In today’s often chaotic and uncertain world, many leaders are searching for answers. How can they manage competing deadlines and demands for their time whilst delivering optimum results-often with diminishing resources?

The solution starts with taking control of your immediate operating environment and yourself. If you are one of those people who wants to harness the power of mindset, ensure their energy is focused on the right things, and your stakeholders are managed more effectively then read on…

The Circle of Influence and Control

Steven Covey first introduced us to the concept of Circle of Influence/Circle of Control on his seminal work “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.
It consists of the model pictured here:

human evolution ending with stress at work

Let’s break it down.

Firstly, at its heart, we have the Circle of Control. This is what we know and what we think we have control over within our lives and work environment. It is important here to recognise that sometimes we have much more control over certain situations than we realise. It might even take some courage to release control especially in a work environment.

Secondly, there is the Circle of Influence, this is where when we adopt a proactive mindset and behaviours, we can significantly alter our work environment, productivity and most importantly, enhance our reputation as a leader. This circle can be much larger than we assume.

Finally, there is the Circle of Concern. Covey has a straightforward piece of advice for matters that fall into this circle. Stop wasting your energy and time on these as they serve no immediate purpose to helping you be effective as a leader. We would suggest that even though you are rightly concerned, you may have little influence on the situation.

We once worked with a leadership group for one of our UK Clients. From the off we had a group of people who did not want to be in the room. By lunchtime the atmosphere had thawed slightly but people were still grumbling about how the theory was fine but, they could do little to impact their lives as leaders.

Time to introduce Covey’s Model and ask people to write on post-its what was stopping them being effective as leaders. About an hour later we had 150 plus post-its.

When grouped into categories, this led to a really useful dialogue where everyone was asked to elaborate and really question how much they could influence and how much they could truly control.

By doing this exercise, people arrived at less than 5 things holding them back. For them as individuals, the biggest reason was FEAR.

These leaders had become paralysed by fear of the unknown and eventually convinced themselves that their fear was justified.

By the way, after this exercise, the elephant in the room was well and truly rumbled and we had a great programme with over 50 Leaders.

When we feel a lack of control over events and situations, that’s when stress hits. This can cause all manner of outcomes and prolonged stress is not good for our physical and mental selves.

When faced with these events, we should spend some time capturing what is within or outside of our control and ask ourselves the following questions:

So having considered the Circle of Control let’s look at the Circle of Influence.

Whilst there will be lots of tools out there to help us find new ways of influencing people, we think there are 2-3 key areas that all leaders need to focus on in terms of boosting their personal influence and in turn, influencing others to act.

They are:

  • Personal Brand
  • Stakeholder Management
  • Growth Mindset

When was the last time you considered the following Question:

Do I have a Personal Brand amongst my key stakeholders and if so, what is it?

This isn’t about making a human become a product or service but really thinking about what we project as a brand and how that impacts on others. Sometimes others’ views of us might be misplaced, perception has become a reality for them. But it may be that they view us from a distance or interpret our actions rather than get the opportunity to know us as a real person.

Our personal brand consists of our Values, our Strengths, Our Proposition and what makes us unique. What we project will influence if our people decide to follow us, believe in our purpose, and most importantly, engage fully with what we ask them to do every day. It may even influence our careers when Senior Management must make decisions about Projects/ promotions and career assignments.

So, perhaps it’s time to uncover your brand. Is it helping you to influence or holding people back from connecting with You? What do you want those you come into contact with to say about You as a Leader?

Secondly, Stakeholder Management has a big part to play in how we can influence people.

There are many models out there that illustrate ways of doing this but try this simple method with your own stakeholders.

  1. Make a list of all those people in your network, your work context and perhaps some of those people outside your own organisation that you would like to connect with
  2. Identify those people who you have a good relationship with and why
  3. Identify those people who you know but don’t have a good relationship with. Which of these would you like to get to know better?
  4. Consider how you can deepen existing relationships and how you can connect with those more distant stakeholders
  5. Finally, if you need any help with No4 – who can help you?

Of course, there can be lots of different motivators for growing your stakeholder network such as:

  • Growing a business or developing new client revenue
  • Seeking a Mentor to help you develop yourself as a Leader
  • Becoming more noticed in the organisation-raising your profile
  • Getting people on side- helping you to achieve your business goals and objectives

When you focus in on your brand and deepen/broaden your stakeholder network it can be a powerful strategy for growing your influence!

Finally, let’s consider “Growth Mindset” (Dweck 2006).

In her book Dweck talks about both Fixed and Growth Mindsets where:

  • Fixed Mindset = Closed to new thinking and ideas, resistant to change, perhaps believing there is nothing new to learn
  • Growth Mindset = Open to new learning, embracing change positively and believing learning is endless.

Imagine if everyone in the world had embraced the Global Pandemic (Covid-19) with a Fixed Mindset.

Would we have seen global collaboration on vaccine development, business resilience to ensure they stayed afloat and perhaps even central government intervention to keep many millions of people working in the UK alone?

Translate that to your everyday life as a leader. What would concern you with a fixed mindset, how would that affect your Personal Brand and most importantly, what might go beyond your control?

Having a Growth Mindset is fundamental to effective leadership today. Gone are the days of heroic leaders with all the answers- perceived or real. Today’s turbulent, dynamic environment demands that we look to our people to harness their Strengths, Thinking Power and ability to think differently from us. We cannot do this from our ivory tower.

For them to respond effectively we need to create “Psychological Safety”. (Edmondson 2019). Edmondson describes this as Leaders creating an environment where people feel safe to innovate, be creative, challenge and speak out. When we create these conditions we enable Growth, we enable people to influence more and we help them to feel safe raising their concerns.

In our Case Study Example earlier how many of those leaders came to work every day beaten down by what they thought was beyond their control.

It was only when we created the psychologically safe environment for them to speak up and think through the Circle of Influence and Control that they built the strategies and courage to deal with them.

Questions to take away:

  1. What is holding you back in your Circle of Concern and Influence?
  2. Is your Personal Brand working for you or against you as a Leader? Why is that?
  3. Are you really leveraging your stakeholder network?
  4. Do you have a Fixed or Growth Mindset?
  5. How are you creating Psychological Safety for your people? Or are you creating the conditions which hold them back from realising their full potential?

Love to know more? Then tune into our Interactive Webinar on 24.11.22 at 9.30am to hear Samantha Amit and Liz Needham working with other Senior Leaders discussing how not just to survive in the Post-Pandemic Era but thrive! To register:

To discover how the Team at Co-Creation can support you and your organisation to develop any of the topics in this insight, please get in touch with us via phone: 0161 969 2512, or email: