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Friday, January 05, 2007

The Circle of Influence and the Project Manager

(Exerpts from Habit 1: Be Proactive, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey)

I'm a big fan of Dr. Stephen Covey. His book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a must read for anyone seeking to be highly effective. One of the concepts Dr. Covey talks about in his books is the "Circle of Concern" and the "Circle of Influence". The basic concept is that we need to focus our time and energy on the important things that we can control. Inside the Circle of Concern there is a smaller circle in the middle called the Circle of Influence. We should spend most of our time and efforts focused on the things in this Circle of Influence.

As Dr. Covey states "proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying, causing their Circle of Influence to increase." "Reactive people on the other hand, focus their efforts in the "Circle of Concern. They focus on the weakness of other people, the problems in the environment, and circumstances over which they have no control. Their focus results in blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language, and increased feelings of victimization. The negative energy generated by that focus, combined with neglect in areas they could do something about, causes their Circle of Influence to shrink."

Key point – Focus on important things that you can control. Work to enlarge your Circle of Influence and you will automatically reduce the Circle of Concerns area.

Dr. Covey goes on to say:
One way to notice where our energy and focus is located is to distinguish between the have's and the be's. The Circle of Concern is filled with the have's:
· 'I'll be happy when I have my house paid off.'
· 'If only I had a more patient spouse...'
· 'If only I had better employees/co-workers...'
· 'If only I had a boss who wasn't so demanding...'

The Circle of Influence is filled with the be's:
· 'I can be more patient...'
· 'I can be a better employee...'
· 'I can be more wise...'

It's a character focus. Any time we think the problem is 'out there,' that thought is the problem. We empower what's out there to control us. The change paradigm is 'outside-in'--what's out there has to change before we can change.
The proactive approach is to change from the inside-out; to be different, and by being different to effect positive change in what's out there--I can be more resourceful, I can be more diligent, I can be a better listener, I can be a better leader.

Buy Dr. Stephen Covey's book or check it out from your local library. It is one of the best books you will ever read.


Stuart Helwig said...

I would have to agree - an incredible book. Life changing might be over the top, but certainly one of the most influencial books I read (about 4 times now - I like to revisit it every year or so...)

Stuart Helwig said...

This article on gantthead about adopting Agile reminded me of this post and of the Circle of Influence, proactive talk in "7 habits" - what do you think?

Robin said...

It deeply inspires me when i read Coveys books, you can read my thoughts about The 7 habits of highly effective people on my blogsite: , GOD BLESS/ Robin

JB said...

It seems to me, however, that this has the potential to be taken to an unhealthy extreme. There may be things that we feel powerless to influence, but are deserving of concern. If they are of concern to enough people, then as a team we may find that the circle of influence has become something different.

One of my problems with Covey, is that I see his books very often promoted in forums where leaders profit from "group think" and compliant followers.

I can be more creative, I think, if I do not limit my thinking to the constraints that he prescribes.

Mads said...

Agree that it's very important to keep the circles of influence/concern in mind.

Problem is that I don't think it's enough to remind people to keep it in mind. What we need is some more specific way to take action.

Frisør said...

nice nice blog thanks