Curated Leadership for Today's World

What Playing Field Are You On?

Posted on 13 January 2019


I was dining at a Chinese restaurant with friends recently and when the bill arrived so did fortune cookies. I anxiously opened mine to see what wisdom of the ages it held, and it contained the following insight: If you want to score in life, you must know where the goal posts are. This saying is similar to a quote from Arnold Glasgow.


 



My previous two blogs were about habits and beliefs, and it struck me how these two things are useless without knowing where you need to drive to get into the end zone. During my tenure in the military, we used a term called “theater” which symbolized an area in which significant events occur or are progressing.



We would further deconstruct theater into terminology with brilliant ties to the playing fields of life on which we find ourselves: Area of Responsibility, Area of Operations, Area of Influence, and Areas of Interest. 


Area of Responsibility: AOR is a pre-defined geographic region where commanders have authority to plan and conduct operations for which they bear a specific responsibility. For parents, this describes the care and feeding of their children; for citizens, this explains the need to conduct themselves in lawful manners, for leaders this describes taking care of the health and reputation of the individuals under their watch.




 Area of Operations: AOO is typically more focused on a particular operation or activity. These generally are smaller than the AOR and focus on tactical operability or in civilian terms, the day to day activities. For a business owner, this is ensuring all of the daily operational requirements to keep the organization running are met. For a student, it's about meeting suspense and making sure all required work is submitted. For leaders, it's ensuring your second in command can make decisions on their own.


Area of Influence: In an AOI, communication is employed to gather intelligence regarding future operations. Today’s AOI may be tomorrow’s AOO. AOI is why we get involved in networking events and attending conferences. We may intersect with decision makers or gain vital information regarding how to advance our organizational ball. This area focuses on things we can do something about, and not on things that bother, annoy, or concern us.


Area of Interest: The term AOI specifies areas of interest, such as the location of friendly or enemy forces, capabilities that may be an advantage, and other key terrain issues that may concern the commander. This includes keeping your eye on changing landscapes such as market competitors, industry and governmental regulations, and developing your organization’s emerging leaders. Reading journals, research, and listening to thought leaders is a great way to expand your area of interest.



If we are not intentional about spending the right amount of time in each of these areas, we'll never get a touchdown. In fact, we may fumble the ball, suffer a business ending interception, or a family ending losing streak. Take time to print out these and write down each of the items in the particular area where it belongs.


Once you've got your Area of Operation dialed in, then you can begin assessing who's going to be on your team through your Area of Influence. I have several small groups I meet with monthly. These individuals have a significant impact in helping me advance the tremendous ball in a meaningful and integrous way. They also have the organizational chops to help me call effective plays in an ever-changing business landscape.


This simple exercise will help you stay focus and to keep the main thing the main thing! If we do not meet all our duties in the Area of Responsibility, we cannot move forward to our tactical day to day living. We must fulfill obligations to society, to our families, and to those whose health, safety and welfare we are entrusted with. Once you are scoring touchdowns in this theater, you can then move on to the Area of Operations where you begin structuring activities congruent with your responsibilities. When people start conducting themselves in ways divergent or non-congruent with their Area of Responsibility, bad things happen, sometimes with irreversible consequences.


In 2019, take time to examine where you are spending your time. What field are you engaging in most? Where are your goal posts planted and do you have the right players on your team to garner a win? One last bit of advice I was recently given, don't implement a change in the third quarter that won't guarantee a victory in the fourth. Stay the course, be courageous, and have faith that all the time and efforts you put in your previous plays, will come to fruition when the winner is declared.


















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3 comments

  • jeremy: January 14, 2019

    Great read. I also like to say that when the game, or sale, or school graduation has come and gone, to keep your strong connections intact. If you graduate from school, college and have had some excellent friendships, make sure to keep those connections through the rest of your life…you don’t know if one of these connections will be able to help you move forth in some area of life after school or even after retirement.

  • Elaine mallios: January 14, 2019

    Very good Tracey! Love it! I’ve heard this before but it really does hit home as I often find myself going in too many directions!

  • Ed Helvey: January 14, 2019

    Great analogies, Tracey. You nailed it and hammered home some valuable concepts, some of which I’ve allowed to slide in my own world. Thanks.

    Ed

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