Stephen Covey’s Circles of Concern & Influence

Stephen Covey was a highly regarded, American, leadership expert, teacher and author. His most famous publication was ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ from which, the Circles of Concern & Influence were adapted. These habits have lived on way past his life and continue to be an important influence on the habits of highly effective people.

The first ‘habit’ in Covey’s book was ‘Be Proactive’ and he believed that, to achieve this, one must concentrate their efforts on the pressures of life they can influence. All of us succumb to the pressures of life at one time or another and have a variety of things that concern us. These could include:

  • · Our health
  • · Our children
  • · Problems at work
  • · The threat of war
  • · Finances

Covey categorises these pressures we may face into concerns that we can influence and concerns that we have little or no control over.

Proactive people recognise that they choose how they behave and how they react to situations. They take responsibility for and ownership of the choices they make and accept that they have affected the overall result.

Reactive people tend to blame their physical environment for the choices they make. They will often attribute how they are feeling to the weather; or how they behave to the behaviours they have observed displayed by others around them.

The difference between being proactive and being reactive is noted in where we concentrate our efforts in terms of the circles of concern and influence.

A proactive person will spend their time and effort focused on the pressures that they are able to influence, becoming more positive and increasing their feelings of self-worth. As a result, their circle of influence will expand, and their circle of concern will shrink.

In contrast, a reactive person will habitually focus their efforts on pressures they can have little or no influence over, leaving them feeling despondent and worthless. In this case, their circle of influence will shrink, and their circle of concern will expand.

It is important to remember that life does not just happen to us, it is actually designed by us. We make the choice about whether to be happy or sad, whether we succeed or fail and whether we show courage or fear. Every opportunity in life offers us the chance to make a choice and produce positive results.

Covey’s habit of proactivity can be summed up by Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous serenity prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”

Look out for our next blog where we will look at Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development model and its relevance to leading and managing teams.

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