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ATD Blog

Talent Development and the Challenge of Time

Monday, February 14, 2022

Time is the one resource no talent development professional has enough of. We’re in such a hurry. Everywhere we go and in everything we do, we’re always trying to achieve things quickly. Recruiting deadlines, leadership development schedules, personal development plans—they all create a sense of urgency. Plus, there are organizational pressures, deadlines for budgets, seminars to run, and more. The life of the talent development professional creates a need (imagined or real) for haste—getting things done, making decisions, and responding quickly.

The ramifications of hastiness can range from minor to extreme. Talent development plans may be underpriced for not being well structured. Investments may be made in personnel that don’t pay off in the long run. Recruiting and hiring the wrong person could create a problem for years to come. HR practices that are not well researched or applied can cost organizations thousands of dollars.

We feel the need for urgency in talent development for many reasons. Sometimes we avoid difficult situations by rapidly moving from one task to another to keep us from having to deal with reality. Maybe our competitive nature makes us feel the need to appear busier than our colleagues. Maybe we feel more valued when we are always short on time. We have so much to do; therefore, we must be important! Perhaps we want to feel needed, so we get involved in too many initiatives, leading us to an artificially crowded day.

When we lose track of time and rush, bad things happen. We may find ourselves attempting to pile more on our plate in an effort to prove we can really manage a heavy workload. When we fail, we add more, creating a vicious cycle resulting in poor decision-making and weak management practices. We feel the impact on a personal and physiological level, as well. We’re overly sensitive to comments. We become irritable and impatient as we try to manage an insurmountable workload. We lose our ability to connect with others emotionally as we focus on the next task at hand.


Effectively managing a harried mindset is easy, but it takes patience and resolve. Begin by doing a little data collection. Are there particular parts of your day where you seem to be rushing on a regular basis? Maybe in the morning as you prepare for the workday. Perhaps before meetings or at the end of the fiscal year. By clueing into when and where this happens, you can develop strategies for pacing and offering yourself (and your colleagues) the gift of a more normal day.


Self-awareness plays a role here, as well. What are your expectations for yourself? How often are you willing to say ”no” to being involved in a new initiative? It may be enticing to be invited to be part of a new project, but is it something you can manage or are you taking on more work than you can handle? Can you prioritize the work you have on your plate now? Are there things you are willing to leave incomplete at the end of the day?
Answering these questions is not easy. However, when we do, we are taking the first step toward admitting what we can and cannot accomplish, given the limited time we have.

The field of talent development is becoming more complex every day. Time will continue to be an issue for all who devote their lives to building human resources in our organizations. Perhaps by asking ourselves a few questions, taking a deep breath before making a decision, and practicing a little self-awareness, we can recapture some of our ever-fleeting time. Our organizations will be much better for it.

About the Author

Patrick Malone is director of Key Executive Leadership Programs at American University in Washington, D.C. He is a frequent guest lecturer on leadership and organizational dynamics and has extensive experience working with government leaders. Patrick’s research, teaching, and scholarship include work in public sector leadership, executive problem solving, organizational analysis, ethics, and public administration and policy. He is a retired navy captain, having spent 22 years in a number of senior leadership and policy roles.

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