Giving things away is a lot easier than taking things back. Delegating authority, or empowerment is no different. It isn’t something that should be rushed or freely given. It is something that should be earned that requires a solid foundation to ensure it is strong and sustainable.
Trust takes time.
Building a foundation of trust doesn’t happen in an instant. Think of it as bricklaying. Trust is assembled one brick, or event, at a time. It requires a series of events that can be assessed for their effectiveness. What was the expected outcome and what was the actual outcome? What choices (decisions) were made along the way. Were they knucklehead choices or were they sound decisions, ideally based on data. If there was no analysis or assessment, the decisions may be more like gambling than risk taking. Bake that learning into your empowerment plans for the next go around and adjust your delegation as necessary. Take the time to evolve your levels of empowerment.
Seek disconfirming evidence.
Insist that your team try to make good choices by looking for data that disputes what they believe. In assessing choices, utilizing facts as a basis is always a good start. But it is not enough to find data that agrees with their conclusions. They must actively seek data that doesn’t agree. This is called disconfirming evidence and essentially it means, they might be wrong. Oh boy, that’s a problem! Why would you want your team to actively seek to disprove what they believe? Well, because they could be wrong. And wouldn’t you want them to know that before they make a knucklehead choice? If you actively look for and don’t find evidence that disproves your beliefs, then, by all means, carry on, with confidence.
Have them repeat it back.
You may know what you want them to do and may have repeated it a few times. There is always a risk of misunderstanding. A simple but powerful way to reduce this risk is to ask them to describe to you what they are doing. Have them repeat the problem statement so you can assure you are aligned. They can get corrective guidance at the beginning and you can avoid rework, frustration and hard feelings along the way.