Managers like it when instructions are followed correctly. This seems to be in the best interests of the proper functioning of your organization. There is a boss who details what has to happen when, and there are employees whose performance is measured against the instructions received, and who have to be accountable for any deviations. If this doesn’t produce the desired result, but employees can still easily demonstrate that they have followed their instructions properly, the only person this has consequences for, in principle, is the boss.

This is becoming less and less the norm. Employees want to work in freedom and decide for themselves when and how they tackle a specific task. They want to develop their talents, grab their opportunities, and have a full life outside of work. In the war for talent, employers who don’t fully understand this will be left behind, stranded without a team.

So it’s better to think in terms of responsibilities than in terms of tasks. Provide clear guidelines about the desired result, but leave the way that leads there more open.
This radical change in control is slowly sinking in with some managers, but the majority still struggle with it. They follow training courses and receive coaching, but have a fundamental difficulty with their authority no longer coming from their role. They need a new type of relationship with employees; a relationship built on trust and support, and the provision of opportunities and second chances. And all this has to happen without the quality of results being adversely affected, and even in such a way that the relational added value can be used to improve results.

We still have a long way to go. The Conference Board says internal satisfaction measurements historically show low figures. Companies that do succeed in switching tasks to responsibilities, however, outclass their industry peers in the medium term. This is backed up with hard figures.