Monthly Archives: November, 2017

Are Mastermind / Peer Groups Worth It?

November 28th, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Leadership, Mastermind Group, Peer Group, Relationships 0 thoughts on “Are Mastermind / Peer Groups Worth It?”

Are mastermind or peer groups worth it? The short answer is “Abso-friggin-lootely!” But there is a longer answer to consider.

On a recent episode of the Business is ART podcast on the TrueChat Network, podcast host and Plan Canvas founder Jon Umstead spoke with business coach Steve White and Entrepreneur Christina Walters about the value of a mastermind, and we wanted to summarize a few of their points here.

Steve discussed from the point of view of someone who has led a mastermind group. Christina discussed from the point of view of someone who has been a member of a mastermind group.

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What is a mastermind group?

Mastermind groups consist of peers who come together to receive help and help others with their issues and challenges – be they personal or business related. They are typically facilitated and can be industry/topic specific or they can be open to any type of business or organization – profit or non-profit.

Masterminds are built on two premises:

  1. It’s lonely at the top.
  2. None of us is as smart as all of us.

It’s lonely at the top

When you lead your business or organization, from an organization structure point of view, you sit at the top. As they say, it is lonely at the top. What is meant by that is more often than not, it is difficult to find people to talk to about your challenges because most people cannot relate to them.

There are some challenges about which you cannot speak to your employees, family, loved ones, friends, etc. Not because they don’t care or don’t mean well, but because they aren’t in your shoes, they don’t have that experience, and they can’t empathize. Their feedback can often, unintentionally, be based in their own emotions and what’s in it for them.

A mastermind group is made up of individuals who have or are walking in your shoes. They can directly relate because they have been there or know they very well could be. They can offer feedback in an unemotional manner because they have no emotional skin in your game (other than they just want to see you do well).

What makes for the most effective mastermind group?

In order to maximize effectiveness, a mastermind group has to be facilitated by someone. Here are a few more things to look for:

  1. Be sure that the group is about the members and NOT the facilitator.
  2. Be sure that the mastermind group follows a defined process so that it is not the equivalent of a coffee clutch.
  3. Be sure that the group is about resolving issues/challenges as opposed to selling and marketing to each other.
  4. Be sure that you and all other members make the group a priority – don’t find reasons to miss meetings, be present in the meetings, actively participate in the meetings.
  5. Be accountable – follow-up on any assigned action items from the group and expect that others will do the same.

See the Benefits of a Mastermind Group Yourself!

None of us is as smart as all of us.

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None of us is as smart as all of us

This is an old Japanese proverb – sort of the old adage “two heads are better than one” except in this case, you are bringing several heads together.

The major challenge in any group setting is to ensure that group-think does not enter into the equation. That is when the strongest personality in the group begins to take over and suddenly, everyone winds up agreeing with everything that individual has to say, with no real exploration of alternatives.

Avoiding group-think is a major reason that for a mastermind group to be successful, it has to be facilitated, preferably by a professional facilitator.

So are they worth it?

If you find the right mastermind group for you that minimally has the characteristics described in this post, mastermind groups are definitely worth it. There are numerous studies that show how effective they can be depending on what success, in terms of a mastermind group, means for you.

Christina is clearly biased when it comes to the value of a mastermind group. While participating in one, her business grew by over 30% in just a few months.

On the podcast when asked who should join a mastermind group, her response was, “Everyone.”

We agree.

A Damn Fine Design Studio

November 15th, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Business is ART, Business Plan, Inspiration, Subscriber of the Month 0 thoughts on “A Damn Fine Design Studio”

Our featured subscriber of the month is FRW Studios and its founders/owners Julie and Lance White.

As their tagline states, FRW is “a damn fine design studio” based out of Dana Point, CA. FRW offers efficient, creative, lasting solutions for all of one’s marketing and advertising needs. Their primary customer is marketing departments that want to save costs on extra employees.

Julie and Lance have years of experience in the services that FRW provides, but FRW is itself a start-up, less than a year old. And although Plan Canvas is less than 3 months old, Lance is not new to the processes and templates of the Plan Canvas software.

Before launching FRW Studios with his wife, Julie, Lance managed an automobile dealership. When the automaker demanded a business plan or risk losing the dealership, Lance employed the practices defined in Business is ART, the book by Plan Canvas founder Jon Umstead upon which the software is built.

The automaker accepted the resulting plan, and within the first month of executing to it, Lance’s team met its monthly targets for the first time in over a year.

“When he told me that,” reflected Jon, “I said it was merely a coincidence. You don’t typically see results that fast.”

But Lance disagreed, saying it was absolutely no coincidence at all. He said the difference was that, with the plan, he and his team were better focused on what they had to achieve.

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And that’s the real value of a plan

Lance could have simply developed a plan to satisfy the automaker, then throw the plan away, as is often the case – use the plan to satisfy the wants/needs of some third-party, for whatever purpose, then discard it. But he gained even more value out of it by managing the plan well after the automaker was satisfied with the sheer existence of one.

Having had that positive experience, when the time came to define their new business, FRW Studios, Lance and Julie became early adopters of Plan Canvas, first as beta test users, and now as users of the production software.

“Right away we were able to see what was going to be the most important aspects of our design firm”

According to Lance, “Right away we were able to see what was going to be the most important aspects of our design firm in order to succeed. As a living document, our business plan has changed, but we’re focusing on the right aspects of our business.“

Julie and Lance feel that a major difference between how things are now, using the tool, versus how they would have been had they not used it, is in measuring and seeing success.

“It feels so good to be farther along than the original goals in our mind, plus we were able to see certain positions we planned to hire weren’t needed quite yet.”

These are real, measurable outcomes.

The future is bright

In three years, Julie and Lance see FRW Studios as one of Orange County California’s highest-rated design firms, with their current clients not just still with them, but true advocates for FRW.

Julie and Lance are passionate about FRW Studios. It is their startup baby – they birthed together- and it is named after their children, Frances and Reagan White (FRW).

Lance says, “My wife and I started our firm for their future. And when you love your work like we do, it passes off to your personal life.”

We hope Plan Canvas is along for every step of the ride and are proud to be associated with Julie, Lance and FRW Studios – a damn fine design studio and a damn fine couple of entrepreneurs.

Please click here for a list of some of the features and a demo of Plan Canvas.

My Team Sucks!

November 7th, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Leadership 0 thoughts on “My Team Sucks!”

My team sucks! I’m sure we’ve all felt that way at times. We’ve probably all been on teams in which either we are the ones carrying the load, or there is that one person that never pulls his/her weight, or, for some reason, no one can get along.

No matter what the situation, there are some things you may consider that will help your team to be more successful, and it starts with how you speak about other members of the team.

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Don’t trash talk your teammates

An article at Inc. entitled Harvard Research Shows Talking About Your Co-Workers in This Way Is Extremely Important to Teamwork references research from Harvard University indicating talking favorably about co-workers (team members) “increases general feelings of being socially valued by others, leading to better information exchange and creative performance.”

The article goes on to suggest a few things you and your fellow team members should practice, including:

  1. Back ’em up when they’re knocked down.
  2. Spread positive gossip.
  3. Mold impressions at moments of entry and exit.
  4. Help forge their unique team role.
  5. Find out what they’re evaluated on and help it along.

Number 2 and 3 sound a little less than authentic, but numbers 1, 4, and 5 are good solid, bits of advice. But at the core, look for positive things to say. If you can’t talk favorably about your teammates, just don’t talk poorly about them.

 

Take a look in the mirror

Is it possible you are contributing to the degradation of team performance? You may need to take a good hard look in the mirror and ask some tough questions of yourself.

Another article at Inc., this one entitled, 3 Personality Traits With the Biggest Impact on Teamwork, suggests you do the following:

  1. Be vulnerable. Ask stupid questions.
  2. Be comfortable challenging the others.
  3. Be confident enough to accept feedback.

Know the collective goal

It’s all too tempting to immediately jump in to problem solving when faced with challenges, but it is far more effective to analyze the challenge first, determine what the collective goal is, and then work toward a solution.

As an example, perhaps you’ve been on a team in a classroom or educational environment. Your team is given an assignment to write a paper, solve a problem, or analyze a case assignment. Your team meets to immediately begin brainstorming solutions and handing out assignments.

You come back together to consolidate the work only to find it is a colossal mess.

Chances are high that you did not collectively come to an agreement on what the true challenge is. Sometimes that lies below the surface of whatever the challenge statement is. Sometimes it requires more discussion to understand the true nature of the challenge. Sometimes we just individually hear the words differently when a challenge statement is presented to us. Whatever the case, it is worth the time to do a little analysis before working on the solution.

Chances are also high that expectations were not set and agreed upon. As a very simple example, one team member’s goal may be simply to get the work done – check the box. Another member’s goal may be to develop the most brilliant, arguably the best team project work in the class or at the company.

Clearly, these two goals will be in conflict. Eliminate that potential ahead of time by formally agreeing to the team goals, despite individual desires.

Play nice

Most importantly, play nice. As Grandma used to say, you attract more bees with honey than with vinegar.

To be a More Effective Leader Stop Leading in Isolation

November 1st, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Leadership 0 thoughts on “To be a More Effective Leader Stop Leading in Isolation”

If you want to be a more effective leader, stop leading in isolation. You may think that because you walk the floors of your business, get down in the trenches with your employees, and surround yourself with a great team whose input you appreciate, you are not leading in isolation.

But unless you are working with and listening to leaders who are not part of your organization, you are in fact leading in isolation. When you think about it, it is really a conceited way to lead.

I don’t need the input of others

All of the excuses that keep you from working with or listening to others, like, “They don’t know my business,” and “I don’t have time for that” are saying the same thing – others have nothing to offer me that is worth my time (or money).

We should all be so wonderful

Here are a few reasons why working with or listening to others outside of your own organization can indeed be worth your time (and money).

  1. You need to be a jack-of-all-trades. As the article at Inc. entitled Why Your New Primary Concern is to Become a Jack-of-all-Trades points out, you need to master something, but being a jack-of-all-trades is crucial. The problem is, finding time to learn a little about a lot can be challenging. When you work with or listen to others outside of your organization, you can pick up a lot of knowledge from their experience without having to go through it yourself.
  2. You need to rid yourself of toxic energy. An article entitled How to Free Yourself From Toxic Situations That Are Bringing You Down lists some of the typical stuff you’d expect to find like “practice yoga”, but it also includes 3 items that smack of working with or listening to others outside of your organization, including 1) Make fewer decisions, 2) Write down the specifics of productive habits. And 3) Seek out for challenging environments you have no experience with. All three of these things are made possible through working with others.
  3. You need both discipline and motivation. In Which is Better: Discipline or Motivation, the author writes that on an on-going basis, “motivation is what’s needed to get up-and-running. But, discipline is needed to stay on the right course.” Working with others outside of your organization can provide both.

6 options for working with others

If you are a leader, here are 6 options or working with other leaders outside of your organization and to stop leading in isolation.

  1. Join and actively participate in a business networking organization, even if you don’t anticipate gaining sales referrals from it, which is the main point of these groups. Regardless, you can learn a great deal from the way others lead, particularly if you form smaller power groups with other members of the larger networking group.
  2. Take occasional classes, courses, or training with other leaders outside of your organization. Plan Canvas founder Jon Umstead ascertains that one of the most valuable things about his Executive MBA experience was listening to all of the other leaders in the room discussing the same topic but from different points of view and industries.
  3. Join a local entrepreneurs’ group or club, even if your business is beyond startup mode. Free groups like the Dayton Tech Guide offer multiple learning, networking, and panel discussion opportunities regardless of the life-cycle stage of your business.
  4. Join a mastermind / peer group. These groups are a great way to help others as well as get help with your own challenges. They are built on two premises: 1) It’s lonely at the top and 2) None of us is as smart as all of us.
  5. Assemble an advisory board. It doesn’t have to be made up of superstars and name-brand leaders. If you aren’t sure who should be on your advisory board, interview/ask several people for their thoughts. Create a laundry list of potential candidates. Don’t load it up with like-minded people who are just going to glad-hand your every idea.
  6. Join the board of a non-profit or someone else’s advisory board. The purpose should be genuine – you want to help, and you want to learn from others. It is painfully obvious when someone joins out of ego, to build a resume, or to get sales referrals.

Something to consider

Jon is building an online version of a mastermind group that plans to meet monthly, in the evenings, utilizing his experience running an in-person group. The online option creates opportunity for a more geographically diverse team, without requiring any travel time for members. It includes a subscription to the Plan Canvas software.

Click here to learn more and sign up or contact us for more information.

Plan Canvas is a community and a powerful software for improving your odds of business success and personal fulfillment.

© SeaSeven LLC 2017.
Developed with FRW Studios.