In spite of the vaguely Austin Powers-like name and bigger-than-life ambitions, a mastermind group can be an effective tool to help you accomplish your goals. After all, what’s not to like about getting a group of ambitious people in a room, all eager to help each other solve problems and achieve big things?
"Mastermind groups mean different things to different people," says Austin, Texas networking expert Bill Hibbler, coauthor of Meet & Grow Rich: How to Easily Create and Operate Your Own Mastermind Group for Health Wealth, and More.
In other words, mastermind groups don’t necessarily have to be focused on business or money—you can create a group to help you accomplish virtually any goal, ranging from losing weight to getting your book published or getting over your fear of public speaking. The key to getting the most out of the group is to ensure it has a few basic elements.
When Robert Galinsky was invited to be part of a mastermind group by Jeff Hayzlett, host of C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett on Bloomberg TV, he enthusiastically accepted. Galinsky had just raised $50,000 to produce a musical about coffee and welcomed the input that such a group would offer. The group met every four months for roughly a year and a half. During that time, the 12-member team’s advice and contacts helped Galinsky get his book published and sell his business.
"You have to make sure the people have a commitment to helping each other in a way that they usually don’t. They have to be willing to pull the veil back on those powerful components of the business, business practices, and even your lifestyle," he says.
Some groups meet in person while others prefer videoconferencing or conference calls. The latter allows more far-flung members to participate. Be sure you’re comfortable with the format, Galinsky says. If you get more out of in-person meetings than conference calls, look for a group that meets that way.
Hibbler says members should be prepared for meeting discussions. That may include setting an agenda before the meeting to ensure group members have time to think about discussion points. Or, you could have a more informal approach, allotting everyone 15 or 20 minutes to report on progress and discuss issues or challenges.
Typically, Hibbler doesn’t recommend bringing in an outside moderator, although he recognizes that can be helpful in some cases. Instead, try rotating facilitator duties among members to ensure everyone gets a chance to speak and no one person dominates the conversation. It’s also helpful to have someone keep track of the goals each member commits to accomplish before the next meeting.
In addition to having the right mix of people who are willing to go above and beyond to help each other, members need to be committed and hold each other accountable, Hibbler says. That includes committing to meeting regularly—monthly or quarterly, for example—and being serious about getting things done. Anything less is a waste of everyone’s time.
Early in the group’s formation, Hibbler recommends setting ground rules about what is expected of each member. Set ground rules related to attendance, meeting format, confidentiality, making decisions, and settling conflicts. Some groups outline grounds for dismissal from the group, as well, such as being disinvited after missing a certain number of meetings or who violate confidentiality.
If you are trying to accomplish a goal that requires a very specific skill set, such as publishing a book or opening a complex business, it can be very useful for your mastermind group members to have experience in those areas so they can help or guide you. In other cases, having a diverse mix of people with different perspectives and accomplishments can be more useful to broaden your creative thinking, Hibbler says. Think through what you wish to accomplish and whether the voice of experience or new ideas are going to get you there faster.
Both Hibbler and Galinsky say you have to feel good about the people in your mastermind group. These groups tend to bond quickly, and it’s easier to share confidences and ambitions with people you like and trust. Hibbler suggests looking for such groups through your existing network so you get a sense of the people involved or forming your own.
If you choose the latter route, he suggests starting with one person who meets the criteria you’d seek in a mastermind group. Then, work together to find a third who’s a good fit. Then, "lather, rinse, repeat until you have five or six members who work well together," he says.