Yes, I'm Concerned But What Can I Do About It?
The second main component of the first habit is around what Covey calls the "circle of influence". While this is quite a basic concept, it probably will have the biggest influence on your behaviour as it did mine.
The problem I have so early in my "Strive for leadership" is deciding where I turn first, there seems so much I need to learn and so many tools or habits I need to focus on that I simply have not the time to do them all. How similar is this to when you want to lead? You want to start to make a real difference and feel as a leader you have some sort of obligation to do so. This habit will help direct you.
Circle of Influence (COI)
The concept is that everyone has a limit to their influence. Things over which we have no influence, are outside this circle. It's about recognizing that there are things over which we have no influence. Sounds easy! What's for breakfast, what book to read? How about Global warming, or local tax rates?
Circle of Concern (COC)
Covey also talks about a "circle of concern". This circle includes all things that we are significantly concerned about. This tends to be easier. However it does require us to grade these concerns. There is an underlying assumption that you can only be concerned about a limited number of things. For some of us this is hard. The point is really 'most' concerned. I find this worked fo me at different levels - at work, at home and personally. I still found though I could only have three general issues at each of these levels and had to accept that there were some things that I was not as concerned about as I felt I should be. This is about passion, and while it's a whole other topic I had to question what concerns I was most passionate about. This certainly helped me in this process.
The lesson is in the balance and where we spend our time and effort.
My experience is that both my COI and COC are smaller than I initially thought and that the assessment of both is interrelated.
I became distracted by issues that I had some, but not a lot, of influence over. My level of concern became the driver to trying to justify some influence. What I was confusing was the actual and goal.
The main question is, why spend time and effort on things outside our circle of influence, even if they are within our circle of concern? It would simply be a waste of effort. Now this scenario is not necessarily unhealthy. There are many things that concern me that are way beyond my influence. I guess what I need to do is accept how much I can impact them, and if I am sufficiently concerned, work toward expanding my circle of influence so I can make a difference. That's a goal and where the real lesson in this is. We decide for ourselves what concerns us but often we feel our circle of influence is dictated for us. This is simply not true.
What if I spent my energies trying to impact what I was concerned about, even though I had no influence? Working outside my influence I am doing nothing but being further controlled by concerns I can do little about. Covey states that if you spend energy on things outside your influence, that circle starts to reduce in size. The opposite is the key.
I was in a group where productivity was poor and not improving. The leader became dictatorial in the belief it was within his COI. All this did was reduce his influence as people switched off even more. In an almost identical position in another group the leader recognised his degree of influence and that he could not simply dictate better productivity. Instead he worked where he did have the influence, on a few relationships and enabling assistance for what people saw as blockages to their work. His COI expanded as people started to understand his COC.
By putting our energies into things inside our circle of influence it will begin to expand. It comes down to if there is something you want to change; you may as well start where you can make a difference. How often is the only thing you have influence over, your own reaction? Thinking back to part 1 of the first habit.... Being proactive is to choose how you respond. To choose to work inside your circle of influence is clearly a good response choice.
One of the best parts of this book is turning theory into action. At the end of each chapter Covey provides a number of very tangible and achievable actions to help us implement what we have learnt in the preceding chapter. The big one that I am working on is the last: Proactivity - The Thirty-Day Test You really need to read the book for this one but the top three points are:
1. Work only in your circle of influence
2. Make only small commitments
3. Observe yourself without judging
I have found this especially hard in my current situation. As I go, I am discovering more about what is inside my COI. What is saving me is having someone else help me with the observing part. We get together at the end of each week and I go through what I did that I thought was within my COI. My coach (being someone I selected as a coach!) would then observe and comment on where they saw these activities falling. The best part was then what did we think the impact on my COI was. Initially it was very little but as the weeks have progressed we have both noticed changes in the environment I am working in.
I urge you to try this. There is no down side and I am finding it a very empowering experience. I mentioned that I chose a coach. I found this to be vital. My head is full of too much stuff to be sufficiently objective. Choosing a coach is an important decision, and a complete subject in its own right.
It's time to take some real action, its time to be brave!
About the Author: http://2leadership.com