Stretch Into Your Future


What are your learning goals for the new year?

If you need data-driven ideas and inspiration, check out Stretch: How to Future-Proof Yourself for Tomorrow’s Workplace.

Co-authored by Karie Willyerd and Barbara Mistick, this new book is packed full of strategies to ramp up your learning, your career and your life.

At DIRECTV we had the good fortune to have Karie speak on a number of occasions – at our annual leadership meeting, at large department conferences and to our employee resource group for young professionals.

Karie shared insights from another book she co-authored, with Jeanne C. Meister, called Workplace 2020: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop and Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today.

She was always a hit – sparking dialogue, stoking debate and seeding positive changes in the workplace and the culture.

It was a pleasant surprise to get a friendly email from Karie this fall, asking how things were going. Doing a quick Google search before I responded to see what Karie had been up to lately, I was thrilled to see she had a new book in the works.

Since I recently pivoted into a new role, the Kindle version of Stretch zoomed to the top of my list for winter holiday reading.

It starts by asking “who do you want to be tomorrow?”

And it outlines the megatrends that will impact the future of your career – globalization, demographics shifts, data explosion, emerging technologies, climate change, redefined jobs and complexity.

How should today’s professional respond?

By stretching your skills and abilities, the authors say. And by taking into account your dreams for yourself and your family in the future.

There are 5 key practices, each with several supporting strategies. Here are the 4 strategies, preceded by the key practice area, that most resonated with me. They’ll help inform my learning journey.

Learn on the fly: cultivate curiosity. This strategy is about constantly asking “why?”

Why ask why? You’ll question assumptions and unconscious rules, which may lead to new insights and ideas.

The authors provide some good questions in a “curiosity stimulator checklist” –

  • “What is the most interesting project or idea you are working on now, or wish you were working on?”
  • “What is valid about the dissenting viewpoint in this discussion?”
  • “What assumptions or models am I using that causes me to agree or disagree in this situation?”

Be open: seek feedback. This is the strategy I most wanted to ignore, so I knew I needed to include it.

The authors aptly described why: “As researchers of vulnerability understand, our self-confidence takes a plunge when we feel we are being criticized.”

Yet plunge into seeking feedback, I must, to grow and improve. And to do so, the authors describe good ways to create a safe environment in asking others for candid feedback:

  • “If you could imagine the perfect person doing the perfect job in the role I’m in, what do you think they might be doing differently than I am?”
  • “What 2 or 3 pieces of advice do you have for me that you think would have made this project better?”

Build a diverse network: strive for five to thrive. Strong and diverse networks stretch you, the authors say, reminding me of Roselinde Torres‘ TED talk on What Makes a Great Leader?

The strategic question that spoke to me? “Who are the 5 people who can help you be a better person, especially when it comes to your work?”

They could be people in your network who “inspired you, stretched your thinking, left you feeling it’s possible to change, introduced you to new knowledge in different fields and demonstrated being an expert in ways you aren’t.”

My diverse list of 5 is taking shape. During January I’ll be connecting with them to meet for coffee and talk virtually during the year.

Be greedy about experiences: approach targeted work with a development stance. This is where “you care about getting the task done really well and using what you learn to do even better work in the future.”

The development stance, as opposed to a completion or performance stance, could include doing research, talking to people with expertise, observing processes that work well or taking an online course or a MOOC.

The book has a template to identify your major projects and tasks, skills that can be developed in each one and how you’ll approach each project – with a completion, performance or development stance.

As I work through the template and choose areas of focus for development, I’ll share some of my learning experiences in future posts.

How will you stretch in the coming year?

Published by

Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, How to Build Your Career through Social Media, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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