Circles of influence

In my work I come across a wide variety of people. Often, I see people who love their job but are overwhelmed, overloaded and simply overworked. We provide workshops and training to help people feel in control of their work again, we teach them how to prioritise, handle email, have effective meetings, etc.

One of the tools that we often use at the beginning of a programme/workshop like this is the circles of influence by Stephen Covey. This exercise is focused on showing people how much influence they have, and that a lot of things that feel ‘out of control’ are in reality influenceable. We focus on the things that are annoying them, or withholding them from doing their work. An often-mentioned obstacle is: meetings. It is one of the biggest contemporary curses nowadays: the number of ineffective meetings.

The solution is so simple, but still it doesn’t cross many peoples’ mind: question if your presence would be an addition or if it would be possible for you to just get the notes. Your reason to ask this question is perfectly justifiable: if your presence does not contribute to the meeting, you could rather spend your time on other tasks that need to be finished.

Often during this exercise people see the ineffective meetings as something that is bothering them but is not something that they have control over, while in reality it is perfectly okay to go to your boss or team and question if your presence is required, this is something that you have influence over. This is one of the many examples that pop up during the circles of influence, simple things that people are bothered by on a daily basis but are also accepting as a part of their work.

While in reality so much of our obstacles are more in our control than we think, we might not be able to completely stop them but we can question them and influence it. And by realising this, we make people feel more in control of their workload.

If you wish to discuss the above, then please contact Hedwig de Jong at

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