What You Need To Know Before Joining A Mastermind Group

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Mastermind groups have grown in popularity in recent years, and with good reason. Groups of entrepreneurs, businessmen and executives can meet to discuss challenges their companies face or simply network with other leaders. Some groups use trips to help boost adrenaline and shake loose thoughts in a rut. Others favor focusing on specific topics, in order to keep things organized, or avoid confusion.

If this sounds like something you'd like to look into, here's what to look for when participating in — or starting — a mastermind group:

A. Find A Group That Suits Your Style and Needs

There are a ton of formal mastermind groups popping up across the country. Each one has a slightly different approach and may target different types of members. Get to know what makes each one unique and figure out which will be the best fit. Often times, the mastermind group may let a potential new member sit in on a meeting or come to a social event. Take advantage of this! - Diana Goodwin, AquaMobile

A. Don’t Protect Your Ideas: Share Them

Everyone in the group brings something to the table, whether a special skill, strong connection or unique perspective. If you’re facing a certain challenge, it’s likely that someone in the group can offer a smart solution. In turn, you may be able to help another entrepreneur with something you’ve faced in the past. It’s all about sharing. - David Greenberg, Updater

A. Learn From People Smarter Than You

Although it might be intimidating, you'll want to feel as outsmarted as possible in a mastermind group. Just like in tennis, you want to play with people better than you. While you'll want to add value to the group, being challenged and confronting your weaknesses is invaluable. Being surrounded by smarter folks doesn't have to make you feel bad; you just need to leave your ego at the door. - Elle Kaplan, LexION Capital

A. Identify the Truly Valuable Feedback

It’s easy to get emotional when someone gives you a harsh feedback, especially when it’s something you are passionate about. Not all input and advice is constructive, and not everyone is skilled with passing criticism in a useful and constructive way. Accept all feedback gracefully, then choose for yourself what to implement and what to set aside. - Patrick Barnhill, Specialist ID, Inc.

A. Establish a Group With Clear Goals, Then Rotate Topics

I have seen several mastermind groups fizzle very quickly under unfocused leadership or an ambiguous purpose. Begin with a thoughtful survey to gauge what people are wanting from the group. Host a focused discussion to prioritize two or three primary objectives. Rotate meetings topics to cover those core objectives. Then follow through quickly and professionally to convey strong action. - Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

A. Keep Time in Mind

Make sure all participants have the available time to participate, and keep that in mind when scheduling. Folks need a lot of commitment for mastermind groups to be effective, therefore you need to ensure they can carve out enough time to make that happen. - Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

A. Research the Quality of the Group Before Joining

Mastermind groups can be very useful for connecting with like minds, sharing ideas and motivating one another. However, not all groups are equally beneficial. Some people use them as an excuse to talk and plan without taking action, while others are trying to recruit potential investors and are not really there to contribute. Do research before joining a group, and always evaluate the results. - Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting

A. Confirm Confidentiality

It's critical to be able to freely share business information in a mastermind group. You must make sure that the group is absolutely committed to confidentiality during meetings. For this reason, you also want to make sure that you are not masterminding with your competitor. - John Rood, Next Step Test Preparation

A. Get to the '5 Percent' Problem

In an entrepreneurs organization, the most important part of joining is connecting with a mastermind group and getting to what they call "the 5 percent." The 5 percent is your biggest problem or worry that you're scared of talking about and probably haven't shared with anyone else. Finding a mastermind group that you can trust is the hard part, but once you do, it can be vital to your company's long-term success. - Robert De Los Santos, Sky High Party Rentals

A. Participate Once You're A Member

From my own experience — both in hosting and as a member of premium mastermind groups — most people will think that once they pay for something, they are going to benefit from it. By this, I mean many people will sign up, then never do anything with it. This is great for the site owner or business, but not so much for the people participating. If you want to benefit from a mastermind group, be sure to actually use it. - Zac Johnson, Blogger

A. Focus on Providing Value

By making yourself the most helpful contact in the group: You'll make people want to reciprocate. Answer questions and make introductions. Ignore your own needs for the first few meetings. Eventually, people will get curious and actually want to know more, and they'll be there when you need them. As our banker once told me, "the best time to buy an umbrella is when it's not raining." - Brennan White, Cortex

A. Remember: Entrepreneurship is a Team Sport

The most important things to keep in mind: Even if you’re a sole practitioner, entrepreneurship is usually, to some degree, a team sport. You can never have too many friends in business, and everybody’s got their own kung fu. A great mastermind group leverages the strengths of each person in the group, while also fostering a culture of openness that encourages its members to learn from others. - Gary Solomon, Solomon Group

These answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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