Circle of Control

Circle of Control

Effectively achieving results requires the discipline and discernment to focus time, energy, and resources on what is within our control or strong influence. For a topic as complex as job quality, this can be a useful tool for identifying which of the five “levers” you, your team, or your agency should focus on.

(Adapted from Franklin Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People")

Circle of concern: Things that you care about, spend time reading about, worrying about or stressing about but have no control over. Examples might include a growing international trade war, rising interest rates, the national unemployment rate, occupational segregation across the US economy, increasing cost of living, or the growing share of GDP going to capital. These are facts or trends we may need to understand to contextualize our work, but we do not have any way to influence on a macro level.

Circle of influence: A narrowing of the first circle into those worries we can do something about – either directly or indirectly. Examples might include who the elected leaders are in our communities, local or state policy (e.g., minimum wage, stable scheduling), county procurement practices, civil service HR practices, or the industries in the region. While we may be able to influence these in different ways in different orders of magnitude, there are often many forces impacting these items.


  • What tables do you sit at?

  • What review processes do you already participate in?

  • What training do you deliver?

  • What commitments have already been made by leadership / where can you connect JQ as an accelerator to their goals?

  • Where are there near term opportunities? (e.g. upcoming assessment, policy refresh, budget cycle)

Circle of Control: An even smaller circle, representing the things we can directly do something about. This may include how you will manage an upcoming RFP, the values and lived experience of the individuals you hire, which employers you work with, how you negotiate contracts, and which policy and practice changes you prioritize.


  • What data do you currently have?

  • What programs or processes do you currently run?

  • What content (manuals, guides, websites) do you manage?

  • What existing reporting do you produce where you could connect the dots to job quality?

  • What, if any, purchasing/expenses do you control through your budget?

  • Which customers/staff members do you interact with regularly?

  • What communication processes do you manage (surveys, interviews)?


Did you identify your “Circle of Control”? Now you can select a lever.