9 Quick Tips That Will Help You Better Lead People (What 175+ Podcast Interviews Have Taught Me)


So at one point or another, you’ve probably thought, “My job would be so much better if it weren’t for people.”

We’ve all been there. I have.

Of course, it doesn’t take long to figure out that your job IS people, and that if you don’t know how to lead them or manage them, you’ll always struggle in leadership.

If you’re in the leadership business, you’re in the people business.

Over the last 3 years, I’ve learned even more about people through podcasting.

I’ve done over 175 interviews, and one of the more frequent pieces of feedback on the podcast is my interview style. The frequency of the feedback has made me think through what I’m learning about handling people—from world-class leaders to everyday people like you and me. The challenge has stretched me and much more finely tuned my people-skills.

Before I get to the quick tips I’ve learned about people, some fun news to share and a chance for you to win big.

This month, my Leadership Podcast will pass five million downloads. I know, that’s crazy. 5 million downloads in 3 short years.

So…we’re celebrating, and you can win.

From December 5-11, 2017, I’m giving away free Starbucks, Dunkin’s Donuts, and a grand prize of an XL Big Green Egg and a trip to your city to meet with you and your team. I love my Big Green Egg (for the uninitiated, it’s the world’s best BBQ/Smoker), and I wanted one listener to win one (plus a visit from me).

To win the grand prize (an XL Big Green Egg and personal visit from me to you and your team, click here).

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Now, here are 9 quick tips that I hope will help you lead people better.

1. Listen. A lot.

After listening to the fifth episode of my podcast, my wife Toni (who is very supportive) turned to me and said “You talk too much.”

She was right.

I was trying to figure out how to interview people, and I realized I was way too anxious to insert my story or what I knew. Since then, with very few and deliberate exceptions, I’ve tried to let the guest speak for 90-95% of the time.

I’ve heard other people say you never learn anything when your mouth is moving. They’re right.

And most people are honestly just glad to be heard. In a world full of talking, listeners gain a distinct advantage.

One of them, frankly, is trust. The more you listen, the more people trust you.

2. Let the silence linger

Another long-held habit of mine that I’m trying to kill is to fill the silence with more words.

Most of us are already formulating our next question or comment as the other person is speaking. As soon as they look like they’re going to stop, we jump in.

Bad move.

Sure…I have to think about where I’m heading next (and I walk into every interview with 10-15 prepared questions), but increasingly I’m focused on not just jumping to the next question.

Sometimes when it looks like they’re ready to finish, I’ll just wait. Often people offer more. I can’t tell you how often that’s led to pure gold insight and conversation.

If you listen longer than most people listen, you’ll hear things most people never hear.

3. Follow your curiosity

I head into every interview with prepared questions, just like you head into most conversations and meetings with a set of things you want to know or accomplish.

But half the time I don’t get to most of the questions.

Instead, I just follow my curiosity. If you’re truly listening to the person you’re talking to, your mind will start to surf off of what they’re saying.

You’ll wonder:

  • How that made them feel.
  • Whether it was tough or easy.
  • Why they did it.
  • How on earth they pulled it off.
  • Why they didn’t quit.
  • Why it worked.

That’s way more interesting than “in chapter two of your book you say…” or “moving on to item 5.”

The best part of the interviews almost always springs from spontaneous q and a.

The point? If you dump your agenda and just respond in the moment, you’ll have far more interesting conversations.

You’ll get into the 10% of conversation nobody else has.

Guess what else curiosity does? It battles your cynicism.

The cynical are never curious, and the curious are never cynical.

4. Don’t try to trap or embarrass people

We live in a culture that lives for the ‘gotcha’ moment.

Don’t be that person.

If you live for that, you’ll be the office gossip sharing the things nobody else knows. And people won’t trust you.

If you’re interviewing people or writing, you’ll love trapping people with their words and getting the scoop nobody else has.

Guess what that’s about 100% of the time? You.

You want more traffic or more credit, and they lose. They trusted you and you betrayed their trust.

A million downloads isn’t worth a fractured relationship.

Before I record, I tell every guest “Hey this isn’t live. I’m out to help you share your story. If you say anything you’re not sure about, we’ll go back and edit it out. You get the final call.”

Guess what happens? They don’t tell you less, they tell you more.

When you give people an out, they lean in.

Have I cut pieces out before at a guest’s request? Sure have. And I’ll do that all day long.

Because I want to be able to look them in the eye next time I see them. And I realize that, at the end of the day, far more honesty happens in a relationship of trust than in any other place.

If you want to drill down on how this approach fosters openness and truth, read about how a very young Larry King got Frank Sinatra to talk something he refused to talk about to anyone else.

5. Empathize

I love it when people share out of their weaknesses and failings. I can relate, I’ve got many.

If you really want people to open up to you, empathize with them.

If you want to do a better job of empathizing with people, here’s a short cut: ban judgment.

Judgment and empathy are mutually exclusively.

Worried you’re letting people off the hook?

Grace is a much more powerful change agent than judgment. And besides, only God ultimately gets judgment right anyway.

6. Make eye contact

Eye contact is so rare in a world where we’re locked on screens and pre-occupied with whatever we’re thinking about.

Although my podcast is an audio podcast, I do my interviews via video or in person.

Why? Because I want eye-contact. I want to be able to watch them and see what they might be thinking about. I want to see inflections in their eyes or face or hands and wonder what’s behind that.

There’s often a gap between what people say and what they think, and again, if the relationship is based on trust, you can follow that with a simple “tell me more.”

Additionally, I want them to see me. I want them to see there’s no hidden agenda and that I value them as a person.

Try that in your conversations. It will change things radically.

7. Go longer

I love that podcasts are not traditional media.

Early on, I decided my interviews would be long form—anywhere from 35-90 minutes, something you just can’t do in radio or TV.

When you’re working with top leaders who get interviewed all the time, it moves you past the sound bites and the answers everyone’s heard before. Most people don’t get an hour with them, and after 20 minutes or so, almost every leader relaxes.

In an age of soundbites, character limits and trivial engagement, in-depth conversation are soul-food.

Beside, relational intimacy and connection never happen in a hurry.

8. Say their name

I’ve written about this before, but I am amazed at how many world-class, extremely busy leaders I talk to go out of their way to address me by name when I talk them.

We should do the same.

There is power in a looking someone in the eye and greeting them by name with a smile.

Try it.

It doesn’t just change them. It changes you.

9. Respect Them

All of these are driving at one core value: respect.

Respect the people you interact with. They all have time limits, endless demands. They’re tired and sometimes discouraged.

Most people want to be respected. Few offer respect.

You’ll be amazed at how people respond to you.

What Are You Learning?

So that’s what podcasting has taught me about people (so far).

Even if you’re not a podcaster, implementing these 9 things will help you lead people better. After all, we’re probably all wishing people would do most of the same things with us.

What helps you lead people?

Before you leave a comment below, remember to subscribe to the podcast so you can win starting tomorrow! Nothing makes me happier than being able to share some fun things with you as we celebrate this milestone.

9 Quick Tips That Will Help You Better Lead People (What 175+ Podcast Interviews Have Taught Me)


  1. Sheridan Voysey on December 12, 2017 at 3:56 am

    Excellent points here, Carey. As someone who has spent twenty years in media (networked radio, film, digital), there isn’t too much to add to your list. The eye contact is a good one. Tip for the reader: review your prepared interview questions several times so you know where you want the interview to head, then put them aside after the intro. You can then focus on the guest.

  2. Ken Shaddox on December 8, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    Carey: I’ve been listening to your podcast from way back. I believe you are one of the best interviewers around. You have a positive tone and come across natural and authentically engaged with both your listeners and those that you interview. The content of your blog and podcast have been very helpful. I find myself constantly excited about your next interview and written post. Thank you for helping leaders improve by bringing us into the room with world class leaders. Everyone has a story and I find myself gleaning from each episode. Thanks again for your leadership and impact on so many of us.

  3. Howard Beason on December 4, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    I agree, making eye contact is huge! I have worked with the kids at the church I go to an I have found out if we show respect to kids then kids will show respect back. I enjoyed this blog, please keep on writing!

  4. Nigel on December 4, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    That is gold, great to be reminded of those points again, and some new ones.
    Sometimes I wish your interviews went longer, especially if it’s on a topic or subject that I’m dealing with at that moment.
    Great stuff Carey.

  5. Betsey on December 4, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    Is there a podcast on what to do when faced with people who do not subscribe to any of these leadership/communcation qualities? Someone you must interact with who talks a lot, listens not, doesn’t care about anything but their agenda and do not value empathy or respect.

  6. Kermit Barker on December 4, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    I loved #2. Let the Silence Linger. I needed to be reminded of this.

  7. Jean herman on December 4, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    I passed this on to a dear friend, who is leader of the fellowship I shared with you, hope that was OK, liked what you had to share, good stuff.

  8. Isaac on December 4, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    These are seriously close and intense interviews to see the “infections” in their eye 🙂 So much incredible stuff here and exactly on point. Listening and eye contact is huge in a fast-paced, screen locked world. Thanks for the wisdom as always Carey!

    • Tom Tarver on December 5, 2017 at 4:27 pm

      Let the silence linger. On Monday mornings, I have coffee with a friend. Despite our friendship, I still don’t let silences last long. But you’ve given me an excellent reason to do so. That extra pause allows for the conversational gems to be unearthed. Thanks for the link to the Larry King article as well.

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