Making A Difference That Matters
We live in a busy, changing world. It is inaccurate to say that the complexity of our lives isn’t increasing. As the use of social media becomes more and more present in our lives, it becomes more difficult to know where to draw the line in terms of what is important.
From many sources, we are asked to accept, join and become like the influential voices that find us every day. Do we want to? What is the benefit we gain? How do we make sense of it all? Are our lives becoming more fulfilling, simple and peaceful? If not, then what do we do to simplify the complex situations that seem to have taken hold of our lives? How do we gain perspective and confidence with which to manage our lives with integrity and satisfaction?
Most of us use tools to give us this kind of perspective.
- We write plans for our week or year.
- We use our calendar to keep all our responsibilities in view.
- We read books and listen to podcasts of people who make sense to us.
- We keep a journal to better articulate what is going on in our heads.
- We meet with life coaches, counselors or mentors to talk through our life situations.
It isn’t that we aren’t trying to make sense of our world. I use all these approaches continually. They are helpful, but not complete. There is always something missing. They don’t answer all the questions that I have.
This nagged at me for a long time. I’d resolve a problem, but some aspects of the situation remained problematic.
Here’s a typical example that many of us may have experienced:
The expectations that your employer has for you doesn’t seem to fit the job description that you were hired to fulfill. It is a delicate situation because you are not sure how to approach the issue with your boss. Your dilemma is that you don’t know what is the source of the problem.
Is it that your job description changed without discussion? Is it that there is something going on with the company that is causing this situation? Or, is it something related to your boss that is forcing her to add new work to your responsibilities?
Faced with this situation, you want perspective so that you can know what to do. Do you go along with the expectations? Do you speak to your boss? Or, do you take this as an opportunity to demonstrate your value to the company by excelling in these new areas of assignment? Do you make an issue of the new expectations or suffer in silence?
Seeing the Whole Picture and A Fragmented One
It isn’t a simple situation. It is a complex one because whatever we do, we may create other problems that may increase the complexity of the situation. We need a way to see the whole picture, not a fragmented one.
This is what the Circle of Impact model of leadership provides. It is a perspective that joins three dimensions that are always present with us – together – to create a wholistic picture of any situation.
In virtually every situation we encounter, there is an interplay between our perception of or the ideas that we have about the situation, our relationships with the people involved, and some social or organizational structure.
In the example above, you have an understanding of what your job is. It is based on a written job description provided by the company when you were hired.
There is a relationship that exists between you and your boss. Has this relationship changed? If so, how. Is it a relationship of trust and open communication? How would you know?
Has something changed within the structure of the business or department that explains the increase in expectations?
In using the Circle of Impact, we want to determine which one of the three dimensions is the more critical aspect of the problem. This decision is a starting point because all three dimensions are involved. The solution includes all three dimensions. Yet, we must start with one.
Finding Clarity to Solve the Real Problem
In our example, let’s decide that the critical problem is the relationship with the boss. He is your connecting point to the rest of the company. If there is a problem there, everything else is affected.
In saying this, you are saying the extra work may not be a serious problem, but a confusing one. You need to be clear about what your new responsibilities are if your job description has changed. You also might be saying that you are okay to do the extra work if it provides for some additional compensation or extra time off. You just want to know what the whole story is. So, you begin with the boss.
The Circle of Impact brings clarity to situations. Not only can we determine what the critical issue is, but also how we can address it. One of the principles of the Circle of Impact model is that the solution to problems is not directly found in the problem itself. Instead, we identify the problem as one of the dimensions, and then, use the other two dimensions to solve our problem.
Instead of going to your boss to raise a concern about your relationship, you go to her seeking clarity about the increased expectations. You want to know if this is a change in your job description or just a temporary situation. In approaching your boss this way, you are seeking trust-building communication. By strengthening the two non-critical dimensions, you open up avenues for strengthening the third.
Leading for Impact
The Circle of Impact is not just a problem-solving tool. It is a model for leading our lives and organizations. All leadership begins with personal initiative to create impact that makes a difference that matters. This means that anyone regardless of who they are, can make a difference as a leader.
The Circle of Impact provides you with a way to see situations, make decisions and take initiative to make a difference in the world. By creating impact, you are causing change to happen. Think of this change as a continuous series of moments of impact. Instead of experiencing change as random, chaotic and disruptive, the result is you find your life transformed. You discover that you are always in a transition, advancing forward through the impact that you create every day.
To lead from this perspective means that we each are translating the values that are important to us into a clear sense of purpose for impact.
Your sense of identity is not just a feeling or an idea, but a way of living. You discover genuine satisfaction and fulfillment that is not occasional, but the defining characteristic of your life.
This new self-awareness is the promise that the Circle of Impact brings to people and their organizations.