It’s Good To Stretch

I love my job. I say that most days and yesterday I experienced another reason why I love it. Someone I’ve worked with was named Manager of the Year in his agency. One of the perks of receiving this honor is a reserved parking spot up front, right next to the building. This makes it a quick 10-second trip to get inside the facility. Here’s what he sent me. “The other day I was sitting in that spot thinking, ‘do you think you’re better than everyone else because you get to park here?’ I pondered it for a little while and decided from now on I will park at the very back of the parking lot right next to the berm the furthest out I can go. I have been doing that for a couple weeks now.” Now he wants to offer the spot to another manager who is working hard and deserves recognition.

Boy, was I inspired to write my blog this week! It can be easy to get to a certain level at work or in life, where we take it easy. We have stature, we have a good salary and we get comfortable. What I love about this story is this person didn’t do that. They demonstrated what Scott Sonenshein talks about in his book Stretch. Stretching is defined as doing things differently, being resourceful and creative. To stretch is to do more with something you already have. Chasing on the other hand is thinking the more we have the more we can do (e.g. more money, more experience). It’s a delay tactic to actually doing the work. Chasing is avoiding getting going on a project because you don’t have the right setting or you don’t have the right materials at your desk or you will get started once you have… Stretching is taking action and being “scrappy” and creative to find ways to get things done.

Children can be great examples of stretching behavior. As a toddler, my daughter loved going through my pantry and pulling out pots and pans. So one day I gave her a frying pan to get her out of my way. When I checked on her she was using it as a sled for her stuffed animals, pulling them around her room! In my mind, a frying pan is for making an omelet or meat sauce for dinner. She used it as a sled and later as a bed for her doll (and I’m pretty sure some time later it turned into a percussion instrument!). My point being, I had a set use in my mind for that pan. But it could do so many other things. And sometimes I will avoid cooking something because “I don’t have a pan for that.”

What is your “parking spot all the way in the back” idea? The other interesting thing about my friend’s story is that his thinking and self-reflection is part of what got him Manager of the Year. By walking from the end of the parking lot, he will have much more time to think about the day and what he’s doing, which may lead to an inspiration or new idea. He will probably encounter others walking into work and have the opportunity to start a conversation that doesn’t happen in just 10 seconds.

What can you do to promote stretching behavior in your work and life? Here’s to stretching yourself this weekend!

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