Issue 76

A Unique Publication for Leaders     Gene Griessman, Ph.D. Editor
404-256-5927    To receive a complimentary subscription, send an email to and type “Subscribe.” Pass TAD along to your friends.  If you move to a different email address, please let us know. TAD is scanned for viruses.

“Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.”  –Thomas Hardy (English writer; author of Far From The Madding Crowd, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, and others; 1840)

“Nothing happens, but first a dream.”  –Robert Frost (American poet, 1874-1963)

My, how people have changed since I changed.”  –Art Bauer (contemporary American entrepreneur and filmmaker)

“Life is a stream of opportunities, large and small, predictable and unexpected.”—Gene Griessman

“I’ve always thought I was lucky, and thinking you’re lucky is more important than being lucky.”
–Isaac Asimov (American science-fiction writer, 1920-1992; quote from my TV interview with Asimov)

“Strive for perfection in everything you do.  Take the best that exists and make it better.  When it does not exist, design it.”
–Sir Henry Royce  (cofounder of Rolls-Royce, 1863-1933)

 “A word is dead when it is said, some say. I say it just begins to live that day.”
–Emily Dickinson, (American poet, 1830-1886)

“Self-pity is a small, airless room that you don’t want to spend much time in.”
–Garrison Keillor (host of “Prairie Home Companion;” The Writer’s Almanac”)

“Untrammeled emotion in baseball doesn’t make you Joe DiMaggio; it makes you an easy out.  Baseball is a game of skill and precision, not strength and mass.”
–Mark Bradley (sports columnist for the Atlanta Journal/Constitution)

“I’m a busy executive. I know I need more balance in my life, but how do I do that?”

This is a question that I often am asked in coaching sessions.  If you lead an active life, it’s unrealistic to think that every day or even every week of your life will be in balance. I’ve known people who said that they always allocated a certain day of the week or certain hours of the week for one thing or another.  But I’m not convinced that that is always the best way to live.

For a long time I’ve believed that the correct metaphor for balance is that of an acrobat on a high wire, not a pair of scales.  Acrobats on a high-wire are constantly adjusting, shifting to the left, shifting to the right, compensating as necessary in order to keep from falling.  They know that if they tilt too far, too long,  toward one side or the other, they risk a nasty fall.

To use another metaphor, old-time farmers used to say, “Make hay while the sun’s shining.”   By that they meant that you sometimes have to work flat-out for as many hours as necessary in order to get hay into the barn before the hay-rotting rains come.

But those same farmers–once they got the hay into the barn and the crops gathered–would observe harvest celebrations, and they would let the land lie fallow for a time, and they would rest and catch up with what had been neglected during hay-gathering time.  It was a part of the rhythm of life.

If the sun’s shining in your life, do make as much hay as possible.  But when that’s done, be sure to do what you could not do while making hay.

(You can participate in our executive coaching program by phone.  For a description of the program, click  Or give us a call at 404-256-5927.  We have an introductory rate for people who want to see if executive coaching is right for them.)

“I have almost finished reading the memoirs of General U.S. Grant, and find it surprising that a man of seemingly modest and placid temperament rose to great heights as a leader in war.  What is your assessment?”

Answer:  Grant was shy and diffident, and a failure in business.  He fared no better as a peacetime military man, and resigned his commission.  But when war came, Grant’s strengths that few had noticed became evident.  For example, he had the ability to single-mindedly focus on a problem for long periods of time, he could see alternatives, he was doggedly persistent, and he could communicate concisely to those below and above him in the chain of command.

Grant’s life demonstrates that individual traits by themselves do not guarantee success. No matter how impressive individual traits may be, they will come to little if there is a disconnect between talent, time, and place.

Wrong time, wrong place could be the epitaph of many a career.  Success occurs when psychology meets sociology.

We’ve all seen talented individuals with good ideas who weren’t assertive or persuasive enough to be heard or followed, while less talented but assertive individuals carried the day.  And that was certainly true of Grant.

However, once Grant reached high rank, his lack of assertiveness became less of a problem.  The army has a command-and-control structure. Officers give orders, not suggestions, and they expect them to be obeyed.  Therefore, virtually anyone who manages to reach high rank in the military will see some of his/her wishes implemented.

Something Else–Grant managed to reach high rank initially because he was a West Point graduate.  It was a time when the Union Army was desperate for leaders who had any knowledge of military affairs, casualties were great, and promotion was rapid.  Even civilian politicians with no military experience reached high rank.

Grant continued to be thwarted by jealous and less talented fellow-officers.  But the time was right for Grant.

President Lincoln was looking for a dogged, decisive general who could see the big picture, a general who could communicate up and down the chain of command, and a man who would fight.  Grant was perfect for this kind of situation.  Sociology and psychology were in phase.  The fit was so good, in fact, that Lincoln eventually made Grant his general-in-chief.

Is there a message for you here?  Absolutely.

A Move Could Be That Something Else–You may be a person of many talents. But if you are in a situation where those talents are not needed or appreciated, you probably should look for ways to move to a different place, to a different organization, or to a different position in that organization.

This same principle applies if you manage other people.  Let’s say someone you are managing is not working out.  One possibility is for you to move that individual to another position where he/she will play to his/her strengths.

This is a universal principle, and it’s not limited to the military or to business.  To make the point, here’s an example from music.

Johann Sebastian Bach in his early career was an organist at a church in the little town of Arnstadt, Germany.  Some of the members of that church weren’t at all happy with Bach’s organ playing.  They could not see that this young man would one day be considered a musical icon.  The church council held a meeting, and informed Bach: “Complaints have been made that you accompany the hymns with surprising variations and irrelevant ornaments which obliterate the melody and confuse the congregation.”

Bach could have curbed his creativity and stayed on at Arnstadt.  Instead he found a way to leave Arnstadt, moved to Leipzig, where his surprising variations and ornaments became a part of the Bach legend.

If things aren’t working out for you, what’s wrong may not be you. You just may be in the wrong place.

“Just because something is new does not make it good or bad. Do not oppose something just because it’s new or different. Banish the expression: ‘We’ve always done it this way.’


There was a time when people did not do virtually everything that we do now—from eating with knives, forks, and spoons to voting for our leaders. The changes that may be causing you stress today will someday be explained to a young person as ‘the way we’ve always done it here.’” –Lincoln Speaks to Leaders, by Gene Griessman, Pat Williams, and Peggy Matthews Rose, p. 113

“It was a mesmerizing performance.  So many words of wisdom for personal and professional life.”  –Robin Barca, C.O.O, Baptist Health, and board member of the Blue Ridge Conference on Leadership

“I stayed focused during this presentation.  Telling stories to make a point.   What an amazing speaker!” –anonymous evaluation

“The intensity of his passion for the character is amazing and inspiring.  Wow!” –S. Rhodes, Dunn Building Company

“I liked the blend—provided a perfect E + I=C.   Great session—thought-provoking and entertaining.”
–Kathryn Jarvis, deputy chief, U.S. Courts  (E + I=C is a formula for effective communication; E=emotion, I=information, and C=communication.)