Effective Stretch Assignments from Two Perspectives

Effective Stretch Assignments from Two Perspectives
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Effective Stretch Assignments
We know from action learning leadership development participants that the ability to continuously learn and grow at work separates the average leaders from the best leaders.  And one of the very best ways to continuously develop yourself — and your team — is through effective stretch assignments at work that increasingly take you out of your comfort zone.  In a nutshell, more complex assignments are opportunity for people to learn and get better.

If you want to become a better skier, ski harder terrain with better skiers.  If you want to be a better leader, take on more challenging work and rub shoulders with people who are smarter and more experienced than you.

The Benefits of Effective Stretch Assignments
There are benefits of well-conceived stretch assignments for both the individual and the organization.  For an individual, an effective stretch assignment presents a challenge that can launch them toward new heights in their career.  For an organization, the right assignment can be a critical step in developing new in-house leaders to fill your succession planning pipeline.

For the Individual
Stretch assignments present a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow.  New challenges at work also typically create some performance anxiety.  Make sure that you are mentally up for the challenge and that the opportunity aligns with your desired career trajectory.

What are the considerations for the individual who is presented with a challenging new project or role?  The characteristics of an employee who is ready to accept a job stretch challenge include:

  • A Long-Term Commitment
    A desire to be with the company for the long haul.  Stretch assignments often take time to pay dividends.  Look for employees who want to help the company achieve its vision and have an intent to stay for awhile.
  • A Willingness to Take a Risk
    Not only will they be adding to their current workload, but they will need to develop new skills and strengths. And because most stretch assignments are highly visible, their contribution comes with high stakes.  Are they bold enough to commit?
  • Self-Awareness
    Those who are most successful at realizing stretch goals know themselves well; they know what they are good at and what drives them. An effective stretch assignment will play to their strengths and passions.  It gives them a chance to highlight special talents and to make a business impact that is meaningful.
  • Understanding of Resources Needed
    To succeed, be sure that there is enough support in the form of influential allies who believe in their success. Influencers will be crucial in seeing that they have the necessary resources and the political backing required to see the project through to its conclusion.

For the Organization
From the organization’s point of view, what are the benefits of stretch assignments and the factors that work to the company’s advantage?  Effective stretch assignments can be a way to test the abilities of candidates in your leadership pipeline while providing career development opportunities — often at a reduced cost.

To give high-potential employees the greatest chance to succeed, let them identify the right opportunities themselves.  Their active involvement will ensure that the assignment is something they want to commit to.  Work with them to define expected results so you can measure the final impact on both the individual employee and the business.

The Bottom Line
When you give high potential leaders a chance to stretch their wings and grow, they have an opportunity to develop exponentially.  While they will most likely experience the initial discomfort of having to stretch beyond their current expertise, the potential gains are worth it.  Stretch assignments can be career-making for the employee and leader-confirming for the organization.

To learn more about how to develop your next set of leaders, download Surprising Succession Planning Traps to Avoid for HiPo’s

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