Many clients don’t know how to deal with situations. Or they feel they lack confidence in doing something. Or they worry or feel overwhelmed about a situation. Sometimes too they will spend a lot of time in areas which they have no control or input. Exploring this can often be because of this idea of ‘circles of influence and concern’. Understanding of this by the client can transform their thinking and how they approach their work.

The model was developed by Stephen R, Covey and presented in his book – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. By exploring the different areas with the client it enables perspective to be discovered. It brings rationality and control to situations. This then impacts upon client thoughts feelings and emotions.

Picture from

The circles of influence and concern

We have concerns in life. Our jobs, family, finance and health to name a few. There are other concerns too. Global warming, political uncertainty, poverty. The former is largely in our gift to do something about. The latter less so. Many people waste time, energy and emotion thinking about areas of their life and work which they can’t influence in anyway shape or form. They are outside of their circle of influence, their circle of influence here is very small. Within work, a client may have limited ability to influence organisational change. When they become a senior manager, their influence is greater.

Knowing how far a circle of influence extends is important. If a client tries to work outside their circle of influence it will reduce their effectiveness and may present problems. Clients can develop their circle of influence. Getting involved in more diverse work, increasing their expert knowledge, developing wider networks can all help develop influence. Proactivity increases the circle of influence and reactiveness reduces it. The wider the circle of influence the more it impacts upon the circle of concern.

Circle of control

A third circle is the circle of control. It lies inside the circle or influence within the circle of influence. This is simply covers all the areas which are in the control of the client. It contains all they think, say and do. They can control their thoughts, reactions, fears and behaviours. Everyone in reality has complete control of themselves.

The more a client controls themselves and situations, the more they can influence. The more they can influence the wider their are of concern can be.

Working with the client and the circles

The coach can work with clients in numerous ways within this model.

  • Identify what is and is not in their control in the situation
  • What does this mean to them?
  • If they had more or less control how would that impact them?
  • How does what they control impact on what they can / cannot influence?
  • If they want to have more influence, what do they need to develop in their control?
  • If they are anxious or concerned, why? Are they concerned over things that they have not control or influence over? Do they need to have control or influence them?
  • Exploration over areas they are concerned about but cannot influence or change. Where does it stem from.
  • Can they ever have any influence over the situation?
  • Where should the client be focusing their time and energies?
  • Where and how can they be proactive? What will that bring them?
  • Get the client to draw out the three circles. In relation to their work fills the circles with all the things that are of concern, they can influence and are in their control. Examine what they have written. What do they notice? Themes? What needs to change?