In healthcare, it can be difficult to determine where to focus your energy. Whether you work in management or on the frontline, the number of issues you have to worry about on a given day can seem insurmountable.

That’s why it’s important to narrow your focus to the areas where you can have the biggest impact. Knowing how to do that will prevent you from burning out and help your team become more effective and efficient, resulting in a higher quality of patient care and a healthier work environment.

One of our favourite frameworks for helping clients determine which of their concerns to focus on is the Circles of Influence and Control.

Made popular by Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the concept breaks down the things that worry us into three categories:

  1. The Circle of Concern contains everything that concerns us about a topic or scenario.
  2. The Circle of Influence narrows those concerns down to those that we can have an impact on, directly or indirectly.
  3. The Circle of Control refines the list even further to only the concerns we have direct control over.

Using this framework, let’s dive into an example of how a healthcare manager might focus their energy to improve their team’s effectiveness and wellbeing.

Assess your Circle of Concern

The first step to tackling an issue is to understand your associated concerns.

Let’s say a patient in your unit is acting disrespectful and causing difficulties for the nurses on staff.

Your concerns about this situation might include:

  • The patient’s impact on your team’s morale
  • The safety of the nurses caring for the patient
  • The impact of the situation on your own mental health 
  • The patient’s well being after leaving your care

Zone in on your Circle of Influence

Once you are clear on what exactly your concerns are, think about what you are able to influence. Or, narrow it down by removing the concerns that are completely outside of your control.

Using the above example, you can likely influence your team’s morale by creating a positive and safe environment for team members to debrief and take care of themselves after stressful interactions.

However, you can’t control what the patient does when they leave your care. They will make their own decisions, whether you agree with them or not, and all the well-intended worry in the world won’t change that.

Narrow your focus to the Circle of Control

Finally, you can take the list of concerns that fall under your Circle of Influence and determine which ones are actually directly within your control.

While you can’t control the patient’s actions, you can control the safety of your team by following proper procedure and protocol if the patient begins to show signs of violence and aggression. 

In any situation, you can always control your own response and the way the events impact your well being. Have tools ready to cope with stress before, during and after work to minimize the lasting impact of high pressure situations.

Determine the best use of your time and energy

The end goal of this exercise is, of course, to aid you in creating an actionable plan for dealing with a stressful situation that maximizes your positive impact.

Review the concerns that are within your power to influence or control, and decide which ones are the highest priority. Determine the exact action or series of actions required to positively influence or directly control each concern. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your team when needed!

Need more help handling stressful situations?

Our coaches have led successful healthcare careers and are uniquely positioned to help healthcare leaders navigate challenging situations and foster more effective and cohesive teams. To find out if coaching is a good fit for you, book a free consultation with us today.

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