Book Review: 'Stretch' by Willyerd and Mistick
“Stretch” by Karie Willyerd and Barbara Mistick, subtitled “How to Future Proof Yourself for Tomorrow’s Workplace” is a 2016 career guide. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this self-help book?
The Strengths of “Stretch”
“Stretch” outlines how to identify your options in the workplace, pinpoint fallback options for career paths and methods to develop them without making a blind leap. It also gives lists of what not to do such as how to recognize when you need to update your knowledge.
There are many simple assessments and checklists for various assessments, such as whether or not you should take an opportunity, when you need to update your skills, how to improve your curiosity, how to hedge your bets, methods for soliciting feedback that is useful.
The book provides key takeaways for every chapter known to reinforce learning and ensure that you understand the intended lessons.
The characteristics of grit and resilience, terms too often just tossed around or vaguely described, are explained in detail here.
The book contains a number of vignettes representing the principles the book discussed; one of the strengths of “Stretch” is that it mixes everyday people living out these principles with the short stories of famous people doing the same.
The book delivers a number of great quotes like, “Don’t mistake overconfidence for competence.”
“Stretch” does address the emotions that can hold us back, but instead of dwelling on platitudes, it talks about ways you can actually change an attitude or develop resiliency or shift perspective. Don’t dwell on the failures or rejections but learn from them and use them to do better next time or do something else.
You get a small section, less than a chapter, that encapsulates the essence of “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”.
The Weaknesses of the Book “Stretch”
The book issues a variety of other projections that border on liberal platitudes. The assumption, for example, that diversity is only demographic in nature, is mirrored by the mistaken belief that whites are all monolithic. This leads to the book encouraging travel internationally or working with people from other nations, when for many graduates, just working with someone from the working class and touring the manufacturing facility shop floor would be major revelations.
The book suggests large companies require their suppliers provide an array of benefits to their employees as a condition of receiving contracts, though the book admitted a long list of economic and technological reasons destroying permanent employment in the first place. This will only limit supply chains to big firms while shutting out the smaller and up and coming competition as excessive credentialing tends to do – or it drives many businesses out of business altogether because they can’t afford the welfare demands of their biggest customers.
“Stretch” refers to a number of other business books and contains encapsulations of their advice. Many chapters have sections specifically on how organizations and managers can implement their advice. For the sections on how to improve workplace communications, development and culture, I would suggest “Entreleadership” instead of this book.
This book has good advice on how to find side entrepreneurial options or outlets at otherwise unpleasant jobs like volunteering. It offers more actionable advice than “Quitter” by Jon Acuff. “Quitter” is a better choice for when you must leave the job and already have the dream of what you want to do but don’t know how to get there.
On the book’s reference to Justine Sacco, I suggest watching the TED talk “When online shaming spirals out of control” instead of taking the book’s interpretation to heart.
“Stretch” is a good reference book for not focusing on the failures and vague dissatisfaction and instead asking the right questions to find the new jobs or changes in the current position to perform better there while positioning yourself for the future. It also addresses how to keep yourself up to date without burning out. Its general social prescriptions, though, fall flat beyond a call for everyone to become their own advocates and salespeople.