Oxford Dictionaries defines the word stretch as follows:
“To be made or be capable of being made longer or wider without tearing or breaking.”
I can think of no better word to describe how we might go about future proofing ourselves for tomorrow’s workplace.
Indeed, the authors of the new book, STRETCH: How To Future Proof Yourself For Tomorrow’s Workplace, agree.
Authors Karie Willyerd and and Barbara Mistick want employees to stay relevant in their working lives. By introducing the concept of stretch, the authors have provided a compelling answer.
They urge us to, “Stretch how we learn, stretch to stay open in our thinking, stretch to build diverse networks and experiences, and stretch our motivation.” They do so not for vanity’s sake, rather to ensure employees do not become obsolete, research they unearthed that happens to be a large concern of ours as it relates to the future of work.
But the authors also warn us as well that to stretch takes hard work. There is no magic, silver bullet.
The book starts with three specific calls to action of sorts, surfacing from their research, surveys and synthesis. Think of them as themes that are constantly felt by employees. These themes make up a number of very helpful strategies and recommendations to make changes in one’s thinking, habits and workplace attitude. The authors refer to these themes (and accompanying actions) as “Stretch Imperatives”. They are:
- It’s All On You (don’t be passive – take control of your situation, learn on the fly and be open)
- You Need Options (one size definitely doesn’t fit all – build a diverse network and be greedy about experiences)
- You Have Dreams (developing as a person, for the future – bounce forward)
Each of the aforementioned themes are sections in the book, each consisting of incredible (and real) stories to help the reader absorb the concepts.
In Section II (It’s All On You) my favorite tip had to do with the concept of unlearning. Ultimately, employees cannot remain steadfast in previous ways, and ought to be open to new ways of doing things. The authors, for example, admitted to the habit of putting in two spaces at the end of a sentence, for that is how they were taught. Rest assured, the book’s thousands of sentences only have one space at their conclusion.
Section III (You Need Options) explores several key practices to build a diverse network while introducing the importance of having vast experiences. As someone who believes that my network is my net worth, I fully subscribe to the author’s view that “The give and take of using people and helping people to advance our mutual goals is what makes a network come alive.” Through examples concerning two individuals (Zach and Kayla) the question that the authors raise, “Who wouldn’t want an interconnected group of people who can help us land jobs, find new business, solve a problem, or support us in times of crisis?” is categorically answered.
When it comes to being greedy about experiences, the authors rightfully suggest to “think strategically, both in terms of the number of experiences you’d like to acquire and the timeframe in which you hope to accomplish them.” As I have found in my career as both a Chief Learning Officer and an academic, those that take greedy initiative to experience more at work (and outside of it) end up not only happier, but they seem to do better financially, too. “Don’t just let experiences happen to you,” the authors continue, “but choose the experiences that benefit you the most.”
The final Stretch Imperative, (You Have Dreams) found in Section IV, is the focus of what the authors refer to as “bounce forward” – a key practice of people who have the ability to overcome even the most extreme hardships.
The authors discovered being able to bounce forward consists of three key traits:
- Grit: perseverance and commitment (passion) for long-term goals
- Resilience: ability to adapt and recover quickly from difficulties
- Motivation: the drive to initiate and maintain goal-oriented behaviors
Sprinkling examples of “bounce forward” through the stories of people like Jill Abramson, Mario Capecchi, Alan Horn, Brian Action, James B. Stockdale, Brian Ray, John Gardner, and Steven Spielberg, the authors successfully help the reader understand how to stay motivated through the ups and downs of a career, providing strategies to remain focused on our dreams.
Another part of the book that I believe will help those trying to future proof for tomorrow’s workplace is the “Stretch Break” sections. Each contains a series of self-defining career questions as well as self-assessments, both provocative and helpful. Each section also contains a succinct but powerful summary.
Finally, Joseph Grenny, the New York Times bestselling author of Influencer and Crucial Conversations, wrote the foreword to Stretch. What I appreciated most was the following passage:
“Too many business books are authored by consultants who have never personally had a career in large organizations, started companies, led public institutions, or worked in non‐profits. Their guidance falls apart when it comes to the practical realities of everyday life.”
Indeed, it is the opinion of this reader (and early reviewer of the book) that Willyerd and Mistick have provided meaningful insights and practical, evidence based solutions. Stretch is not a book cooked up by consultants to act as a business card. Stretch is not a book ghost written to falsely proclaim superior knowledge on a particular subject matter area.
Stretch is a book that provides truthful, research-based solutions that will undoubtedly help you future proof for tomorrow’s workplace requirements. Emanating from two individuals who have between them two doctorates, multiple awards and decades of big-company, start-up and not-for-profit experience is what makes it that much more meaningful. It is a book I will be recommending to those in search of career answers for tomorrow’s workplace.