Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

How To Create A Mastermind Group

My wife, Sheila, speaking at a Mastermind meeting at our home.

Recently I’ve had several people ask me about how to set up a mastermind group. I wrote a blog about this back in 2011, but I have updated it and added some new information. I hope you find this helpful.

 

 

“You become what you focus on… and like the people you surround yourself with.”

This is the single most important lesson I’ve learned in my life so far. How did I learn it? By understanding the power of Mastermind Groups.

Thirty-nine years ago I failed out of college. After my first year at the University of Miami (Florida) I had a stellar 1.6 GPA!! Unfortunately, all the people I was hanging out with had lower GPA’s than I did so it did not seem like that big of a deal… until I was expelled. I moved to Gainesville, Florida to restart my college career and met an incredibly wise professor (Roger Strickland) who strongly recommended that I start a “study group” – a.k.a. — a mastermind group. At the beginning of each semester, I would stand up on the first day of class and invite anyone who wanted to do well in the course to join my study group… as long as they had a 3.6 GPA or higher! Forming that study group changed EVERYTHING. In the span of six years, I went from failing out of the University of Miami to graduating in the top three in the United States in my major from the University of Florida and then becoming the CEO of a Rockefeller foundation just three years after graduation.

I have continued to create mastermind groups throughout my life. In my early 30’s I created a group of young CEOs that met once a month at a local restaurant to share ideas and support each other as we tried to grow our businesses. For the last few years I’ve run a mastermind group of senior leaders, people who have been in business for 20 or 30 years, that gets together to talk about cutting edge business ideas, economics, politics, whatever important topic we all want to explore. This group has all become very close friends and I know that whenever I need help they are on my team. I’m also in a mastermind group with other people in my industry; professional speakers, consultants, and authors. We share our best ideas, contacts, client referrals and do everything we can to help each other improve our craft.

The reason I share my experiences with these two groups with you is to show you how incredibly powerful they can be in helping to guide, support, motivate and direct your life. I cannot possibly express how valuable it is to be an active member of a high-quality mastermind group. But here’s the catch; for most people, if you want to be in a mastermind group, you’re going to have to create it yourself!

Here are my recommendations on how to start and sustain a mastermind group.

Although there are many successful mastermind groups that meet via phone or online, I believe the most powerful ones meet in person, once a month or every 45 days, so I will address that sort of group in this article.

The first step is to look around your local community for one or two people who you respect and would enjoy learning from. Approach these folks with an invitation to create a mastermind group with you, let them know that it will be highly focused and a valuable use of their time.

When someone accepts your invitation, ask them to choose one or two people that they respect and would like to learn from and invite those folks to join the mastermind group too.

The goal is to have your initial meeting with six or eight members in attendance. At the first meeting is a good idea to take some time to set the framework for how the meetings will run and discuss the expectations that the members have about what they want to achieve in the mastermind group and what things would be of significant value to them. Structure is important to running an efficient mastermind group so you should set some rules around how often you will meet, where you will meet, attendance requirements, topics to be covered, length of meetings, confidentiality, and other issues you deem important. There should also be some discussion around how to invite new people to join the group what the process will be for deciding that someone should leave the group.

In our mastermind groups, we typically pose a single important question and ask everyone to come fully prepared to discuss it in the meeting. For example, in our last two meetings, the questions were: “What are the three most important lessons you have ever learned in your life?” And the next month we asked everyone, “If you were to turn your business over to your children (or someone else), what are the three most important pieces of business advice you would give to them?” Sometimes we all read a book and discuss what we felt was most important in the book and how we will apply those ideas in our lives and businesses. Other times we allow one of the members of the group to bring a specific challenge they are facing so that all of us can give them our best advice and connect them with anyone in our networks that we feel might be able to help them.

One of the biggest challenges of creating a mastermind group is keeping it to a manageable size once the word gets out that you have created something so powerful. I highly recommend that you have no more than a dozen members, which means you’ll likely have about 8 to 10 people in attendance at each meeting. If you get much larger than that, then you end up with cross conversations and a lack of focus.

Currently, my wife and I host the meetings at our home, we offer some light hors-d’oeuvres and cocktails and we all sit on the back deck for about two hours discussing the assigned topic, sharing stories, asking for help and getting advice. Not only is this incredibly beneficial session for learning new ideas and tools for improving your life and,  it is truly a blessing to be surrounded by such incredible people and to count them among your closest friends! We also invite spouses to attend which adds a lot of vibrancy and diversity to our meetings.

We do not charge any money to belong to the mastermind group, and we often rotate the meetings between different people’s houses to share costs. You could easily hold mastermind meetings at a local restaurant and let everyone handle their own bill, or gather at someone’s office and have food brought in.

Once you have a few meetings the group will begin to come together and start to open up. As trust builds, you will have some very meaningful conversations that will help the members of your group make major decisions in their business and life. Although mastermind groups will help you become more successful, the real wealth generated is from the friendships, learning, and access to each other’s networks…which is priceless.

If you are already involved in a mastermind group, please leave your comments and tell everybody what it has meant to you and how important it is in your life. I hope that we can start a small campaign here to get people around the world forming small mastermind groups to solve their personal problems, their business problems, their community’s problems and, yes, even the world’s problems.

Thanks, and take good care, John Spence

PS – Please take a moment to share this with anyone in your network that you feel would benefit from creating a mastermind group.

Irrationally Passionate

I was driving into the office this morning (Saturday – and you notice I didn’t call it work) listening to a podcast about how to increase sales. The person being interviewed said that the best way to grow your business was to focus on “irrationally passionate” customers. People, who are fanatical about the type of products or services you sell. Good examples would be Star Wars fans who will buy just about anything that has to do with Star Wars, or a sports fan who is crazy about their team, someone into golf, knitting, gardening, dogs, cats… a target customer who is so irrationally passionate that they become a raving fan for your business because you offer something that they “have to have.”

I love this idea. It makes perfect sense for how to identify your key target market. If you start your focus on this potential group of customers, you will also appeal greatly to the folks that are not quite as passionate but still very interested. It also makes it so much easier to sell when you are offering your products and services to people that are enthusiastic about buying them. I see a lot of businesses waste time and money trying to sell to people that either don’t want or can’t afford their product. Here is a quote I use a lot when I’m delivering sales training, “Don’t try to sell to broke people.”

However, I also saw another application for the idea of “irrationally passionate.” This is the exact same thing that YOU need to be about your business/career if you want to achieve a high level of success. It’s very hard to become superb at something you are not deeply excited about. If you want to be one of the best of the best you must be fully committed… irrationally passionate… and willingly do what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do. So here are a few questions for you.

Are YOU irrationally passionate about…
  • Being better prepared than any of your competition?
  • Being insanely customer focused?
  • Delivering the highest quality products and services?
  • Delivering world-class customer service?
  • Operating with 100% honesty and integrity?
Is your company irrationally passionate about…
  • Hiring only top talent?
  • Building a winning culture of highly engaged employees?
  • Being fair and generous with your customers and employees?
  • Creating high levels of accountability across your entire organization?
  • Fostering lots of open, honest and transparent communication within your company?
  • Focusing intently on disciplined execution?
  • Demanding excellence and refusing to tolerate mediocrity?

These are just a few questions; I could easily add another twenty. The point is, you will never become truly great at something if you are not irrationally passionate about achieving greatness in that area. I know that sounds simplistic, but it is the truth. Unfortunately, I see a lot of people today that think that they can attain great success without great effort. That has never happened and it never will. All success comes from work, usually very hard work, and excellence comes from being irrationally passionate about the pursuit of excellence.

What are you irrationally passionate about?

Why Should I Worry About This?

Here is an idea that I believe can make a dramatic positive impact in your life if you apply it!

I hope you found this video helpful and that you will share it with anyone you feel would find value in the ideas I shared .

Thanks – John

The Single Most Important Leadership Characteristic

For more than 20 years I have taught leadership at startup companies to the Fortune 50 and the single most important trait for highly effective leaders has always been the exact same thing. I can show you dozens of major research studies from around the world, representing millions of respondents, and they all say the exact same thing. When I teach classes on leadership and ask the attendees what they look for in a leader they would willingly follow, it’s always the exact same thing…

HONESTY

However, it is getting harder and harder for people to believe this.  In nearly every arena; business, politics, religion, science, education…there are “leaders” who have no problem lying. I’m not talking about small mistruths, or perhaps twisting the facts a little bit, I’m talking about boldface, in-your-face, complete and utter lies. So-called “leaders” who can look you straight in the eye and tell you something that they know is absolutely false.

I am NOT taking any sides here. Every side of everything now has people who seem to have no regard for the truth and are willing to say anything, no matter how outlandish, to advance their position. When I open the floor for questions at my events, inevitably someone will ask, “If telling the truth is so important, then why do we have so many leaders who don’t?” My response: “I don’t know. It does not make any sense to me. I would not consider those people leaders; however, they are in leadership positions. I don’t understand how people like that rise to the top positions in organizations. It drives me crazy.”

The Death of Honesty?

I refuse to believe that we have come to a place in society where lying is an acceptable, even expected, behavior. I’m at the point where I question the validity everything I hear and read and that is painful and frustrating. It makes me physically tired to listen to the news and hear the constant stream of stories about “leaders” who have been lying, cheating, stealing, killing… and mostly getting away with it. I cannot fathom the damage this has done to our society and the example it is setting for our youth. It terrifies me to think about a generation of young people who have been raised watching authority figures lie, and then lie about their lies.

But I believe there is a solution and it starts with you and me.

Now more than ever I feel that it is essential to be a living example of honesty and integrity. It is only through modeling these behaviors, in even the most challenging situations, that we can demonstrate that character, authenticity and truth telling are truly the most essential characteristics of leadership. We need to make more of an effort to highlight and showcase successful leaders who build great companies on a foundation of honesty, fairness respect and generosity. We also need to call out “leaders” when they are dishonest, when they mislead us, and hold them accountable for their destructive actions and behaviors.

This will not be easy. There is a tsunami of misinformation, lies, fake news and manipulation coming from all directions. Again, I am not taking any sides here, I am simply saying that it is up to you and me to hold ourselves to the highest standard of honesty and integrity in our personal and business lives. I will end with one of my favorite value statements, from one of the greatest leadership institutions in the world, West Point.

“A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.”

Sounds like a good plan to me.

 

For more of John’s ideas on leadership here is a link to his book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do I Really Need To Say Anything?

I have started a new practice that has made a huge positive impact on my life. As a consultant, I’ve always known that my job was to ask good questions and listen intensely. However, in my personal life I will often give my feedback, opinions, ideas, suggestions and direction without even being asked for it! Because I realized this wasn’t exactly a positive trait, during the last few months I have focused on asking myself a few questions before I open my mouth.

  • Do I really need to say anything right now?
  • Is what I’m going to say adding any significant value to the conversation?
  • Is what I want to say helpful or am I just trying to talk about me?
  • Do they want my advice or simply for me to listen to them?

Just taking a moment to pause and ask myself these questions has totally changed the way I approach conversations with my family, friends and colleagues. I have found that in the past I would often say things that were not relevant, did not help the conversation move forward in a positive direction or were simply an effort for me to impose my thoughts and values on someone else. Carefully thinking about what I am planning to say, before I say it, has cut my comments by 80%. I talk a lot less, listen more, and end up having much better and more satisfying conversations for myself and others.

So to finish, rather than telling you what to do let me ask you a question; Do you think it would be helpful to ask yourself these questions before you start talking?

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Do You Have a Strategic Plan for Your Life?

Click HERE to see John’s BIG Ideas on Strategy

How To Be More Successful

I recently had the honor of being asked to do a segment for ITPRO.TV, a video channel aimed specifically at delivering world-class training and certification courses to IT professionals. The topic they asked me to speak on was professional development, especially focused on how to take your career to the next level in 2017. I think there are several good ideas here that apply to anyone who wants to have more success in their career and life.

If you found this video helpful, I hope you will share it with your network. Thanks – John

“Must Read” Business Books from 2016

shutterstock_397576393A friend of mine, Jake Kostan, sent me a question asking: What is your number 1 must read book of 2016 in each category for sales & marketing, business and culture?

That’s really tough question, I read more than 100 business books this year (not all of them were written this year), many of them very good, but if I had to list just one in each one of those categories, here they are…

Sales

The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need” by Anthony Iannarino

**Also in sales, if you have not read these two books, go read them right away**

SPIN selling” by Neil Rackham

Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play – transforming the buyer/seller relationship” by Mahan Khalsa and Randy Illig

Marketing

Marketing: A Love Story – how to matter to your customers” by Bernadette Jiwa

Leadership

Leadership Lessons from a UPS Driver – delivering a culture of we, not me” by Ron Wallace

Extreme Ownership – how US Navy SEALs lead and win” by Jacko Willink and Leif Babin

Culture

It’s My Pleasure – the impact of extraordinary talent and compelling culture” by Dee Ann Turner

Business Excellence

Simply Brilliant – how great organizations do ordinary things in extraordinary ways” by William Taylor

Personal Development

The Daily Stoic – 366 meditations on wisdom, perseverance, and the art of living” by Ryan Holiday

I could easily list another two dozen, and this was especially hard because many of my friends wrote excellent books this year, so I put links below to all of my recommendations over 2016.

If you read something that you thought was extremely valuable, please add it to the comments for all the rest of us.

Thanks so much and I hope that 2017 is your best year ever!!! Love, John

 

My book recommendations from 2016

Two Superb Books I Highly Recommend

Leaders Are Readers

Awesome Sales Book

What Is Your Legacy

Three Great Books

How To Become The Best in the World

How Do You Want To Feel?

 

 

 

Two Superb Books I Highly Recommend

John SpenceI have just returned from three weeks on the road, including 10 days on a speaking tour across Poland as a guest of the United States Consulate General in Krakow. I had a lot of time on airplanes and read several books but there are two that I would especially like to recommend.

The first is called “BOOKSMART – hundreds of real-world lessons for success and happiness,” by my friend Frank Sonnenberg. This is an absolutely fantastic book of wisdom and sage advice that is presented in a very user-friendly way, with lots of lists of things to think about and apply. The book covers numerous topics around business, family, success, financial health, marriage and other critical issues. The chapters are short but powerful. I have already reread this book twice and have applied several of the ideas to my business and life. This is one of those books I plan to come back to often as a reminder of what I should be focusing on and how to build a happy, joyful and highly successful life. This book would be a wonderful Christmas present for anyone you know that enjoy books on self-improvement or business improvement.

The other book I’d like to recommend to you is called, “The Leaders Mindset – how to win in the age of disruption,” by Terence Mauri. In this book Terence describes three major leadership mindsets:

  1. Think Big Mindset (Future Shaper)
  2. Act Bold Mindset (Risk Taker)
  3. Learn Fast Mindset (Knowledge Seeker)

He then goes on to describe how to integrate all three of these mindsets in order to be an effective and successful leader. I underlined a lot of this book, and I’ve recommended it to several of my clients. It’s a good, solid book that will help you take a new look at how you lead in your organization. One of the reasons I love this book so much, is that it aligned very strongly with what I have been studying for years about great leaders and great organizations. It was reassuring to read such focused and detailed ideas and descriptions that match so closely with my strongly held beliefs about what makes a real leader. If you are interested in a book that will help you examine the way you think about leadership and the actions you take as a leader, you will definitely enjoy this book.

I have just a little bit of downtime around the Christmas holidays, so I will have a few more books to recommend at the start of the new year. If you have recently read a great business or self-help book, please comment on it here so that my followers and I can pick it up and learn from your recommendations.

I hope you find these books of great value – take good care – John