THE BLOG
12/30/2014 01:34 pm ET Updated Mar 01, 2015

8 Lessons I Learned From Mastermind Groups

I'm a huge fan of peer-to-peer groups. I've been involved in them for over 35 years. During this time I've had great experiences and some of them haven't been so good. I thought this might be a good time to reminisce and cover some of the lessons that I've learned as what it takes to have a great group.

You must have confidentiality.

This is the first and most important rule. If you're going to talk to others outside the group, do yourself a favor and don't join in the first place.

The last group I was a member of had someone who blabbed to people outside the group. Word got back to an outsider I was having problems with and it caused me a lot of grief. Not only did I leave the group, I also lost confidence in all of the members of the group. You're going to hear very intimate things in a mastermind group. Be responsible and keep your mouth shut to outsiders.

You must be willing to listen.

This group isn't all about you. When someone is presenting an issue listen. When someone is giving you feedback listen. A good rule in a mastermind group is to spend at least 90% of your time listening. If you own a business you know how difficult listening can be.

You must be willing to participate.

In some of the groups that I was in there were members who never said a word. I always thought this was unfair. I know they had good things to say and always wondered why they never spoke up. You can't just be a taker, you also have to give your advice and opinions as well. It's what makes a great group.

You might have noticed that just above I told you to be a good listener. The key with being a good member of a peer group is to understand balance. I like to think that I have two ears and one mouth. That means I need to listen at least twice as much as I talk.

The key is building trust.

The higher the trust level between members of the group, the more valuable the group will be. For years there was a group that I was involved in that listened to my problems in the vending business. After several years of this they came to the conclusion that I needed to sell this business.

It took a tremendous amount of trust for them to tell me this and it took a lot of trust on my part to hear their advice.

You have to meet regularly.

You're not going to be have a lot of trust with someone you see once or twice a year. For a mastermind group to work it has to meet fairly regularly. I like monthly meetings although I've been in groups that meet four times a year and were extremely valuable.

The key is you have to meet enough where you can build trust. You might have to experiment to find out how much is enough.

You must have something in common.

There needs to be something that you all have in common. This is often being in the same business. It also can be that you're from different industries and have similar problems and are at a similar place in the formation and development of your business.

I've found that having businesses that are approximately the same size also helps. A business with three employees has different problems and opportunities than a business that has 100 employees.

You must have some differences also.

If all you have the same belief system little or any good will come out of your conversations. You need to have some differences in how you see the world. When this happens sometimes the meetings get a little contentious. This is a good thing. Having differing opinions can help you gain a better understanding of what and why you do things.

You must leave your ego at the door.

This is a big thing. A mastermind group is not all about you. It's about what you can bring to make your co-members better. Don't talk about all of the good things you do. Go to the meetings with a beginners mind. Ask lots of questions. Make sure you understand the issue before you start giving advice. The more humble you are in the meetings the more you're going to get out of them.

What do you think? Have you had mastermind groups you've been a member of? What has been your experience with them?