The commander of the U. S. Third Army in WWII, General George Patton, is credited with originating the phrase pressure makes diamonds.
Robert Griffin III, the star rookie quarterback for the Washington Redskins, wears a T-shirt that says, “NO PRESSURE, NO DIAMONDS.” (He shines like a diamond when the pressure is on; his “diamond play” beat the Giants last night.)
While it’s true that pressure makes diamonds, it’s also true that pressure makes coal. And in fact, it makes a lot more coal than diamonds. That is why diamonds cost a lot more than coal. A one pound diamond is worth anywhere from $2-6M depending on its grade. A pound of coal is worth a few pennies.
Paradoxically, though diamonds cost more than coal, coal is more valuable. I can image a world without diamonds, but a world without coal? Almost half of our electricity comes from coal. Coal is central to steel making and the chemical industry, and thousands still heat their homes with coal. If the world runs out of one, I hope it’s diamonds.
All organizations have both coal and diamonds, and need both.
The diamonds are easy to spot: they shine, attract a crowd (fill the stadium seats or worship centers), get the endorsements and applause, and make big plays that are crucial to winning.
The coal is less glamorous and less visible, but just as important.
The Alabama offensive line is the team’s coal (ask the running backs how important they are).
Nursery workers are a church’s coal. (Imagine listening to the sermon with fifteen babies crying in unison.)
In publishing, editors are the coal. The UPS drivers are coal; maintenance workers are coal; the sound board technician is the concert’s coal; well…you get the idea.
One of the challenges of leadership is meshing coal and diamonds into a winning team. It starts with the recognition that the diamonds may cost more, but the coal is just as—maybe even more—valuable.
Why don’t you take a few minutes to let your coal shine in your spotlight? The diamonds already get enough attention.
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© Copyright 2012 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company
"The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present."
Kouzes & Posner