circle of influence

Circle of Influence

One of the topics that comes up EVERYTIME I’m coaching someone is circle of influence and expectations for behavior change. When my clients reach out to me it’s usually because their expectations for behavior change aren’t being met. Either they expect people’s behavior to change, or animals. Today we’re going to talk about the people.

Typically by the time you get to me you’re hot. I’m your last resort. For some of you we know each other, work together, or used to work together. I usually get to hear from you before you’re so mad you’re heading for HR or the job board.

For others you read my blog and follow me on Facebook so reaching out to me is uncomfortable and you don’t do it until you can’t stand it anymore.

“I’m gonna talk to HR! My boss is going to hear about this! I’m sick of this!” You might say.

I usually ask, “What’s the challenge in this for you?”

Difficult people

This is where there are some differences. Maybe it’s a boss who forgets to keep you in the loop, a co-worker with a short fuse, a micromanager who critiques everything you do, a lazy coworker that can’t keep up with everything you do, or manager who seems to be absent all the time. The list goes on, there’s a whole host of people out there who are difficult to work with. I write and talk a lot about that.

I ask when you go in guns-a-blazin about something you have no control over, what the outcome will be.

Nothing is ever going to change

“Nothing is ever going to change.” You lament.

Oh man, I feel for you at this point because I’ve been there!

The history of difficult coworkers, personality clashes, and challenging leaders is real in my life.

I want to help you.

If I could just come over there and fix it for you, I would! (In fact this used to be a HUGE weakness of mine).

The advice monster

My advice monster can’t hold itself back at this point.

“Why would you go demand that it changes if you already know that it won’t? That’s not a productive use of anybody’s time. It would serve you better to go in focused on what YOU have influence over, how YOU are going to make the relationship better. When you go to your supervisor or HR, you’re seeking advice about how YOU can make the relationship better. Because you can’t control other people.”

But I can’t stop there, “You need to give everybody here the benefit of the doubt. Assume best intent that this person is trying to get better. If you go in to the conversation thinking that everyone is just trying to make this relationship work and see it succeed, your whole conversation is going to be different. Just imagine that is what the conversation is going to be instead of you being in trouble or you needing to defend yourself.”


“I don’t understand if this person is working on their behavior, why doesn’t their behavior change. Why does one person have to work so hard just to be a decent human being?” You ask in desperation.

Sometimes we talk about training animals. I ask you if you would expect to train a blood draw on a giraffe who doesn’t take food from people overnight. Understandably, you say no. So why do we expect people to change their behavior overnight? Typically the things that make us MOST crazy about eachother are big personality traits. These are big things to change. You’re asking overnight (or within a few weeks or months) to completely change how they’ve handled things for YEARS.

It’s gonna be hard.

For both of you. You have to give them some credit that they are trying. Give them time and grace.

You have to realize what you what you can control and what you can’t.

You’ve got to let go of the things you can’t control.



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