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synonyms for stretch
See also synonyms for: stretchable stretched stretching
antonyms for stretch
Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.
How to use stretch in a sentence
Graham is being far outspent by Harrison, who has raised a stunning $29 million and has about $10 million for the final stretch .
Now, the season starts around May and routinely extends to November—sometimes even stretching to December.
If it’s fairly straight, hamstring stretches are going to give you the best benefit.
Democratic leaders stand by that proposal to bring back the weekly $600 enhanced unemployment benefit—which stretched from late March to late July.
Some of the Nats’ stretch -run problems aren’t fixable, either.
The plan is to stretch it out as long as possible, then probably forget about it, and then suddenly remember it.
“You need to stretch kids slightly outside their comfort zones, but never have surprises,” she said.
They started with Not Fade Away and went from one song to another over a 14 minute stretch .
The farmers in the area told Ledu that what normally fed them for one year would barely stretch for the next few months.
In the final stretch of the campaign, Gotauco, the Healey volunteer, recorded a song she titled "Integrity in A-Minor."
I could see only the stretch of green before me, and I felt as if I must walk on forever, without coming to the end of it.
A long stretch of smooth ice followed, over which he glided with ever-increasing speed.
The hut was barely high enough to let him sit up, and long enough to let him lie down—not to stretch out.
He had perhaps placed in her hand the weapon that should hasten his own defeat, stretch him bleeding on the sand.
Twenty minutes jogging brought us into a stretch of rough country, a series of knobs and ridges cut by innumerable coulées.
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Stretch Assignments: What Are They and Is Your Employee Ready For One?
Stretch assignments are a cornerstone of a strong employee development plan. A statement that is backed by a number of research studies. In one conducted by the Harvard Business Review of 823 executives, it was found that 71% of respondents said stretch assignments had the biggest impact on unleashing their potential. In another, this one conducted by Korn Ferry , stretch assignments were named the most valuable developmental experience, ahead of things like mentoring, classroom training, 360-degree assessments, and even exposure to senior leaders.
An intentional and strategic stretch assignment can go a long way in accelerating an employee’s development or supporting the trajectory of their career at your organization, though their success relies heavily on the one assigning the task - their leader.
In the following article, you will learn more about what stretch assignments are, what they are not, how to tell when an employee is ready for one, and more. Let’s begin.
What are Stretch Assignments?
While there are countless ways to define a stretch assignment, the following definition from BeLeaderly perfectly sums it up for the purposes of this article: “Stretch assignments are temporary, internal learning gigs that simultaneously offer an employee a chance to develop new skills while helping the organization solve a real business problem.”
Most commonly, stretch assignments are implemented to prepare an employee for an upcoming promotion, engage a high-performing employee, encourage skill development, or evaluate an employee’s level of interest or aptitude for another role.
As the name implies, stretch assignments mean they “stretch” or challenge an employee to think and act outside their comfort zone or day-to-day job. But what exactly makes a stretch assignment challenging ?
- It presents employees with an unfamiliar challenge
- It challenges an employee to create change
- It gives an employee a high level of responsibility
- It challenges an employee to work cross-functionally
At this point, it is important to define what stretch assignments are not. Stretch assignments are not a chance for you to hand off work you do not want to do. They should also not be what Korn Ferry calls “glass-cliff projects.” According to them, “stretch assignments and glass-cliff projects both involve some risk and often include crisis situations, but one is about building your skills and the other is about proving your worth, despite your many successes. One is encouraging; the other is an affront.”
4 Signs Your Employee Is Ready For a Stretch Assignment
Of course, there is a fine line between “stretching” or challenging an employee and overwhelming them. To help you distinguish if an employee is ready for and can handle a stretch assignment or not, here are a few key things to consider:
- Their Track Record An employee who is ready for a stretch assignment and can handle it will not only have a history of successful projects and good performance, but will have a track record of asking for help when they need it, respecting boundaries, proactively seeking learning opportunities, and taking accountability for their actions (whether good or bad). These behaviors show a level of discretion that is imperative to the success of a stretch assignment, where an employee is outside of their comfort zone.
- Their Engagement According to Gallup , “engaged employees are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace. They are psychological ‘owners,’ drive high performance and innovation, and move the organization forward.” Whereas, “actively disengaged employees aren't just unhappy at work - they are resentful that their needs aren't being met and are acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers potentially undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.” Fortunately, stretch assignments are an ideal chance to further engage already engaged employees and those bordering on disengaged. You should be quite certain that the individual you will give the assignment to will see it as a positive opportunity and be willing to do their best work, not just because they have to, but because they want to.
An employee who has been given a stretch assignment is going to need your support more so than they would for their everyday job. Therefore, before you give a stretch assignment, be sure you have the availability and capacity to proactively support your employee from start to finish.
- Your Relationship Given the nature of stretch assignments, there is always a risk of failure and for some employees, failure is hard to handle even if it is a valuable learning experience. That is why it is so important to have a relationship built on trust before delegating a stretch assignment. Your employee needs to feel comfortable sharing their challenges and questions without fear of judgment, or else they might try to “go at it alone,” which is ultimately where people get themselves into trouble.
2 Major Things to Be Aware of With Stretch Assignments
- Stretch Assignments Should Not Impede An Employee’s Day-to-Day Job As a leader, you need to closely monitor the progress of a stretch assignment, the well-being of your employee, and the health of their day-to-day roles and responsibilities. If your employee is suddenly working an exorbitant amount or is showing signs of burnout , then you need to be prepared to step in. While the stretch assignment is important, it should not put your employee's core roles and responsibilities , not to mention their wellbeing, at risk. If this becomes an issue, use it as a learning opportunity to help the employee identify their signs of burnout and set boundaries .
- Stretch Assignments Need to be Fairly Distributed The unfortunate reality is stretch assignments are not always fairly distributed and accessible to all employees. This was highlighted in a study from BeLeaderly , which found that “women are less likely than men to receive challenging stretch assignments.” The report noted that “when stretch assignments are unclear, unadvertised, and unevenly offered, it makes women hesitate even more to pursue them. On the other hand, taking an open, equitable approach to stretch opportunities can create a thriving internal gig economy - one that’s accessible to all. This not only helps employees advance in the short term, but it can also set the course for diversifying, and therefore strengthening, your leadership ranks in the long term.” So, how can you ensure the distribution of stretch assignments is fair? According to a report by Catalyst , they recommend leaders link the distribution of stretch assignments to performance reviews, review the allocation of stretch assignments to ensure equitable distribution among women and equity-seeking groups, as well as consider providing new hires with a stretch assignment or assigning new hires to a team working on a stretch assignment.
Employees who are given a stretch assignment will require more support, guidance, and encouragement than an average employee. Though the effort is well worth it as stretch assignments contribute to employee engagement, morale, satisfaction, productivity, and success, which in turn contributes to your success as their leader. It’s a win-win!
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Stretch Assignments that Develop Strategic, Interpersonal, and Personal Skills
Given that most development occurs through experience (McCall, Lombardo, & Morrison, 1988), stretch assignments can provide a great vehicle for driving employee learning and/or leadership development. Stretch assignments are essentially short-term projects or assignments that provide unique and challenging experiences for the purpose of developing employee/leader skills and abilities. Although the use of on-the-job development is clearly on the rise, it is often applied without consideration of the necessary planning and support mechanisms.
The first thing to keep in mind if you’re thinking about leveraging stretch assignments for developmental purposes is the common-sense notion that different stretch assignments develop different abilities (e.g., public speaking skills cannot be developed through writing policy statements or crunching numbers). Because of this, it is important to first identify the specific skill(s) to be developed. Once you have a list of skills, the next step is to identify the available assignments that provide relevant exposure. This article will help you with this first critical stage of using stretch assignments – that is, thinking about competencies and identifying assignments. Below is a list of stretch assignments that have been shown to develop competence in the following three areas: strategic skills, interpersonal skills, or personal effectiveness.
If you would like to share this list, check out our reference guide which contains the same information in a PDF format.
These assignments will help develop competencies related to expanding one’s awareness of organizational functions and strategy ( e.g., coping with ambiguous situations, gaining a strategic perspective, influencing others, working with customers, problem solving )
- Spend 3 days with clients and report back (presentation or written report)
- Conduct a customer-needs analysis
- Write a policy statement
- Interview external stakeholders about their opinions of the organization
- Analyze and compare a competitor’s product or service
- Put together a presentation for a senior employee (i.e., supervisor or manager)
- Evaluate a training program
- Join a cross-functional team
- Join work on a project that has been unsuccessful
- Put together a task-force to solve a tough problem
- Monitor a new product or service through its entire life cycle
These will help develop competencies that increase one’s effectiveness to work with and manage other employees or teams ( e.g., communication, listening, managing conflict, managing relationships, teamwork, negotiation, trust, approachability, delegation, leadership )
- Lead a team meeting
- Become a mentor to a new employee
- Train a new employee in a particular skill
- Represent team concerns to supervisor
- Join a team that’s dealing with conflict
- Negotiate a new customer contract
- Take responsibility in resolving a team conflict
- Troubleshoot a performance issue
- Become a campus recruiter
- Interview customers and report back
- Work with a peer on a developmental opportunity
- Delegate 2 tasks to a peer and ask him/her to delegate 2 to you
These are oriented around competencies most closely related to your performance and personal development ( e.g., organizing, planning, intellectual acumen, creativity, composure, time management, work/life balance, decision quality, customer service )
- Help launch a new product or service
- Re-launch a product or service that previously failed
- Learn a new tool, process, or approach and give a presentation on it
- Work with someone from another department on a tough issue
- Handle a difficult negotiation with an internal or external client
- Take on a project that others have failed in
- Write a press release
- Teach a seminar on an unfamiliar topic
- Create a customer satisfaction survey
- Take on a task that you do not like to do
- Take on an employee’s tasks who is on vacation
- Conduct interviews with employees on their work/life balance experience & present findings
Note: This list is informed by research presented in Lombardo & Eichinger’s (1989) book entitled “Eighty-eight assignments for development in place,” and Yost & Plunkett’s (2009) book entitled “Real time leadership development.” I highly recommend both books as resources for any organization that currently applies stretch assignments or plans to in the future.
Going forward, keep in mind that this is only a single piece in effective use of stretch assignments for developmental purposes. There are a number of mechanisms that are critical for actually translating experience into learning and development. Employees who will be given stretch assignments need the active support ant participation of their supervisor before, during, and after:
- Before – to meet with the employee and discuss what skills to develop, then chose a stretch assignment and identify learning goals
- During – to give immediate feedback, support and encouragement, and provide access to resources (e.g., time to participate in assignments, introductions to other people who can provide guidance)
- After – to reflect and debrief on what was learned during the assignment and how that can be applied to their current job or future development
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Expand Your Horizons by Taking on Stretch Assignments
By DeVry University
November 18, 2021 5 min read
There's a reason why almost every video game has increasing levels of difficulties — to keep gamers at the edge of their seat, excited and curious about the challenges that lie ahead. No matter what their goals and ambitions are, people tend to crave adventure and new hurdles to overcome.
That's also the reason why taking on stretch assignments has become a new and appealing strategy for discovering new skills and abilities you never knew there in the first place.
What Is a Stretch Assignment?
In its most basic sense, a stretch assignment is any kind of project or task that is beyond your current skill set or expertise. Usually, it can be a short-term activity or even a permanent venture into a new field that will provide you with challenging experiences meant to expand your growing list of abilities.
The keyword here is "stretch", which means that stretch assignments can extend your range of knowledge and help you unfold your hidden skills.
What Are the Benefits of Stretch Assignments?
Taking on a stretch assignment isn't just a step toward skill development — it's also a fun step toward individual progress and character development.
It Helps Build Up Your Resiliency in Tough Situations
Resiliency is that never-give-up attitude you need when you're in the middle of getting out of a tough situation. You can read books about grit and endurance, or even watch a documentary of a successful athlete who battled numerous injuries in his or her career. But there's no better way of improving your resiliency than being in a new environment filled with various hurdles to overcome.
Trying to overcome new challenges will help increase your resiliency level — even if there are times that lead to failure. The process is what counts, as acquiring new skills will get you out of your comfort zone and even help you build a new one. A stretch assignment will not just make the unfamiliar familiar to you, but it will also increase your endurance when another unexpected problem comes your way.
It Provides a Much-Needed Breather From the Routine
Nothing can exhaust you of your creativity and motivation more than being stuck in a routine where you do the same thing over and over for a long period of time. That is when we start to lose inspiration and the quality of our work decreases.
Stretch assignments will give you the chance to breathe in some fresh air and recharge your battery. After you finish a stretch assignment, you can go back to your original role, but this time you'll feel reenergized and inspired.
What Are Some Stretch Assignment Examples?
Stretch assignments can vary in type and duration, but here are some stretch assignment examples that may be found across different fields or industries:
Mentoring a Teammate or a New Member of the Group
Being great at what you do is one thing, but teaching someone to also be great at what you do takes another level of patience and commitment. Of course, it goes without saying that before you become a mentor, you have to become proficient in your own work first. It can take time — even years — to hone your skills.
When you become good at your job, and you know that you're ready for whatever challenges it might provide, then that knowledge will give you the confidence to be a mentor to a younger teammate or a new member of your group.
Assuming a Leadership Role
A stretch assignment can also help mold you into a great leader, as it doesn't just broaden your knowledge but it can also enhance your interpersonal skills . These interpersonal skills can you relate more to your team and interact with them, which in turn may help them respond well to your brand of leadership.
It may help your development to observe and study great leaders that came before you. Developing leadership skills can take time, and you can learn a lot by following the lead of your manager or of those you admire. The important thing is to not cheat the process. Stay patient and committed, and pursue the opportunity to lead when you think you're ready.
How Will You Ask Your Manager to Give You a Stretch Assignment?
If you feel like you're ready to move out of your comfort zone and take the next step, here's how you can approach your manager to ask for a stretch assignment:
Make Sure That You're Ready
When you ask your manager or supervisor to give you a stretch assignment, make sure that you're mentally and emotionally ready to take on a new task that is beyond your expertise. Stretch assignments will not just expand your skillset, but they can also test your patience and level of commitment. You can’t quit when the situation gets tough.
Come Up With a Plan on How to Help the Team
Sure, you are willing to learn a new role, but how could that help the team or the company move forward? Stretch assignments may be one of the best ways to grow individually, but remember that it’s also important to be a valuable asset to the team. Back up your stretch assignment request by laying out the ways where you think your new role can help your team achieve more success in the near future.
Ready to Expand Your Skillset?
With many businesses adapting to the technology-driven world, the way people work has also changed. Don't worry though — DeVry University and its Keller Graduate School of Management is here to help you stay at the top of the world of business. Grow your skillset by enrolling in either our Bachelor’s Degree in Business which can be paired with one of four different specializations, or our Master's of Business Administration (MBA) 1 program that you can earn in as few as 10 courses2, and the option to choose from 10 specializations.
Find out more about how DeVry's business programs can help you develop and pursue your vision of leadership.
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