APU Business Careers Careers & Learning Leading Forward Podcast

Learning to Manage Your Circle of Influences

Podcast featuring Dr. Aikyna Finch, Faculty Training Developer, Center for Teaching & Learning and
Dr. Larry D. Parker Jr., Department Chair, Transportation and Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management

What are the things in your life that take your time, resources, attention and energy? Are they positively contributing to your priorities in life or are they draining you and keeping you from actually achieving your goals? In this episode, Dr. Aikyna Finch talks to APU professor Dr. Larry Parker, Jr. about how to manage your circle of influences. Learn how to assess and take stock of all the things and people that influence you and take steps to manage those influences to align with your life goals. 

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Dr. Aikyna Finch: Welcome to the podcast. I am your host, Dr. Aikyna Finch. Today, we’re going to talk about managing the circle influences and how this circle affects our personal and professional lives. Today, our guest is Dr. Larry Parker.

Dr. Larry Parker, Jr. is a graduate of Capella University, where he earned his Ph.D. in Organization and Management. He is a certified Inspector General by the Association of Inspector Generals. Dr. Parker currently serves as Department Chair of Transportation and Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management.

Prior to his dedication to academia, he spent 24 years as a Marine Corps officer, and recently retired as Lieutenant Colonel. Dr. Parker has a long history and passion for local communities and is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated. Hello, Larry. Welcome to the podcast.

Dr. Larry Parker Jr.: Hello, Aikyna. I am happy to be here actually, ecstatic because I’ve been looking forward to this for a while.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Well, I am so glad to have you here. I know we’re going to have an amazing conversation. So, let’s get started. Today, we’re going to be talking about managing the circle of influences. So that implies that there is more than one influence. So, tell us about the different types of influences that we could have in our personal and professional lives.

Dr. Larry Parker Jr.: I appreciate this because you’re absolutely right. To lean back on some of those adages where people talked about their circle and they often refer to the people in their lives. And then we have to think about it. And I thought over the years, and as I start to speak to individuals, the people were just a small portion of it. Because that same person, then would talk about the job they went to and how they spent their time, whether that was on the cell phone, playing a video game, or those type things.

And so the concept of managing the circle, or just recognizing what those influences are, are anything that take away from your personal resources. Those resources, your time, your money, any of those type things, your attention. So just in a nutshell, that’s your job. The individuals in your lives, your interests, anything that takes away or utilizes anything that you have, your resources, those are the things that are in your circle.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Very good. And so how do we really take stock of that? Do we make a list? Do we evaluate our time? Do we check our calendar to find out what these are? Tell us a little bit more about that.

Dr. Larry Parker Jr.: Well, it’s a combination of all of those things. Because technology helps us out now. Those that have phones that now measure your screen time. You could do it the old way of just looking at your phone calls. It is a taking stock. You’ll make a list of the things that influence you, the things that are going on in your life.

And so that means all your friends that you communicate with, your job, all your interests. And what I like to do, is put this on one long sheet of paper or in a spreadsheet if you want to go that far, and these are things that you find a priority. It could be exercise, it could be your sleep, all these things that are important are influences. And so that’s what these things are.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: What brought you to start studying the management of the circle of influence? What made you bring that to the forefront in your speaking?

Dr. Larry Parker Jr.: Well, individuals are looking for inspiration and I was going around talking to individuals and it always seemed that it happened to be something else included, but they didn’t often add it. That was a negative or drawing away from their goal. Some people would tell me, “Well, it’s this person or this thing that I’m doing.” And as I’m listening to them, I’m recognizing that there’s additional things there that they’re not accounting for.

We’ll make the comparison to like someone talking about their budget and, “Oh, I don’t have enough money at the end of the week.” And they’re identifying the big item, “Oh, I have to make a car payment this week.” And it’s as if I was sitting there watching them and knowing that they would have a latte every single day or several. And so that would be an example of, they didn’t see the latte as an expense. But if it was $5, $6, or whatever they cost now, and they’re having multiple in a week, they didn’t see that as a hidden cost that to be accounted for.

And that’s like these influences, people have things that are going on in their life. They may blame it on the job, for example. But then I point out that you’ve spoken on the phone for three hours each day, you’re not able to pursue your goal. That’s really where that came from.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Oh, spoken like a true coach. People tell you surface things, but it’s your job to get a little deeper as we say, right? And so because of this, this became a speaking topic. And did this also become a coaching topic? Tell us about this.

Dr. Larry Parker Jr.: All right. And here’s a shameless plug for my coach, Aikyna is being modest there, she’s actually the coach that trained me to be a coach. And the one thing that I would say, we learned to listen, she taught us about listening. And I incorporate that into my sessions where I purposefully sit back, I’ll ask a question and allow the client to just walk through open-ended. “Hey, what’s going on in your life? What’s influencing in your day, if you’re trying to achieve your goals?” And it’s often the things that they don’t say. And so I listen for things that just know that happened in life. If you don’t mention sleep, you don’t mention eating, you don’t mention some of these other things. I know they happen, but you’ve filled your day up with everything else.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Very good. So for our listeners that are sitting with us right now, listening to your powerful words, can you tell us some of the things that they need to be looking for in a day? So, that they’ll know their circle of influences. This is important, because a lot of people just go through their day and don’t even think about what’s happening. And then they’re tired or they’re overwhelmed, and they don’t know why. Could this circle of influences be part of that overwhelm or that tiredness?

Dr. Larry Parker Jr.: Yes. And most definitely, it likely is. And in a perfect situation, we’re all looking at our next day and planning it out. We know exactly what we’re doing, and it all goes according to plan. But in this case, when someone’s learning what their circle is, it’s those things that you don’t account for. And it’s those things that cause you to change your focus and interests.

So, if I decided I was going to write an article and I needed an hour or two hours to do that, instead of an additional phone call or that demand that I can’t do that all day. The reason I have to shorten it, is because I have to go do this other meeting or have to speak to someone else.

So it’s those ways that if you’re a planner, it’s those things that intrude on the plan. If you’re not a planner, it’s those immediate direction changes that you have to make because something has drawn your attention. And that’s the main distinction. There may be a ton of things going on around you, but if it doesn’t cause you to change your focus or your energy, then that’s not in your circle. It’s the things that you have to react to that are in your circle.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: And you mentioned that sometimes you have to tell people, “No,” and you have to not do things. So let’s talk about that person who that affects, who they don’t like to be that, “No,” person. Who they want to make everybody happy, they want to make sure that everybody is all well, and they tend to neglect theirselves. How does managing the circle influences affect them?

Dr. Larry Parker Jr.: This is a challenge for a number of people because individuals are just not conflict-driven by nature. We like to go through life and not have very many conflicts, and saying, “No,” is a form of a conflict for some. You not giving someone what they want. And I’m a big advocate of reading and following people that inspire you. And one of the persons that inspire me, I don’t take away from something and not give due credit, but it’s Eric Thomas.

He had a saying about people that come into your life with a to go plate. And that means they just come and they take and take. And the problem is, there’s no meter often on the individuals who take that you’re trying to satisfy. And this is something that I work on and I struggle with myself, because I’m thinking this one thing may satisfy that individual. But it’s important to know that those gauges are different. For the persons that like to please, it’s usually not the same levels of, I would say, importance or tolerance for the people who like to take. Takers will always take more than what you may be willing or capable of giving.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: So, Dr. Parker, can you please tell us about the circle of influence as far as the different levels of life? Meaning, is your influence different as a student compared to a professional compared to a retiree?

Dr. Larry Parker Jr.: Yes. I would say, each major stage of life, the influences change. None of us should expect back in those great years of high school, as we would probably look at now and thinking about the level of responsibilities that many of us had. There’s always extremes, but many of us had no bills, things of that nature.

To being a college student and really a lot of times, some may have work study, may have worked their way through, but their primary responsibility was getting through college, taking care of their classes. And so as our students that we address, their primary focus is completing the lessons, living their life, earning their income.

However, they might, interacting with those around their life. Now, studies will likely be the primary influence in their life at that time. School. And that goes for the instructors, that this is their primary income in many cases. And so developing the curriculum, delivering the classes is most important. And for a retiree, it just fills, those individuals fill in those spaces with the things that are interesting to them now. It might be a hobby, it might be loved ones.

So if we all just look at it that we all have the same amount of time in a day, and it’s just whatever is the priority that’s giving the most return for us in our lives at that time: school, work, loved ones. That’s the gamut for those three.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: The reason why I asked that question is because I do believe that you did a lot of those things in succession. Meaning, while you were in your professional life, you were also in school and you changed positions once you became a retiree. Am I on the right track?

Dr. Larry Parker Jr.: Yes, you’re on the right track.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: So I would like to talk to the people about the ones that do it in succession. Because what happens, how do they balance that? As a coach, I’m sure you’ve talked to people who are managing those circles of influence and juggling several of them. And how do they bring them into a nice bow, as we say?

Dr. Larry Parker Jr.: Okay. Well, the things I did in achieving some of these things, it gave me great perspective on it. I wouldn’t say everyone do it the exact same way, because as I shared with you, I was on a deployment and working on papers. And, in one case, the ship that I was sailing on while I was in the Marine Corps, the internet only worked as the ship traveled in one direction. So as we zigzagged, I would have to send emails and do some research. And as they zagged or zigged back the other way, I was in the dark.

I will say for those that are truly having to do a lot of things and balance them, and then you had something right after it where there wasn’t very much of a break. Now, 2020 hindsight as I work with clients, I look at it, you’re not always going to get the best out of all those experiences.

It can be done because I’m proof that it can be done. Should it be done? I am now here and why I push on it so much is because you don’t get the full effect of some of those things, you don’t get to enjoy the full experience.

Or the last piece, you don’t get to give your total effort to get the quality of work that you would like. So this is where the management comes in. The management of the influences. You have to take stock and understand what is most important now. And just as if you were adjusting gauges on a machine, turn down those that are not right for this particular time and turn up those that need more of your time or require more of your time and require more of your influence. So it is an active thing. It’s not going to happen passively. You have to be in tune with what you want in that particular phase of life at all times.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Very good. Very good. I love that. So let’s say that someone is in those phases and they need coaching. What would you suggest they look for to let them know that they’re at that point?

Dr. Larry Parker Jr.: Well, the most important thing to do when you’re assessing yourself, is to do it often. And when you can’t come to the answer on your own, those are the times that when there’s a pause, you plateau and you’re seeing the problem the same way over and over again, it’s time to look for someone who’s objective, who may not be as invested in one of those interests or those influences. And that can tell you from an outsider’s perspective, but they have experience enough, and they are able to communicate it to you well enough where your interest should change.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: So, Dr. Parker, as we get ready to wrap up, I want you to tell the people that big nugget, that thing that they need to really start evaluating to get the circle of influences together, to get their system back on track, and to be moving in the direction of success.

Dr. Larry Parker Jr.: The nugget for anyone looking to improve things that are going on in their lives, manage their circle of influences, is to pause and take stock. It all starts with knowing what is going on in your life, what you value. And that is the key to any step, that’s drawing the map before you start moving.

And so what I would say, is find a quiet place, someplace that you are not going to be influenced by other things or distracted, get away from the naysayers or those other people that may have influence in your ear. This is your personal journey. This is the journey of whoever’s seeking to make change or enhance some aspect of their life. It all starts with taking stock. So I would say that is the major thing. That is the map that is going to guide your next step, you need to know who you are and where you’re going.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: This has been an amazing conversation. What I got from your talk today, was the fact that there are many things that are going to influence us. Some are going to be big, some are going to be small, but they all have an impact one way or the other. And we need to learn how to manage that impact so that it doesn’t overwhelm us or take away from the success that we’re trying to achieve. Am I on the right track?

Dr. Larry Parker Jr.: Absolutely right track.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: So with that being said, if someone feels that they’re in a situation where they have never really had control over their own existence, how do they manage that circle of influence so that they start taking more control?

Dr. Larry Parker Jr.: Well, in that case, it’s probably taking that accounting that I mentioned a step further and measuring the impact of the influences. Who is in control? Who is dictating some of those things? And if it’s the job, then there’s a certain amount of time that a job requires you to be in that place. If there’s a person that is taking up a significant amount of a resource, whether that be your finances, something like that is very important to know.

And then it comes with understanding what your influence or what the mechanism to address those things. So if it’s a job, you really need to see is the working environment and things the best way to approach, how would you address that? And so that is the best way, taking stock and understanding the power of those individuals have and influence.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Wonderful. Dr. Larry Parker, I want to thank you for spending this little time with me today. It was a great conversation, and I want to give you an opportunity to add anything that we did not cover as far as managing the circle of influences.

Dr. Larry Parker Jr.: Well, I appreciate it. I’ve had a great time as well. The only thing that I would say, is the first step is knowing who you are and what’s important. And so I’d like to reiterate that. And for those that are listening that know me, and I don’t like anyone to step away and say, “Well, I know you’re working on that.” Absolutely, and I own that. And that’s part of it. Owning yourself and owning your situation. I know that I’m a work in progress as well. I coach, but I’m a work in progress as well. And we all are.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Well, I thank you for sharing that piece because one thing is for sure, we don’t want the perfect coach. We want the authentic coach. And for you to say that you are a work in progress, shows that you are authentic coach that cares. So we want to thank you so much for sharing your expertise today on this episode.

Dr. Larry Parker Jr.: Thank you.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: And to our listeners, thank you for joining us. Be well and be safe.

Dr. Aikyna Finch is a faculty member at the University. She received a doctorate of management, an MBA in technology management and an executive MBA from Colorado Technical University. Dr. Finch also has an M.S. in management in marketing from Strayer University, an M.S. in information systems in IT project management from Strayer University and a B.S. in aeronautical technology in industrial electronics from the School of Engineering at Tennessee State University. She is a podcaster, coach, author and speaker. Dr. Finch is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council and a contributor to Huffington Post, Goalcast, Forbes, and Thrive Global. She can be found at DrADFinch on all social media platforms.

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