Everyone agrees that we need to empower our teams, but in practice it’s hard to do. Empowerment is mostly about choice, but freedom of choice actually won’t help most people. Research suggests that when we have too many choices, we delay choosing, make worse choices, and are less satisfied with our choices once we make them.
The key is to offer a reasonable array of reasonable choices. Reasonable array, meaning three or four, enough options to truly offer a choice but not so many they are hard to compare. Reasonable choices, meaning that they truly are distinct from each other and each offers some advantages. In other words, give them a handful of good options.
For example, if you tell a team member she can work whatever schedule she wants, that’s a hard choice with almost infinite possibilities. She’ll need a long time to evaluate everything and make a choice, and might just vapor-lock. But if you offer her a choice between five eight-hour days and four ten-hour days, you’ll probably have an answer quickly, and a more satisfied employee.
You’ll have happier employees if you keep choices to a manageable level.