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Who’s at your table of influence?

by Dr. Stephanie Barnes

I always like to reflect upon the imagery of King Arthur’s fabled round table. It is a great representation of the circle of influence in our lives. Each of us has a round table and we have people in our lives that bear great influence on us. We listen to them, we spend time with them, we work with them, we live with them, we go to church with them. One thing we forget, however, is that we invite them.

We create our circle of influence by invitation. We sometimes forget that it is our table and we get to decide who gets a seat and who will have to sit elsewhere.

A round table is both infinite but definite. It is a circle of influence that is a continuous connection. Everyone seated is connected to each other through the people on either side of them. But a table also is definite in that it only has so many seats. That means we should be selective and strategic about who is seated at our table.

Here are the people who should be at your table:


This person helps you to be better. They share knowledge and expertise that enables you to grow. They hold you accountable for the things you say you want to achieve. They help you to move when you want to sit.


This person makes you feel good about yourself. They encourage you and help you to remember how great you are. They bring you joy and make you laugh!


This person sharpens and refines you. They may also point out — in love — where you are not being your best. They do so because they love you and they want you to be your best and not just the best you feel like doing.


This person has achieved something you aspire and they serve as a great example that can guide, shape, stretch and sharpen you.

These folks need to have a seat somewhere else:


This person is unhappy and wants you to be unhappy too. They are jealous and sometimes mask envy with limited expectations expressed in sly remarks and nicenasty comments. They secretly want to achieve what you have achieved, but they lack the confidence to try so they attempt to make you believe that you can’t either.


This person is limited by their negative views and wants to box you into their narrow-focused worldview. They can’t see past their limited vision and attempt to cut your vision down to their comfort level.


This person is just nasty. They see the world in terms of all that is wrong and not only see the glass half empty, but somebody spit in their glass too! They are hurt, so they take out their hurt on the world.


This person is just taking up space. They are just happy to be there. They do not take away from you, but they don’t add value either.

But, don’t just invite people to your table or deny them a seat. Give them a reason to want to be there. Here are the things you should always serve at your table: love, openness, honesty, authenticity, reciprocity, peace, inspiration, motivation, innovation and compassionate confrontation.

“Why would I invite confrontation?,” you may ask. Iron sharpens iron through friction. If you set an iron sword on a sharpening block, it will not be sharpened. The sword is not sharpened until you create friction. The sword and the block work together to refine and improve. The friction sharpens the blade! Not only should you invite great people to your table, you should create an environment where robust dialogue is appreciated. Don’t create spectators by shutting down ideas that are different than yours or are not what you want to hear. If all you ever here is “Yes,” you have a table full of spectators! “No” is not always a bad word. It is really an invitation for negotiation, dialogue and innovation.

Who is at your round table? Who is seated there? Who should be seated there? Who should be asked to leave?

Whether your table is your circle of friends, team at work or community partners, you must be willing to take control of your invitation list. Make sure that you are deliberate in who is seated at your table. Sometimes you may even have to get up and start another table somewhere else!

Remember, your circle of influence is by invitation only. It is an exclusive list that should be reserved only for those who will add value to your life and to whom you can add value. Many are called, but few should be chosen.

Dr. Stephanie D. Barnes is an attorney, author, speaker and career strategist. For more info, visit or reach her at

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