In the great scheme of things, most people don’t care who you are or what you’re doing. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that when you work with a group of people who are all interested in your business, great things can happen.
A group of people all working toward a common goal is powerful. A remarkable type of synergy happens when you have multiple people focused on your success.
Whether you call it a “mastermind group,” “success circle,” “brain trust” or “support network,” having people in your corner can offset the sense of isolation you encounter when you’re in business for yourself.
I live in the middle of nowhere with no people in sight, so combating loneliness and isolation is a big deal for me. Over the years, I have joined business groups like Business Networking International (BNI) and experimented with going to Chamber of Commerce meetings. Although it was nice to leave the house, I discovered you can feel just as lonely at a networking event surrounded by people as you can sitting in your office.
The Quest for Connection
I’ve read about mastermind groups for years, and how important they can be to business. So I’ve tried setting up a business mastermind group several times. Only recently have I determined why my current mastermind group works and the others failed to get any traction at all.
One time, I tried setting up an “in-person” group with some fantastic women who live in my local area. We had exactly one meeting.
In that case, I learned that these women weren’t really as interested in talking about improving their businesses as they claimed to be. I had an established business and they had mostly unformed ideas. We just weren’t in the same place. But we had a fun dinner out and I realized I needed to find people who had a much more serious business focus.
Another time, I tried setting up a virtual “Monday Morning Mastermind” with business owners I knew through an association. That group lasted for about four calls before people got “too busy.” In that case, I learned that for some people, spending money is what motivates them to commit to something. My little free group was trumped by shiny expensive “guru” groups.
Sometimes paying money is the only thing that gets people moving. I participated in a fairly low-key mastermind group for 3 years that grew out of a (paid) publishing program I attended. The group went on long after the paid program was over. The net result was that I published 8 or 9 books during that time . It helped that we were all focused on a common theme: publishing.
The group finally disbanded when the other members moved on to other things. I was still publishing books, but they weren’t.
The Little Group That Could
Last October, I happened to meet some women who were just as committed as I am to improving our businesses this year. We have been meeting every week since then.
One participant went from zero clients to almost having a full client load (she’s at the point of needing to start outsourcing). She had been about to give up on her business entirely and credits the group for completely changing her life. Another person launched a new WordPress training course. In my case, I just launched a 10-month book writing and publishing training program.
After all these experiences, I’ve realized that the key to a mastermind that works is that it’s not just about the support. Yes, you need to lift people up with encouragement and ideas, but then each member of the group needs to go off, take action, and report back. (It’s like the ad: for the best support, you need to lift and separate!)
When you have accountability built into the group, it becomes a lot more difficult to lame out on your projects. My current group works because we have:
1. Written accountability. We send “mastermind goal worksheets” to each other every week before the call.
2. Regular meetings. We meet once a week.
3. A commitment to attending calls. The calls are a priority and at the end of each call, we make sure everyone knows the schedule for the next one. If someone can’t attend, she lets us know.
4. The right mix of people. We all have different strengths, but the same values. We had an initial “are we compatible?” call together and discussed the format and how we wanted the worksheets to work.
5. Common goals. The goals don’t have to be something project based. In this case, our “theme” is basically “make more money and get more clients.” We all are laser focused on this objective and it works.
The group does need to have one person who takes responsibility for organizing the group. In this case, we use my conference call line, so I deal with some of the logistics and try and keep the calls moving forward, so everyone gets her questions answered and the feedback she needs for the next week.