How to Identify People of Influence

Are you looking for influential voices to help you?

If not, here are a few tips on how to identify potential influencers in your life: 

Look for people who are further along the journey than you. We are surrounded by people who are at different stages in life. Some are just getting started; others have a long track record of success and failure. As leaders, we need the influence of those who are further along in their leadership journey. These people have experience and wisdom that comes only from leading. Their input can protect you from making some of the mistakes they made along the way.

To find people who are ahead of you in the journey, consider looking within your organization, but don’t stop there. You might find leaders in your community who will be happy to invest in you. Make a list of successful people you know to see if any of them is interested in having coffee or lunch.

It takes humility to admit someone is further down the road than you. You must be willing to recognize and discuss your inabilities and things you don’t know about the work you are leading. This is a big challenge for many people who call themselves leaders. They want to appear to have all their bases covered. If this is you, park your ego for an hour or two and let someone speak truth into your life.

•List two or three people who are further down the road than you in leadership, achievement, and success.

•Schedule a lunch meeting with each person individually and begin identifying which one(s) you’d like to invite to your table of influence.

Listen for people who value the insight of others. You also need to surround yourself with lifelong learners. These are people who value the insight and opinions of other people. They even find a way to value the input of people with whom they disagree.

These people are readers, listeners, and questioners. They don’t mind having their preconceived notions challenged or even changed. They immediately can tell you what they learned earlier in the day. Though they are learners, they aren’t know-it-alls. They have a way of gathering and processing information so that conversations are constructive and questions are addressed. If you surround yourself with nothing more than “yes men,” you look more like a king and his court jesters.

Let me make this simple: If you want to find people to invite to your table of influence, look for others who are already doing it. Listen to what they say, who they talk about, and what details they offer about people who have invested in them through the years. The best influencers are those who recognize how they have been influenced themselves.

•Who do you know who is a lifelong learner?

•What can someone who values the wisdom of others bring to your table of influence?

Learn about the people already around you by spending time with them. You can’t get to know people by isolating yourself from them. You must be intentional about spending time with others, but don’t schedule formal meetings with them.

Look for opportunities to interact with them in a setting that is more causal. Go out for coffee or a quick lunch. Stop by the break room and strike up a conversation. Ask them questions about their work, not to check up on them but to learn about their expertise. The more interested you are in the people already around you, the more likely you will discover people you’d like to invite to your table of influence. If you isolate yourself, you’ve failed before you’ve even started.

Just because you invite someone to coffee or lunch doesn’t mean they need to sign a lifetime contract. It may be that one conversation is all you need. But one thing is certain: If you don’t look for these people, you’ll never find them.

•Where are some places you can go to engage people in casual conversation?

•How can you keep from isolating yourself from the influence of others?