A Coaching Power Tool created by Natraj Vaddadi
(Performance Improvement Coach, INDIA)
Lord, give me the courage to change the things which can and ought to be changed, the serenity to accept the things which cannot be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference.
In life, one attributes our successes or failures to forces within our control or to external forces which are not in our control. A majority of failed outcomes are attributed to external forces or circumstances beyond our control.
Research has shown that long term success is dependent on the choice of orientation known as Locus of Control. Pioneering research in this area was carried out by Carl Rogers (1961) and Julian Rotter (1966) who studied how peoples behaviors and attitudes affected long term outcomes in life.
The Locus of Control describes the degree to which individuals perceive that outcomes result from their own behaviors, or from forces that are external to themselves. This produces a continuum with external control at one end and internal control at the other.
Bernard Weiner (1980) also worked extensively on this subject. Building on earlier work by Rotter, he proposed a 3-dimensional model of attribution
- Locus internal or external
- Stable or unstable – whether the behavior was likely to change
- Controllable or uncontrollable – by the individual concerned
People who develop an internal locus of control (dispositional) believe that they are responsible for their own success. Those with an external locus of control (situational) believe that external forces, like luck, determine their outcomes.
Extending on these concepts, Stephen Covey (1989) in his book 7 habits of highly effective people proposed the concept of Circle of Influence and Concern?. According to him, the circles represent the two areas where one can focus ones time and energy. Covey believes that highly effective people think and act primarily within their Circle of Influence.
Influence has been defined as:
the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc.
A Circle of Influence encompasses all those aspects over which we have a control and can do something about. Those who tend to be dispositional in their outlook tend to focus on what they can do in any given situation. They are proactive and look at what they can act upon and do not worry about the effect of external forces. Being or operating within the Circle of influence is about being Proactive. Stephen Covey defines proactive as:
being responsible for our own lives…..our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.
Proactive people always tend to focus on things they can do something about. The nature of their energy in doing this is positive, enlarging and magnifying. Consequently, they enlarge their sphere of influence thereby enabling them to address issues which were earlier in their zone of concern.
Concern has been defined as:
A matter that relates to or affects one. and also as A troubled or anxious state of mind arising from solicitude or interest.
A Circle of Concern encompasses the wide range of issues over which we do not have immediate control. These could be larger issues like threat of war, problems at work, political situations, or even our children. Concerns are all those issues which affect us but over which we have no control.
In terms of the Attribution theory, people who tend to be situational focus on what the world around is doing to them rather than what is within their control. They attribute outcomes to external influences and as a result, their Circle of Influence often shrinks.
The concepts of the above two circles is a very powerful one as it defines the way we tackle issues that we face in personal and professional life. Based on the control that we have on them, the issues that we face can be categorized broadly in to three categories:
- Direct control (problems involving our own actions/behavior),
- Indirect control (problems involving other people?s behavior) and
- No control (problems we can do nothing about).
Direct control problems are within our circle of influence and can be solved by working on our actions and behaviors. Indirect control issues can only be solved by changing our methods of influence. In the third case, it is important for us to realize that there is very little that we can do and learn to accept and live with them.
In terms of coaching application, as a coach it is important as a first step to develop awareness on the nature of the issue or problem. Once that is done, it is important for us to look at ways and means to understand the reasons for the issue. These could be very personal, attitudinal or behavioral or even lack of functional skill sets.
The circles represent the two areas where you one should focus our time and energy. Stephen Covey points out that we should focus only on problems that lie within our “circle of influence” and not waste our energy on stuff that we can do anything about. He believes that the vast majority of people focus too much time and energy outside of their Circle of Influence, in their Circle of Concern, thereby wasting a lot of time and energy.