There are times when individuals or teams get overwhelmed by concerns about looming events – restructures, change initiatives, job insecurity. People may be feeling powerless and demoralised. This activity aims to help focus people on aspects of work over which they have some control. And defuse unproductive concerns. It can take 15–40 mins depending on the scale and intensity of the concerns.
1. Prepare a large flip chart sheet with two concentric circles.
2. Invite the team to identify current concerns – by writing each concern on a post-it note.
3. Invite each team member to call each item out, and post these up in the ‘outer circle’. Eliminate or double over any duplicates. Label this outer circle ‘The Circle of Concerns’.
4. Invite the team to identify which of these post-it note concerns the team has the power to actually influence. Be realistic. It must be items that the team can influence directly (not by hoping or wishing someone else will take care of it). As the items are identified, move these post-it notes to the inner circle. Label this circle the ‘Circle of Influence”
5. Give the team time to read and reflect on this inner circle
6. Then ask, “How much time today should we spend on those concerns in the outer circle over which we have no control, and zero capacity to influence?” The group will, almost invariably, agree that it is not worth spending any time on. If there is some disagreement, let the team, in the end identify how an item can be influenced.
Summarise the activity with a short speech about proactivity and power. Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about. Reactive people, on the other hand, can often focus more of their efforts in the Circle of Concern. The negative energy generated by that focus, combined with neglect in areas they could do something about, causes their Circle of Influence to shrink.
Note this distinction comes from Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People . Covey recommends you examine what you can do instead of focusing on worries over which you have no real control. First notice all your concerns. Then, among those concerns, determine where you can take action. Think of ways to be more proactive (not aggressive) and address the things you can do something about. Your circle of influence will enlarge and your circle of concern will shrink.
1) Do some action planning on the items of influence
2) Re-examine the concerns and identify any that could, with more proactivity and creativity, become items that could be influenced.