Personal and organizational effectiveness comes from working within the Circle of Influence and not worrying about issues on which we do not have any control. Instead one should focus time and energy on issues where one can actually make a difference. By doing this we gradually increase our influence and bring about much better outcomes.
The concept of the two circles is a very powerful one. Its understanding gives a powerful tool to grow our own influence and reduce the circle of concern.
As a coach, the first step would be to ask the clients to address the things they can do in the given situation. Taking a deeper look at the areas of influence and concern will help to determine the course of action towards the desired outcomes.
A useful tool to enhance outcomes is to listen effectively to the language of the client and delineate the areas of influence and concern. The areas can be identified by asking the client to make a list of issues that they are facing. The words „have or had? will point to the concerns whereas the words “can or be” will point to the influence areas. e.g.
- If only I had a boss, who wasn?t...
- If only I had the respect of …
- If only I had a break…
- If the environment was more conducive…
- If I had a larger house….
- I can do this….
- I can be more organized / resourceful…
- I can listen in a better manner…
- I can more understanding…
- I will be more diligent…
- I can try to understand better…
Covey recommends examining what you can do instead of focusing on worries over which you have no control. First notice all your concerns. Then, among those concerns, determine where you can take action. Focusing on what you don’t like is disempowering. Focusing on what you can do is proactive and empowering.
Be part of the solution, Covey suggests, not part of the problem.
Author and spiritual teacher Eckart Tolle (1997) in his bestselling book The Power of Now, writes,
Ultimately… there are no problems. Only situations – to be dealt with now, or to be left alone and accepted as part of the present moment until they change or can be dealt with.
In summary, ask the client to figure out some good ideas and act on them. If he really can?t think of anything, they should realize that they are wasting valuable time and energy worrying about the issue. Encourage the clients to only worry about problems that they can solve. If the client is unsure about whether it is in his influence or concern, advise him to seek another perspective from those around him.
If the client is getting frustrated, encourage him to compare the two areas and look at ways to reduce the gap. Effectiveness comes from being passionate about their work but without allowing their anxiety and/or perfectionism to affect the outcomes.
Coaching Questions/ Reflections
- What is the issue at stake?
- What do you see?
- What stick out for you?
- What is significant to you?
- Where do you spend most of your time and energy?
- Is there anything that you can do about this situation?
- What is it that you can personally do in this situation?
- Is this really in your circle of influence?
- Is this even worth your influence?
- What can you do to change this situation for the better?
- How many of issues can you directly influence?
The tool – Influence v/s Concern can be very useful in a coaching relationship and can be used effectively in situations where the client has come to a dead-end and harbors a strong underlying belief that outcomes are not within his control but a result of circumstances. Applied properly, this tool can support the client to take small steps towards the desired outcomes. In the long run, successful outcomes are a result of setting goals and working towards them in a systematic and structured manner.
James Neill (2006, Dec 06). What is Locus of Control? Retrieved April 12, 2012, from
Stephen R. Covey (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 1st ed., London, UK: Simon & Schuster UK Ltd,
Eckhart Tolle (2001), The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, 1st Indian ed., Mumbai, India: Yogi Impressions
Wikipedia, Locus of control.