How Are You Leading? – With a Circle of Influence or a Circle of Concern?

Leaders continually manage competing priorities and issues which let’s face it – can feel achievable on some days and overwhelming on others!

Recently I came across a great model developed by Stephen Covey (source: ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’) which I have always deferred to during my “overwhelmed” moments.

The premise is that dealing with concerns is based on the need to develop greater self-awareness and by proactively assessing (and reassessing!) where we focus our time and energy, we gain control by deliberately focussing on what is within our control.

Here are the steps involved:

Step 1: Create a circle (the circle of concern) and brainstorm all your concerns. The outer circle represents things that you have no concern or mental or emotional involvement with (don’t bother recording anything in this area). 

When you look closely at your brainstorm, you will see that there are things we have no control over, for example, people’s perceptions or comments on social media and then there are others we can influence such as attitude and enthusiasm.

Step 2:  Covey describes the things we can do something about, as our ‘circle of influence’. Draw a smaller circle within the ‘circle of concern’ and record these things.

Covey’s view is that proactive people focus most of their time and energy in the ‘circle of influence’ and working on things they can do something about.

This has a huge impact on their mindset and allows people to:

  • Change their habits (thinking and behaviour)
  • Change their methods of influence
  • Change their attitude towards the problems, issues and challenges which we have no control over and accept the problems we do have control over.

His powerful research has determined that if you do this it will expand your ‘circle of influence’ which at the same time will cause your ‘circle of concern’ to decrease. 

I encourage you to spend some time going through these 2 steps and focusing on the spread within your ‘circle of influence’. Using this model will not only reduce the amount of stress and concern in your roles as leaders but will also lead to more productivity. 

“Proactive people focus their efforts on things they can do something about”

(Stephen Covey)



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