Professional Groups … Do You Add Value?

Group MeetingsJosh Patrick, a professional colleague, shared his thoughts on contributing to and benefiting from the group memberships that most of us have. As most of you have, I’ve been involved in many groups throughout my professional career. Like John, I have had a variety of positive and “not so” experiences. One key lesson that I have learned is that groups change, the agenda changes, you change and your ability to contribute changes.

However, here are some tips that that Josh has synthesized and have stood the test of time for effective group memberships and participation.

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. 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.
These groups are not 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.

You must be willing to participate.
In some of the groups, there are members who never say a word, which seems unfair. They had good things to say, but rarely 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. The key with being a good member of a peer group is to understand balance. Since we have two ears and one mouth, use them proportionately.

The key is building trust.
The higher the trust level between members of a group, the more valuable the group will be.

You have to meet regularly.
You’re not going to have a lot of trust with someone you see once or twice a year. For an effective master group to work it has to meet at least monthly. However some very effective groups have only four times a year and were extremely valuable. The key is you may have to experiment to determine the frequency that is sufficient to build and sustain trust.

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 or profession. 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, industry or profession. Similar size and scope can also be a relevant factor. A business or organizations with five employees has different problems and opportunities than an organization or business that has 100 employees.

You must have some differences also.
If every member has 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.
A master 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.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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