Circle of Influence In A Nutshell

The circle of influence is a concept that was first introduced by author, educator, and businessman Stephen Covey. To explain the concept, it is best to mention the circle of influence in the context of the three circles Covey created: the circle of concern, the circle of influence, and the circle of control. The circle of influence is these things on which we can do something about and we have some degree of control over.

Understanding the circle of influence

For an individual, the circle of influence encompasses the things that concern them which they can also do something about.

  1. The circle of concern – the worries one has about a topic or situation. These tend to be related to health, finances, career, family, society, the weather, and the motivations or behaviors of others.
  2. The circle of influence – a smaller circle containing the worries one can either directly or indirectly do something about, and
  3. The circle of control – an even smaller circle with worries one can directly address. 

Most people understand on a theoretical level that to dwell in the circle of concern is counterintuitive. Covey noted that wasting time and energy on factors outside one’s control causes us to feel inadequate, helpless, stressed, reactive, and also to develop a victim mentality.

The better course of action is to focus on the circle of influence. Those who focus on that which they can control are proactive instead of reactive and tend to experience more happiness, satisfaction, and empowerment as a result.

What lies within the circle of influence?

The circle of influence will differ from one individual to the next. Indeed, the President of the United States can likely control more things than the average citizen. Nevertheless, anyone can increase the size of their circle of influence with a proactive mindset.

Suppose you are worried about the questions you’ll be tested on in an imminent job interview. You may have no influence or control over what the recruiter likes to assess, but you may know someone in your personal or professional network that does.

Here are some other ways employees can increase their circle of influence.

Ensure objectives are achievable 

This starts with breaking them down into smaller parts with contingencies in place to deal with unforeseen circumstances. If you don’t receive that promotion after three years, are you willing or able to remain at the company?

Irrespective of whether you leave or stay, remember that either choice is under your direct control. Whether you are promoted lies in your circle of concern and is, in most cases, not under your direct control

Question the validity of thoughts

Worries are a natural and sometimes healthy aspect of the thousands of thoughts that enter our minds each day. However, it is always good practice to question their validity to determine whether we can control or influence a situation:

  • How likely is it that the situation will materialize? 
  • What evidence confirms this?
  • How did you cope with a similar situation in the past?
  • Will you be worrying about the same thing in twelve months? If not, why not?

Consider other avenues

Whilst we can leverage our network to learn more about a job interview, we can also do the same to deal with problematic individuals in the workplace. Imagine you have an accusatory, controlling boss who is mostly unaware of their impact on subordinates.

Instead of remaining in the circle of concern, why not take a proactive approach and speak with a third-party who is skilled at conflict resolution or can share a different perspective? This is a better course of action than continually resisting your boss’s agenda, and you may just find that the quality of your relationship with them improves.

Key takeaways:

  • For an individual, the circle of influence encompasses the things that concern them which they can also do something about.
  • The circle of influence was first introduced by author, educator, and businessman Stephen Covey. Two other circles which provide context to the concept are the circle of concern and the circle of control.
  • Anyone can increase the size of their circle of influence with a proactive mindset. To do this, it is important to ensure objectives are achievable to avoid equating failure with a lack of control. Other best practices include questioning the validity of one’s worries and proactively considering other courses of action.

Connected Business Concepts

Circle of Competence

The circle of competence describes a person’s natural competence in an area that matches their skills and abilities. Beyond this imaginary circle are skills and abilities that a person is naturally less competent at. The concept was popularised by Warren Buffett, who argued that investors should only invest in companies they know and understand. However, the circle of competence applies to any topic and indeed any individual.

Economic Moat

Economic or market moats represent long-term business defensibility. Or how long a business can retain its competitive advantage in the marketplace over the years. Warren Buffet who popularized the term “moat” referred to it as a share of mind, opposite to market share, as such it is the characteristic that all valuable brands have.

Golden Circle

The Golden Circle attempts to explain how certain businesses can inspire others and differentiate themselves in the market. Originally developed by author Simon Sinek, the concept helps businesses identify their purpose and then communicate that purpose to consumers in a meaningful way so that the brand can be highly differentiated in the marketplace.

Value Investing

Value investing is a strategy advocating the purchase of stocks that are underappreciated by other investors or the broader market. Value investing was popularised by investor Warren Buffett, but the approach was pioneered by Benjamin Graham and David Dodd at Columbia Business School in the early 1920s. Graham would later go on to release the seminal book The Intelligent Investor in 1949.

Buffet Indicator

The Buffet Indicator is a measure of the total value of all publicly-traded stocks in a country divided by that country’s GDP. It’s a measure and ratio to evaluate whether a market is undervalued or overvalued. It’s one of Warren Buffet’s favorite measures as a warning that financial markets might be overvalued and riskier.

5 Whys Method

The 5 Whys method is an interrogative problem-solving technique that seeks to understand cause-and-effect relationships. At its core, the technique is used to identify the root cause of a problem by asking the question of why five times. This might unlock new ways to think about a problem and therefore devise a creative solution to solve it.

First-Principle Thinking

First-principles thinking – sometimes called reasoning from first principles – is used to reverse-engineer complex problems and encourage creativity. It involves breaking down problems into basic elements and reassembling them from the ground up. Elon Musk is among the strongest proponents of this way of thinking.

Second-Order Thinking

Second-order thinking is a means of assessing the implications of our decisions by considering future consequences. Second-order thinking is a mental model that considers all future possibilities. It encourages individuals to think outside of the box so that they can prepare for every and any eventuality. It also discourages the tendency for individuals to default to the most obvious choice.

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