A key idea that came up in both last week’s leadership community of practice and in this week’s HW Show episode was the own-influence-respond model. In our leadership community, we were talking about the common challenge for managers of having to communicate about a decision you didn’t make. Essential Elements of Scrum On the show, we looked at the six conditions for creating successful teams and how to use the conditions in a range of roles from senior leader to junior team member. In both cases, own-influence-respond is a good tool to have on hand.

We first learned this idea from Diana Larsen here, she called it “Circles and Soup”. We’ve modified the labels a bit since then to reflect how we use it.


The inner circle represents decisions and actions we own. We have authority to do something about things in this circle without any additional permission from anyone else. We also own the consequences of decisions made in this circle.


The Influence circle represents things where someone else owns the decisions and actions, but we are stakeholders of those decisions and actions and we can exert some influence on them. When something is in this circle, we don’t just throw our hands up and say “that’s not our job”, we can choose to become more effective influencers.

One practice we often suggest for things in the influence circle is: “If you can’t fix it, make it more visible.” If you’re trying to improve your teams effectiveness, you could make it visible that your team isn’t aligned on a shared purpose or that team boundaries are unclear, and use that to invite the person with the power to fix it to help you out.


The outer circle is called Respond. Sometimes we can’t even influence who is on the team, for example. But this category still has choice, because we choose how to respond to the things we don’t own or influence. We can respond by getting cynical, or we can respond by choosing to accept the things we cannot change and make the best of it anyway, or to examine whether something we believe is in the respond circle might actually shift into Influence if we could find the right approach.

Learn More

Check out this week’s Humanizing Work Show episode for more. And if you’re a member of the Humanizing Work Leadership Community of Practice, you can view the recording of the January live session on the community space.

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