Build Circles of Influence During Difficult Times

Today’s crisis presents unique communication challenges. But they’re not half as difficult as what Bethlehem Steel and McClintic-Marshall Construction Company faced.

“The difference between mere management and leadership is communication.”

Winston Churchill

On January 5, 1933, work began in San Francisco on a bridge that would connect the city with Marin County. Bethlehem Steel, located in Pennsylvania, would provide the steel for this enormous project, and each piece needed to fit the precise measurements provided by the design team. With one large group in San Francisco and another in Bethlehem, they worked closely to make sure every detail was correct. They didn’t communicate one on one — they instead went to all members and those around to ensure everyone was working in unison. If one faulted, someone could help. They had complete faith in each member doing their part every day and the seamless communication this project would require. Back then, there were no faxes, no email, no scanners, nothing — but they still found a way to efficiently communicate. And the completion of the bridge remarkably came in under budget and well ahead of schedule.

Today’s crisis presents unique communication challenges. But they’re not half as difficult as what Bethlehem Steel and McClintic-Marshall Construction Company faced. How do we stay on top of our players, staff, and organization during this self-imposed quarantine? Can we improve our players and team when we cannot have them in the weight rooms, gyms, fields, boardrooms or facilities under our watchful eye? Of course, we can. We just have to think differently; we have to solve problems in alternative ways, using different means. It might not be as fast as we would like or as easy, but it's more than feasible. 

We must first establish complete trust, not through a one-time conversation but through a typical daily pattern of communication. We need to educate our players and staff continuously. "I trust you to work; you trust me to work, together we trust each other," must be the daily message from everyone. No one can break the bond. Every day, remind those you lead about the commitment to trust. 

Once we have laid down the foundation for trust, we can then begin to communicate our message — not just to our players and staff, but to anyone and everyone who comes in contact with them. We must determine the "Circle of Influence" to then help us with our communication. It’s not just limited to sports. All leaders must know who else has a voice in the ear of those we lead, then make them part of the messaging.   

Today, start with a blank piece of paper, place the name of one person you lead in the middle, then extend arrows for different parts of their life, from professional to personal. Once you establish these dimensions, then start filling in the names of those who are involved. Work diligently at mastering the Circle of Influence, then once completed, begin on another player. Once you have everyone done, you now have your new complete team. Each one on this list becomes vital to your overall success.   

You now have a way to fix problems from afar, much like those at Bethlehem Steel. Make your masterpiece as astonishing as the Golden Gate Bridge.


P.S. If you are in search of a book recommendation, our team at The Daily Coach highly recommends Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin. In this culmination of five decades of acclaimed studies in presidential history, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin offers an illuminating exploration of the early development, growth, and exercise of leadership.


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