Becoming A High Impact Leader:  Insights from Carey Nieuwhof

 In Jason Bunger

A few years ago, I began following the ministry of Carey Nieuwhof.  Nieuwhof is a church planter/pastor in an area just north of Toronto.  An excellent communicator with a heart for the gospel, he is able extend his ministry reach by not only making disciples, but empowering leaders who also are making disciples.  Earlier this year, I enrolled in his online course entitled “The High Impact Leader.”  I would highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to be a better leader.  In this blog, I wanted to share some insights that I learned from his course, both in what he taught, and how he taught. 

Celebrate the small wins. Nieuwhof has a contagious passion to help people become better leaders.  This may sound insignificant, but he begins each session by encouraging the participants.  He has never met us, nor does he have any idea whether we are doing the prescribed course work.  However, he began each session with something like this:  WOW!  You are doing great!  Can you believe you are almost halfway finished…” It may sound silly, but this little bit of encouragement helped motivate me each day to start my online session.  Each day was started with someone to telling me I am doing good.  I trust that I am not the only one that doesn’t mind hearing that, especially when doing something that can easily be neglected.  People desperately want to be encouraged.  We simply want someone to tell us that the changes we are making, no matter how small, are making a difference.   

We must manage our energy.  We all have 24 hours in the day, but not every hour is created equal.  Nieuwhof says, “Time is fixed.  Energy is flexible.” We have times of the day when we can be described as high energy, moderate energy and low energy.  One of the secrets of time management involves energy management.  We ought to do our best work when we are at our best.  Nieuwhof encourages us to track our time to see when we are the most effective.  Then prioritize our tasks by doing our most important work at our best time.  Personally, I am a morning person.  I am the sharpest and least distracted before the sun comes up.  As the afternoon wears on, I find myself struggling to stay focused or engaged in significant activities.  It took me years to figure out that what took three hours in the afternoon, I could get done in 45 minutes in the morning.  Therefore, I learned to schedule my critical objectives in my best time.  Then, the activities that don’t require as much energy are scheduled in my low-energy times.  We must use our best time on the things that are the most important. 

Time must be scheduled to work ON our mission and not just IN our mission. Working IN our field involves the routine tasks that must be done in order to move forward.  Some of the tasks and strategies are exciting, others are just things that we have to do to get things done.  Working ON mission involves getting outside of the day-to-day operations and determining long-term strategies, values and thinking toward the future.  In order to be a “High Impact Leader”, we must intentionally set aside high-energy time in order to work ON things and not just IN things.  This is incredibly difficult, because we get around to working “on” the things with the left-over time.  Something will always get in the way.  We must schedule “ON” time and not allow it to get interrupted. 

Pour you time in your best leaders and the rest will take care of itself.  Nieuwhof believes that 80 percent of our “people time” should be spent with top leaders in an organization.  His reasoning is this, When the top leaders of an organization are healthy, the bottom will be also.  Alignment, clarity and passion at the top will create alignment, passion and clarity throughout the organization. 

Move to a “fixed calendar” in order to maximize results. This is where the rubber meets the road.  A fixed calendar is a weekly recurring schedule that is almost identical every single week in order to prioritize time, energy and tasks.  Once again, I would encourage you to learn from Nieuwhof on how to develop this this, but here is my modified summary.

Block a time and place daily to meet with God. Make this a non-negotiable.

Block time to work ON before work IN our mission.  We must ask ourselves, “What do I need to be doing today that will make a difference for myself and my team tomorrow?”  Then, create time slots where we will work on this item exclusively without interruption.  The most important things I do at Hope are preaching and leading our ministry staff.  Therefore, these get my most strategic time slots during the week.

Block time to do IN mission work. Ask yourself, “What should I be doing today?”  Each of us have routine “chores” as part of our calling.  They are not exciting, but nevertheless, they need to get done.  I need to review reports, submit reports, return emails, etc.  So, I create a “weekly task sheet” to follow.  There are certain “chores” I do every Monday and others I do every Tuesday, and so forth.  There are also certain “chores” I need to do every day, and I try to schedule them at the same time each day.   

Block time with family and friends. Block aside time to be with the people who are the most important to you.  Then, look at these blocks as fixed appointments that cannot be moved except in the event of an emergency.  We are told to remember the Sabbath.  Refusing to take time to rest, refuel, and reconnect with God and others is like refusing to quit chopping wood in order to sharpen your ax.  You always cut more wood with a sharp ax.  It is not selfish to take time to rest.  In fact, it could be argued that one of the most selfish things to do is refusing to rest.

The irony of the transitioning to Nieuwhof’s system is finding the time to implement the changes.  However, if we are going to continue to strive to be the high capacity leaders others depend on, we need make time to make changes.  It is about making the time in order to make time.   

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