One of my first lessons as I started to learn how management worked was surrounding “the circle of influence.” It is a very hard subject to accept if you are passionate about items.
The circle traditionally is divided into two parts. The center, which is the circle of influence, and the outer, which is the circle of concern. The influence is what you have some say over. Items in this are directly in your control to some point and some action that you take will make the needle sway one way or another. This is usually tied to your area of reputation, expertise, or job responsibility. There are an infinite amount of variables which we could debate – but that is the basic principle. The outside layer is that of concern. Items that fall into this circle are once which you are informed about, and have a desire to influence but do not have any direct way to move a decision. The more you gain ground by responsibility, expertise, or reputation the smaller the gap from influence to concern closes. Items which you were once powerless over, now can be persuaded.
I have always added an additional layer, because I can ;), since beyond the concern – there is an informed state which we have thoughts regarding but have nothing vested – or quite possible it is out of the area of your expertise. Yet, that does not (nor should not) cancel out an opinion. One must be cautious with the additional circle, since it is most likely out of the scope of what you should be focusing energies on at this time. In addition, if you expand all of your circles, you could become overwhelmed with all the activities that are taking place in the circles that pertain to XYZ subject. To make it even more complex, every subject (since logically could be unique scenarios) can have a circle of influence specifically for it. As you gain influence, as mentioned before, some of your concerns are now influenced by you. If you expand your area of concern into care – you are changed your desired alignment and could risk having concerns over cares which are not relevant.
Now with that being said, each one of these circles can become a Venn Diagram, of sorts, which starts to overlap circles from individual to individual. As you “network” and expand your presence or create a team – this will start to take place. Another way of looking at it is that if you have some concern, but another has influence – work with that individual which will create a needed relationship for the matter and potentially could also expand your level of influence. To put what networking looks like into perspective with a circle of influence, I created the graphic (to the right) which shows how networking can happen at various levels. Though, again, as a call out – the time at which you spend in each level should be reduced the further out your go from your center, unless you are actively trying to expand.