Circle of Influence

by Ron

Have you ever heard the Serenity Prayer? It goes like this:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Keep that prayer in mind as we talk about something called the Circle of Influence.

I’ve seen this concept put forth in several areas. I believe one of them was in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People written by Stephen Covey. You have two concentric circles, the smaller inner circle can be labeled, “influence.” The larger outer circle can be labeled, “concern.”

The point is to be very clear about the areas of an organization you can influence versus the areas of an organization that you have concern for.

Your concern may be very well placed. It may be a concern for

  • The overall growth and development of the company
  • Future opportunities
  • The obstacle that you face
  • The competence of people making decisions in other parts of the company

Having a true concern for the greater whole is a wonderful thing. However, you need to be very clear about the areas that you influence versus the areas in which you may have a concern.

The purpose of the Circle of Influence is to be clear where you have genuine influence and where you can only express concern. Don’t believe that you can influence your area of concern.

Trying to influence your area of concern often leads to disastrous results and increases the stress within organizations. Many of the leaders I work with express a genuine concern for other pieces of the organization, good or bad. However, when they believe their concern justifies their

  • Engagement
  • Meddling
  • Hands-on involvement
  • planting that ideas that those people over there just aren’t performing well.

they have now tried to move their influence into their circle of concern.

Go back to the serenity prayer. The last line of says, “Give me the wisdom to know the difference.”

It’s one thing to be smart. It’s a very different thing to be wise. It’s good to be concerned for the company and its success, but you can only influence your circle of influence. Trying to influence, control, exert power over your area of concern will only lead to bad results.

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