Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Groeschel » Craig Groeschel - Leading at Your Best

Craig Groeschel - Leading at Your Best

Craig Groeschel - Leading at Your Best
Craig Groeschel - Leading at Your Best
TOPICS: Leadership Podcast

Hey, big welcome to our YouTube community. Before I introduce our guest today, I wanna tell you that I've got an upcoming Q and A session that we're gonna do. And so if you've got questions about leadership, I'd love to know them. We'll try to include them in the upcoming episode, or in a future Q and A time. And so if you've got questions about leadership, whatever, you're leading, dealing with people, dealing with complicated decision-making, dealing with systems, culture, whatever it is, go ahead and type your questions in the chat. And I'll try to get to some of those, and look forward to hearing what's on your mind. Today, I've got a great guest. He's a good friend of mine named Carey Nieuwhof. I've gotta read to you about this guy. He is a podcaster, he is a speaker. He is a leadership coach, he is a lawyer. He's the CEO of the Carey Nieuwhof Communications. And he's helped thousands of leaders grow. He's helped me as well. He's got a brand new book out called, "At Your Best: How to Get Time, Energy, & Priorities Working in Your Favor". We'll go now to my conversation with Carey. Hey Carey, I'm super honored to have you on the podcast. I've been looking forward to this for a long, long time.

Well, so have I Craig, I gotta tell you, I don't think I've missed an episode, and you and I've gotten to know each other over the last few years personally, and it's just a thrill to be with you. So thank you so much for having me. I have so much respect for you as a leader, and also, when you get to know people personally, it's just wonderful to know that what you see behind the scenes is better even, and there's nothing wrong with what you see publicly, but when it's better than you imagined, that's fun. And you're one of those people.

That's kind of you, I don't think I've ever told you this, but I have told you, I have so much respect for your content, it is so good on leadership. And I promoted your podcasts in the intro, but I do wanna just say again, for those in our community, if you're not listening to the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast, you really, really should. It's some of the best content out there. But I've never told you this, but when I'm researching anything, I always type in that subject, and then your name, just to see if you've said anything about it, because your content is so good. And I do wanna congratulate you, I'm gonna hold this up, if people are watching, for your new book, "At Your Best". I'm gonna ask you more about that in a bit, but first, I wanna just kinda get caught up, and talk all things leadership, if that's okay.

Please do.

I'll dive in. You're so much, you're a coach, you're a prolific content creator. And every time I talk to you, I'm stretched by the way you're thinking, or what you're doing. I'd love to know what is it that you're working on right now that's kind of new, exciting, and maybe challenging for you?

I think what I'm trying to do, Craig, is, and this is challenging, I am trying to find a way for people who disagree with each other to have reasonable, sane conversation. So I do that largely through my podcast, but also through my website. We're privileged, we have a lot of traffic, and even in the comments, like a of people just shut off the comments, 'cause they're crazy, right? And so what we're trying to do is find people who almost wouldn't be in the room with each other, and let's just have some conversations. Like, I've had you on my podcast many times. I know you have strong opinions. There's probably some guests that, well, you would be in the room with anybody. But you know, you're like, "I don't know that I agree with that". And I think we need more and more forums like that. And honestly, I don't always agree with my guests. I don't always, but it's not my place to correct people. I mean, I have strong views, just like any leader does, but I'm trying to create civility, respect, and engagement, because, and you've said this, the last time I had you on my show, you talked about just navigating through crisis, and the strong opinions that rose up, and people you've worked with for years, or you've known for years, and all of a sudden you realize, "Oh, they believe this about that". And it's really a question of listening. So I think what's stretching me, what's making it really difficult is what subjects do you wade into? What do you not wade into? And then how do you create the kind of space where people who don't always agree with each other can come together and work on some common goals, or common problems?

I think that's so important, Carey, and I know that there are so many leaders out there right now that do feel the tension, because there're more complicated issues today than most of us have experienced in our lifetime. And I'm pretty passionate, too, about helping leaders get in the room with people that disagree. It's really sad, like especially in our Christian circles, sometimes we get heavily criticized for being in the room with someone that's different. And I that's really, really silly, because for one thing is if we want to make a spiritual difference, we need to be in the room with people that are different. And then secondly is we're not always right. Or our influence is gonna be incredibly limited, if we can't understand, and explain, and empathize with people who think differently, have had different experiences. And so I, you know, I get really kinda bothered by leaders, not that have strong opinions, but have strong opinions without empathy or understanding. And that limits their ability to make a real difference. So I'm super glad you're doing that. You're the right guy to do it. You're great at even disagreeing in a way that's loving. And then we often learn from people. So I think that's important. And one of the things I noticed, as I've watched your leadership impact has just grown and skyrocketed over the past few years. It's been kind of meteoric. And there's so many people, so many leaders that say, "I want that, I want more influence", or more employees, or more revenue, whatever. And with the success that you're having, I'm guessing that there are some real benefits that you maybe didn't even foresee. But I also guess, I'm guessing that there's a real cost that maybe you didn't foresee. Could you talk a little bit about both of those, as your impact has increased, were are you surprised at the benefits, and what are some costs that other people may not know from where they sit?

I do regularly wake up and think, "How did this become my life"? And some days it's, "How did this become my life"? But most days it's, "Wow, how did it come about that I get to do what I do"? And one of my favorite things, Craig, as you know, for what I get to do is I get to talk to some of the top leaders in the world, like yourself and many of your colleagues. And then people that I used to sit in the back row at a conference, 'cause I've been at this a long time, I'm a couple of years older than you. And I would sit in the back row and go, "I'll never ever get to meet them. Maybe I'll be able to shake her hand, or his hand, and leaders whose books I've read". And now, not all of them, I have a list of people I would love to meet. But my goodness, I've met so many influential leaders and I think that is the biggest surprise, and the biggest benefit. And some of them have become friends, not just people I interviewed once, but people that I end up talking to on a regular basis, and have developed a genuine relationship with. So I would say that's probably the biggest benefit. The biggest challenge, and you and I've talked about this offline, is I'm in my mid 50s, I hopefully have 20 or 30 years left on this Earth where I can make some kind of a contribution, and I wanna make sure I don't blow it. I wanna make sure that my platform doesn't get bigger than my character. In fact, I'm very grateful, I've been in leadership now for decades, I'm thankful that the kind of audience that showed up and influenced, if you wanna call it that, that has arisen didn't happen to me in my 30s, because I think I would have imploded. I think, well, I did implode in my 30s, with a fraction of the influence I have now, and responsibility I have now, I burned out. And I wonder if there could've been some catastrophic, moral failure in the mix too. And so what I'm trying to do now, my character's had a chance to grow up over a few decades, and my faith deepened, and I've got a good counselor, and we're working through what does it take to finish well, and what does it take to have a growing, loving marriage, family relationship, great relationships at work, become a better boss, all of those things, and to guard against the character, the temptations, and the character that comes with greater influence. So I wanna make sure that my platform doesn't outstrip my character.

So there's so many things I wanna ask you about in what you just said. One thing is you just said kind of casually, you have a counselor. And you know, someone of your stature, you're not embarrassed to say that?

No, no. In fact, I got this counselor from a very good friend who is of greater stature. So he, you know, it was something, because I talked to him and I remember the first call, I was sitting right here in my office, and chatting with him. And he goes, "It sounds like you a great life". And I'm like, "I do, I'm not calling you because of my marriage is falling apart. I'm not calling you because you know, the IRS is after me. I'm not, there's no problem. But that makes me nervous". And then we started to dig a little bit deeper, and I began to realize, "Okay, here's an area for growth. Here's an area". He did a profile of me against the general population than what he calls high-capacity leaders. And he goes, "You got a few things that are kind of abnormal". And I'm like, "Well, that confirms a lot of what my wife has told me over the years". You know, there's a lot of abnormal here, but one of them, I'll give you an example, my activity level is off the charts. He said even compared with really high profile leaders, and he does like elite athletes, NBA teams, Olympic athletes, military generals, and high-capacity leaders. He's like, "You can't sit still, what's underneath that"? I'm like, "I don't know that I've explored, I don't think I've looked under that rock enough to know what's underneath that". So that's what I'm looking at right now. There's no burning issue, I mean, the private walk is not all that exciting. There's no fire in the background, but I just wanna make sure, 'cause I think when you think you're invincible, you're not.

Yeah, well, I baited you with that because I think what you're doing is incredibly wise. I do the same thing. I work with a performance psychologist, and I think that any elite athlete has a coach, multiple coaches, and so why would we want to be a leader of people and not have coaches? And the challenge is that the people that tend to work for us, a lot of times will tell us what we wanna hear, rather than what we need to hear. And we wanna work really hard to create an environment where they do have the freedom to give us feedback. And I think both of us have done that to some extent. But it's really, to have someone who's devoted to helping you grow, really is a gift. And so I applaud that in you. I think that's one of the reasons why you continue to impact so many people. You also mentioned earlier when I said, "What are some of the benefits," you talked about some of the relationships that you had. Oddly enough, because as your influence has increased, you've met more people that are doing a lot of significant things. I actually listed this in my notes, the people that endorsed your book, and again, the book's called, "At Your Best: How to Get Time, Energy, & Priorities Working in Your Favor," which you're one of the best I know at that, and I can't wait to ask you a question about it. But you've got Seth Godin, Adam Grant, number one, "New York Times," bestseller, Cal Newport, Daniel Pink, Andy Downs, Patrick Lencioni, these are some really world-class leaders. And I'm interested in how you navigate those relationships. And let me tell you why, I think there are a lot of people listening right now that have some people that they'd like to be around, some leaders that they like to learn from, but they often don't know how to interact at a way that communicates respect to some of those leaders. If you're looking at the list of people that endorse your book, you probably have a little bit of a different strategy of investing in them as friends, than what people might think. And I'd love for you to talk about that for a moment. And I'm hoping that our listeners could get something from it that would say, "There may be a boss at my work that I admire, and I may approach her in a different way, because of what Carey said". How do you steward those relationships with people that are busier than most, have more pressure than most, what's different about those relationships, Carey?

So let me preface it by saying I didn't start out with colleagues or people who had endorsed my book at that level. I remember as a very young leader, and you have a ton of young leaders listening, like as a 30 year old just starting out, I was very interested in growth and leadership development, and I couldn't get Craig Groeschel. I was following you all those years ago, on the phone, but I could get the, in my case, I was a church leader at the time, the pastor down the road to go have lunch with me on a Tuesday. So I was leading 50 people, He was leading 200, and Doug would have lunch with me. So I started with Doug, And it wasn't a ladder climb. It wasn't like, "Well, now I've used Doug, and I'm gonna get to the next person," but eventually, we had a good track record, we grew for many years. I led the church for over two decades, and you know, it just got me noticed. And so I began to meet other people who introduced me to other people. But let's pick Seth Godin, for example. I actually have talked to him a little bit. We had some mutual friends, but a lot of these friends that you talk about were kind of cold calls. And sometimes it was a mutual friend who introduced us. I remember emailing Seth a year ago to see if he would be on my podcast. And we had chatted before, and the time wasn't right. And I would say there's a few principles there. Number one, be highly respectful, highly respectful. You're probably one, or I am probably one of 100 pitches he receives a day, "Hey Seth, can you"? "Hey Cal"? "Hey Annie, can you"? Right? Second, give them an out. So if you're kind of approaching someone from afar, I always like to say, "It's okay if it doesn't work out," because I find, if you give people an out, they tend to lean in. And even if they can't do the event for you then, you've let them off the hook. And I know some people would disagree with that, but Craig, you get so many requests every day. We get a lot of requests these days too. I always appreciate it when people are respectful. Another thing I would say is, don't start with the ask. Don't bury it under a 700 paragraph email that they're not gonna read. Be clear in the second paragraph. But tell them something about what you appreciate. In other words, you didn't just Google them and say, "Oh, this person seems influential, I'll reach out to them". It's like, I've read most of Seth's books. I've listened to his podcast. I had been a student for years. And even in that opening paragraph, or the opening if you meet them at an event, let them know what you appreciate about their work. So you wanna do that. You wanna make your request clear. You wanna let them know you understand you're very busy, and if it doesn't work out, that's completely fine. I'm gonna remain a fan. And then when you're engaging with them, do your research, do your homework, read the book, listen to the podcast, at a bare minimum. Don't go in there and say, "So, you know, Daniel Pink, what are you up to these days? How do you spend your time"? Well, you should know that stuff, and he's done really good stuff. So do your research. Next thing I would say is when you get some time with that person, be fully engaged, show up early, have your notes ready. Don't be distracted, don't be on your phone. Like, just give them your full focus. I would also say respect their time. I like to, particularly if I don't know the person that well, if they give me an hour, I like to finish at 55 minutes. If they give me 45 minutes, I like to finish up 42 minutes, because it leaves a positive impression, and their calendar's probably back to back. And if you need more time, ask for it, and then be okay if you don't get it. And then the final thing I would say, and this is really weird 'cause yeah, I think, "Well, what value could I bring to Adam Grant"? You know, my goodness, but try to add value, try to be really engaged and say, "Is there some way that I could help you? I'm not sure of what I could do," but you'd be surprised. And sometimes they're like, "Yeah". And so Adam Grant's been giving me introductions to people he thinks would be great on my podcast, introduced me to a number of people. And so we kept in touch. But just be very respectful and know that you're one of a 100 requests that have come their way before lunch.

I think that's super good advice. And I hope that people are listening to this, because really, the key to growing is one of the top, most important things is gonna be the relationships that you have. You learn so much, and it's not just from them, but from what they're reading, or like who they introduce you to. And it's not a networking thing, but it's a mutual value add in their lives.

What would you add to that?

I love when you said, "If you give them an out, they might lean in," because it's hard, like if people ask me, I don't like to be closed hard, like you might be if you're in a sales place. That makes me give you an immediate no. But a respectful ask, with an out, means I might consider it the second time it comes across my desk. And most of the time, most of these leaders, their default's going to be no, because of all that comes along. And so what stands out to me would be someone who adds value first, and everyone wants to be liked. Whoever you admire and respect the most, they're still a human being, and they wanna be liked, they wanna be valued. And so oddly enough, one of the ways that you communicate value is just by asking questions and listening. Everyone likes to do the talking. And so if you come in and pitch your idea, it's, "Hey, I'm Craig Groeschel, here to meet with you. Let me tell you what I'm doing, let me tell you, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Can you help me"? That's a me-centered conversation. If I come in and say, "Carey, I read this quote, and it really impacted me this way. Could you tell me a little bit more about this"? And then I listen, then I take notes, and then I go do something with it, what I just said is, "Your time was valuable to me," and then you feel good about it. And so I think you go in with more of a heart to give then to get, respecting their time, if you can add value to their life. Not only will they say yes sometimes, but there might be the beginning of a friendship, if you come in with the right approach, because sometimes they are lonely and want friends. If you come in too hard, it's like running up on a bird, that bird's gonna fly real fast.

I remember, as I got to know you, I was trying to follow those principles, and we had some personal contact beyond the podcast, et cetera, some phone calls. And you're definitely not lonely, and have lots of friends, and lots of things going on in your life. But I still remember, I was sitting on the back porch, and you said, "Carey, it's okay, we're friends now". And that was really interesting. So I haven't lost the respect. I still have so much immense respect for you, but you don't want to, I would say my last piece of advice, is just because you met with someone once or twice, don't expect to be doing vacations with them next year. Like, really try to be astute about where the relationship is at, because maybe, I would say we have a real friendship now, Craig, and yet I wouldn't wanna assume we did. And you're like, "I was just trying to help Carey out, Like, I don't know why he keeps texting me, and why he won't leave me alone". I don't know, does that resonate a little bit? Like just...

Yeah, I think it does. I think you're not gonna overstep your bounds. And again, I always try to ask very little, and offer a lot, whatever I can, to add benefit. I wanna talk to you, you mentioned earlier that earlier on, you burned out. And you've said before, and you talk about it in your book, "At Your Best," that burnout is an epidemic. And it's interesting as we look around today, I see more leaders hurting, limping, struggling, battling insecurity, fear, burnout, I think than I have in my whole kind of leadership experience. What do you think is different today, that's contributing to even more extreme challenges than in the past?

Yeah, I think a number of things. First of all, we have been through the hardest two years of our life, let's just call it for what it is. These have been really, super challenging years, no matter where you live on the planet. And in some cases, it's far more brutal, than it is in the West, as we're seeing. So we need to acknowledge that. But it was already bad in 2019 and earlier. People were stressed, people were burned out. Remember, in some of the research I did for, "At Your Best," I think in 2019, 70% of all 20 to 40 year olds said, "I can identify with symptoms of burnout in my life in the last year". So it's not just, "I've been leading for 20 years, and I'm tired".


This is happening to gen Z and millennials. Couple of things, we are processing so much more information than our parents or grandparents ever did. And there's a psychologist named Robin Dunbar, who makes the argument that people have the capacity, historically, in the way we were designed, the way we were created, to have about 150 friends, that's it. So, and he divides that into three circles. He says you can have three to five really close friends. They knew everything about you. 12 to 15 that you're pretty close with, they're in your backyard on a regular basis, you go to the lake with them, you hang out, you know a lot about their life, but they're not the most intimate friends. And then about 150 other people that you can kind of keep up with. If you still send Christmas cards, he says you send them Christmas cards. These are the people that are kinda in your circle. And beyond that, people just can't do it. And he traces that to everything from medieval villages, the size of the average medieval village, to yeah, to the way we devise the Army. Like you can't just have 5,000 soldiers marching off into something, they have to be in divisions and battalions, and so on. And he breaks it all down. And you look at what social media has done to our relational network. I doubt that there are too many people listening to this podcast that have fewer than 150 people following them on social. Add to that the fact that we used to go to the office, and now the office goes to you. So I burned out in 2006, and I didn't even have a smartphone. My Blackberry was kind of a dumb phone. You really had to work hard to get on the internet. And now it's like, everywhere you go, as you know, your devices just follow you, and the office goes to you. So it's nine o'clock at night, you're sitting down watching Netflix with your bride, or you're sitting down with your daughter to watch Disney+, and at work they're texting you about, "Hey, did you get that report in"? And then you keep the laptop open 'til 11 o'clock, and the first thing you do in the morning is you check your phone, and it's just too much. And then the deluge of bad news. Neil Postman wrote a fascinating book in the late '80s, early '90s, called, "Amusing Ourselves to Death". It's really hard to get. I listened to the audio book a couple of summers ago, and he makes the argument that in the middle of the 19th century, when all of a sudden news started coming in from around the world, our capacity to process that was breaking down. Now he died years ago, so I don't know what he would think moving beyond the television age, into the internet age, where I just look at my phone sometimes, I'm like, "I don't even know how to respond to all of this". Like it's too much. So I think all of that, and as a result, people are overwhelmed, over committed, and overworked, and we don't know what to do.

I agree, we don't know what to do. But I hope you have some answers for us, like it is, reading the news, I read three news sources a day, because I feel like I need to stay abreast of what's going on in the world. But I don't think it's good for my soul. It's just everything is toxic, both sides, liberal and conservative, it's so biased. It creates like a fear, panic, hatred, division. I mean, equally so, in my opinion.

I'm the same way, I have to limit my news intake.

Yes, and like... I'm leading a church, and now doing leadership, and plus a podcast, which wasn't possible years ago, plus trying to oversee people running four channels of social media. You know, there's so many extra things, and then the phone goes crazy. What do we do, like as leaders, give me a couple of things that I can do right now, not survive it, but to actually enjoy it?

Well, that's the goal, and my goal for the last 15 years has been, it's a simple line, I'll unpack it, live in a way today that will help you thrive tomorrow. Because in my 30s, I wasn't doing that. I was living in a way today that would help me struggle tomorrow, make me resent tomorrow, make me fail tomorrow. And after my burnout, it took me three to five years to figure out, okay, I need a new rhythm. I need a fundamentally different way of living and leading, 'cause I was overwhelmed, leading a fraction of what I'm leading today. Like, our church was big, it was one of the biggest in the denomination, fastest growing in the country in our denomination, but nothing compared to what I'm doing today. And so my capacity grew when I started to realize there's three primary assets all of us get handed everyday we're alive, time, energy, and priorities. And I had studied a lot about time management when I burned out, and it helped a little bit, but it makes you more efficient, it can't necessarily make you more effective. And then I started to pay attention to energy zones. So if you play along, I think I know some of the answer to this, because we know each other so well, but we all, and research shows this now, Cal Newport would agree, you have three to five productive hours in a day, that's it. And I would say, even if you're Craig Groeschel, and work out like a beast, and eat clean, like your energy, you write books, you write messages every week, like, what are your best hours of the day? I know you're a morning person, right? But can you put them on the clock for us? Like, would you say, "I'm best between"?

I will start one time a week super early, and almost embarrassingly early, so I don't wanna say the time. But I would say I'm best between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., in creating content.

Great, so 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. Is there a time of day where you're like, "Oh my goodness, I need some caffeine, or somebody please poke me to keep me awake," do you have that?

I actually do a real clean caffeine first part of the day. And then I do a second smaller dose around 11 o'clock. I don't like to do stuff in the afternoon, because I don't want it to follow me to bed. But yes, I work with what types of food I put in my body when, what types of liquid I put in my body, all to work toward the maximum production. And, you know, a lot of people would make fun of it, and say it's kind of silly, and maybe it is. But in my mind, if it gives me an edge, I think it's worth it.

But do you find if you're creating content, is there a time of day where you're like, "I really shouldn't be writing right now," where your brain's a little bit foggy, you're not quite as sharp, do you have that?

I don't do well afternoon, from noon on into the evening. That's a different gear for me.

Yep, okay, that's a great way to describe it. And so I divide the day into energy zones, green, yellow, and red. Green would be your 6:00 to 9:00 a.m., and for me, it's about 7 to 11. And you know, I'm glad I'm having this conversation with you, because I think a lot of us who know you and follow you, would say, "Well, if anyone's got like 12 peak hours in a day, it's gotta be Craig Groeschel," because of exactly what you said about clean caffeine, the way you care for your body, you're so regimented. But the reality is we're all human beings, like your energy waxes and wanes over the course of the day. And if you were starting your sermon at three o'clock in the afternoon, my guess is, it's not gonna be the message that you would get at 7:00 a.m. in the morning, if you were starting, is that fair?

Mhm, 100%.

And that means you're part of the human race, like all of us are. And for me, it's 7:00 to 11:00 a.m. is my green zone. Yours is six to nine. I drag my knuckles from four to six every afternoon. I've got a meeting today at four, it's a busy season. So I'm doing a meeting at four, and I'm like, "I hope I can stay awake, I hope I can stay focused". And we all have that, and so that's your red zone. I call that your red zone, you're really not at your best. And then everything else is yellow, it's in the middle. You're not at your best, you're not at your worst. And I ignored energy management for years, and for the last 15 years, and this is where the real productivity has soared, is I have tried to figure out what am I best at? And as a young leader, I thought I was great at everything. Now that I'm older, and maybe a tiny bit wiser, I realized I'm actually good at very few things. And content creation is one of them that I seem to have been gifted at. Holding great conversations, hopefully, is something that I'm relatively gifted at. And what I try to do is I do what I'm best at, when I'm at my best. And the way to ask that question in your own life, is what are you best at? And also what moves the needle? Like what, when you do it well, when is Life.Church at its best? When is a GLS at its best? And my guess is content creation. You go in there with a dud opening talk at the GLS, it's a struggle, so you've gotta invest time in that. And so ask yourself, and if you're in accounting, like, is it a really excellent P&L, where you've actually sorted through everything? Is it a whole new analysis, a report you need to develop? And what happens to most of us, Craig, is we don't think about energy management. We let priorities hijack our day, other people's priorities hijack our day. So three o'clock in the afternoon, we sit down to do our most important work, we do a bad job, we don't get it done. Then it creeps into family time. Then your day off isn't a day off anymore. And that's why we end up overwhelmed, over committed, and overworked.

That's brilliant, Carey, In fact, I did a whole episode on, you know, we tend to think manage your time, but maybe even a better strategy is manage your energy. And what I'm gonna do is in the show notes that we send out, the leader guide, I'll have a link to that episode on managing your energy.

That was a great episode.

I love the way.

I love the way, thank you, that you break it into different times of the day. And then another level for me is different times of the week, meaning like I do meetings and decisions later in the week, because I like to have the content creation done. And then I'm able to go fully into another gear. If you're coming in, asking me to make decisions, or be in some kind of meeting, when my content creation isn't done, my mind's not clear. And so I would even challenge a leader, let's think of the red, yellow, green zones in a day. And let's also think of it during the week. So what matters most? And at what times do you do it best? If you can nail those things, then you can not necessarily work longer, but you can work more effectively, and there's more joy in it. And so that'll keep you from burning out over time.

Can I try to explain, just put some language around what you just said, because I don't want leaders to lose the point. So there's a guy named David Allen, who wrote a book called, "Getting Things Done". He talks about open loops. And what you just said is so important, Craig, 'cause you do create content. You're like me, if your content isn't done, you're not done. And if it's done poorly, you're not gonna be very present at dinner that night. So what you just said is so critical, because if you are making all your decisions on Monday, Tuesday, and your writing is hanging over your head, the book chapter's hanging over your head, your keynote talk is hanging over your head, that's an open loop. And in the back of the mind, whether you're thinking about it or not, you're going, "I gotta get that talk done. I gotta get that talk done, like get me out of this meeting. Or can we just call this off"? You go home and you're like, "Oh, I still got that talk to write on Thursday". By inverting it, or prioritizing it the way you did, when that talk is done, and you know that is the biggest thing that you're responsible for that week, or that strategic planning is done, you're free to focus, that loop is closed, and you don't have to worry about it. So that is such an important point.

I wanna add too, because I know there are a lot of people that will be listening that don't create content, but do lead. And sometimes people, they look on at pastors, and would say, "The sermon is the most important part of the week". And I would say it would be the most important, for spiritual impact, but as far as the organization goes, it's often not the most important thing, meaning, and I tell a lot of preachers that, "You don't need to work on your preachership, as much as your leadership". And so the content creation really does matter. But what I also wanna do is, you can have great communicators, but if you don't have great systems, and great communities of care, and great culture and great people, then the preaching doesn't create the organization. Same in businesses, the product doesn't create a great business. The business is the great business. And so we have to do is we don't... Content is what I do, leadership is what makes the organization. And so there're gonna be business leaders right now, you don't create content, but you are managing customer service relation issues, or you're trying to strategize, whatever. And I think it was Gerber, in his book, "The E-Myth Revisited," which everybody should read, it talks about you don't just work in your business, you work on your business. And I think that's... We need to do, we need to be in the content, or whatever the content is for us. And then there are times we need to be above it, working on it. And I think you do that well. I wanna ask you about this, Carey, preachers will say things like, "God has a wonderful plan for your life". I always joke around and say, "Other people have a wonderful plan for your life, and they want your time all the time," especially as your business grows, your podcast, your influence grows, whatever. How do you manage the volume of outside initiatives coming to you? Would you speak, would you write, would you be on my podcast? Would you come here? Would you do this fundraiser? Every leader has their version of that. How do you handle all of the incoming asks? What do you do with those?

Yeah, well, there's a system for it. And I just wanna say to those who are not in a church context, and there's a lot of you, I was in law before, and this is true. Your priorities will get hijacked by everybody else. You're prepping for court the next day. And somebody's got this urgent fire, this thing they've gotta figure out. And so what you wanna do is you really want to focus on your most important tasks, whether that's recruiting new clients, whether that is, you know, just pick what is most important for you. It could be aligning your team. I know if my team is aligned around a common mission, and vision, and strategy, everything goes better. So I spent a lot of my time doing that. But nobody's emailing you saying, "Craig, I'm gonna cancel my lunch with you, so that you can better, more fully align your senior leadership team," okay?

Correct, right.

Yeah, or so that you can go and reach new people. Nobody's doing that. They're saying, "Craig, I'm in town, do you wanna have lunch with me"? "Craig, do you wanna do this"? And I get that too. And you don't have to be in leadership long for the opportunities available to exceed the time available. So you're exactly right. If you don't decide ahead of time, how to use your time, somebody else will. And that's where the value of a fixed calendar comes in. So what I started adopting, a number of years ago, well, it's over a decade ago now, is I'd take my green zone and I block it off, and I make an appointment with myself, so time blocking. And so every day, if you look at my calendar, you can say, "Carey, what are you doing in March of 2023"? I can look ahead two years, because it's the same every week, we're creatures of habit. I've already got appointments in there, and Monday mornings says writing, and Tuesday mornings says strategic planning, and Wednesday mornings says content creation. And then the afternoon is like podcast interviews. Your life is a series of repeating patterns, and you can fight that, or you can cooperate with it. And I would suggest cooperating with it. And then when you ask me, "Hey, Carey, two Mondays from now, are you free too"? I can look at my calendar and go, "Actually, I'm not". Now, I don't have a meeting on the calendar, but I have a meeting with myself. I've time blocked that time available. And I may have one or two slots to do outside stuff during the course of the week. And so that's one way to deal with it, is that already gets rid of it. But then you've got the task of, well, now I got 10 things that are requesting my time, 10 requests that have come in. So a couple thoughts on that, number one, you need to learn how to say no nicely. And I'm Canadian, so we're kind of like Switzerland, okay, we're neutral. And most of the people I work with are in the U.S., but I happen to live in Canada. And it's just like, "Thank you so much, I would be honored to be a part of it, and honored that you would ask. However, in light of my current commitments, I'm not able to do that, I'm so sorry". Don't say, "Maybe another time," unless you really mean maybe another time, because a lot of people will circle back and say, "How's this month"? And maybe you're not gonna do it this month either. So I think you need to learn to say no nicely. The other thing that's really powerful is categorical decision-making. And that's a term I use to describe to all the things that you've decided to do, and not do, ahead of time. So I got a request, I was looking at it with my assistant this afternoon. It was to do, a company wanted me to come in, and they wanted me to talk to their employees. Well, I could do that, but it was sort of like open to the general public, more kind of thing. I'd rather spend time with leaders. So we kinda know, well, I don't do general audiences as a rule. I tend to do leaders. Now I spoke at South by Southwest a couple of years ago, that was an automatic yes, because you get some of the most influential leaders in tech, in the arts and film together. And that was a great opportunity. So I already decided what audiences I'm gonna speak to, what audiences I'm not gonna speak to. When I was a pastor, when I started as a pastor, I decided I didn't do weddings. And that sounds really counterintuitive, but you know what happens in a large church, Craig, every Saturday in your future is gone, and suddenly you don't know your children. So other people could do weddings. We had an outsource referral system for that. And I would make exceptions. If you were my EA, or you were in my family, I'd do your wedding. And if that seems unfair, fine, come on board as my EA, or join my family, and maybe I'll do your wedding, right? So you have those categorical decisions, whether it's, I don't do breakfast meetings, I don't do weekend meetings, I don't do whatever. You make those decisions, a lot of that is made for you, and then if you're nice and saying the no, but firm, that's how you weed that stuff out. You also have to know what adds value. The mistake, I'll leave this answer, 'cause the biggest section of the is actually on this, Craig, I thought it would be, I should say something about priorities, and it turns out to be three chapters. You will spend, by nature, most of your time with the people who produce the fewest results for you. So most leaders naturally spend time with the bottom 20%, the guy who's always late, the person who never performs, the person who misses their target, the person who causes all the drama on staff. Come on in my office, sit down, have a conversation. And so you have a conversation. You think you've made a difference, and next week, the problem isn't any better. So you invite them into your office. And what you should do is stop making room in your life for people who, what John Townsend says, "Have a flat learning curve". They're just, I'm not helping them, clearly maybe somebody else is, but I can't help them. Cut that out of your life, and then spend 80% of your people time with your top performers. And what you'll discover is your top performers never ask for time with you. They're out there crushing it. And if you're saying, "Hey, Craig, do you wanna have lunch? I'd love just to catch up with you, no agenda. I just wanna build into you, and spend some time," you leave feeling energized, they leave feeling energized, and they lean in a little bit harder, because they love the time they get with you. So that's one way to reallocate your time, and keep your priorities from being hijacked.

This is so, so, so good. And I think that section in the book is worth the cover price over 10 times. It's just, it's so helpful. And I think, just to kinda be clear, in the early years of whatever you're doing, you're gonna have to say yes a lot. Like if people are asking you, "Can you help"? "Would you," whatever, your answer better be, "Yes, I'm here hungry to learn". But the longer you lead, and the more influence you have, if you continue saying yes to everything from the outside, then you're never gonna be able to say yes to the most important priorities. And I would say the more you wanna do, the more your default almost has to be a no. And that's not unloving, that's strategic. And the way I'm gonna love the most people is by saying no to the things that would take me away from doing what serves the most people. And, so no almost becomes a default. And no's a complete sentence, a lot of times people say, "You have to give a long why". A firm no is a lot better than a wishy-washy no, it's just a, "No, that doesn't work, I'm sorry". If you wanna do a lot, you wanna initiate almost everything that goes onto your schedule, and not respond to it, because if you're always responding and not initiating, then you're gonna be following other people's agenda, and not creating the environment, or the culture, or the product, or the ministry that is inside of you. So, I, super grateful for, I've learned from you over the years. I wanna ask you one more big question about the book, and then I'm gonna get into a little lightning round, just for fun with you. But you've written several books, and every time you write a book, I know, most people wouldn't know this, but it's often born out of personal struggles. And then you kinda have some aha moments along the way, or even after the book, where you go, "Oh, now I see this, I wish I'd put that in there". In your book, "At Your Best," what was your biggest takeaway that you got out of it, that you learned either writing it, or afterwards where you said, "I am different as a leader today, because of something I learned, something I wrote, or something I discovered along the way in the writing process".

Because I had done time and energy management for so many years, that was a lot of codifying what was in there. I think my biggest surprise was the priority section. And you're right, as your audience grows, as your influence grows, as your responsibility grows, the inbound just gets almost unmanageable. Like it's, I never would have guessed it. So it was the priority section. And I'm paraphrasing Greg McKeown here, who wrote a great book years ago called, "Essentialism," another must read, I've been heavily influenced by what Greg has to say, and he was a big influence in my life. And he says, "Carey, when you're looking at requests, if it's not a nine, it's a zero". And even now, because what's happening to me with the rapid growth of the platform, podcast, and everything like that, is what was a good decision last year, isn't a good decision this year. So it seemed like a really good decision, and I'm making those decisions in advance. So when I was writing the priority section, I was really like taking notes for myself. And I'm going back to my team saying, "Hold me accountable to this," because I want to say yes to everything. Like I really kinda do, that is my default. I would love to help everybody who asks, and I can't. And Greg McKeown's, "If it's not a nine, it's a zero," is really good. And I was saying yes to a lot of sevens and eights, you know, it's not hard to say no to a 2 out of 10, but when it's an 8 out of 10, or a 7 out of 10, that's really kind of gray, if it's not a nine, it's a zero. And of course the people who always pay the price of your overcommitment, are the people you care about the most. My wife pays the biggest price, my kids pay the biggest price, my friends do, and ultimately, so do I. And so that's how I kind of schooled myself, as I was writing the book. It's like, you need to do a better job of this.

"If it's not a nine, it's a zero". So many leaders I think would say, "Can you do something"? And then they ask, "Well, can I"? Rather than, "Should I".

Yeah, yeah.

And that's a good way of looking at it. Well, let's have a little bit of fun, and I'm gonna ask you just a bunch of questions, rattle them off, and you can respond as quickly, or even as silly as you want to. But what's your biggest pet peeve, lightning round, question one, pet peeve?

Leaders who tell me how busy they are.

Leaders who tell you how busy...

And as Seth Godin says, "Peeves make bad pets," but I thought that was really funny.

That's a good one, the answer is not more time, but more of what matters most. Best band or musical artist from the 1980s, in your opinion is?

This is a hard one, those are my college years. I'm gonna say New Order, for 200 please, Alex.

I can't even tell you a single New Order song, but I'm glad you liked them.

Were you into...


Were you into metal, I gotta ask you, what's your favorite '80s band?

No, no, I was kind of, I was probably drunk most of the '80s, so...

It's kind of a blur.

I was into Outfield and Eagles, and stuff like that, okay.

All the Eagles are great.

Yeah, biggest personal leadership insecurity that you still face today?

Ah, that's a hard one, so I'm being really vulnerable here, I think, still feeling like I don't belong.

Still feeling like you don't belong. So that would speak to a lot of people right now, even when you are doing a lot, you still face leadership insecurities, we all do. Is there a discipline that you've adopted recently that's making a big difference in your life?

I am deeply inspired by your fitness routine, and while I'm not lifting as much as I should be, or at all, I have extended my rides just a little bit longer. So I'll bike, I think I biked 2,500 kilometers last year. That's about like 1,700 miles. So what I've done is I've just added, 'cause you know, my friends do epic rides, I just added 5k to the average ride, and it adds up over time.

That would add up over time. Do you have a favorite interview that you've done over all the years on the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast?

Well, other than Craig Groeschel...

That's what you?

Who's been on many times...

Perfect answer, excluding...

It's a tie, can I do a tie?


Gordon McDonald, and Adam Grant. Gordon McDonald's been on a few times. He's in his 80s now, so much wisdom. And then Adam Grant's conversation just blew me away. It was so much fun.

So I did hear the Gordon McDonald one. And I agree, that one was a powerful, I don't think I've heard the Adam Grant one. Now, last question, is there a favorite leadership quote that you embrace?

Winston Churchill, "Success is moving from failure to failure, without loss of enthusiasm".

Very good, very good. Well, I wanna say again, just a thank you on multiple levels. I've enjoyed growing in my leadership from your content and your friendship. And your investment on our podcast is gonna be great. I'm excited to introduce some of our community that wouldn't know you, to you. And I wanna highlight your book again, "At Your Best: How to Get Time, Energy, & Priorities Working in Your Favor," by Carey N-I-E-U-W-H-O-F, pronounced Neehoff, Newhoff, Neewhof, all sorts of things, Nieuwhof is the right way.

We say, you call me Nieuwhof, that's what most people call me, yeah. Nieuwhof, you got it.

It's a fantastic book. You also have a free masterclass, I believe?

True story, yeah, I learned that from a good friend of mine. He said, "Masterclasses are the way to go". And so we do, we shot it in Toronto, invested quite a bit in it. Think of it as a video companion and guide to the book. And if you order now, you can get it for free. So that's happening, and we also have some other bonuses, including a burnout test. If you wanna see whether you are burned out or not, you can go to, but you can find everything over at, and that's where you can find the masterclass too.

Excellent, well, and then we'll link to your different resources in the leader guide. And I wanna say a big thank you to our leadership community for being with us. We do drop a new podcast on the first Thursday of each month. I would encourage you to rate, or write a review, wherever you consume the content. That'll help get more leader's exposure to the content, which we believe will be helpful. Also, if you find this interview to be valuable, would you share it on social media? Tag Carey, and tag me. I know Carey will repost some of them as I will, to help other people see as well. And if you don't get the Leader Guide yet, go to, give us your email. We'll link to all of Carey's content. And we'll also give you some other content that can be helpful to you as well. And then we'll see you on the first Thursday of every month. Let's continue to grow in our leadership, because everyone wins when the leader gets better.
Are you Human?:*