Why your organisation needs stretchy staff

If your organisation is struggling to bring about much-needed change, you need stretchy staff.

What are “stretchy staff”?

Staff are so important to the success of an organisation. Their willingness to develop themselves and the organisation they work for often comes down to goodwill, personal motivation and an understanding of how to spot opportunities and make change happen. For far too long, we have asked staff members to be flexible. But for me, flexibility is about slightly flexing or shifting from the current position, not making those larger changes to keep up to date with current increasing demands.

To ensure organisations have the exponential growth needed to survive, they will need more than the previous small gains produced by enabling flexibility in the workforce. If your organisation needs more than a small shift, then you will have to ask your staff to not only be flexible, but to be stretchy.

Think about it; flexibility is about altering your working hours or being willing to take on a slightly different way of working that’s flexible. I believe that, to embrace change and develop a more innovative way of working, staff need to look at things from a different perspective, step outside their comfort zone and consider things in a way they may have never done before.

Stretchy staff will take on new tasks knowing that, in order to do so, they will have to learn new skills whic they don’t currently possess. They will have to take on challenges they don’t feel comfortable with, but will do so with the acceptance that there is a need to grow and develop if they are to stretch themselves. They will understand that this can take effort and needs support, and that sometimes things won’t go to plan, and that adjustments will need to be made and retried. We need to embrace an acceptance of trying and not be afraid of failing, but accept it as part of the process of development.

Developing stretchy staff

Encouraging your team members to be stretchy in the way they think about themselves and their skills can be the difference between them saying, “I’m not able to do that,” and saying, “I think I could do that”.

Let’s think of it like this: If a staff member believes that, just because they haven’t done something before in exactly the same way as you are asking them to, that they don’t have the skills and abilities, then that’s not considering skills in a stretchy way. For example, if you ask a staff member to organise an event to promote a new project at work, they might at first think, “I haven’t done that before; I don’t know if I can”. However, if they start to think in a stretchy way, they can consider things like, “I have organised birthday parties before,” or “I have some great social media skills I could use”. You can then encourage them by thinking of similar things they have done and link those in. They will have to accept that other areas that they have no experience in might be harder, however, they simply need to give them a try and stretch themselves. It’s likely they will surprise themselves with their new skills.

Embrace the stretchy

By embracing ‘stretchy thinking’, staff, teams and whole companies can begin to take on new challenges, make changes and achieve more. Yes, sometimes they will fail, but failure can, if considered in a positive way, support stretchy thinking in the future.

‘Stretchy Thinking’ is a tool used by Rebecca Jones with teams to develop more innovative ways of working to achieve more. It is based on the work by Dr Carol Dweck on growth mindset and Rebecca’s work with companies wishing to involve their staff members in innovation.

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