Tragedy in Paris and Beirut. What can I do? Refugees with no where to go. What can I do? Homeless in America. What can I do? Climate change. What can I do?
Events worldwide seem overwhelming. Events closer to home also seem overwhelming. Jobs eliminated, programs closed, leadership decisions, health concerns and family disruption all tear at us and our hearts. What can one person do?
That question came up several times during a leadership program I was facilitating recently, what can I do as a leader when I work in a culture that doesn’t support change? What can I do if my manager disagrees with me? What can I do if the budget gets cut?
What can I do?
Steven Covey first answered that question with Habit 1 of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Be Proactive and choose to respond to the realities of the world by focusing our energy and attention on what we can influence. He created an image of our circle of concerns and our circle of influence.
Our circle of concern contains all the realities of the world that we care about. The important parts of our lives and the world that we pay attention to and react to. Our circle of influence includes all the elements of our lives that we can actually affect through our actions. What Covey reminds us is that if we take action on the elements within our circle of influence, instead of only worrying about our concerns, we will actually be able to make a difference and our circle of influence will grow larger.
Within our circle of influence are:
- the people we work with
- the work we do
- how we vote
- where we donate our time and money
- the actions we take at work
- how we communicate and who we communicate with
- the decisions we make
- where we spend our time
A co-worker and I were sharing our concern over the Syrian refugee crisis and she mentioned that she had contacted a neighborhood group that was working on sponsoring a refugee family. A small action but one that will make a difference!
In higher education we are quite concerned over how prepared new students are for post-secondary courses and on the decreasing economic support for public higher education. Recently Chancellor Steven Rosenstone challenged us to focus on our circle of influence and consider volunteering to be a tutor in a public K-12 school or to donate one hour of our salary to a scholarship fund at a foundation. Those are examples of taking action within our circle of influence!
As a leader, what is in your circle of concern and how can you take action within your circle of influence to make a difference?