfort. This can be done through observation, but also by asking powerful questions like:
- "What does it look like when you get triggered?”
- “What can I do in these situations?".
You can also answer the questions yourself and make notes.
Onboarding your new hire can be compared to teaching a child to swim: first, you hold them, then you let them try things, and only afterward do you leave them alone while you remain nearby.
The onboarding plan should be organized over a 2-month period, with a progressive understanding of what the role entails, and with regular checkpoints with you (daily first, then weekly). A first step can involve asking your managee to shadow you or someone else on the team. However, the plan should always include a balance of first-hand action and prepared written documentation, allowing them to learn at different levels and serve as a base for them to refer back to at a later date.
New hire and manager’s 30-60-90
A 30-60-90 is a desired outcomes plan written in SMART format when a new hire hits the 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day mark.
You can build the 30-60-90 for the new role before the recruiting process starts. This will help you envision success for the role, making it easier to communicate with an applicant. A CEO can also come up with their own 30-60-90 to think about how they can best ramp up for this role.
- If you’re hiring a CTO, and you would like them to revamp the hiring process for engineers by day 60, then you can ask yourself:
- What are the things that I can control from day 0 to 60 to set them up for success? The answer may be to identify key success criteria and get historic engineering close rate from HR by day 30.
- If you’re hiring executives, you may provide a rough draft of the new hire’s 30-60-90 during the hiring process and have a working session with late-stage candidates to finalize the plan. This is a great opportunity for you and the applicant to get a sense of each other’s working style and see if you’re a good fit.
Although the process as a whole may require a substantial investment of your time, it’s important to be available for your report in the onboarding stage in order to create a base of trust. They need to feel they can ask you anything, though it is important to remain vigilant that you’re creating the root for accountability and not dependence.
2) After - Organizing your rituals
Individual and collective rituals are essential to defining the right frame to work with your team. They’re also fundamental to organizing your time efficiently and avoiding ongoing queries and requests from your subordinates.
Two main rituals are essential to a structured and coherent team process, and can vary in length and frequency:
- 1:1 meetings
- Team meetings and rituals
→ 1:1 Meetings
These meetings are essential to remaining up-to-date on your reports’ ongoing projects, reminding them of their priorities, providing expertise to help them unlock complex situations, and sharing your feedback.
These interactions can be weekly or bi-weekly and should range from 30 minutes to 1 hour in length. Be mindful not to cancel these important meetings. If you can’t run it - reschedule it for later that week.
These meetings provide the opportunity to better channel your interactions with your direct reports and avoid constant soliciting on their behalf. They are meant to allow both of you to step back and should be structured in the right way, ideally prepared in writing by both parties.
This is the chance for you to check in on your employees and see how they’re feeling—both in and out of work. Dedicating at least a few minutes to ask your employee the following questions can be an opportunity to show you care and that you can listen:
- “How has your week been so far?”
- “What are your plans for the coming weekend?”
- “Is there anything at work or outside of work that’s causing you stress?”
- “Do you have anything on your mind that you’d like to discuss?”
- “What’s your biggest challenge this week?”
- “What are you most looking forward to?”
- “How are you feeling about your current work-life balance?”
- “Last time we spoke, you mentioned that you were struggling with X. How is that going this week?”
This stage promotes reflection on your last meeting's action items to see what has evolved and what has stayed the same. It’s important to maintain a common thread to promote accountability.
- “Last time we discussed goal X, how is that going for you today?“
- Overview of ongoing projects/topics
The goal here is to support your team member and enable any deadlock to be broken if needed. It’s not about taking the problem on your shoulders, but simply working towards resolving it together.
- “How are you and the team progressing on the project?”
- “Of all your projects, which one are you struggling with most?”
- “Are you facing any issues or obstacles that I can help unblock?”
- “How can I best support you on this project?”
- “What part of this project is challenging you or not going as well as expected?”
- “How do you feel about the direction of this project?”
- Specific items to discuss
Both parties can add items to the agenda, though the majority are preferably added by the team member.
It is important to open a space for both parties to express themselves by giving and receiving feedback.
“I’m happy to see you were able to realign with X on the project, and I’d like you to continue liaising with them in the future.”
“I’ve noticed that you’re falling behind on this project”
“Is there something I can do to support you here?“
“How do you think we could improve our collaboration?”
“What do you think we should have done differently on this project?“
“How can I make your life better?”
“How can I improve as a manager?”
Be clear on expectations you set for the time until your next meeting, focusing on things like priority level, deadlines, and how will successes be measured.
- “With the upcoming X, I’d like you to be sure to put a special focus on Y this week.”
- “I’ll expect to get more on this by Wednesday, how does that work for you?”
During these meetings, it’s important to take notes in a shared document on which you can identify action items and next steps at the end of the meeting with an owner for each. This creates clear takeaways for both parties and reminds you exactly what you need to do before the next meeting.
→ Team Meetings
Group gatherings are paramount to providing a shared vision and understanding of the team’s goals, objectives and responsibilities, and are equally essential to creating a pleasant and respectful working environment where trust is forged between team members.
Team routines can be structured around:
- General meetings to share information
- Resolution meetings and/or team working slots to deep dive into specific topics collaboratively
- Social events to create bonds
Each meeting should have a defined leader (person preparing and leading the event) and note taker.
Allow the team to spend time together and are important for sharing information and identifying group blockers. They are typically held at the beginning of a cycle (week, project, etc.) and should always follow a pre-defined agenda and unchanging structure:
- What’s new in the team and company: a good opportunity to create bonds between colleagues. It can include more or less formal moments. One example of ice breaker:
- “Meme Monday.”: Ask everyone on your team to share a quick (and appropriate) image or gif that captures how their weekend went.
- Updates: about the company, new team members, changes in the organization or processes. The structure can vary depending on your team's organization or structure.
- Review: of numbers or ongoing projects.
- Next steps: a list of clear action points to be achieved before the next meeting, with a designed responsible.
These meetings can be:
- Stand-up format: where everyone shares updates about where they are and where they intend to do
- Async: in written format and focus only on what requires discussion
→ Resolution Meetings & Team Working Slots
These meetings are sporadical and are planned when there is a need to make a collective decision or work together on a specific subject. They require preparation in advance in order to define key questions and an efficient structure. Assigning a note-taker is primordial to keep records of key decisions and ideas, and can be closed with a final 5 minutes focused on defining clear next steps.
→ Social Events
These events are, of course, optional, however, they contribute greatly to building and cementing your team’ spirit and can be organized by different team members. They are even more important in remote settings. For example at Wave, we organize online game sessions with the team.
As a manager, fine-tuning both your posture and process is integral in building and maintaining a trusting relationship with your direct reports. It’s what will allow you to push your team to meet your success metrics, and even surpass them, without losing top talent in the process.
It’s important to keep in mind that this is a learning process. You’re probably going to make mistakes as a manager. But when you do, it’s important not to feel discouraged. Learning is a process, as much for someone in a leadership position as in any other role.
A few key things to remember as you move forward as an empowered manager:
- Your frame has to be reviewed regularly → observe what’s working or not with your team and make the necessary adjustments
- Ask and learn from the feedback you receive → give yourself time to let the feedback sit, then ask yourself if you agree or disagree, and based on that, take action and make the necessary changes
- Adopt a growth mindset around your practice → preserve time for self-reflection and continuous improvement to work on your posture through coaching.
That’s how Wave supports our clients: by providing them with simple and actionable frameworks like the ones you’ve seen in this document and by helping them reflect on their daily practice of management, and adjust their process and posture along the way. Very often, after covering the basics, we reach more complex issues, such as:
I’m feeling uncomfortable about talking about X with my report (handle conflictual situations)
I’m struggling to delegate X tasks (delegation)
I don’t like to be “the boss” of my former colleagues (legitimacy)
These issues go beyond the scope of frameworks, and take us to a place where coaching can have a more powerful impact.
To sum it up, this week off has allowed me to realize […] that our work together has become essential for me because it contributes to my balance and how I’m able to challenge myself in order to grow… - alias Cocoa Leopard, CEO
We at Wave invite you to experiment with these techniques and frameworks over the coming weeks, introducing them into your role and workplace progressively. After doing so, we invite you to please share your feedback on what has worked and what has been more challenging through email, and we'll be happy to offer you a gift to benefit from 3 months of coaching at a discounted price - we look forward to hearing from you ツ
Interested in starting working on your goals?
Start for free
Interested in getting Wave to coach your company?
Book a demo