7 Ways to Know a Team Member is Ready to Stretch

Don’t coddle your team. Trust their ability to grow into new skills and responsibilities.

Protecting people from challenges propagates dependence and sends the subtle signal that you don’t believe they will rise up.

you reach low and play it save when making decisions based on past failure


Stretch assignments are opportunities for exponential growth.

People are stretched by:

  1. Unfamiliar territory.
  2. Turbulent situations or rapid change.
  3. New responsibilities. They can’t hide behind a boss.
  4. Moving from using authority to exercising influence.
  5. New team members with unique strengths and talents.

Too soon:

Don’t mistake passion for skill, character, or grit.

Desire for new challenges isn’t the same as being prepared to take on new challenges.

The danger of challenging people before they’re ready is they lose confidence to try next time. They give up on themselves.

You reach low and play it safe when making decisions based on past failure.

Tip: Encourage people to make decisions about themselves based on aspiration, not failure.

7 ways to know a team member is ready to stretch:

  1. Character is confirmed. They’ve demonstrated initiative and grit in the past.
  2. Open to new ideas. Closed minds prevent growth.
  3. Vision for themselves. They see themselves in new roles.
  4. Demonstrated skill. They have core competencies they can take to a new level.
  5. Distinguish between leadership and management. New challenges go beyond technical skill. Do they have emotional intelligence, for example?
  6. Success is likely. They have a track record of past achievement that gives confidence about future success. Your gut should tell you with hard work they’ll succeed.
  7. Support is available. Don’t allow people to sink in the deep end. Identify an internal mentor and provide an external coach.

The purpose of stretch assignments is growth, not breaking people.

Tip: When leading team members through stretch assignments, resist the urge to fix. Your inner drive to fix prevents growth in others.

When are people ready to take on stretch assignments?

How might leaders help others stretch without preventing growth?