Written by: Brandon Turner
A Little Help From Your Friends
When you’re by yourself, you’re limited by your own knowledge and experience. When things get tough, it’s easy to get discouraged and want to give up. However, when you’re surrounded by others, many of these challenges are made much easier or disappear altogether.
You can benefit from the insights and hard-won experience of others. When you’re feeling frustrated or burned out, they can encourage you and help you keep going. If your motivation is flagging, they can push you. How can you surround yourself with others who will help you be your best self? One of the best ways is to start a mastermind group and invite specific people to be part of it.
A mastermind group is a collection of like-minded people who are pursuing similar goals and objectives. All the members of the group:
- Share insights and knowledge
- Give encouragement
- Help each other navigate problems
- Provide resources
- Hold each other accountable
To be clear, a mastermind group is NOT:
- Group coaching: one person coaching many
- Networking: primarily focused on referrals
- A class: a single instructor imparting information
Step #1: Define Your Focus and Purpose
The first step in creating a mastermind group is to define the focus and purpose of the group. You’re not starting some sort of general support group. You’re starting a group that will help a very specific type of person and focus on a specific mission.
Start with the overall focus of your group:
- Getting healthy?
- Managing finances?
- Growing a business?
- Overcoming specific health challenges?
When choosing your focus, it’s important to find the right balance. If it’s too broad, members may have wildly different goals. On the other hand, if the topic is too narrow, it may be hard to generate enough conversation.
Define the purpose of your mastermind group. Purpose can be broken down into:
- Mission. What are you trying to achieve as a group?
- Vision. What is the intended outcome of the group?
- Values. What actions and attitudes are valued within the group?
By mapping these things out, you give your mastermind group helpful definition. You clarify the objectives and spell out what sorts of things are expected from members. Try to be as clear as possible when defining the focus and purpose of your mastermind group.
Step #2: Create the Ground Rules
Before you bring people into your mastermind group, determine some basic ground rules. These rules clarify the basic structure and feel of the group and also make expectations clear to potential participants.
Consider ground rules such as these:
- Meeting lengthMeeting location
- Preparation by members required for each meeting
- Expected contribution by members to each meeting
- Adding new members
- Removing members
- Size of group
Be reasonable when you create these ground rules. If you want people to join your group and benefit from it, it’s important to have reasonable expectations. If necessary, you can always edit the rules in the future.
Step #3: Invite People
If your mastermind group is going to succeed, it must have the right people in it. The members of your group can make or break it. When deciding who to invite to your mastermind group, keep these things in mind:
- Personal connection. Do you have some measure of personal connection with the person?
- Experience. As much as possible, there should be a good balance of experience.
- Drive and commitment. Every member of the group should have comparable levels of drive and commitment.
- Skills and perspectives. Ideally, the members of your group will have a diversity of skills and perspectives.
- Competition. If your group is in any way business-related, you probably don’t want to invite your competitors.
When you invite people, ensure that they understand:
- Why you’re inviting them specifically (you value their expertise or other quality)
- The overall mission and vision of the group
- The key benefits of joining the group
- Expectations and ground rules
It’s often better to start small and increase your size later. Starting small allows you to work out the kinks and hiccups that you’ll inevitably encounter.
Step #4: Create a Meeting Agenda
Before your first meeting (and every meeting), create a detailed agenda of what you will cover. An agenda ensures that you and others get the most from each meeting. Some things you might want to put on the agenda include:
- Primary conversation topic for the meeting
- Current challenges members are facing
- Recent wins members have had
- Members’ goals for the week/month
- Resources that would benefit members
Once you create your agenda, share it with the other members so that they can adequately prepare for the meeting. During the meeting itself, there may be times when you need to stray from the agenda in order to effectively serve the group members. The agenda is simply to serve as a general guide.
In order for an agenda to function properly, there needs to be a discussion facilitator. They’re responsible for ensuring that the meetings flow smoothly, the agenda is generally followed, and everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the conversation.
The facilitator is NOT the “center” of the group. They work to ensure that everyone is an equal participant in the meetings.
Step #5: Choose the Right Tools
Having the proper tools can make meetings more productive, communication smoother, and the outcomes that much bigger. Here are some tools that may really help you.
- Video Chat. If the members are in various locations, you’ll want to use some form of video chat. Video chat allows you to see the faces of all the participants and even record the meetings.
- File Sharing. File sharing platforms make it super easy for members to share resources with each other.
- Online Chat. The members of your group will probably want to talk to one another in between meetings. This can be done by email, but there are a number of online chat tools that make things much faster and smoother.
- Task Manager. You may want to use a task manager to ensure that certain things get done. A task manager makes it easy for that activity to be assigned to the individual and for the individual to check it off when they’re done.
Step #6: Meet
It’s finally time to meet as a mastermind group. Here are some suggestions to help your meetings run as smoothly as possible.
- Stick to the allotted time. If you say you’re only going to meet for 60 minutes, stick closely to that timeline.
- Let everyone speak. Try to give everyone equal opportunity to speak during the meeting. The purpose of a mastermind is to get everyone involved.
- Avoid interrupting. You want people to have the freedom to share without worrying that they’ll be interrupted.
- Encourage openness. The more open and honest everyone is about their challenges, the more growth everyone will experience.
- Celebrate victories. If someone has a big win, celebrate that in the group.
- Keep the conversation going. If you’re the facilitator, you’re responsible for keeping the conversation going.
- Have fun. Not everything can be serious and intense in your mastermind meetings. Try to have fun as well.
Step #7: Periodically Evaluate
Every few months, it can be helpful to step back and evaluate how things are going. Some things to consider when you evaluate are:
- Personal objectives. Overall, do you feel like the mastermind is helping you achieve what you desire?
- Member feedback. What things would the members like to change? What do they like?
- Size. Is the group an effective size?
- Format. Is the current format working well?
Avoid making changes unilaterally. In other words, don’t change things without first consulting the group. Ensure that everyone is on board before you alter things.
During these times of evaluation, it can also be helpful to give members a chance to leave the group. Give them the opportunity to leave without any hard feelings.
Should You Charge Money?
Some mastermind groups charge a membership fee, while others are completely free. Which should you do? Here are some factors to weigh.
- Value. Generally speaking, the more expertise there is in your group, the more valuable it is. If your group is full of experts, you’re more justified in charging a fee.
- Work required. The more work required to organize and orchestrate a mastermind group, the more justified you are in charging a fee. If you do charge a membership fee based on the work you put in, ensure that the members see the benefit of the work you do.
- Commitment level. One benefit of charging for membership in a mastermind group is that members tend to be more committed if they’re paying.
Avoid These Pitfalls
The more you can avoid common pitfalls, the better your group will function. Here are some of the most common reasons mastermind groups don’t succeed.
- Lack of commitment. If the members of the group aren’t committed, it will be very difficult for you to gain momentum. If it seems that a member isn’t committed, talk to them privately first. If they don’t want to be part of the group, let them leave. Otherwise, ask them to change their behavior.
- Size. If the group becomes too large, it becomes very difficult for everyone to participate. Consider how you might split the group into smaller, more manageable mastermind groups.
- Overbearing facilitator. If you’re the facilitator, make a deliberate, conscious effort to involve every member of the group. If you delegate the job to someone else, ensure they know exactly what is expected of them.
- Lack of accountability. If there is no accountability, it’s much less likely that everyone will achieve their goals. Have every member share their goals with the group. During each meeting, have a time when members share updates on their progress.
- Lack of transparency. The group will only succeed if members feel like they can open up and be honest about their struggles and difficulties. Set an example for the group by consistently being open, honest, and transparent. Immediately address it if a member ridicules another.
About the author:
I am a Georgia-born, Oklahoma-based entrepreneur with an IT and business operations background. I write a weekly newsletter – called Recipes for Business© – about how to build a business that can run without you whenever you need it to. My background is in writing operating procedures for businesses. I eventually created systems and built a team to do the work in my place. This freed me up to create The Recipes for Business© Newsletter in August 2020 to share what I learned from clients and myself.
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