Craig Groeschel - Four Tiers of Efficiency
Let's dive into new content today. And I'll start with a statement that I know is true about you. Here's what's most likely true about every single one of you as a leader is this, you very likely feel overwhelmed with too much to do. You feel like there's not enough hours in the day. There's so many people that want your attention, there's so many tasks that need your time. You've got emails to return, meetings to attend, people to call, reviews to write, presentations to make and that's just the easy stuff. Then there's the more difficult tasks of leadership. You've got very complicated decisions to make. You've got direction to determine for your organization. This can be grueling. You might have a tough conversation to have with a team member. You might be trying to clean up a toxic culture. You might be closing a department. You might be letting a staff member go. There's someone that you really, really care about.
On top of all of this stuff, you've got a personal life as well. You might have a spouse and children that needs you, and you're constantly in your leadership fighting to balance all of the competing demands. No matter how hard you work as a leader, you very likely feel like you never have enough time and there's never enough of you to go around. So what do we do? Well, let's start with what we know about leadership. What do we know? What's one of the top tasks for every leader? One of our primary responsibilities as leaders is this, what do leaders do? Leaders focus attention and activity toward a desired result. If we could boil it down to one sentence, one of the most important sentences would be, this is your top responsibility; leaders focus attention and activity toward a desired result.
So as a leader, one of your primary responsibilities is to direct attention. Unfortunately, the most challenging attention to direct is often your own, right? Why is it difficult to direct your own attention? Well, you've got so many things to do, so much feels urgent. People are saying, can you respond now? Can you get this done? You've gotta move quickly, we need this as soon as possible. And the problem with all you have to do is this, what's urgent, generally screams louder than what's important, right? Whatever's urgent, people are screaming, "We need this now"! What's urgent always screams louder than what's important. And the problem is if you're always responding to what's urgent, you will inevitably sacrifice what's important. Let me say it again, in your organization most of the time whatever's urgent is screaming louder than what's important. And if you're always responding to what's urgent, you'll inevitably sacrifice what's important.
In fact, you may be familiar with Dwight D. Eisenhower's quote when he said this, he said, "I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important". And then he said, "The urgent are not important, and the important are not urgent". Now, this may not be true a 100% of the time, but who might've argue with Eisenhower, but it is true the vast majority of the time. If you're always responding to what's urgent, you'll sacrifice the important. And that's why, what I wanna do today is talk to you about what I call your four tiers of effectiveness. This can be a game changer in your leadership, in your team and in your organization. It's now common language in our organization is a term I came up with and what I wanna do is give you a brief history or an overview of how I came up with the phrase and this concept. And then I'm gonna show you how I apply it to my leadership. And then I wanna help you determine your four tiers of effectiveness.
So here's the story behind this phrase and this idea. My personal office team had been overwhelmed for quite some time. I've got three world class leaders who serve in my office, and these are ladies who have run businesses and could run big businesses if they were on their own. And almost all of us had been working nonstop, grinding it out with crazy long hours. And what we came to recognize is that the increasing demands on our office had outgrown our ability to affect effectively manage it and perhaps in your leadership, your organization, you might be able to relate. And so we essentially had two options in my office. One was to expand our team, to add another person. And if you know my philosophy, I'm gonna fight against adding headcount as often as I can. I'd rather be a little bit too lean than overstaffed. I like the efficiency, I like to move quickly, I like simplicity and so that's not my favorite option. We'll do it when it's necessary. But option one was expand our team or option two is, we can redefine our priorities. Whenever you feel overwhelmed, essentially, you can add team members or you can redefine priorities.
And so what we did is I got together with my team and we had a working session. We had a big white board and I was just kind of off the top of my head brainstorming. And I wrote down, let's just call it tiers of effectiveness. And I've said, let's say tier number one. And I put down the phrase, tier one is gonna be any activity that's absolutely mission critical. Tier one is mission critical. In other words, if we don't do tier one activities, the boat doesn't float. This must be done, there are no options. Then I wrote down tier two. And I just kind of came up with a phrase. This would be an activity that's very important and strategic. It's not mission critical is very important and strategic. A tier two activity, it matters a lot, but it's not mission critical. It's very important, it matters to us, but if it doesn't get done the plane won't crash. It's tier two, it's very important and strategic.
So tier one is absolutely mission critical. Tier two is very important and strategic. Tier three is going to be meaningful, but not vital. It's meaningful, but it's not strategic. In other words, we'd like to do this, it's important to us, but nothing significant would be lost if we don't. Tier three is meaningful, but not essential. Tier one, absolutely mission critical. Tier two, very important and strategic. Tier three, meaningful but not vital. Tier four is we call, externally initiated and lower priority. This is an outside ask. It's externally initiated. It may be meaningful, it may not, but not only is it not vital, but this is not our idea. This is someone outside of our office, or even outside of our organization that externally initiated an ask. Its something someone else from the outside wants us to do.
Now, this is really important, before we dive into your four tiers of effectiveness, what I want you to do is I want you to, at some point pause and take note of what you normally do during the week. I want you to list an exhaustive list of all the different activities that you perform in your leadership. What I promise you is it might feel tedious, but I want you to try to list everything that you do. And the key is don't think a lot about it. Don't obsess about it. Just start writing, start typing on your phone and write down an exhaustive list of everything you'd think of that you do during a normal week. What do I do? I did this exercise and I just typed into my phone and this is my unedited list off the top of my head of what I do in my leadership.
And I'll go quickly, I don't want to bore you with this but, here's a list of what I do in a typical work season. I have message preparation, I do a lot of preaching. I coach our top leaders. I lead certain meetings. I oversee the board. I write content for and produce a Craig Groeschel leadership podcast, I might appear on other people's podcasts, occasionally. I visit Life Church locations, we have 35 of them. I go to as many of them in a year as I can. I coach our communicators, I do pastoral care. I'll visit hospitals, I'll follow up with certain people. I meet with key leaders inside our church. I meet with key leaders from outside our church. I mentor some senior pastors. I do round tables for leaders. I help oversee the budget of our church. I dive into a deep dashboard for our whole organization once a month. This is very important I look at all the different numbers. I offer leadership direction for the church.
I typically write about one book a year. I help lead the Global Leadership Network and speak annually at the Global Leadership Summit. I speak at some business conferences and some ministry conferences. I coach team members. I welcome new staff members. I approved social media that goes up, I write endorsements. I respond to letters, emails, text, just like you. I do lots and lots of videos. I'll shoot videos for Life group, content for church campuses, for other pastors. I might do a dozen or more a week. And then I plan upcoming message series. And then on my list, I put I decline, I decline, I decline, I decline, I decline, a lot of external asks. There is a real quick overview of the types of things that I do.
Now, of all the things I do, what do you think is tier one? What is absolutely mission critical? What I did is I took our whole staff through this exercise and I asked them, of my responsibilities, what do you think is absolutely mission critical? Now, why did I do this exercise with our team? And I'll tell you why. If it's hard for us as leaders to strategically direct our attention, how much more difficult do you think it is for our team members to direct their attention? What I wanna do is model how I focus my attention and give them example so they can better focus their attention and activity toward the right and desired results. I asked them, what do you think I do that's absolutely mission critical? And what they said is, well, the leadership podcast and I had to respond, that's actually not mission critical. It's important, I value it, It reaches a lot of people, but it is not mission critical. They said, visit other Life Church locations.
Again, it's important, but that's not tier one. They said coach communicators. And I said again, not tier one, lead meetings, actually no. I can empower others to lead meeting, do a deep dive in the dashboards, that's very important to me, but it's actually not mission critical. Someone else can oversee those numbers. Tier one, for me, essentially boils down to two different things. It would be weekend messages and leadership direction for the church. Those are my tier one priorities. Actually weakened messages could be debatable because the truth is I can have other people preach for me. The one thing that no one else can do for me, that is tier one, absolutely mission critical is I offered the leadership direction for our organization. Now you might say, Oh my gosh, okay Craig, that's not very many responsibilities. You're not very important 'cause you're not doing a lot of things that really matter.
And here's what I want you to remember, your importance isn't measured by how much you do, but by how much what you do matters. Boom, let me say it again. Absorb this, let it sink in. Your importance is not measured by how much you do, but by how much what you do matters. If you're gonna try to put on tier one more than five different responsibilities, you're putting way too many. There's not that many mission critical things for you as a leader. If you're doing too many things, you're compromising your ability to do the most important things well. What I want you to do is try to nail down what would be the top two, three, four, maybe five things that you do that would be absolutely mission critical. Tier two, this is gonna be whatever's very important and strategic. For me, the podcast is gonna be tier two. Training campus pastors, tier two. Deep dive into the dashboards, tier two.
Tier three is meaningful, but not vital. This is gonna be me producing Life fruit videos. I like it, but the church can survive without it. Approving social media. It's important that it extends the reach, but it's not vital. The church isn't going to go down if I'm not active on social media. Welcoming new staff members. I love it, but it's not vital. Round tables, et cetera. Tier four, this is really where you're gonna wanna look because so often so much of our attention goes to tier four, which should be our lowest priority. This is externally initiated and lower priority. For you, what I'm guessing is there are a lot of tier four activities demanding your attention. This is everyone else's agenda for your time and your attention. This is meet with somebody who wants to meet with you. This is responding to a letter or an email or a call or text. Someone wants you to hear their idea, listen to their presentation, promote their whatever it is, be on their podcast. For me, it's endorsed their book, or pray at a game or speak at chapel, or go to dinner with someone who wants me to go to dinner. Or one time I was actually asked to pray and dedicate someone's puppies, true story of which I had to decline.
Tier four is something that's externally initiated, it's a lower priority and typically demands a response. And the keyword here is response. Here's what you have to understand as a leader, please, please, please, please, please hear me. As a leader, you will never maximize your effectiveness by responding to other people's priorities. Let me say it again. I want you to hear this. I want you to feel it. I want you believe it, I want you to internalize. I wants you to live it. As a leader, you will never maximize your effectiveness by responding to other people's priorities. This doesn't mean you don't care about them. You do, you care about people, but you don't let lower tier activities rob you from higher tier effectiveness. What are you gonna do? As a leader, you're gonna rank your priorities, where you put your attention, you determine what's important and you do first What matters most. Whatever is absolutely essential and mission critical, that's what you attack first.
Now here's my hunch, and just based on a lot of experience, working with people as leaders, my hunch is, if you're like most leaders that I know, and if you're like me and my team of assistants, is you have many lower tier activities robbing you of higher tier priorities. Let me say it again if you're like most leaders I know, you've got lower tier activities that are robbing you from higher tier priorities. It sounds obvious, but the reason it happens is because you've never clarified your top tier priorities. You haven't put down, you haven't discussed. you haven't said here's what's most important. And so that's what we did with my team in my office is we prioritized everything that we do. And we just determined if it's tier four, it's gonna be a no for now. If it's tier three, it's a probably not. If it's a tier two, it's a probably yes. The only thing that is a firm direct yes, in this very chaotic season that we're all in right now is tier one, tier one, tier one, tier one, tier one.
Question for you, is it possible that you or your team, maybe you've got some direct reports, is it possible that you or your team is overlooking a top tier priority? Chances are it's very possible. Now, why does this matter so much? It matters more than I can just describe to you because if you don't decide, what's most important, other people will decide for you. And here's the challenge. What's urgent to them will crowd out what's important to you. What's urgent to someone on the outside will crowd out what's most important for the mission of your organization. Now here's something to remember, tier one, absolutely mission critical. Tier one activities drive missional outcomes. Tier one activities, this drives the mission of whatever you wanna do. That's the benefit. But the problem is this, tier one is usually longer term based. And here's the challenge. That's the reason tier one priorities are harder to focus on because the rewards are generally delayed. The tier three and tier four things, they feel more urgent and they scream the loudest. Just because they're loud doesn't mean that their the most important.
So as a leader, what you're gonna do is you're gonna determine I'm not gonna dare let a lower tier priority rob me from a higher tier impact. We don't change the world doing tier three and tier four activities. So as a leader, you determine, you look at it. This is mission critical. This is strategic. This is important. And we're gonna determine what's most important and we're gonna do first what matters most. So remember what's urgent, almost always screams louder than what's important. If you're always responding to what's urgent, you'll inevitably sacrifice what's important. You may think, oh my gosh, I'm only doing like tier one and tier two things. I'm not that important. Remember, your importance is not measured by how much you do, but by how much what you do matters. As leaders, that's why we're initiating more than we are responding. As a leader, You'll never maximize your effectiveness by responding to other people's priorities, so we're not going to let lower tier activities rob us from higher tier effectiveness. What do we do, we're reviewing right now. You determine what's most important, and you do first what matters most.
Let's dive into some application questions. This is where the rubber meets the road. We don't just hear teaching, we apply it, and we change our organizations in our impact. Application questions and assignment, number one, you know what it is, document what you do on a normal week. That's your assignment. Again, don't labor over this. Just get started, let it flow, write everything down you can think of, just get it recorded. Number two, I'd like to encourage you to categorize what you do into four tiers. You may do this with your team, if you've got a team like I do, you may come together and say, let's look at what we're doing as a team. And again, you're gonna categorize all your tasks, all your responsibilities, your activities into four tiers. And again, I'm gonna review. Number one, is absolutely mission critical. Tier two is very important and strategic. Tier three is meaningful, but not vital. And tier four is externally initiated and lower priority.
So number one document what you do. Two, categorize it into four tiers, and number three, ask yourself this, what lower tier priorities are robbing you from a higher tier priorities? What lower tier activities are robbing you from a higher tier priority? And then you wanna answer this question, what are you gonna do about it? What are you gonna do about it? In my office, we've eliminated a big percentage of what we normally did because those activities were falling in lower tiers. What we're doing is we're focusing our limited energy, our limited resources into the places that bring a missional outcome. You're a leader. You're the only one who can do this.
Prioritize, determine what's most important and do first what matters most. I promise you, if you do that your team will see it, they'll model, and suddenly you'll be creating more value, you'll be reaching more people and you'll be making an even bigger difference. I wanna tell you thank you so much for being a part of our community. I'll remind you to subscribe to this content. If it's helpful, please share it with others. Share on social media. Watch out for a new teaching on the first Thursday of every month and watch out, little hint, for some bonus episodes coming soon. I know we all feel so much pressure, especially in this complicated time. Let's take the pressure off. As a leader, just come in, be you. You don't have to get it right every time, you don't have to know it all, you don't have to be perfect. Just be yourself. We say it all the time because people would rather follow a leader who's always real than one who's always right.