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Can you Hear Me at the Back?

Man holding a tin cup out and talking into it.

I was thinking about the circle of influence and the circle of concern today and how this is a great way to explain the engagement challenge of a remote / hybrid team.

If you aren't familiar with the model, I came across it here first. It's a model used to help position what you can and can't influence in your life and therefore what you should spend your time and energy on. Your circle of influence you can impact, your circle of control, much less so.  

At the moment I think this simple model of two circles has another application. As a leader, picture yourself in the centre of the circle. Those closest to you, will influence you the most. They are likely to be those that you interact with the most. Those you speak to on the phone, have the most video calls with, exchange the most WhatsApp messages with. 

This has always been the case, but moving to a remote / hybrid team, means any incidental interactions that you might have benefited from are less likely to happen - there's no bumping into someone when you're making a brew, or taking the lift. 

Quite quickly, your feedback and knowledge of what's happening in your business or team can become limited to those you interact with the most - those in your “inner circle”. 

This is where group-think appears, where creativity and innovation dissipate and where fairness and transparency get squashed. It's also where employee engagement issues can form and you'd have no idea it was happening.

It's not that you aren't concerned about those further away from you. It's just that you interact with them less, you aren't as tapped in to what they are doing or how they are feeling. 

Those in your circle of concern might start to wonder if they are valued in the same way as those in your circle of influence. They begin to wonder whether you care about their opinion, or if they have any influence.

Organisations who have always operated in this remote / hybrid model of working may have mechanisms set up to ensure two way communication already. They work hard to overcome the circle of influence / circle of concern traps. For others moving to this model more recently, it may need a period of adjustment, to ensure that the change doesn’t prove to be damaging to the culture and impact on employee engagement. 

An employee engagement survey is a great way (not the only way), to ensure that you're continuing to give your whole team a voice. That you are tapped into their feedback and are checking in on what would make a positive difference to them.

We've made sure that our surveys are inclusive of everyone, not just those on email, who are more likely to be in your circle of influence anyway.

If you already operate in a remote / hybrid model and some of this resonates, or if you are moving to a new way of working - we'd love to have a chat about how we can help. 

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