Conquer Your Stretch Role

  Being successful in a high stakes new role brings great opportunities and rewards, along with the potential for risk, stress and anxiety.  If you or members of your team are taking on a challenging new role, consider working with a coach to exponentially enhance your success.   After great effort, preparation, and perseverance, you’ve stepped into a new role with the potential to accelerate your career success.  You’ve earned it, and recognize that you’ll need to step your game up to have sustained success.  There may be new skills, ways of thinking, relationships, and knowledge that you must build to thrive in your new role.  This article will give you strategies to succeed at a challenging new role, also referred to as a “stretch role”. You could find yourself in a stretch role through several paths:
  • Promotion to a different leadership plateau such as executive leadership
  • Hired into a new job at a higher level than you’ve been previously
  • Growth of your organization now requires you to lead greater number of people
  • Taking on a complex project that requires new skills, or working with new stakeholders
Before we get to strategies to help you succeed in your new role, let’s first explore some things NOT to do.  These items could be career-limiting moves that may accelerate your next job search.  No one wants that!
  • Don’t come in overconfident.  Instead, listen, learn, and be patient.  This is a new role, so by definition you will need to come up to speed and build relationships to enable your agenda.
  • Don’t copy/paste strategies that worked before.  Instead, seek to apply your skills and experience to the nuances of the new environment.
  • Don’t shy away from asking for help.  Instead, partner with your network, team, peers, and other stakeholders to help you come up to speed and build a vision/plan that helps you and the organization reach your goals.
Here are 4 strategies to help you approach your new role with confidence and preparedness:   Understand how success is measured How does your new role fit into the broader vision that you have for your career?  What are the rewards, experiences, and resume builders that you would like to gain from this opportunity, and what needs to happen to realize these?  Think through these topics and approach your new role with intention so that you can achieve your goals over the long term. How will your company and your leadership measure your success?  Some quantitative measures might include revenue, profitability, productivity, efficiency, customer net promoter score, or others.  Beyond hard numbers, think through other measures for success that may be expected.  For example, “developing the next generation of leaders”, or “inspiring confidence in customers” or “driving alignment with partners and stakeholders”. There will be an almost unlimited number of quantitative and qualitative means that may be used to evaluate your success.  Make sure that you are aligned with your leadership and stakeholders about what success in your new role looks like.   Build your powerbase As a leader, your success requires getting results by partnering with other people (I know you already knew that 🙂 ).  A key first step is to understand who can help you be successful, and who you can help.  The benefit to you may be in the form of accessing knowledge you may not have, partnership from others to advance your goals, having emotional support through stress, or help in removing obstacles. Your ecosystem of supporters may include the following people:
  • Your leadership
  • Your peers
  • The people you lead
  • Vendors
  • Subject matter experts on other teams, or external to your company
It’s a worthwhile exercise to map out your ecosystems of stakeholders including each person’s level of influence, capabilities, how their goals align with yours, how you can help each other, and what it might take to have a good relationship with them.  A heat map or org chart exercise may be used – the end goal is to identify who you need on your side to be successful.   Once you have this identified, think about specific tactics you can use to engage and build relationships.  A short list of tactics could include:
  • Build personal rapport through common interests or experiences
  • Offer to help them with something important
  • Make a proactive introduction, perhaps over lunch/coffee
  • Ask them to help you acclimate to your new role.  People often love giving advice!
  Establish your leadership brand and presence Stepping into a new role is a GREAT opportunity to define or enhance your brand. Be mindful that as someone in a new role, those around you will be watching to see what type of person you are.  What are your capabilities? How do you handle stress or conflict?  How do you collaborate with others?  What are your core values?  How do you handle it when you don’t know what to do?  These qualities come across to others through the words you use, what you tolerate/don’t tolerate, how you dress, the emotions you express, and many other areas.  The takeaway is to be mindful and intentional about how you want to come across.  Presence and branding are massive topics that are hard to cover as a sub bullet in a short article – consider reaching out if you or someone on your team needs help enhancing their leadership brand or presence:   Establish your vision and plan After making progress to understand the landscape of your new role, it’s time to shape that landscape by using the talents, skills, and experience that helped you arrive here.  What is your overarching vision?  What priorities will you establish for yourself and your team?  What should stop, start, or continue? Consider building a 30, 60, or 90 day plan that outlines how you will step into the new role and begin to advance your agenda.  Of course, this plan could take many forms.  Some common patterns focus on learning the environment, confirming expectations, and relationship building at the beginning portion of the plan.  The later portion of a 90 day plan often outlines the progress that would be made in advancing your agenda, how you’ll measure success, and how specific priorities will begin to take shape.  Who would you involve in creating and tracking towards this plan?  How will you manage changes to the plan as new information becomes available?   Conclusion Taking on a stretch role can be exciting, and come with many rewards and potential challenges to overcome.  By having a clear view of what success looks like, and approaching the new environment with humility and intentionality, you will position yourself to apply the gifts that helped land you here.   About the author Chris Musano has worked for 18 years helping leaders and teams to succeed through high stakes change.  As a consulting executive leader, he has hired and led more than 500 people across 6 countries, run 8-figure P&Ls, and worked with 10+ fortune 500 companies to drive complex change.  Chris is a Certified Executive Coach and entrepreneurial investor that has founded 3 startup businesses.  He lives in Charlotte NC, USA and helps clients all over the world to build impact, clarity, and influence in reaching their goals.  Consider reaching out!  Learn more at