Spheres of influence and diversity and inclusion

Author: Dawn Bonfield

Date published

23 February 2021

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Spheres of influence and diversity and inclusion

Date published

Dawn Bonfield

Date published

23 February 2021


Dawn Bonfield

In this blog Dawn Bonfield explains how to use the spheres of influence model to bring about change.

Working in the field of diversity and inclusion, I am often asked what can be done to increase the number of under-represented people in engineering. One of the things I find helpful to reference in conversations about this is the spheres of influence model.

The spheres of influence model is a useful tool that can be applied to many areas of work. It urges us to act in areas that we can directly control or influence. It encourages us not to waste time and energy on things that we cannot control or influence.

It allows people of all levels of seniority to envisage actions that can realistically be taken to reach a goal. This is done by creating a series of small steps which is usually easier than imaging an enormous leap from the current situation to the end goal.

Your sphere of direct control

If you imagine that you’re at the centre of a sphere, everything within it is the world around you that you are in total control of.

This is where you can make direct changes without reference to anybody or anything else. Your own values, beliefs and motivations determine your behaviour.

Your sphere of influence

Moving outwards, you enter a second concentric sphere. This is where you can exert your soft power, your influence or persuasion to get other people to behave in ways which further your beliefs or goals. Depending on your professional role and your seniority, this could give you a significant reach.

Your sphere of aspirational influence

Further out again is the sphere in which you cannot necessarily influence in your current role. Here, for example, might be actions you would like those in positions of power to take.

Whilst you do not necessarily have control or influence over this area, it is useful to imagine what you would like to happen here. Having these actions in mind will help you exert your influence if you ever get the opportunity to.

Your sphere of negligible influence

The final outer sphere represents an area where you have negligible influence. Here you could put widely held societal beliefs and norms. These would be very difficult, although not impossible, to change. Change in this zone requires serious commitment and momentum on a national or even global level.


Your influence in relation to your seniority


Sphere of influence diagrams will look very different for people at different levels of seniority. If you are in middle or senior management, there will be things that are in your control that are not in the control of somebody more junior.

The important thing is to set out the actions that are relevant to your own position.

Using spheres of influence to impact on diversity and inclusion

Spheres can be segmented into areas radiating from the centre that look like pizza slices. You can then identify a particular change as your goal at the thick end of the slice. This will allow you to segment actions and outcomes.

For example, my own work ultimately aims to create a more diverse and inclusive engineering sector.
This means each of the individual pizza slices would contribute to that as the ultimate outcome. As an example, some of these pizza slices might be labelled as:
  • Promote inclusive recruitment
  • Diversify award winners
  • Use employee networks to support culture change
Let’s take ‘promote inclusive recruitment’ as an example. I can envisage a differing series of focused actions that radiate from the centre of the sphere of influence for people with different levels of seniority:

Wherever you sit in the hierarchy, there is always something that you can do personally to influence diversity and inclusion. There will also be things that you can influence others to do too.

Whatever you’re trying to influence, best of luck with it.


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