You can start a support group yourself. Rule: The group has no “leaders”. All the members own it.
Meeting Format (Suggestion)
Run a meeting of 2 hours with 6 members.
- 5 min: Reaffirm group vows. Include a reminder of safe space and confidentiality.
- 3 min/person: Professional/personal checkins: Each member shares personal/professional successes and challenges since the last meeting.
- 20 min: Spotlight. One member comes prepared, in writing, to discuss an important issue.
- 30 min: Sparring: All members engage in dialogue with the spotlit member. The goal should be to spur deeper insights. The goal is not to solve the issue, but to push the person to think in new and fresh ways.
- 15 min: “I Might Suggest”: Each member offers his or her take on the situation. It is the power and responsibility of the spotlit person to act on it! If a member has no advice, he/she just wishes the spotlit member luck.
- 10 min: Group Issue: Ongoing discussion of team dynamics and logistical issues. Confirm time and location of the next meeting. Select the moderator and spotlight. Assign homework now if you want to.
- 3 min/person: Review and setting of commitments: All members update the group on their goal commitments from prior week/month (meeting interval). Commitments are noted in writing and distributed.
Quality of Members
Members of this team should understand and practice the Four Mindsets.
- Diplomacy: Keep the discussion focused and productive without hurting feelings or letting the meetings go out of control. Understanding of collaboration without compromise.
- Positive, proactive attitude. This really helps when there is conflict from within (and there will be).
- Needs people you admire and respect. But they should be peers, not senior folks.
- People who value accountability
- People who share your level of motivation and ambition.
- Goal oriented people.
- Empathetic listeners: They repeat what you said to ensure they understood.
- Diverse backgrounds
What should the size of the group be? 3-8. Ideal is 5-6. Don’t wait till you have all 5. Find 1-2 and start! Be picky!
You don’t own the group. You don’t run it. As soon as there is another person, it is 50%
People will leave. Once well established, have a way of inducting new members (e.g. probationary period of 3 months and then everyone votes). Votes should be public, not anonymous. If they cannot say it to their face now, they will not be useful members of the group.
Everyone should agree when adding a new member.
Consider allowing everyone to have veto power, as long as you think they’ll use it responsibly (e.g. not refusing new members due to personal prejudices).
If at work, consider meeting outside of work (at least initially).
The First Meeting
In the first meeting, exchange vows. Then review The Promises. These are the end goals of the group. Not the personal goals, but what positive changes you vow to create by working together.
He suggests reading The Promises aloud at the beginning of every meeting. Some suggestions:
Together, we will become:
- Joyful, by discovering and fulfilling our true potential with others’ help
- Authentic, grounded, and secure in who we are
- Free from behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs that may have held back our growth
- More willing to aspire to ever-higher levels of achievement, beyond what we once thought possible
- Positive in our approach and attitude, with genuine encouragement and enthusiasm for all, generously shared.
- Forgiving, full of patience to deal with shortcomings - others’ and our own
- More willing to trust our instincts, courageously following our inner voice, taking risks, and learning from mistakes.
- Connected, not just to this powerful circle of people who care, but in all the relationships that matter in our lives.
- United, never letting each other fail.
Suggestions for principles:
- Coddling is counterproductive and selfish, not generous.
- Support is about picking someone up off the floor - then telling him how he got there.
- Service to others rewards the giver as much as the receiver
- Relationships are dynamic; as members graduate, celebrate the time you had to learn with them.
- Instincts are an important aspect of your decision-making process.
- Accountability starts with the individual.
- Scrupulous honesty is a must.
- “We’re all liars” - meaning we all have moments when we’re less than candid; the key is to celebrate a quick recovery.
- Holding others accountable is an act of generosity.
- So-called failures are celebrated as opportunities to learn and grow.
- Humility is a virtue.
- We are all addicted to something; winners admit it and ask others for help.
- Each of us has unlimited potential for growth, no matter where we start.
- There are no quick fixes. We are in this for a lifetime of continuous growth.
- Our ears are always open.
- Encouragement and support are inseparable components of holding others accountable.
- Create a safe place for taking risks.
- Air grievances right away. Don’t allow resentment to fester.
- Conflict - sparring - is a part of the process.
The Rules of Engagement
Some to consider:
- Treat information as confidential. This will ensure that members feel free to share.
- Be punctual. Starting on time and finishing on time show we’re respectful of one another’s time.
- Be committed. Repeat absentees or those who fail to uphold the core values of the group must be asked to leave.
- Be attentive. No cell phones or Blackberries on during a meeting. Everyone is listening and focused.
- Skip the small talk. It’s fine before or after the meeting, but never during. This will ensure the meetings are productive.
- No business transactions between members. Group members should not conduct business with one another, although they are welcome to share contacts and resources.
- No alcohol at regular meetings.
Holding Each Member of the Group Accountable
In the first meeting, discuss how violators of rules will be held accountable. Ensure everyone knows the penalties. Don’t be too harsh nor too soft.
Have a rotating monitor.
The Buddy System
Every person in the meeting should pair with another buddy. This buddy will engage with the person very frequently (sometimes daily, at least weekly). Buddies are available for brainstorming and other help.
Rotate buddies (e.g. once every 6 months).
Role of buddy:
- Accountability watchdog: Did you try your hardest? Were you too ambitious? Why didn’t you do it?
- Cheerleader: Quick fix for when the person is losing steam.
- Ongoing sparring partner
- BS Detector: Identify chronic behavioral issues.
- Daily or weekly support:
Call out elephants in the room - bad behavioral patterns, etc.
Spotlighted person should prepare beforehand the issue they are facing. Perhaps in writing, distributed to members in advance.
Pick member for next meeting’s spotlight based on need.
Be flexible on emergencies.
- Address the person directly, not through a third party.
- Address them immediately. Don’t let it fester.
- All relationship issues are your problem until you bring it to the attention of the other person.
- No personal attacks. Focus on the specific behaviors.
- Avoid ultimatums.
- Clearly state your facts and the change you are looking for.
- If things get worse, get a third party to mediate.
- Don’t deal with surface issues. Deal with the root cause.