Many managers face the dilemma at times of what to focus their valuable time on when it appears that everything is urgent, everything is important and nothing can be delegated to anyone else.
This predicament can have many repercussions on managers’ time and effort, as they switch from issue to issue, prepared to fight fires at every corner.
As the saying goes,
‘When you’re up to your neck in alligators, it’s difficult to remember the original intention was to drain the swamp’
This goes to show that too often we are stuck between a rock and a hard place, unable to work on those things we know are important (like, preparing for an appraisal) because of the urgency of other things (like, dealing with the 20 or so emails that have hit my inbox in the last hour).
So, is there a model we can use to help us to see where we should be concentrating?
Yes, and it’s quite simple without being overly simplistic.
Draw three circles, each inside the other, so you have one small circle at the centre, a larger circle around it, and a third larger circle that surrounds the other two.
Now, in the biggest, outer circle, write the word ‘concern’.
In the middle circle, write the word ‘influence’
In the centre, smallest circle, write the word ‘control’
Anything outside these circles can be considered to be outside of our concern.
What, then, should be inside these circles?
The biggest one, our circle of concern, contains those things we are concerned about but can’t actively affect in any way.
They could include the weather, the national economy, legislation passed by government, trade issues with other countries, staff illness, industry regulations and the like.
These are things that will obviously have some kind of impact on us and our business, but we don’t have much effect on them.
Instead, they affect us.
We can’t influence or have much control over them.
The middle circle is the circle of influence.
This includes issues that are out of our control, but we can have an influence on them.
You can influence your response to issues that are affecting your company or department.
You could influence the engagement and motivation of your staff.
You could influence the effect of your marketing to prospects through social media or other ways.
Having an influence over things means being able to affect them, sometimes directly and often indirectly.
The more things you can influence, the larger this metaphorical circle is for you, and the more leverage you can work with.
The inner-most circle is the circle of control.
This includes all those things you are responsible and accountable for.
Based on your job role, it could include getting production schedules issued on time, or determining what you do next on your to-do list.
In which circle do you get the best results for yourself, staff, department and company?
As much as possible, it means working on those things you can control.
We have noticed that managers who live and work in a blame culture, where nothing is ever their fault, have a very small ‘circle of control’ themselves.
The pressure is always being exerted on their control by outside forces that they have no control or influence over.
We need to start concentrating and impacting those things we can control, so our circle starts to grow in size.
It’s probable that the biggest circle will rarely change in size; the things that concern you will be out of your control and will affect you the same whether you are in charge of a business or one of its co-workers.
What can change, though, is the amount of things you take under your control.
You can decide:
and many more things that essentially will dictate your motivation and drive to accomplish things.
By concentrating and focusing on what you can control as a manager, you may see that circle metaphorically grow and have an effect on those things you could only influence before.
As the control circle gets bigger, it will impact what was only influencable before.
You will start to see results that you alone are in control of, and will start to see the number of times you blame something else start to diminish.
By concentrating on the inner circles, you will achieve more and start to help others to increase their circle of control too.