Purposeful Talent Development: Learning—like eroding a rock—takes time

It takes more than one training, experience or interaction to shape us.

I am a fan of quotes related to talent development. I like how they can motivate and challenge me to think about something in a new way. If you looked at my desk, you’d see I have sticky notes with quotes or phrases all over. Some of the quotes are clear right away, like “the capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice,” from Brian Herbert. Others are open to interpretation, like … “like water on a rock,” from a Talmudic story.

When I first heard, “like water on a rock,” the phrase stood out to me, so I jotted it down. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on this saying’s connection to talent development and the role of a leader. The phrase notes the fact that, over time, one drop of water can alter a surface, even one as solid as a rock. This is how leadership development works, both in how we develop as leaders and how leaders develop others. It is not just one experience, misstep, training or interaction that shapes us, but the combination of these that put us on the path to success.

The key is allowing the water to drip in the first place. Organizations need to offer opportunities for growth (stretch assignments, training, networking) and time to pursue them. Leaders need to open discussion to better understand current and needed skills. Individuals must have the willingness and energy—and put in the effort—to develop themselves and others. Attendance at one training, working on one project or engaging in one conversation will not effectively change behavior or elevate a skill set. We need to apply and practice what we’ve learned, engage in conversation with others and repeat for development to occur.


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