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Our Circles Of Influence

Bill Nelson

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We all have areas of influence in our life. From the environment we live and operate in. To the family, friends and people we associate with. Each and everyone has a different type and level of influence. Sometimes positive sometimes negative.

From a coaches perspective I always tried to know and understand the circle of influence with each and every person that I worked with. From my point of view it is always important to know and understand the people that are going to help or hinder your quest.

It is my firm belief regardless of who you are and what you dothe people around you can and will have a significant impactupon you, what you do and how you do it. As I said earlier this can be either a positive or negative impact. But rather than dwell on the negative forces we are going to look at some of the positive scenarios for your circle of influence.

There are certain times in our life when and where we feel we are not in control. We maybe under pressure at work, or we feel stressed about someone. On the other hand, perhaps we are nervous about an upcoming situation and maybe we are unsure about the outcome of a certain event or scenario.

When these times occur there is a tendency to do two things:

1. Think irrationally

2. Communicate less

It is not as though we want to do either but for some reason our focus heads in these directions. We tend to look at all the negative things that may or may not happen. This brings added stress, uncertainty, and nervousness. We sometimes are not at all comfortable in this situation so we tend to hide it from others we with withdraw into our own little world and the situation develops into something that it is not.

Now please do not get me wrong I know all of us have at times experienced major situations in our life, and I am not trying to downplay these types of situations. What I am talking about is the things we look back at now and can smile about, but at the time we thought the sun would never shine again.

What is the answer to these types of situations?

Develop a circle of influence.

Or for that matter develop a few of them.

Now we all have friends and family that we go to for advice and input at various times. But what I am talking about are specific groups of people that you use in certain situations. These groups and their makeup can be as wide ranging as your imagination allows. What is worth remembering though is that these groups are being put together to do a certain job.

The people that you select in your circles of influence are there because they have a certain understanding or a skill that will bring clarity and direction for you when you require it. So it is important that you base the makeup of your circles of influence on some type of criteria. Those criteria should obviously contain elements of relevancy, experience, open mindedness, articulation of ideas, and the ability to listen.

Of course these concepts will vary from situation to situation and from one group to another. However, the makeup should be dependant upon what it is each person brings to the group. It is also very important that the make up of your circles of influence is not a group of ‘yes’ people. You want a group that will listen, understand, think, ask questions, challenge your thinking, thinks some more, then give well thought out advice, with equally well thought out rationale. You don't want a group that all they are going to do is say yes to everything you put before them.

With the make up of your circle of influence it is also important to think about the specificity of the group. Do I need people that do the same things I do, or do I need people that have an understanding of what I do? Or do I need people that do similar things but in a different form? I need people that know me, or do I need people that will just be able to understand what it is I need from them? The answer quite simply to all of these is yes, you need all of that and probably more.

Many times when I have discussed this issue with clients they say things like.

"Can't I just use my partner or my family and friends?"

The answer to a certain degree is yes.

But the trouble sometimes with people that are too close to you is, that they are too close. They may not be able to see the forest for the trees, they may feel you are being treated unfairly, they may not feel comfortable telling you what it really is that you need to hear. And from another perspective it maybe an issue that although you are not trying to hide it from anyone, you try to shield the family or friends from the situation. And this could be for a variety of reasons.

When I was actively coaching swimmers, my circles of influence was made up in a number of different ways. My day-to-day circle of influence for coaching was made up of the assistant coaches, it included my mentor coach but it also included two friends that were coaches in basketball and it also included my father.

Now the roles for each of these were quite different. The assistant coaches knew our team and what we were trying to achieve, our relationship was based on two things honesty being one of them, so they knew I expected them to tell me how it is.

My mentor coach who knew my strengths and weaknesses as a coach and could guide me with that information. My two basketball coach friends both had great skills as coaches, both completely different but skills that complimented each other. Then there was my dad, we argued a lot about a lot of different things. Not in a spiteful way but the consequence of two strong minded people, but the reality was he had a unique manner of being able to bring perspective to everything.

I had another circle of influence that was made up of all coaches. We would get together on a weekly basis and have lunch. Someone was responsible each week to bring a topic of discussion to the table. These days I have another circle of influence for my business that I use for guidance on a wide ranging series of issues. The makeup of this group is a true reflection of my business wide and varied. Then, we get down to the brains trust, a group that we usually speak by phone as we are spread all over the world, we discuss issues, give advice and help to each other but basically we respect each other for who we are and what we have done. After this particular group have spent time together your brain is going at a thousand miles per hour.

Then we get to the final circle of influence. My family. The one group that each and everyday help you be a better person just by being around them. They all have their own unique way of helping, guiding and influencing me in so many different ways.

So, as you can see the circles of influence come from many different areas of life, sport, education, business, family and friends. They all have different skills, attributes, knowledge, educational qualifications and experience. They all, in their own way, bring clarity, perspective and understanding into my life and I am eternally grateful to each and everyone of them.

But the most important thing is they bring balance into my life.

And I believe balance is what we should be looking for not only to what the group will bring, but also in the makeup of the group. So when you start looking at putting together a circle of influence, think about what is already in place, what it is you want and need from it and who is best to be able to deliver it. Think about complimentary skills and think most importantly about the element of balance.

Create your circles of influence and use them each and everyday and when things get tough, you will always have people you can go to and know what you are getting from them is going to help you be better for the experience.

© 2008 Total Performance Concepts Pty Ltd

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Bill Nelson is an elite international sporting coach who has turned his knowledge of developing peak team and individual performance into a world-class corporate consultancy, Total Performance Concepts Pty Ltd.

Bill's wisdom on the science of motivation, performance coaching and team building has been utilised by business organisations, defence forces, the real estate and telecommunications industries, educational institutions, local government, numerous businesses and elite sporting programs throughout the world.


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