Sometimes the oldest, simplest, “everyone already knows that” tools turn out to have the biggest impact on a group.

Everyone knows Stephen Covey’s “circle of influence,” a tool for distinguishing between the concerns that you can do something about and those that you can’t.  Once in a while I’ll pull it out with a group that is having trouble staying focused because they just want to vent about the things going wrong within the organization.  The other day during a team building class with a federal agency group, I took a timeout and drew concentric circles on a flipchart labeled “circle of concern” and “circle of influence.”  Then we listed all the complaints we could think of and divided them into those that could be influenced at the organizational level of the participants, and those that we needed to let go.  At the end of the class, many of the participants said it was their greatest takeaway from the class; and it wasn’t even part of the material!

As facilitators we often take for granted that people want the latest and greatest organizational or personal development tools and don’t want to revisit what we might think of as tired old models that everyone already knows.  When we do that we’re making the classic mistake of being stuck in our own frame of reference and failing to see things from the perspective of others.  Federal employees are dealing with tough times right now, and they need simple tools to help them cut through the gloom and see the upside ahead.   We need to give them those tools, even when it means throwing the course book aside and going in an unplanned direction.

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