Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Discussing stretch opportunities, part of Performance Review Foundations.
A stretch role is exactly what it sounds like. A work opportunity that pushes a person past their current responsibilities and skill sets. They're very often of a temporary nature, months long, or sometimes a year, or more. There are response to the fact that professional growth, by definition, requires people to periodically do new things. They can be addressed whenever you find the right person and the right project. But the performance review discussion often provides a great time to kick off these conversations.
Today at most companies stretch roles are used for high-potential employees who are being considered for future executive roles. Though the concept is not exclusive to executives. Stretch assignments can work for many levels of professionals as a means of stimulating new development. However, understand the risks. You're actively and knowingly putting a person in a place where they have not yet been successful. They'll face a new learning curve. And failure does happen. That's why you're wise to do two things to reduce the risks.
First, only assign a stretch role to an employee who really deeply wants it. I mean, someone fired up and excited to dive in and work tirelessly to make it successful. If you're discussing a stretch role with someone, and they seem highly unsure or indifferent, think carefully about whether or not they're the right person. Next, air strongly towards using your very best talent. To be frank, stretch roles are not well suited for B players, not with the inherent risks they bring. They are a great match for very capable, and very willing, A players.
So let's assume you've got the right person, and you know they're ready, willing, and able. What do good stretch roles look like? Actually there are many possibilities. For example, consider these. Appointing a younger manager to a chair committee that will be executing an important, highly visible, project Or having a junior leader participating in the company's strategic planning process. Another common example is to assign a strong up and coming manager to lead a troubled project or department that needs to be turned around.
Or you can start more simply, for example, by asking a high potential to plan and execute a high profile company event or meeting. Of course, one of the classics is to appoint a younger leader who's been successful in his or her home country as the head of an important project or business unit in another country. In any event, these examples make potentially good stretch roles for three reasons. First, they push the person to use their current skills at higher levels than ever before. Next, they force the person to build completely new skills.
And finally, they represent ways to significantly increase the person's network inside the organization. Watch now, as Bridget engages another employee, Ashley in the discussion of the stretch roll. >> So aside from your strong sales numbers this year, I've noticed that you also love technology. I mean without even being asked, you've taken to twitter, and I'm sure elsewhere to build our brand, and your sales. Now, I know you're plates pretty full, but there's a suggestion I'd like to offer you to consider. Now there's a new task force forming to explore the connection between social media and sales for our company.
The team will most likely be senior managers and they could really use you. Now you don't have to make a commitment right now. This likely won't be happening till third quarter. And I do want to let you know. It'll be a sizable time commitment, but I really think it would be a great opportunity for you. >> That sounds great. Can you give me a little bit more insight as to whose involved in the scope of the work? >> Good question. So far the head of operations and myself are the first two to sign on. And it looks like we'll be tasked with defining a social media strategy, that our sales team will then have to enact.
>> So if I were to join, do I still have to meet my current sales goals? >> You're correct. But it's only for a few weeks, and we'll be providing you with extra administrative support to help with your normal paperwork. So no pressure. Just think this over for a few days and just let me know what you think. >> You'll notice that Bridget did not tell Ashley that she must do this. With stretch roles even if the implication is clear. You don't want to mandate the issue. The employee has to genuinely want the opportunity. Nor did she sugar coat the issue.
It will be a great opportunity, but also a great deal of work. Now Ashley has the type of honest information she needs to make a good decision. Because stretch roles represent new territory for your employee, I want you to give them the best odds for success. Start by remembering these tips. First, for the duration of the time they're focused on the stretch role, be sure they're properly disconnected from their prior role. If someone is good, their old team won't want to let them go, but you can't allow them to hold on to any significant responsibilities that might distract them from the new more difficult stretch role.
If you structure the role as something to be done in addition to current responsibilities, be sure to offer them as much support as possible for their main job. Whether that's additional administrative support, or someone who temporarily covers for them. Next, kick start their networking by identifying the top three to four people they'll need to work closely with in the new role. Call each of them and have them ready to reach out and embrace the new employee before the role even begins. Also, be sure to make the employee aware of key resources they'll likely need in the new role.
These might include certain people as we just mentioned, but also consider the tools they'll need. The past project files and deliverables that might be relevant, as well as any key vendors or customers with whom they should connect. Finally, make sure they don't feel alone. Once they start the new role, check in at least once per week to see how they're doing and to give them a chance to ask questions. As they begin to make progress, you can slow the pace, but during the first one to two months, a weekly or bi-weekly check-in by phone will be useful.
For your best talent, stretch roles can provide invaluable experience. Make sure they truly want the role. That the role is likely to create serious development, and then connect them with the people and resources they need to be successful. That's when stretch assignments become serious career catalysts.
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- Understanding the performance cycle
- Setting performance goals
- Collecting performance data and feedback
- Writing the review
- Discussing performance with an employee
- Using a performance improvement plan (PIP)<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.