During an event I was speaking at last year, I had a great question from one of the attendees. She asked me what she should do if she and her team were on board with implementing some of the processes and practices I was advocating to increase autonomy, mastery and purpose in her department, but didn’t think there would be buy in (yet) from other departments and upper management?
I could not believe my luck, as my Leadership Round Table group had just discussed this top at length during our last meeting. A couple of our members work for very large institutions and were looking to make changes in how their departments run. The consensus? Don’t worry about other departments or even upper management. Begin with your Circle of Influence — your team. Focus only where you have control to make changes. Be consistent and conspicuous in your efforts. When results follow — other people in your organization will notice.
It is much easier to pull people along with you than it is to push them. This idea is not only true for groups and organizations, but also for individuals. We tend to spend much of our time, too much in my opinion, worrying about what other people are doing and how we can change “them” (our Circle of Concern). We should instead be focusing on ourselves and where we can improve or change (our Circle of Influence). In his book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People," Stephen Covey discusses at length the need to work on self first (Circle of Influence) and expand first within our Circle of Influence and with patience and consistency, our Circle of Influence will naturally expand into our Circle of Concern.
It sounds so simple, but we are often compelled to “fix” people and problems outside of our control. And when we can’t, our tendency is to devolve into blaming and complaining, which is becoming so prevalent in our society. A good friend once told me, “Complaining is not a strategy.” Instead of focusing on an overbearing boss or lazy co-worker, work on YOU. What can you do differently or better to improve the situation? One example, you can come fully prepared when you meet with your boss; anticipate her wants and needs before she asks. Work with your team or your boss to increase accountability and transparency in your department or group. Non-productive folks will shape up or ship out (often on their own) when there is consistency in accountability.
Bottom line: Change starts with you — within you. You will be more effective (and happier!) working in your Circle of Influence and not in your Circle of Concern. Spinning your wheels trying to affect change outside your Circle of Influence is exhausting and ineffective. It increases anxiety, frustration and hopelessness. Focusing on your Circle of Influence will increase feelings of empowerment, purpose and confidence. The next time you find yourself trying to fix a problem or a person — ask yourself, “Am I working in the right Circle?”
Cheri Dudek-Kuhn is a Professional EOS Implementer and CEO for Orchard Corset. Read her leadership blogs at cheridudek.com/category/latest-news.