Control Yourself, Influence Others

Hi, I’m Tom Blaisse, Certified Accountability Facilitator for Dynamic Results.

In our Accountability Method workshops we help participants focus on the things they can control (or at least have some influence over) and adapt to the things they can’t control. When we feel we are not in control of a project or process, we may get upset, feel angry, irritated or frustrated. We may even give up; go home, and crack open a cold beer.

Some people operate this way all the time. We all know who the pessimists are in our organizations. Pessimists often claim they can’t control anything. They might say, “I told you we couldn’t do it” or, “I knew that it wouldn’t work.” We call them CAVE people – Citizens Against Virtually Everything. Pessimists like to focus on the problem, not on the solution. The challenge for all of us is knowing where to focus our precious energy.

In the late 80’s, Dr. Stephen R Covey, in his landmark book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said that the most effective people adopt a pro-active mindset, means they focus their time and energy on the things they can control, or at least influence, and don’t waste time on things over which they have no control.

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This concept suggests that when we focus on the circle where we have both responsibility and authority to take action, our credibility grows; and we expand our circle of influence, thereby achieving greater results.

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In our research and development of the Accountability Method, we have found this concept to be true. The problem is, in observing our clients, we find that many of them spend too much meeting time, and email time focusing on areas that they may be concerned about, but have no direct control or influence over.

Dr. Covey calls this the Circle of Concern. This circle contains all the things that we may worry about, but have no ability to control or influence – typically things that have to do with other people.

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We can’t really control other people. We may have some influence over them; or be able to motivate them with our vision of positive and/or negative consequences; but, we really don’t have direct control over what other people may think or do.

It takes a pro-active mindset to focus your energy on the things you can control and influence, and to minimize or even eliminate the time you spend discussing things within your circle of concern. Structure your dialogues on those areas you can control. When you do, you will expand your circle of influence and ultimately be more effective. Make a commitment to take action today on something within your circle of control. Make a request of someone you might have influence over. And, decide to let go of anything you can’t control.

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Remember, the two effects of our human conditioning:

1. We sometimes think we can control situations that we have no control over
2. We sometimes think we cannot control situations that maybe we can control (or at least influence)

Next week, look at all the meetings you will attend, and the conversations you may have. If you were to use this model as a filter for what you might say and do, what impact would it have on your personal effectiveness, and your effectiveness working with other people?

At your meetings, request that you all just talk about those things within your respective circles of control or influence. If you hear one of those CAVE people bring up something up that is outside those spheres, decide to talk about it later – maybe over a cold beer.

Thank you, we look forward to hearing your thoughts. Let us know how you are doing.

As always, we appreciate your attention, and for additional ideas, follow me on twitter: @HenryJEvans

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Thank you.

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