Ten Rules for Modern Mastermind Groups
What is a mastermind group, and why should you care? They may just be the secret weapon to help you outpace your competitors and weather these stormy economic seas.
In the 1930s, wealth expert and author Napoleon Hill defined a mastermind group as "the coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony."
Well before he authored Think and Grow Rich , Benjamin Franklin introduced a similar model. In 1728, at the ripe young age of 21, Franklin created a club of mutual improvement called a junto  (pronounced "hoon-toe"). Franklin was struggling to grow his printing business, and knew he could not do it alone. The junto, which comprised seasoned tradesmen, a bartender, and an astrologer, gave him the boost he needed to thrive. As a side benefit, this group surreptitiously shaped public opinion.
Whatever you prefer to call these special societies--mastermind groups, peer groups, or juntos--you will notice they have withstood the test of time, and have created fortunes for thousands, if not millions.
The high-tech, interconnected nature of our careers may have become more sophisticated in the past few decades, but the need for old-fashioned collaboration and support in this volatile economy is stronger than ever. Ever since launching my business in 2002, I have formed and joined five groups, and have enjoyed most of the experiences immensely. I need this framework for two reasons: first, I currently live in a very remote region in Oregon, and cannot find a group of like-minded business owners locally (this is one of the main reasons we are relocating). Second, the structure of mutual support and accountability keeps me on track and energized about my company's mission and potential.
Here are ten modern-day strategies I have learned about mastermind groups:
1. The group must share the same values about business. This drives mutual respect and helps conflict resolution happen more swiftly.
2. People must be supportive, yet tough. This includes establishing rules for resolving conflict, character attacks, and group turnover issues.
3. Accountability and "skin in the game" (time commitment, membership dues) trump socializing and buddy gatherings (e.g. golf outings).
4. The most effective groups maintain fewer than 7 members. If your group grows too large, some members may not have an equal say during gatherings.
5. Groups can have life spans ranging from six months to five years. It depends on the purpose of the group. Benjamin Franklin's junto lasted thirty years!
6. It is okay to confront a member who is not pulling their weight, and only uses the group for personal gain. I recently fired a member from a group, knowing full well that the group might disband. The member was not adding any long term value to the group, and was clearly over-committed. Although I miss the other group members, I found this person's marginal contribution to be a gradual drain on the group energy.
7. The group must have a written purpose statement and some basic operating guidelines to remain vibrant.
8. Celebration of key milestones is essential, not "nice to have."
9. Someone has to be the leader. Keeping things organized and on schedule maintain group integrity. When the group feels "stale," it probably is. Someone needs to monitor groupthink and encourage innovation.
10. Masterminds are not for everyone. If you are running a lifestyle business, dislike honest feedback, and do not believe in the abundance mindset, seek out another venue (such as a CEO peer group) or hire a business coach.
Tony Robbins  once said "People's lives are a direct reflection of the expectations of their peer group." If Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon Hill were alive today, they would wholeheartedly agree. What kind of company do you keep?
[Photo courtesy of pbs.org]
Copyright 2010, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.
Lisa Nirell is the Chief Energy Officer of EnergizeGrowth®. She is one of the only marketing experts with 27 years' experience advising and working exclusively with B2B growth companies. Lisa helps her clients improve their top line revenues and attract more ideal clients. Lisa has worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs, as well as BMC Software, Sony, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, and IBM. She is also the author of EnergizeGrowth® NOW: The Marketing Guide to a Wealthy Company. Visit www.energizegrowth.com  and http://blog.energizegrowth.com  today to download free educational resources and join the Energize News community.