Circle of friendsWhen I was young I remember my grandmother and my aunt regularly going to their “circle” meetings. These circles were groups of women who met together to enjoy each other’s company, encourage each other and learn from each other. They were excited to go to these meetings and they would be happy when they returned home. It seemed it was good for them and their friends. A few years ago my Aunt invited me to speak on a topic at her circle group meeting. I expected there would be 4 or 5 women there eating cake and talking about their medical problems. I was wrong. The house was full. Most of these women were in their 70’s but they sprang around with such energy giving hugs, asking about grandkids and just flat enjoying the company. I wasn’t expecting a party but that’s what it was. My aunt, 78 at the time, left the meeting with a warm glow.

During the ride home she told me how her circle would check on her when she was sick, include her on shopping trips and pick her up if she needed a ride. She said the group would expand and contract based on life circumstances but that they were always inviting other ladies to join them. This whole thing sounded pretty cool to me. There was some serious influence happening here. Her life was better because of her circle. I guess you could say it was a circle of influence.

Contrast this with a clique. Cliques form in most places where there are numbers of people; schools, churches and at work. Cliques, like a circle are groups of people that spend time together. The definition of a clique is: A small exclusive group of friends or associates.

The word exclusive jumps out to me. I believe that is the major difference between a clique and a circle. A circle of influence is inclusive, cliques are exclusive. A circle is easy to get into and difficult to get out of. My aunt told me that the ladies in her circle would come get here if she didn’t feel up to driving to the meeting. They actually pursued her even if it was an inconvenience for them.

Remember cliques in high school? Many of them were nearly impossible to get into. And you could get kicked out quicker than batting an eye if you didn’t conform to the expectations of the clique and it’s leaders. These things were full of gossip and back-stabbing. There was influence happening there too, just not the good kind.

As leaders we don’t want cliques in our organizations, we want to have circles of influence. We want networks that put a spring in people’s step, that add value to their lives and that easily include others.

A Circle of Influence:

  • Helps people belong
    Everyone needs to belong to something. Life gets busy and life gets challenging for everyone. Without a support group it is so easy for us to feel alone. A healthy circle helps meet that need.
  • Enhances life
    The ladies in my Aunt’s circle had a ton of fun together. They laughed as they shared stories and ate dessert. The circle clearly provided joy to their lives.
  • Fosters growth
    Whenever people get together that are “for” each other, learning happens. Contacts are shared, lessons are taught and accountability is provided. A circle of influence can be a hotbed for growth.

We have to remember our team members at work are humans too. They have families, problems, dreams and concerns. Circles of influence can really help them navigate life. So think about your team:

Who is in your circle? How are you investing in them? Who can you pursue to include in your circle?

Have a great weekend of influence!