How To Harness The Power Of Support Groups

Published: 26th September 2008
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Change is really hard. Unfortunately, we often struggle on alone, not thinking to enlist the support of others in our journey.



I'd like to introduce you to a concept that has made a radical difference to both my business and the amount of fun I've had with it along the way - the support group.



What Exactly IS A Support Group?



A support group is made up of a small number of people who have committed to helping their fellow members achieve their professional or personal goals.



In the States these groups are often called Mastermind groups. They are not a new idea. In the early 1900s, motivational author Napoleon Hill explained the mastermind concept as



"The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony. No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind."



Or in other words, not only are two minds better than one, but in working together we create a collective wisdom that is greater than the sum of our individual contributions.



Group members meet regularly to share experiences and give each other advice and support. Memberships can vary widely: writers, entrepreneurs, parents, work at home mums, career changers - really any group of people with shared issues or interests can benefit from getting together in this way.



Top 10 Benefits Of Being In A Support Group



Membership of a support group gives you



1. A safe, confidential forum for sharing concerns and challenges



2. A means of keeping motivated, as members cheer your progress and encourage you through the harder periods



3. The opportunity to brainstorm ideas and receive useful feedback



4. Access to others' experiences and learning, so you don't need to reinvent the wheel



5. An accountability structure which will help you set and keep on track with your goals



6. Potential new professional alliances and personal friendships



7. A regular source of inspiration as you witness your fellow members' achievements



8. Increased skills in listening and supporting others



9. A team of peers committed to your success, so you don't feel you are "going it alone"



10. A means of having more fun as you work towards your goals



Casestudy - Mumtrepreneurs



Last year, myself and Jasmine Keel (www.inspiredbeijing.com) set up Mumtrepreneurs, a group of 8 mothers who are running their own businesses in Beijing. Here is what one of our members has said:



"There are numerous benefits - the creative ideas that come out of our brainstorming sessions, the constructive feedback I receive on my business ideas. And the greatest benefit is the sense of being part of a team and feeling less isolated." Marcelle Dubruel, nutritional therapist, www.rootstovitality.com



How to Find - Or Create - Your Group



Ask around your friends or conduct some internet research to see if there is an existing group you can join. For example, entrepreneurs under 50 with a minimum annual sales figure of USD 1 million may apply to join EO, the global Entrepreneurs' Organization. Through the EO monthly Forum meetings, groups of eight to 12 entrepreneurs meet for peer-to-peer learning and support.



If you can't locate any existing group, create one of your own. Who do you know who could be part of your support group? Contact a couple of potential members - they'll probably know others and you'll soon have enough people to form a group. Don't let distance be a problem - these groups can also work over the phone. Use one of the many free conference calling services available (just search google).



7 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Group



1. Keep the membership small to give everyone enough time to be fully heard. Six to eight is ideal.



2. To accelerate your learning, invite people who are slightly ahead of where you would like to be.



3. Limit meetings to no more than 2 and a half hours to maintain energy levels



4. Ensure everyone receives the same amount of "air time" - 15 to 20 minutes each. Appoint a facilitator and use a timer to keep everyone honest.



5. Train every member in basic skills and group etiquette such as - Keeping what is shared confidential - Listening without interrupting or judging - Respecting others' viewpoints - Keeping experiences and advice brief and to the point - Providing constructive feedback.



6. Capitalise on the accountability a group can provide. Ask everyone to commit to a goal that they will report back on the next time.



7. Make meetings a positive, inspiring experience. Include time for people to feed back on what is going well, and congratulate your fellow members.



Good luck with your group!





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Sarah Cooper is a career coach who specialises in working with people who want to follow their passions, express their creativity or help people or society in some way. Sarah worked as a solicitor, then as a marketing manager in the voluntary sector before defining her own ideal work. Kick start your new life by signing up to Sarah's FREE mini e-course 5 Keys to Finding Freedom By Doing What You Love at www.cowsfrommywindow.com

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