One of the best pieces of business advice I ever received was, “What you decide is almost never as important as simply deciding something.” In other words, don’t get paralyzed trying to make the perfect decision. Just forge ahead based on the best information you can. Chances are pretty good, it will work out. Chances are also pretty good that you’ll learn how to improve as you go. But you’re virtually guaranteed to move further ahead by doing something than by doing nothing.
It’s easy advice to give, but hard to implement. One strategy that’s helped keep me on track is joining a small group of fellow business owners that meets monthly to support each other in achieving our goals. The benefits of such a group are numerous:
Accountability. Declaring your goals to others does wonders to drive you into action … especially when you know that next month, they’ll all ask you, “So, what have you done about XYZ?”
Perspective. Oftentimes, we’re frozen in inaction because we don’t trust our own judgment. Objective input from colleagues who understand the situation, but aren’t emotionally attached to any particular outcome, can be immensely valuable.
Cheerleading. Years ago, I set a goal of making 100 cold calls per week. I was terrified, but my mastermind buddy Pam got me through it. Every morning, I’d call her and whine, “I can’t do it!” Day after day, she gave me the same pep talk, and made me promise to report in to her in the afternoon. I can’t tell you how much I owe to her patient encouragement.
Brainstorming. Tapping into the collective experience of fellow businesspeople can produce powerful ideas, opportunities and solutions. That’s especially true if you’ve assembled a group of people with diverse life experiences and thinking styles.
Resources and Networking. A mastermind group can give you a larger window on the world. Whether you’re looking for a new employee, upgrading your computer systems, or trying a different marketing approach, other group members can often provide just the suggestion or referral you need.
How do you get started? Here are a few tips on forming a successful mastermind team:
The Right Size. The most effective groups generally have 5 to 7 members. Fewer than that, and you may not have enough diversity to serve as a catalyst for new ideas. More than that, and it’s hard to give everyone sufficient attention.
The Right Mix. Sometimes, group members come from different areas of related industries. Other times, groups consist of members from a variety of industries. Either one can work. What’s important is that members bring a variety of experiences, viewpoints and thinking styles to the table.
The Right Format. Mastermind meetings are not social hours or gripe sessions. Their purpose is to support members in reaching goals, so make sure that’s the focus. Some groups put goals in writing and have a formal agenda for each meeting; others are less structured. Some groups rely on a facilitator, others are self-moderating. Meetings may be in person, by phone, or by Skype. The precise format is less important than a commitment by all group members to support each other in achieving goals.
The Right Attitude. Above all, members’ attitudes are the make-or-break component of an effective mastermind group. James Mapes explained it well in his book Quantum Leap Thinking: “The people you choose must be willing to persist, explore, give and take positive criticism without assuming a defensive posture, and be willing to listen. Above all, they must trust and be trusted. These are the people you can confide in, be vulnerable with, and be committed to. It is the chemistry of the group, its synergy, that provides the source of power for a quantum leap.”
If you’ve ever found that “two heads are better than one” when tackling something new, you’ve had a glimpse into the power of a mastermind group. Take a look around for fellow colleagues you admire, and give it a try. Stick with it, and I predict a year from now, you’ll be asking yourself why you didn’t do it long ago.