Stretch Role

Hiring has some words that we use to describe what we are looking for:

1) Been There, Done That – you want someone who can do this job with their eyes closed.
2) New Blood – you want someone who will never say, “that is not the way we do it here”.
3) Fresh Meat – you want someone who isn’t already burned out.
4) Youthful Optimism – you want someone who will not stop trying when things get ugly.
5) Hands – you want someone who cranks out work.
6) Brains – you want someone who can show us how to do it better.
7) Potential – you want someone who can become a star.

Hiring is difficult, because you don’t always know what you are getting. But it helps to know what you want. I like these words, because they informally signal what that I am seeking.


Whether hiring or promoting – recognizing and handling “Potential” is a management challenge. Here are a short list of challenges to be overcome when you are dealing with potential:

1) Potential is insecure – when you place a resource with potential into a stretch role, there is often a certain amount of insecurity. Fear of failure, fear of embarrassment. They want to be “spoon-fed”, or need a bit of “hand-holding”.
2) Potential is cocksure – sometimes people look at a promotion as a vote of confidence – which it often is. When they interpret it as meaning that they “can do no wrong”, or they “have already proved themselves”, they resist accountability, and they can become un-coachable.

When you are placing someone in a role that you believe is a “stretch” for them, you should have a conversation. The conversation should expose what strengths you believe that she possesses, and what weaknesses that you are concerned about. It should also allow her to express what she believes are going to be areas that she excels at and areas where she will need coaching and mentoring.

3) Potential requires accountability – When you are developing potential, your ability to provide feedback is key to development. There must be room to stretch and grow and fail without repercussion, but this must be limited, so you must have a relationship through which you can communicate and correct them when they err. They need to be able to accept this correction, without fear of reprisal.
4) Potential requires measurement – When you are developing potential, you must know whether someone is “getting it”. You need to know when this individual is ready to be left on his own, or whether he still needs “watching”. This requires specific criteria, and measuring certain behaviors and reactions. They should know what they are being measured against, so that they can evaluate themselves and see if they measure up. Before they “move up”, they should “measure up”.


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