Why You Should Build A Mastermind Group

If two heads are better than one, five or six can kick ass. Here's how to find or create—and profit from—a mastermind group.

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.

People committed to helping each other.

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.

A Regular Format that everyone is comfortable with.

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.

People Who Will Hold Each Other Accountable.

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.

Members with relevant skill sets.

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.

Group Chemistry.

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.

[Image: Flickr user Joris Louwes]

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  • Great article Gwen! I'm a huge fan of Masterminding, and have experienced fantastic success in my business since I joined my first Mastermind group 7 years ago. I recently wrote a book called "Mastermind Your Way To Success" that I would like to share with you and your readers. Download it free at http://MastermindEbook.com

    Keep up the good work!

  • Kara Bismarck Thurbush

    Is this the correct forum for starting such a group?

    I would like to get donations of pet food and supplies to local food pantries.

    I currently have assistance in feeding my pets (through my father), but were it not for him, food stamps would not cover their needs. I believe this could be done by contacting pet food companies and possibly stores for donations. Maybe a $1, $5, or $10 pet food card could be purchased at pet stores or chain stores and the money used to donate pet supplies to local food pantries. If you feel this to be a worthy goal, and can assist, please contact me at karabismarck@gmail.com.

  • Gwen - I couldn't agree more! Goofy name aside, when I got a "mastermind group" it was incredibly helpful for my business. For me, it was most helpful to have accountability partners and another set of eyes to make sure what I was doing made sense!

  • Hi Gwen. Peer groups are an awesome resource, and an important tool. I'd only add (having experienced such groups in YPO) that having some moderator training and communication guidelines is pretty important. Having a room full of alphas creates some interesting dynamics and the a communication framework and trained moderator prevent groups from experiencing unnecessary conflict. Thanks! :-)

  • That's a good point, Tim. We went into a little more detail in the book but it's important that the group is run as a democracy and to take the time during the initial meeting to decide things like what topics are permissible, the tone of the group, length of meetings, etc. Some recommend having a 'talking stick' to represent which member's turn it is. When they have the stick, they have the floor exclusively and no one can interrupt until they are finished sharing.