Carol’s recent post on CorpNet, “Making Mastermind Groups Work for Your Business,” shares tips for evaluating whether a group is a good fit, and how to make the most of your mastermind group after you join. Carol begins:

Making mastermind groups work for your business takes a little bit of courage, an open mind, and strong commitment. The benefits to you and your business, however, can be great.

Napoleon Hill is credited with the idea of the mastermind group, which he defined as “The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.” More colloquially, mastermind groups are typically thought of as business owners that come together to share best practices, solve problems and help each other to work on their businesses and grow them.

Video marketing expert Lou Bortone says, “Mastermind groups, when done right, can be the ultimate secret weapon in your business. Good mastermind partners help you gain perspective and get you unstuck when you’re second-guessing yourself.”

What to Consider When Joining a Mastermind Group

1. Find a Mastermind Group That Elevates You

Mastermind groups should encourage you to reach a little higher. The other business owners in the group should be at the same phase of their business – or even a little further along.

If you find a group of new business owners and you’ve been in business for five years, it’s probably not the right group. You need to be meeting with people who are wrestling with similar issues.

Gini Dietrich, the CEO of Arment Dietrich and founder and author of Spin Sucks, puts it this way, “There are two ways we learn. The first is to talk about a challenge or issue out loud, and explain the intricacies of why you cannot find a solution. The second is to teach someone how to do something. If you can teach it, you know it better than 99 percent of the population.”

Dietrich continues, “It’s because of those two reasons that mastermind groups are so effective. When you belong to a mastermind group, you have the advantage of having other business owners in the room who have been where you are and can help with solutions. Most business challenges are the same, no matter what you do for a living. With a mastermind group, you begin to feel saner, find quick solutions, build camaraderie, and have a group of people who look out for your best interest, no matter what.”

But be on the lookout for any potential Debbie Downer members. One bad apple really can throw off the dynamics of the whole group.

2. Be Generous With Your Knowledge and Support

You may be familiar with the phrase “give to get”. This especially holds true for making mastermind groups work for your business.

This isn’t the place to get prickly about giving away free consulting because if it’s a good group, everyone will be contributing – and receiving – great ideas.

Tapping into the hive mind (or Borg Collective, as a colleague of mine calls it), is one of the top benefits of joining mastermind groups. While you may not see an easy solution to your issues, someone in the group may see it immediately.

You may have access to people you would not normally interact with – professionals from other industries or who are more financially successful.

You might even have access to people you admire and have been following on social media. In fact, many successful business thought leaders start mastermind groups.

An enthusiastic mastermind member herself, Victoria Cook, the founder of The Center For Guilt-Free Success, says, “I have seen firsthand what the power of a group of objective, like-minded business owners can do for one another. Being part of a mastermind provides support, accountability, and collective knowledge – important tools most solopreneurs don’t get on their own. I have seen a change in the trajectory of businesses for the better, and experienced continued growth in my own business as a result.

You can read the rest of the post here.