Posts in Relationships

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.

Need a more flexible, budget friendly mastermind/peer group option?

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In-person mastermind groups are great. But they do require a significant investment of time and, often, money. That isn’t always possible for everyone. We have a lower priced option that with more flexibility because we do it online.

Learn More…

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.

Join a group of peers for monthly, facilitated, on-line meetings where you can help others and be helped by others. Join now…

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.

In the Pursuit of Harmony

June 14th, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Entrepreneur, Inspiration, Relationships 0 thoughts on “In the Pursuit of Harmony”

tom rubensA recent guest on the Business is ART podcast at the TrueChat Network was coach and best selling author Tom Rubens. We focused on Tom’s book Lifeness: Harmonize an Entrepreneurial Life, but there are several points made during the show that are summarized here.

One of the things Tom likes to tell people is that he has managed to have a professional career without holding a job. In other words, he is a lifelong, successful entrepreneur. He understands what many early stage entrepreneurs discover very quickly – that the entrepreneurial life can become all-consuming.

Stop saying and looking for “work/life balance”

Neither Tom nor I like the term “work/life balance” but for different reasons. While I prefer to talk in terms of “work/life alignment”, Tom introduces the notion of harmony. When your entrepreneurial life becomes all-consuming, there is no harmony. In all likelihood, there is discord between your entrepreneurial life, your personal life, your relationships (including professional, personal and casual), etc.

Just as you might physically cringe when you hear dissonance or music that is out of tune, when your life is in a state of discord, your business, you and everyone around you suffer.

How do you achieve harmony?

Tom sums it up by saying that it is all about achieving a life in which business and personal goals merge harmoniously. His advice is pretty simple. Following through is the challenge – which is why he provides a personal workbook along with Lifeness to help you on your journey.

He says that the key to seeking harmony is to first empathize with others. Listen to them. Look for similarities and appreciate the differences because they can be complementary, not conflicting, which, in turn, creates opportunity.

Tom also strongly advises to always assume people are doing their best. If you can do that, you can take the negative emotion out of things and learn to better appreciate the efforts of others.

Listen to the show in its entirety

The episode featuring Tom Rubens is simply entitled “Lifeness” (May 23, 2017). You can listen to it on iTunes, through the TrueChat app, or through the TrueChat website.

Check out all of the Business is ART podcast episodes on the Business is ART page of the TrueChat website

5 Ways to Provide Excellent Customer Service

March 29th, 2016 Posted by Behavior, Business is ART, Relationships 0 thoughts on “5 Ways to Provide Excellent Customer Service”
Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

In Segment #23 of the Business is ART podcast on the TrueChat network, my guest, Jason Cozad, and I discuss customer service and what good customer service means.

In wrapping up the show, we summarized 5 points that you should consider when developing your own customer service strategy or approach.

Know Your Customer

Jason tells of a customer he recently acquired for one simple reason. His competitor did not know this customer even after servicing the account for 20 years. After 4 failed attempts to provide the customer with something that they had always purchased, the customer finally left in frustration.

BIA Podcast on the TrueChat Network

BIA Podcast on the TrueChat Network

Make Sure the Customer Knows You

In Jason’s case, this is perhaps more important than it may be for some because in order to provide his service, he actually has to go into the home or place of business of the customer. A certain level of trust must therefor be established, which begins with a presentable appearance. Other means to ensuring the customer knows you include seeking out referrals and testimonials, providing a website, or being active on your business Facebook page where people can get to know you a little bit on their own, before contacting you.

Listen to the Customer

Knowing the customer and listening to the customer are not necessarily the same things. Just because you know the customers well, don’t make the mistake of assuming you know what they want or need. Take time to listen to what they are saying to you.

Own Your Mistakes

None of us are infallible and mistakes can be made. The important thing to do is “own” them. Make it a priority to correct mistakes on the customer’s timeline, not yours. Spending a little extra time or money fixing an error will pay for itself in the long, and perhaps even short run.

The Best Sales Pitch is No Pitch at All

As Jason notes, he used to sell products in addition to services. He has since learned that when he provides excellent service, the products sell themselves. He provides them, and charges a fair rate for them, but he doesn’t have to “sell” them in the classic sense.

You Decide

Customer service can be a great differentiator in your business. If you take care of the customer, the revenue and profit will come. If all you focus on are the revenue and profit, the customer will leave.

Which scenario would you prefer?

Please contact me to discuss this or any other business related topic, and tell us how you ensure good customer service in the comments section below.

A Trick for Understanding What’s Really Going On

March 23rd, 2016 Posted by Behavior, Business is ART, Leadership, Relationships 0 thoughts on “A Trick for Understanding What’s Really Going On”

Note: This post first appeared in the original site for the Business is ART blog on March 5, 2015 and was entitled “Promote Honesty: 3 Up, 3 Down Report.” Given that site is no longer available and that I truly believe it to be a very powerful tool, I’m reposting it here.

The 3 Up and 3 Down ReportA Hypothetical Conversation

Sally: Bill, what’s the status of the XYZ project?
Bill: Well, Sally, things couldn’t be better. We completed tasks 1, 2 and 3 and by end of next week, tasks 5 and 6 will be done as well – full steam ahead.
Sally:  That’s great, Bill. Any problems or roadblocks?
Bill: Nope. The usual bumps and grinds, but everything’s moving along according to plan.

One month later, project XYZ has major problems that seem to have come from nowhere. Sally is very angry at Bill, but whose fault is it really?  It may be hers.

No One Wants to be the Bearer of Bad News

No matter how good someone’s relationship is with “the boss,” no one wants to be the bearer of bad news.  We want to show the boss we are capable of leading and that things under our “command” are doing well.

We behave this way not because we are liars, but in many cases because we honestly don’t want to burden the boss with things we feel we should be able to handle ourselves.  In other cases, the boss has created an environment in which if bad news is presented, we are belittled and an over-reaction follows.

In neither case is it healthy for business.  The point of delivering bad news on the job is to fix problems, preferably before they turn in to larger ones.  No one person has all of the answers, so it’s best to get the issue out on the table where multiple heads can address it and come up with a solution.

Striking a Healthy Balance

One effective means of striking that balance between wanting to deliver and hear good news versus needing to deliver and hear bad news is the “Three Up, Three Down” report. The premise is simple.  Report three good things that happened this week or that you are looking forward to, then report three bad things.  No matter how big or small, you have to list three things in each category.  Three.

When you first start using this report, the good things will probably be GREAT and the bad things will probably be minor.  But it won’t take long to establish a level of trust in the process.

Ain’t Nothin’ Guaranteed

The Three Up, Three Down report does not guarantee no surprises, it won’t stop someone from willfully lying, and it won’t prevent the boss/you from over-reacting.  But it does provide an effective tool for creating an environment that reduces surprises and promotes honesty without fear of reprisal…you know…if you’re in to that sort of thing.

Humor in the Workplace

January 18th, 2016 Posted by Behavior, Business is ART, Engagement, Inspiration, Leadership, Relationships 0 thoughts on “Humor in the Workplace”
humor at work

Photo courtesy

Levity is a Funny Thing

This week marks the anniversary of the Coen’s brothers movie Blood Simple. Admittedly, I’ve never seen the movie, but the Coen’s are among my favorite movie makers and that movie put them on the map.

Raising Arizona and O Brother, Where Art Thou are among my favorite all time films. I’m looking forward to checking out Hail, Caesar but will continue to avoid The Big Lebowski on some kind of weird principle that has also kept me from watching Titanic. I guess it just feels like jumping on the bandwagon when I’d rather be in the band.

Suffice it to say, though, that I like humor and I like to laugh. At work, at home, wherever I am. Humor is very welcome in my world.

Why You Gotta Be Like That?

Have you ever worked for someone who just had no sense of humor? I once worked for someone who, literally, I only heard laugh in mocking fashion at someone as she was about to tell the poor soul (often me) how stupid he or she had been. She even once told a guy that worked for me to stop smiling in a meeting because there was nothing to smile about.

True story. Miserable experience.

Is it Appropriate?

I have always felt humor in the workplace is a valuable tool. It creates a culture in which employees feel more engaged because, for one, they are more at ease and not constantly walking on egg shells. Study after study has shown that appropriate humor in the workplace is good for everything from employee health to profit. But the trick is that darned word “appropriate.”

How do you know what is appropriate and what is not? The answer can change depending on a multitude of variables including company size, line of business and the employees themselves. A good rule of thumb is to keep your humor G or PG-13 rated at worst. If it is sexist, racist, religious or any other “ist” or “ous”, think twice before saying it.

There are plenty of funny things to say and observe at work without going to humor destinations better suited for the bar or shared in private.

The Weekly See 7 – January 18, 2016 Edition.

Humor at work is the subject of the January 18, 2016 edition of my newsletter, The Weekly See 7. Enjoy…and lighten up!

Leadership Legacy

January 10th, 2016 Posted by Behavior, Business is ART, CEO, Engagement, Entrepreneur, Inspiration, Leadership, Owner, Relationships, Significance 0 thoughts on “Leadership Legacy”
Leadership Legacy

Leaders Have Vision

This week in my personal blog – #Significance – I discuss three local men who did very well in life, but still made it a priority to give back to their community, each one leaving a legacy for generations to come.

EMBA Assignment

It reminds me of a passage from Business is ART in which I discuss an assignment we received as part of our Executive MBA course curriculum. This particular assignment was for each of the 50 members of our cohort to stand up in front of the others and give a 5-minute presentation entitled “My Leadership Legacy.”

The presentations ran from very funny to deeply moving, but in every case, we came to understand each other on a much greater level than we had the rest of the entire time we were in the program together.

Applying What We Learned

It was such a powerful experience that I brought the exercise back to my business and asked each of the approximately 40 leaders that reported to me to complete the same assignment.

When all was said and done, the same results experienced in the EMBA program occurred – each leader left feeling more connected to one another than before.

But this time, as each leader stood up and presented the leadership legacy statement to the rest of us, I took notes. Later, I went back through the notes and noticed distinct trends, so consolidated them into a series of 11 leadership legacy statements. These statements were subsequently presented back to the team. We then printed and farmed the statements and hung them on the office walls to remind ourselves that this is who we are.

Here are the 11 statements we developed from our exercise, but I highly recommend you come up with your own, whether it’s just you or your collective team that does it. You’ll get to know yourself and others like you never have before.

Be open. Be honest. Have fun! 

Our Leadership Legacy Statements

  1. As a leader, it is my responsibility to own and communicate a vision
  2. As a leader, my actions speak louder than my words
  3. As a leader, I am empathetic to others
  4. As a leader, I instill trust
  5. As a leader, I teach others
  6. As a leader, I am flexible
  7. As a leader, I never stop learning
  8. As a leader, I contribute to the growth of others
  9. As a leader, I recognize the strengths of others
  10. As a leader, I create and promote teamwork
  11. As a leader, I celebrate our success

Incentive Doesn’t Equal Paycheck

January 5th, 2016 Posted by Behavior, Business is ART, CEO, Employment, Engagement, Inspiration, Leadership, Owner, Relationships 0 thoughts on “Incentive Doesn’t Equal Paycheck”

Photo courtesy of

Incentive Doesn’t Equal Paycheck originally appeared on an earlier version of the Business is ART web site, January 25, 2015. I was reminded of it last night sitting in as a guest on Dr. Jessica Cortez’ new show at – In Sickness and Health. Click here to listen on Soundcloud and scroll down to the show segment entitled “This isn’t Our First Rodeo.”

How many times have you asked why you should incentivize people to do their job when a paycheck should be incentive enough? Taking this attitude is a huge mistake, and here is why.

Most people desire to do a good job. Doing good, quality work produces an emotional response of feeling good, feeling valued, and feeling happy. It’s pride. People want to do good work. The employer, however, wants exceptional work, and often assumes everyone knows what that means.

The Incentive Chasm

From the start, this may create a huge chasm in expectations. What one might, legitimately, see as good work, may be seen by the employer as not good enough. So it is very important to formally set expectations in order to eliminate the chasm.

Define “good enough” in your organization and then stretch it a bit to say “but this is exceptional.” Then go on to say, “And this is what I expect of you.”

You are paying people a base wage or salary for the “good enough,” however that is defined.  The intent of the incentive is to get them go beyond “good enough” and achieve “exceptional.”

Define Expectations and Incentives

However you approach it, it is important that you formally define “good enough” and “exceptional”, and critical that you communicate what that means in terms of expectations and reward. Formally define the incentive and when it is earned, give it with pleasure.

Your risk of not doing so is losing employees who truly are exceptional or have the potential to be.

How to Build the Perfect Team for Your Business

December 23rd, 2015 Posted by CEO, Delegate, Employment, Leadership, Manager, Relationships, Strategy 18 thoughts on “How to Build the Perfect Team for Your Business”

pile of plastic toy menWhile you should rely heavily on strategic planning to get ahead in the business world, if you don’t have the right team in place to implement your business strategy, you are going to go nowhere quite fast.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re starting a new business or have been in your industry for several years, hiring the right people can make a huge difference in your chances for success.

But how is this done?

Building the perfect team, like running a business, is just as much of an art as it is a science. And it’s something that a lot of people struggle with, even if they have been running a successful business for years.

This is because a lot of people don’t really understand what makes a good business team. Is it talent, creativity, or something else?

Hire Based on Your Needs

Every year, around the beginning of November, something quite amusing happens: the NFL trade deadline comes and goes.

It’s a time when most fans closely watch news outlets, looking to see who made what moves for which players. It’s also a time when you see diehard fans pulling their hair out because their favorite team’s general manager just traded away their best wide receiver for a couple of draft picks two years down the line.

But once the tears fade away, you can usually see why the trade was made.

Perhaps the receiver was struggling with an injury, or perhaps he was getting older, his contract was about to end or he was costing too much money.

Or maybe the team didn’t need him because they have several other receivers who are putting up great numbers.

The point is: the best hire is not always the best hire for you.

You have to identify what your team needs. You can’t just indiscriminately scoop up the most talented individuals in your industry. You have to focus on building a well-rounded team that can handle every situation.

Take a good hard look at your team. What type of person do you need based on your key performance indicators?

Remember, your main goal is to build a team, not a roster of talented individuals.

Hire Based on Culture

A good business culture makes a great business team.

While hiring based on qualifications is all well and good, you want to make sure to build a team that is passionate about your vision and the culture in which you want to build within your organization.

If you are looking to maintain a team-based environment where people bounce ideas off one another, you shouldn’t be looking to hire a person who prefers to work alone in the corner of the room.

The most important step in doing this is to clearly outline your business vision. If your employees don’t understand what you are trying to accomplish, they cannot help you get there.

Once everyone is one the same page as you, involve them in the hiring process. Let them sit in on interviews with potential employees and ask them for feedback on every candidate. You want to hire the most qualified candidate who also fits best with your team.

Remember, a team that is happy, works well together and is passionate about your vision is the most productive team.

Moving Forward

Once you have your team built, you want to make sure that they stay with you for the long run. Although this is another topic for another day, here are a few quick tips to keeping your team happy and productive:

  • Challenge them.
  • Reward them for their accomplishments
  • Listen to their wants and needs.
  • Give them the tools that they need to succeed.
  • Show them that you care.
  • Don’t just hire someone that can do the job today, hire someone that can change as the job changes.

While these tips can help you get started, so much goes into building and maintaining a great team that it would take an entire book to tell you everything there is to know. Thankfully, the Business is ART book is available for you to purchase (you’re welcome), and in the meantime, you can satiate your appetite for success by checking out our Freebies section of the website.

As a leader you are always on display

December 21st, 2015 Posted by Behavior, Business is ART, CEO, Engagement, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Manager, Owner, Relationships, Significance 0 thoughts on “As a leader you are always on display”
Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

Portions of this post appear in the book Business is ART. The post in its entirety previously appeared at the former Business is ART Blog site on November 4, 2014. I was recently reminded of it from a post by fellow consultant and blogger Matt Monge (@MattMonge) of The MojoCompany and thought it bears repeating.

As a leader, you are on display at all times.  How you behave sets the tone for your business or organization. This goes for general behavior as well as momentary behavior.

Always be cognizant of how others are reading you; because they are.  Every second of every workday, your employees (and clients) are reading you.

One morning, after having had a significant disagreement with someone in my personal life, I let that disagreement influence my workplace behavior.

When I got to the office, instead of the usual, “Good morning.  How are you?” type of greeting to which people had become accustomed from me, I entered the break room with a scowl on my face.  I didn’t look at or engage with anyone. I simply poured a cup of coffee and hurried back to my desk.

Later, one of the most trusted members of my leadership team, and someone I am proud to still call a friend, knocked on my door and suggested that we needed to talk in private.

He closed the door and asked in a very concerned tone, “Are we going to announce layoffs?”

The question stunned me. We were growing. We were profitable. I didn’t know where this was coming from.

“No.  Why?”

“There’s a rumor going around.”

“How did THAT get started?”

“Some employees were in the break room this morning and said you wouldn’t even look them in the eyes, so, they started speculating on what was wrong.  Then they concluded you couldn’t look them in the eyes because you are going to lay some of them off.”

I started the rumor.  I did.  Not knowingly or intentionally, but, because I was not paying attention, it led employees to speculate as to what was causing my “unnatural” behavior, and they “naturally” concluded I was about to chop some heads…probably starting with anyone lounging about the break room!

The good news was, we dramatically cut back on the cost of coffee that day. The bad news was, we lost a lot of productivity due to gossip and worry.  Worse, I lost at least some degree of the faith and trust of some of my employees.

That is a very, very hard thing to win back.  Who knows how long after I tried to assure everyone that cuts were not on the horizon had they assumed I was not being honest with them?

It was probably a long time.

What have you done…lately?

December 14th, 2015 Posted by Behavior, Business is ART, Engagement, Inspiration, Leadership, Relationships, Significance, Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “What have you done…lately?”

significance, do for othersYears ago, comedian/actor Eddie Murphy had a funny bit about relationships in which he quoted the Janet Jackson song “What Have You Done for Me Lately” saying that’s exactly what people say to one another all the time, always being sure to add and emphasize the word “lately.”

I once heard a speaker giving a presentation that sort of touched on the same subject, telling the tale of a man who didn’t understand why his wife thought he had stopped loving her.

The marriage counselor asked “Well, have you told her you love her?”

He said, “Yes!”

“How often?”


You might be wondering why I chose this particular photo for a post entitled “What have you done…lately?”

It’s simple really. The wall and the vine are each doing something for the other. The wall provides a place for the vine to grow. The vine, in return, provides the wall with beauty that goes far beyond its plain painted appearance (even if a vine turns out to be poisonous, it looks pretty nice).

In the December 13 edition of my personal blog, entitled #Significance, I explore doing things of significance and ask the reader what he or she has done of significance. It goes on to explain that “significance” doesn’t necessarily mean big, costly or grand and that many times the things by which we are remembered are the little, day-to-day things. Ultimately, I reach the conclusion that it really is not what you say or do for others that is of significance. It’s the passion and emotion with which you do it.

The whole subject has inspired me to try a little Facebook experiment and I am even willing to pay a little to boost the post. Starting Wednesday December 16, I will launch “Good Works Wednesday,” encouraging people to share what good works they are up to and how they do things of significance on a regular basis.

Read the entire post at #Significance by clicking here, and as you do, ask yourself what have you done of significance…lately?


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