Issue 74

A Unique Publication for Leaders     Gene Griessman, Ph.D. Editor
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“The most important conversation you will ever have is the conversation you have with yourself.” –author unknown

“Your own attention is what spiritualizes things.  Attention to the meal you cook, the clothes you wash.  Attention is love.  And that’s transformative.”
–Karen Maezen Miller, contemporary American writer and Zen teacher; author of Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life.)

“One ship sails East, And another West, By the self-same winds that blow,
Tis the set of the sails And not the gales, That tells the way we go.”
–Ella Wheeler Wilcox (American writer and poet, 1850-1919)

“If you make no distinction between what’s important and what’s not, you are doomed to life on a treadmill.”
–Gene Griessman, “99 Ways To Get More Out Of Every Day”

“Love lights more fires than hate extinguishes.”
–Ella Wheeler Wilcox (This quote of hers is inscribed on a paving slab in Jack Kerouac Alley in San Francisco. The alley, incidentally,  is known for its engraved Western and  Chinese poems, including poets such as John Steinbeck and Maya Angelou.)

“I am not an atheist.  I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist.  The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds.   We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages.   The child knows someone must have written those books.  It does not know how.  It does not understand the languages in which they are written.   The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is.  That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.  We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws.”  –Albert Einstein (German-born theoretical physicist and philosopher, 1879-1955)

“Fatigue is the best pillow.” –Hindu proverb

“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.”
–Coco Chanel (French fashion designer, 1883-1971)


I cannot think of anything that will help you more than to hire the right executive secretary or executive assistant, and then to coach that person properly.  The leverage you can achieve will be astonishing.  My executive assistant, Donovin Freeman, who has been with me for years, is just wonderful.  We don’t even have to meet face-to-face for him to do what I don’t want to do or can’t do well (i.e., technology).

As a university professor and administrator, I was able to accomplish far more than I had any right to expect because I had a series of fantastic executive secretaries. My distinguished friend and colleague Dr. Melvin Kranzberg, who was Callaway Professor of History of Technology at Georgia Tech, once told me that Georgia Tech would quadruple its output if it gave every professor his/her own secretary:  “Just knowing that there was someone sitting at a desk outside the office every morning waiting for something to do would rouse even the most lethargic professor to action just to keep from being embarrassed, and it would enable the diligent professors to focus on high-level tasks and avoid administrative trivia.”

I recommend that sales people on commission hire an assistant, even if their company doesn’t pay for it.  The increase in commissions will more than compensate for any personal outlay.  (It’s the same principle that Mary Kay told me about.  She urged her sales people, many of whom were stay-at-home moms, to hire a maid.  The rationale is that you shouldn’t be doing ten-dollar-an-hour tasks when your time is worth $50 an hour or $100 an hour, or far more.  See Time Tactics of Very Successful People, p. 138.)

Keep these points in mind:

One.  Hire very, very carefully.  One excellent way to do this is to work with a temp agency.  Don’t hire until you find just the right person, and then pay the agency fee to turn the short-term project into a permanent hire.  No matter which way you do it, make sure that the chemistry is good, that the person you hire doesn’t make stupid mistakes, and that they have well developed social skills for dealing with associates, customers, etc.

Two. Do regular one-on-one sessions.  It is critical that he/she understand how you think.  And you need to understand how he/she thinks.  Your executive secretary/assistant person may become your gatekeeper.  You need to be sure that he/she sees to it that you talk to the people whom you consider important, pays attention to paper and emails that you consider high priority, and screens out what you would screen out yourself.  Your priorities need to be understood at a very deep level.

Three.  Provide a safety valve for pent-up feelings.  I regularly ask him/her during our sessions if there is anything I had done or am doing that is annoying or unproductive.  Several times I have heard about my mannerisms or habits.  I made corrections.  Because I have been open about improving the relationship, executive secretaries/assistants have asked me to provide the same kind of feedback for them.  These sessions keep resentments from festering.

Four.  Create a priority system that works. A common complaint of secretaries/assistants is that their bosses give them multiple tasks but don’t give them priorities.  My personal system is to assign a number to every task, ranking it from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest).  I attach Post-Its with a priority number on all paperwork, or on the task list I create for him/her. If I leave a voice message, it might go something like this.  “Murray, I want you to call Simon & Schuster and find out if they need anything else before they go to press.  This is a 10.”)

Five. Create a task list every evening for your secretary/assistant.  You are already making these lists for yourself—at least, I hope you are.   Constantly think about how you can make the very most of this very important direct report.  After you start doing this on a regular basis, you will think of many important tasks that can be delegated, far more than I can enumerate here.

In case you’re interested in executive coaching, here’s a link to information about my coaching philosophy.

Several years ago, Mikka Olsson enrolled in my executive coaching program.  He then was president of the U.S. division of PartnerTech, Inc., a multi-national corporation based in Sweden.  Olsson has gone on to become co-founder of Vy, an invitation-only peer network for senior-level executives and accomplished individuals from various fields of endeavor.

(“Vy”—pronounced with the letters “V” “Y”– is a term from aviation for the best rate of climb. This new organization uses Vy as a metaphor for how leaders can optimize their business and personal trajectory to achieve the most efficient and effective use of talents and opportunities.)

I spoke at the Vy summit in New Orleans recently, and have agreed to do executive coaching for members and make occasional presentations for Vy summits.

If you’d like to know more about this organization, or perhaps are interested in attending the upcoming summit at a beautiful resort in Canada, go to:

David Rockefeller once told me that his father taught him an invaluable lesson that had been passed along from John D. Rockefeller, his grandfather.  Before he could get an allowance, the Rockefeller children had to present an exact accounting of how they had used every penny of their previous week’s allowance.  Their expenditures had to include—a tithe–at least 10% for charity or the church.

I shared the Rockefeller story in an executive coaching session with Brad Callahan, who’s the CEO of the Travel Advantage Network ( Brad took the concept to heart and implemented it with his children.  Here is an excerpt from Brad’s account of what happened:

Following one of our one-to-one sessions, I shared Rockefeller story with my kids.  Within 24 hours, I had purchased ledgers for our 3 oldest kids (12, 14 and 15).  When I got home, I asked the three of them to collect all the money in their rooms – from birthday cards, babysitting, loose change under the bed, in their wallets, piggy banks, coat pockets or anywhere else that they might possibly have money.

Curious, they each ran to their rooms and gathered all that they could find.  When they returned, I had each count out their money.  I then introduced the ledger and they made an entry with their starting balance.

Next, I stipulated that their allowance was not an entitlement but something earned.  To earn it, there would be conditions –One. that they participate in extra work around the house; Two, when it was allowance time they would need to produce their ledger, plus their “bank roll” and the two would need to match, and Three, that 25% of their allowance must go to charity.

Several things happened, all very positive actions.  I list a few examples:

Ø      Two of them wanted to participate in a school fund raiser “pennies for patients” and, rather than ask us for the donation, they pulled their 25% allowance requirement and made the donation on their own.

Ø      Two of them noted that they had “too much money” at the house and we talked through what a reasonable amount to hold at home might be.  They gave me the balance to put in their bank accounts.

Ø      All three have greater respect for their money and know where every penny is

Ø      One of them found two pennies and, during an examination of her ledger, I noted that she had an entry for “found money – $0.02”

Ø      We went on a family vacation and they took souvenir money.  Two of the three used no money on worthless trinkets and one made a small purchase, saved her receipt and made her journal entry within an hour of returning home.

Ø      My favorite story is related to the pennies for patients.  The morning after we did our initial ledger training and two kids decided to participate in the school fundraiser, there was chaos.  Our son couldn’t locate his donation.  He was positive that he left it on the kitchen counter.  He carefully looked all around his room.  Frustrated, he shared his elevated concerns about the missing money and offered several conjectures as to what may have happened to HIS money.  I asked to him start at the beginning, to get all of his money and his ledger  Upon doing so, he quickly found that his dollar total in cash was greater than his ledger balance – by the exact amount that he thought was missing.  A smile went across his face……almost as big as the smile on mine.

I always enjoy your thoughts and insights.  This time they brightened my day. I liked your insight into what for most people is an elusive goal—happiness. Faithfully fulfilling one’s daily responsibilities, as you pointed out, does go a long way toward achieving happiness.  Expanding on the thought, we all know that deeply depressed people are inert.  Inactivity is perhaps the most obvious manifestation of depression.”—John Sellers, Ph.D. Lincoln Curator, U.S. Library of Congress

“Great performance!  Reminder to love life to the fullest and learn as you go.  Lessons of life very powerful.” –Ted Borelli

“What an amazing wealth of resources!  Thank you.  “   Jennifer Throndsen

“During the remainder of the class my students marveled at your comments.  I would love to keep you as a regular each year as a guest.  Your research and wisdom has made you a remarkable wealth of information.  Then when people can see you in character that’s the icing on the cake. If you ever travel to Alaska we have a lodge.  We’d love you to be our guest if you can.” (after a phone seminar to educators throughout Alaska for the University of Alaska Adult Leadership Program)  John A Rusyniak, faculty member and past-president of Alaska Society for Technology in Education