Avoiding Burnout & Mastering Productivity with Leadership Expert Carey Nieuwhof
This week we sit down with leadership expert, speaker, author, and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof to discuss his new book At Your Best.
Carey is a best-selling leadership author, speaker, podcaster, and former attorney. He writes one of today’s most influential leadership blogs, and his online content is accessed by leaders over 1.5 million times a month.
Carey’s mission is to help people thrive in life and leadership. He has extensive experience helping organizations lead through change, develop high-capacity teams, deepen their personal growth along with their health. He speaks to leaders around the world about leadership, change, and personal growth.
His most recent book, At Your Best: How to Get Time, Energy, and Priorities Working in Your Favor, is designed to help you live a life you no longer want to escape from. Instead, you might actually start loving it.
Carey and his wife, Toni, live north of Toronto, Canada and have two grown sons.
The views, information, or opinions expressed during this show are solely those of the participants involved and do not necessarily represent those of SouthState Bank and its employees.
Intro: Helping community bankers grow themselves, their team, and their profits. This is the Community Bank Podcast.
Erik Bagwell: Welcome to the community bank podcast, Eric Bagwell, director of sales and marketing for the correspondent division of south state bank, and joining me, Caleb Stevens, Caleb’s a business development officer, and helps us out on the podcast. Caleb, what’s going on, man?
Caleb Stevens: I’m doing great. We released our show with Rennie Kern last week. I remember we were saying if the dogs lost to Florida, we would have to rerecord the intro and they won. So, we got to release it as is. So, dogs, number one, Braves won the world series. So, it’s a great time to be In Georgia.
Erik Bagwell: Do we want to make a prediction on any upcoming games or anything. (Cross-talking 00:46)
Caleb Stevens: I’ve learned to not, you know, I’ve learned I’ve been burned too many times, so.
Erik Bagwell: You’re right. We’ll steer away from that. Well, listen today on the podcast, we got a great, episode. Caleb did an interview with Carey Nieuwhof. Carey is an author speaker. He’s got a very large podcast. I think you said it’s one of the largest ones in the world.
Caleb Stevens: One of the largest, especially leadership, maybe the largest leadership podcast in the world over 20 million downloads. He is out of Toronto. but interviews people from all over the map, marketing business, nonprofit bunch of different sectors. I would encourage our folks to go out and listen to it. I think he puts out a show once or twice a week and really good content, a good deal.
Erik Bagwell: It’s called the Carey Nieuwof, Leadership Podcast. So, check that out. listen, we really appreciate you guys tuning in. We still are getting a lot of folks reaching out to us, letting us know that you enjoy the podcast, continue to do that. We’re glad to listen to this one. So, let’s go straight to the interview.
Caleb Stevens: Well, Carey, thanks for joining us in the community to make a podcast today. How are you doing?
Carey Nieuwof: I’m doing great Caleb, it’s an honor to be on with you. Thanks so much.
Caleb Stevens: Well, I have to say, I love the fact that you have an in-studio, nice microphone. We interview a lot of guests on this show and sometimes it’s just fingers crossed that you are in your kitchen and its echo and it’s loud. So, I feel like I’m sitting right across the table from you in person. So, thanks.
Carey Nieuwof: If I was one floor up, it would be bouncing in echo because I’m directly under my kitchen, but yeah. You know what, like I’ve been running a podcast for my basement for about seven years.
Caleb Stevens: It’s an awesome podcast. I mean, I can’t tell you how many shows I’ve listened to probably over the last four, five years I would say. But for folks who are listening, this may be their first introduction to all things, Carey Nieuwof so, give us just a quick flyover of your career.
Carey Nieuwof: Yeah, well you are in the business world and that’s kind of where I started. I was a lawyer. Very briefly went to law school, worked for a year in downtown Toronto of the bar, but felt a call into ministry. So went to seminary and then for 20 years led some churches north of Toronto, which eventually became Conexus church. I’m the founding pastor there about five years ago, six years ago, shifted lanes a little bit in this hobby that I had been doing to build into leaders. So, writing a blog, speaking, writing books, podcasting that’s become the main thing I do. So that’s what I do these days.
Caleb Stevens: Have you ever thought about writing a book on career transitions? Because if so, I would love to read it.
Carey Nieuwof: I was doing in my bio the other day and I’m like, there’s a lot of farmers here. Like a former lawyer. I could add former radio host former, I don’t know. But yeah, you know, it’s interesting. I, I have a theory about that, which is that leadership has a really good five to seven-year run. I find for a lot of entrepreneurs, we’re good. Like you have the startup phase and then you go into like year five and hopefully you’ve hit a peak and then you either go into decline or you reinvent yourself. So, the reinventing myself, some of that was definitely called like a call to ministry. But then as a person of faith, I definitely felt that, but even our churches went through transitions. We started with three little churches, sold the buildings, then built a new building and then exited a nomination and became Conexus church and then built a building there. And then started here and it’s been seven years running this company. Well, five really since I stepped away from day-to-day ministry, but we’re going through a big transition next year again, too. So, there you go. (Cross talking 04:22). I think maybe this will keep going till my time on earth is done. I don’t know.
Caleb Stevens: There you go. Well, I think that’s really encouraging just to see how you’ve had success at each stop in your career. Because I think a lot of people could look at their career path and say, man, on paper, this looks like a zigzag, but in my head, it all makes sense that there were some transferable skills, even though it’s not a linear path, you know, a lot of times people think I need to come out of college, get my CPA, work in the accounting firm and work all the way for 40 years to I’m a partner and there’s your career path. But for a lot of us, especially the younger leaders listening it does look like a zigzag. So, it’s encouraging to see that hey, just because you start out in the law, you may end up somewhere else, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re clueless along the way.
Carey Nieuwof: I think that’s true. I had a friend Todd Wilson who helped me trace this out a few years ago, but what is the common denominator between law and ministry and podcasting and radio, and what it has been for me. I think again, as a person of faith, this is the lens I’d give its communication. Radio was communication. My favorite part of the law was arguing in court. The favorite part of my job as a lead pastor was communication and vision casting and preaching. What am I doing now while I’m writing books and I’m speaking and I’m podcasting and that’s all communication? So, I guess I’m probably designed as a communicator and it’s had different expressions and different seasons of my life.
Caleb Stevens: Find a common theme as you go.
Carey Nieuwof: My guess is like, you’re pretty young, you’re starting out, but I bet you a decade from now, there’ll be some zigs and zig, and when you look back, you got to find that one thread that kind of went through the whole thing. And that can be a clue to your future because, at this point, I’m in my mid-fifties, I love getting up. Like this is my retirement project. I love getting up in the morning and doing what I get to do. There are very few days where I’m like well actually there are no days where I’m like, I should just be on a beach. Like, no, I, I love this. Like I, I love being able to make a difference. I think that’s the passion part of it because I think if had I stayed in law for 40 years or stayed in ministry beyond my shelf life it would’ve gotten stale and then when your leadership gets stale, guess who pays the price? Well, you do, your family does, but your organization does because if your leadership is stale, you’re never going to be taking it to where it could go.
Caleb Stevens: Well, I mean, speaking of that, you almost burnt out, I guess you did burn out back in the mid, (Cross talking 06:42).
Carey Nieuwof: I did a good job. I burned all the way out.
Caleb Stevens: Yeah. Well, give us that story cause that’s kind of the whole crux and the starting point for this discussion today is your new book at your best, how to leverage time, energy, and priorities and get them working in your favor. So, give us that backstory Carey of almost burning out that’s you hear that word? I know every listener listening right now says, I can relate to that in some form or fashion either personally, or I know somebody.
Carey Nieuwof: I think you’re true. It is an epidemic. I mean, we’re in an epidemic, but that is an epidemic. So, for me, this is the way it worked. I spent all of my twenties in school because ministry came up a little bit later. I was in the middle of my law studies at the time and it’s like, okay, well I’ll do ministry, but involve going to seminary. So, I really started work when I was 30, 31 for about a decade, it was pedaled to the metal. Just go, go, go, go. My formula for success. We saw a lot of growth in our church was not a good one. It was more growth equals more hours. I think for a lot of us, right? Like if you got a promotion, what would your normal thought be? Well, I got to work more hours, right? I just got to work more hours. The problem with that as Caleb is it doesn’t scale and it didn’t scale. So, our church grew from a handful of people to about seven and a hundred. One day my body just went on strike. I was 41 and I remember waking up one day and I just didn’t have any energy and you try to shake it off and you’re like, well, that was a bad day. I’ll go to bed but day after day after day, no energy, no passion. I’m like, what? I started to feel like I was sinking into this big dark hole. The thing about being tired is tired responds to cause and effect like we threw a dinner party last night. So, we’re recording this in the afternoon. I got to bed at midnight.
I’m a little bit tired today, but I know this I’m going to go to bed on time tonight. I’m going to get some good nutrition, some good exercise. I’ll feel great tomorrow. That’s the way it should work. When you’re burning out, you don’t feel that way anymore. You, you take time off, you don’t feel any better. You go to bed early; you don’t feel any better. I kind of sunk into this black hole where I’d lost my motivation. Hadn’t lost my faith, but I couldn’t feel it anymore. I’d lost the joy of life. I had a lot of brain fog and that lasted about six months and it’s like, my body said, we’re breaking up because if you don’t declare a finish line, this is what I’ve learned, your body will.
Caleb Stevens: Right.
So I think I’m a robot. I think I can go, go, go, go, go. Then my body’s like, nah, we’re not doing this anymore. So that was my burnout and it was a really deep and dark period of my life, and for me, the burnout was so strong that it really ground me to a halt. Like I had to pay attention, but I’m also convinced, and this is a non-medical diagnosis, but I’m also convinced that a lot of people have what I call low-grade burnout. My working definition of low-grade burnout is the functions of life continue. But the joy of life is gone. So, functions of life. Yeah, you’re getting up every day. You’re going to work. You’re taking the kids to school and soccer practice. You’re going on date night with your wife, but you don’t feel anything anymore. And the problem with that is it’s a terrible way to live, but you can live that way for years. I don’t want to see people live that way and I definitely don’t want to see people head into full-on burnout.
Caleb Stevens: Wow. So, as you thought about writing this book, what was really the goal was it? Hey, this is my story. Here are some things that I learned along the way. I mean, what was sort of the impetus because that was 15 years ago or so.
Carey Nieuwof: Yeah, it was a while ago.
Caleb Stevens: So, did it sort of taking that long to kind of think through man, how do I really get my priorities back on track my time back on track? I mean, I think a lot of us here that, and we just think. I don’t want that to happen to me, but how did you sort of process that as you came out of that and then think about how to teach that to leaders.
Carey Nieuwof: So draft one was a burnout book where I thought I’d tell the story of my burnout, what it’s like to be burned out. But by the time we got to draft eight, which is the book that you will read, would you buy at your best? It was more of what you said at the end. It’s a, I don’t ever want to go to burnout. I realized that so many people are on the edge and so many people have dipped in and out of burnout and so many people will experience it. I touch on my burnout very briefly in the book and I describe how you get there, but 90% of the book is how to stay out or get out of burnout. So, it is about the cure more than the problem.
Because there’s, you know, great. Okay. So, you write a book on burnout now, you know, you’re burnt out, what do you do?
Caleb Stevens: Right.
Carey Nieuwof: So, what I’ve got as you hinted at is I’ve got a 15-year track record now of staying out of burnout. And it wasn’t, five years ago, it wasn’t my goal to write a book, about staying out of burnout. But what I was getting and I slowly rebuilt my life after burning out, it took me about three to five years of counseling, coaching, leadership, consulting, reading books to say, I got to construct a new normal for my life because the old normal got me burned out. So, I’m not going to go back there.
Caleb Stevens: Yeah.
Carey Nieuwof: So, I did, I worked on how I spent my time. I worked on my energy. I worked on making sure that other people didn’t hijack my priorities and by the time like five or six years ago, the number one question I was being asked is how do you get it all done? So, I was speaking to staff in Washington DC of a, not for profit. And I gave a talk based on some of these principles. I’m like, I don’t know, maybe these will work for other people and I couldn’t believe the response. So, for a few years, I taught it around the country, taught thousands of leaders, the principles refine them and I realized, oh, this system actually works for everybody or people tried it. So hence I wrote the book and so it’s really a stay out of, and don’t go into burnout book.
Caleb Stevens: So, I mean, when I think of avoiding burnout before I read this book, I would’ve told you, well, you maybe think about taking a month off sabbatical. I know a lot of even companies today will say, hey, if you’re here for three years, we’ll pay for a whole month sabbatical. So that’s one I’ve heard people say, I’ve got to get better at managing my time maybe I just need to cut back my work week from 50 to 40 or from 60 to 50, or heck maybe from 80 to 60. I need to think about how to manage my priorities. I mean, those are some of the common sorts of buzzwords that I hear when we think about avoiding burnout and you make the case that there’s maybe a place for those things, but I wrote this down and this is a line that I will never forget into something I’m trying to think about.
As I implement my own sort of time management, energy management, priority management structure, as you say, time off, won’t heal you, when the problem is how you spend your time. And that’s a game-changer cause so many leaders. I think we hear this I’m burnt out. I got to, I just need a vacation, man. You just need, need to take a sabbatical, take some time off rest recharge reenergize and then when I come back, I’m back, man, I’m passionate, I’m engaged and then a month later it’s the same old. Talk about why just taking time off is insufficient.
Carey Nieuwof: We all know this intuitively, but sometimes it helps just to say it out loud. So, let’s create a sabbatical scenario because we can imagine that, right? You get a month off. Let’s say you get a month off. It’s all expenses paid. Pretend there’s no COVID you can go to Europe; you have this amazing Villa looking over the Mediterranean. Most of us know how to do time off. We’re pretty good at it, right? Like there’s no problem going to the beach. Like we’re awesome. So you go, you get your energy back. You feel really excited and then you go back to work on the first Monday back at 11:00 am you feel like you get run over by a truck? What happened? Well, the problem wasn’t the time off it wasn’t the sabbatical. It wasn’t the vacation. It wasn’t Disneyland. It wasn’t the beach. It wasn’t the mountains.
The problem was you don’t have a sustainable pace and that’s the problem is we’re all working for the weekend. We’re all living for the beach. We’re all living for our next massage. We’re all living for the next vacation. The Christmas break, the spring break, whatever it is. Meanwhile, we hate Monday to Friday, Monday to Saturday, we don’t have a sustainable rhythm and even I’m not allergic to a shorter workweek. I’m definitely working fewer hours than I did when I burned out. But that doesn’t solve you because solves the problem either because burnout isn’t just a workplace condition. It was, it started out as a workplace term, but people are now burned out on life. I mean, you can be off all day and you’re just watching the news cycle and you want to jump off a cliff or you’ve got so many messages from so many people you barely know, you can be unemployed and burned out.
You can be a, a stay-at-home parent and burned out. You can be retired and burned out. Like it’s a life condition and time off. Isn’t going to heal that because we don’t know what to do with our rhythms hence the book and hence the idea of okay, Monday to Friday when you’re not like this stuff will work at the beach. Okay. So, take it to the beach with you. That’s great. But again, most of us are pretty good at the beach. So, let’s figure out what to do with your work life and your everyday life so that you can create rhythms that are actually helpful. That will keep you out of burnout. I get asked two questions, number one, and its weird cause they seem like a paradox. How do you get everything you get done? Then the second question is why does it look like you have so much time off? The answer is, well, I do have a lot of time off and I get it a lot more done than I used to and the two are paradoxically related.
Caleb Stevens: So, let’s unpack that a little bit and then we’ll let the reader buy the book and digest the rest. But talk about the basic framework that you propose for really avoiding burnout and a solution that goes beyond just, hey, you need to take time off. You need a sabbatical; you need to reduce your work hours.
Carey Nieuwof: So, think about your normal workday. Like, pick a normal week. Maybe, hopefully, you’re listening to this when you’re actually at work or going to work the next day, all of us get 24 hours in a day and they’re equal hours, but they don’t feel equal and they don’t produce equally. So, I’ll ask you, would you say like, do you know whether you would be more of a morning person, Caleb, or more of a night owl? Or do you come alive midday? Like what’s yours.
Caleb Stevens: Mid-morning? I would say probably nine to about lunchtime or one o’clock I would say first thing in the morning, a little bit groggy. But I was. (Cross talking 17:24).
Carey Nieuwof: Little groggy,
Caleb Stevens: 8:30 or 9:30. I got some coffee and I’m ready to go. It usually in fact it’s 3:15 Eastern time that we’re recording this. I have some coffee right here, because I knew this would be a lull period for me during our recording so.
Carey Nieuwof: Same.
Caleb Stevens: Yeah, there you go.
Carey Nieuwof: I got, I got some caffeine right here in this month too, (cross talking 17:42) to
Caleb Stevens: Answer your question. Okay. Eight 30 to, to noon or so yeah.
Carey Nieuwof: Welcome to the human race. You are like every other human and some listeners will be like, no, no I’m I come alive at night. So, they come alive at eight o’clock at night, but I’m like you I’m a morning person. My peak hours are probably seven to 11:00 AM and on a really good day, I’ll get another boost after lunch and four to six, the witching hour. Yeah. That’s when that’s, when I’m like, give me caffeine, give me a sofa, give me something or let me get on a bike or go for a walk or something because I can’t think anymore, I’m done. There’s a part of our culture that wants to make us think we’re robots that we’re some kind of AI and we can just go 12, 18 hours a day. But we all know intuitively it’s not true and we’re embarrassed to talk about it because it makes us seem weak.
Here’s the truth you have three to five peak productive hours in a day. I was joking at one point I wanted to call the book the three-hour workday, but that got taken by someone else almost.
Caleb Stevens: Yeah.
Carey Nieuwof: So, you can’t really do that, but basically, I’m a content creator. I have three to four good writing hours a day in me. That’s all things being equal and any author will tell you that, like if you, if you’re trying to produce a book, you can’t write 40,000 words in a day. At least not 40,000 good words. Most writers are pretty happy with getting somewhere between 500 and 1500 words in a day and that’s it. So, what do you do with that? I call your best hours, your green zone. That’s when you’re at your best, your witching hour four to six or three to five, whatever it is for you and me, Caleb, where you’re just tired.
You got no energy. You’re kind of in a bad mood. If people ask you for something your answer’s probably no and you just want to go home that’s your red zone and that’s normal. It’s human to have one. Then everything else is yellow. So green, yellow, red, green at your best red, your worst yellow is the time in between. Although we have 24 equal hours and they don’t produce equally or feel equal, we treat them indiscriminately. So, when you’re booking your day, you might be like, yeah, I’ll do that breakfast meeting. So again, as a content producer now in my company, writing books and talks and that kind of stuff. Writing is one of the most important things I can do and I need to do that well, but I used to do a lot of breakfast meetings. So probably a lot of morning people listening to this do breakfast meetings.
So ask yourself if a breakfast meeting, the most strategic use of your time. So, in banking it might be I got a really high-profile client coming in and I’ve got to spend some time going to breakfast with her and maybe going out to, the golf course or something like that, social. But for the most part, it’s not, you have breakfast meetings because they’re convenient and breakfast meetings go like this. You meet at the restaurant at 7:00 AM. You think, okay, this is going to be done at eight. It’s never done at eight. It goes till eight 30. Then you’re like, well I better grab some coffee. So, you hit a drive-through on the way to the office. Then you get into the office. People are like, Hey Caleb, can I have five minutes of your time? Which is never five minutes of your time.
You look at your phone, you got seven text messages. Then you open your inbox. It’s like, holy smokes. Then, you know, it’s noon and it’s time to go for lunch. Then you come back and you get roped into a meeting after lunch and then your kind of dragging. So, you’re working on a project, you do your expenses and then four o’clock and you go home and what did you accomplish? Nothing.
Caleb Stevens: Yep.
Carey Nieuwof: Right? Then you’re like, crap. Now I got to work tonight. I don’t know that you’re married or not, but now you got to explain to your wife, sorry, honey. I brought my work home with me, which you don’t even have to work at anymore cause it’s on your device 24/7. So now you’re doing work after dinner and if you got kids, you’re ignoring them and it’s then you repeat the nightmare tomorrow. So, what I propose is yeah, time management is good, but start managing your energy. So, when you think about your peak three to five hours guard those hours, like your life depends on it at breakfast meetings are not strategic. Don’t do breakfast meetings. What would be some of the highest value work you can do at your job, given what you do at the bank?
Caleb Stevens: Yeah. So, for I’ve thought a lot about this because there are, there have been days where I’ve had three amazing hours of productivity and you, after, you know, you hit lunch, it’s eight to eight to noon or whatever. Then, the time for me is you hit lunch and it’s like, wow, I’m going to keep working the rest of the day because I owe that to my company. But if I didn’t do any work the rest of the day, this would’ve been fantastic, phenomenal.
Carey Nieuwof: Right? You could almost go home, right? (Cross talking 22:18).
Caleb Stevens: I could almost go home. I killed it. Then there are other days where to your point, you get sucked into the email wormhole or you have a breakfast meeting that drags into mid-morning and then you get to the office and then you get distracted and you get pulled into a meeting.
You probably shouldn’t necessarily get pulled into and it’s just like, oh my goodness. Where did the, where did the time go? A couple of things that I’ve been thinking about. And I think this is true for a lot of our commercial lenders who are listening, cause they’re people who are offering loans to small businesses, helping small businesses all over the country grow there, grow their companies. I would say two things. One is spending some time truly identifying who are the people that I need to spend time getting to know. So, in my case, I cover banks. There are 5,000 banks in the entire country. I don’t have nearly the bandwidth to see 5,000 banks, but there are probably 25 banks that I would love to see this quarter. So, it’s really thinking through, okay, well 25 banks who are the key decision-makers in those banks, who do I need to get to know what’s the right approach?
What’s the introduction? How do you connect with them? Then really thinking through okay. Let me try to reach out. Schedule meetings, follow up. That’s really quality time because if you can book those meetings and then those meetings turn into discussions, maybe there are business relationships down the road. So, it’s really spending time thinking through who are the folks that we really need to be connecting with and I think that’s true for our commercial lenders listening. Then the second is going on those meetings and making sure those meetings themselves are high quality and in some cases, you don’t have total control over that because you want to be respectful of their time and you want to be flexible too if they can only meet at three, then you need to, you need to obviously honor that. But even then, if you can try to schedule it during your green zone during your mornings. So, there are a couple of things.
Carey Nieuwof: Okay, those are two fantastic case studies and I love the fact that you pick 25 banks that are strategic. cause let me ask you another question. If you did not do that, how many of those people, those key people would reach out to you?
Caleb Stevens: Almost none. Probably none.
Carey Nieuwof: Yeah.
Caleb Stevens: I mean maybe a few here or there, if you’re lucky, but almost none. You got to take the initiative,
Carey Nieuwof: But you think about that from a career path as a young leader yourself, if you did that consistently, I don’t know, every quarter, every year or whatever, and you set a morning or two every week aside where you’re at your best, you’re developing that you’re developing the practice. What Stephen Covey called working on your business, not in your business, you are sharpening the saw and a lot of us go to work with really dull saws. So, we spend six, eight hours just doing stuff that could have taken two hours. But you know, a lot of leaders, I was meeting some entrepreneurs last night at my place, had them over for dinner. They’re so busy running two restaurants. They don’t have time to work on their business and they have to be very intentional about that and of course, as you know, once you get out of startup, that’s how you grow your business.
You don’t, you don’t grow it just by working more hours or trying harder. It doesn’t work. You have to think strategically through that and thinking time because we’re so distracted by our devices and that gets us into priority management. It’s one thing to set that time up for yourself, Caleb, it’s another to actually guard it and say no nothing. I’m not going to schedule a breakfast meeting. I’m not going to do that because I do, I’m fairly well known for my podcast. I get, I think we’re pushing 20 million downloads now on the podcast.
Caleb Stevens: Yeah.
Carey Nieuwof: So, it’s been wildly successful beyond anything I ever imagined. I do my prep for my interviews in my green zone, but even as successful as the podcast has been, I do the interviews in my yellow zone because it’s more important for me to prepare for an interview, to do the research, to read the book, to think about the questions because if I’ve done the prep really well, I can do the execution during my yellow zone,
your yellow zone is not a waste. If it’s a really high-profile guest, I will push through my red zone. But then what I might do is I might take on a little bit less in the morning. I might use my green zone to do something therapeutic, like go for a bike ride or a walk or read a book or sleep in a little bit later. So that when four o’clock runs around, I’m not running on a 3% battery as a human being. Do you know what I mean? Like at that point I got something in the tank to bring to that. So, when you start strategically thinking about not letting other people hijack your priorities, making sure that you show up for the most important things, rested and using your green zone strategically, like you say, and it’s obvious that you’ve absorbed the material because that’s exactly what it should feel like.
That you’re at 11:00 AM or noon when you’re heading off for lunch. You’re like, gosh, I know I got four more hours on the, but like I could go home now. My boss would say, I did a good job. That’s exactly what should happen because as a preacher when I was preaching. If the message was done on Monday or Tuesday and the creative team was lined up, the rest of the week was so easy. If it was like, I don’t know what I’m going to do on Sunday. And it’s Thursday and lunch, we’re all in trouble and you don’t sleep well. So yeah, then you can, you have 10 extra minutes to drop in on a colleague in the afternoon. Then you can go into the meeting you got called into and say, yeah, I’ll make a valuable contribution there, but you got to get the big rocks. You got to get your big stuff done. That’s by protecting the time to do what you’re best at when you’re at your best.
Caleb Stevens: I mean, I’ll get calls sometimes at 4:30 in the afternoon. I sometimes look at the caller ID and depending on who it is, sometimes I say, wow, this person probably needs my best thinking and my best energy. I don’t have that right now. It might be wiser for me to call this person back in the morning because I know if I answer now, I’m going to be tired. I’m going to be groggy, maybe grumpy. I may say something I regret is probably a service to them to wait and call them back in the morning. When I’m in my green zone for a long time, I thought, why do I feel that way? That’s not right. Like, that’s that kind of sounds mean to think that I wouldn’t be kind to them or give them my best thinking, especially if it’s something related but especially family-related too. But when I read your book, I thought that makes total sense that if you’re in your red zone and it’s an important discussion, you need to have, maybe you wait till you’re in your green zone.
Carey Nieuwof: I think that’s so important. Another, way that plays out is in internal team dynamics. So as staffs of larger organizations like a banker size, right? It’s a good size bank. What happens is when you go through your office, not everybody’s green zones line up, somebody else will be 7:00 AM to 10:00 AM. Someone else will be 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM. Someone will be a night owl and you can’t ideally sink everybody up together. But here’s the real trap that you can easily avoid. If you’ve got a meeting that’s kind of a stinker and we all have meetings that are not very energizing, get everyone in the room to figure out their green zone and you can get like an energy clock. You can download that kind of stuff. If you get the book, we’ll show you exactly how to do that, but get everyone to identify either their different zones, and here’s what I’ve discovered where there’s a really bad meeting, but the people are good.
Usually, it’s happening in too many people’s red zones. So maybe you’ve got that four o’clock meeting Thursday afternoon and three out of five people in the meeting are in the red zone. That is always going to be a terrible meeting. I consulted with a very large organization with about 80 staff. They served thousands of people weekly and were all good people. They hated their executive leadership team meeting and could never figure out why and nobody wanted to say anything. Then I walked them through this training. They realized, oh my gosh, this is in everyone’s yellow or red zone and again if it’s really strategic put it in the green zone, all they had to do was move it by an hour or two. It was in most people’s yellow zone, totally different meeting, same people, totally different meeting.
I found for myself too, I generally do not make decisions between four and six and I’m an east coast guy, so Toronto time, but I have a lot of partners in California on the west coast. And they’ll all be like texting me and emailing me at 4 35 in the afternoon. I don’t touch that stuff until the next morning.
Caleb Stevens: There you go.
Carey Nieuwof: Unless it’s a burning fire. If it’s a dumpster fire, I’ll have a look at it because I got three brain cells left. Like I’m not, I’m human. I do good work. But like I do my work in the morning. So, then I’ll just, you know, you live to see another day and away you go and I think then you can go home and you can have some energy left for the people that you care about most and you can close the laptop and leave it closed. and you don’t have to be looking on your phone to see, well, who emailed me now and who slack me now? You don’t have to do that stuff. So, I just think there’s another way to live. That is a lot better way to live. When you do it, you then start to get the cumulative effect of having more energy, because you’re not overwhelmed. You’re not overcommitted. You’re not overworked. You also start to operate like you do those top 25 contacts and do it consistently over a period of years or months and you’ll get a promotion.
Caleb Stevens: Yeah, well.
Carey Nieuwof: At least make the company some money.
Caleb Stevens: There you go.
Carey Nieuwof: Right.
Caleb Stevens: Yeah. I appreciate the encouragement. well, we’re running out of time here, but let me close with just a couple more questions. One would be, let me play devil’s advocate just for a minute. So, I was talking to a Lee recently, who’s the CEO of a very large company and he was telling me how little control he has over his time. because things are scheduled months in advance when you’re the CEO of a publicly-traded company, things are scheduled oftentimes six months to a year in advance, which is crazy, but that’s often the nature of his job and he was talking about how it’s hard for him even let alone, take a vacation to, you know, avoid burnout. It’s hard just to take a vacation period. Any advice for somebody, whether they’re at the top and they’ve got so many people that they’re accountable to, to serve who feels like they have little control over the time or someone at the bottom who would say, well, Carey, this sounds great, but I’m an at the mercy of my boss and he’s constantly pulling me in and out of meetings. What would you say to either a top executive who feels like they don’t have control or someone, towards the bottom?
Carey Nieuwof: So, let’s take both in turn. We’ll talk about the CEO of the fortune 500 company. I want to say with some empathy, I have never been the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. So maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about, but I know a lot of CEOs, I’ve also been the senior leader for over 25 years in organizations, and here’s what I would say. You have a lot of control. Like you made this and you can feel a system ran you and that’s what got me burned out, right? It’s like, well I got meetings five nights a week. So, you know what? I didn’t on the other side of burnout, I canceled all the meetings and people got upset and they’re like, whoa, what’s going to happen. Do you know what happened? Our church grew. It’s like because I was so hyper-involved with way too much when I started delegating, releasing, eliminating what wasn’t important and everything grew.
Now I’m leading, you know, leaders access my content one and a half to 2 million times a month. That’s a lot more than when I burned out leading a church and we have a system I talked to my team for 10 minutes today and I hosted leaders in my backyard. I slacked a couple of times as view team members through a lot of lunch for leaders. Then did two podcast interviews this afternoon. I’m in control of that. Like you get to call the shots now to the person who isn’t the CEO. What I would say is tally up your hours. You have 168 hours in a week. Your working week is 40 of those. So, if you’re a barista at a coffee shop you’ve not got control over those 40 hours, but that means you do have control over 128 hours.
That’s a lot of control. Nobody is legislating that you take your kids out to sports five nights a week. Nobody is making you do all these parties and whatever else you want to do making you watch Netflix till 2:00 AM. You’re making yourself do that. So, you have a lot of control there, but then take the workweek, average workweek 40 hours okay. Let me ask you for another final case study. How many command performance meetings do you have at the bank in the course of a week where you don’t have control over your time? Your boss says the one-on-one meeting, you have a creative team meeting or a statistical review or something like that. How many hours would you say in a typical normal week would be? You have to be here at this hour, Caleb.
Caleb Stevens: For me, thankfully it’s probably four to five, which I know is mercifully short compared to many people. But I feel like I’m fortunate to, in a position where I have a decent amount of autonomy and am not micromanaged, which I’m very thankful for.
Carey Nieuwof: You know what? That’s pretty typical. I’ve interviewed thousands of leaders. It’s generally between five and 12 hours.
Caleb Stevens: Yeah, there you go.
Carey Nieuwof: That’s it. So, let’s take the crazy case where you’re in an office environment. It’s for 20 hours. So, you have to 20 out of 168 hours. You can’t control that gives you control over 88% of your workweek. That’s an insane amount of control. Yeah. You can control 88% of your time. It’s if it’s 12 hours, it’s 93% of your time, five would probably be like 98% of your time. So, what I would say is focus on what you can control, not on what you can’t and most of us can control 85 to 90% of our life. I mean, so focus on that.
Caleb Stevens: My wife is a nurse and she works the night shift. So, but even her, I mean, you’ve got three to four days that you line up in a row that you’re working and it’s, it takes over your life and that’s all you’re doing, but then you may have five days off and it’s totally open. So, it’s this court of counterbalance idea.
Carey Nieuwof: Exactly and so to think about her green, yellow, and red zone. I don’t know what you guys are, parents or not, but if you are, or if you ever have kids in the future, you want to give your kids some of your green zones. You probably want to give your marriage some green zone. You might want, she might want to read a book or she might want to go out for coffee with a friend. Then you could do some of the work around the house, for me mowing the lawn is a great use of my red zone cause otherwise, I’ll be falling asleep.
Caleb Stevens: Yeah.
Carey Nieuwof: But it accomplishes a task. It makes me feel good and I do enjoy cutting my own grass. So, I do that during my red zone. Like you can think about that. So, I completely agree with you on that.
Caleb Stevens: Well, if folks want to engage more with you, if they want to buy your online courses, buy your books, listen to your podcast, book you to speak, um, talk about where folks can find all the resources you offer for leaders.
Carey Nieuwof: Yeah. So, I have a really easy name to spell, Carey Nieuwhof. (Carey Nieuwof). But if you mangle it, you will still find me on the internet. It’s fairly easy careynieuwof.com. If you want more on the book, you can go to @yourbesttoday.com that’s at your best today. We have the book there, but we also do a masterclass and soon we’ll be unveiling a course. I have a lot of courses on everything from team leadership and beyond, so would love to serve you and it’s fun to be speaking again too. So, thanks so much for having me, Caleb.
Caleb Stevens: Well, thanks for spending time with a group of bankers. We really appreciate it and thanks for all you do.
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