How to Start a Mastermind Group
By Becky Mollenkamp, PCC
After years of dwindling passion for my career as a writer, I recently had a revelation about how I could tweak my mission and services to advance to a new level of personal and financial fulfillment (I’ll share more about these changes soon, I promise). This evolution wouldn’t be easy and I knew I’d need help, so I began searching for a mastermind group I could join.
Masterminding is basically peer-to-peer mentoring. These groups have been around for decades and are very popular among highly successful people. After researching them a bit, I knew my business could benefit from tapping into a collective intelligence. (Want to know more? Read Four Reasons You Should Join a Mastermind Group.) I reached out to my social networks, looked on Meetup and Craigslist, and did a Google search, but couldn’t find a mastermind group in my area that was accepting new members and didn’t charge a hefty fee. So, I started my own.
Ready to start a mastermind group? Here are four simple steps.
1. Find the right people
Generally speaking, groups are kept small (five in my case) so each person must be committed and have something to offer. Think about the types of people you want in your group (demographics, industries, personalities, etc.) and then examine your networks to target people who meet those criteria. A mastermind group is only as good as its members, so selecting wisely is critical. Don’t be afraid to reach out to strangers. You never know who may currently be looking for exactly what you’re offering. I reached out to a blogger group on Facebook and people in my professional network and then culled down to four people who were a perfect fit. We are each in different industries so there’s no competitive weirdness, and we all share similar philosophies about abundance and positive thinking.
2. Craft a mission statement
It’s important that you and your members are clear about the purpose of the group and are all on the same page. There are plenty of examples online, but this is ours:
The purpose of STL Mastermind Group is to inspire and challenge each other to reach and exceed goals. Each member is committed to her own success, as well as the success of every member of the group. STL Mastermind Group is a network of like-minded people with whom members can learn, share, and grow.
We are: Committed (we meet in person or virtually for 1 hour every week); Present (there is no multitasking or distractions during meetings); Collaborative (we listen without interrupting, lecturing, or judging); Encouraging (we celebrate each other’s successes without jealousy); Honest (we participate by giving thoughtful feedback); Open (we listen to different perspectives without being defensive or offering excuses); Vulnerable (we trust fellow members enough to share fully); Fun (focus is important, but we also think it’s important to have fun during meetings); and Authentic (this is a no-BS zone).
3. Establish ground rules
You need a way to weed out anyone who isn’t a good fit for your group and goals. Write rules for your mastermind group that keep out bad seeds. I send this to potential members: “This group is group therapy nor a time for endless self-promotion and lead generation. It’s not a place for preaching, secret agendas, bitching, or backbiting. It’s a collaborative, supportive group of people committed to taking the next steps in their business to achieve their goals.” Also, masterminding doesn’t work if members don’t participate. A membership fee or punitive system for absences can encourage engagement. We elected for the latter; our $5 fee per missed meeting will fund an end-of-year group dinner.
4. Choose a structure
There are two typical models for mastermind meetings. There’s the hot-seat approach, where meetings focus on members’ businesses on a rotating basis. One member gets the entire time one week, another gets it the next, until all members have had a meeting and the rotation starts over. This allows each member to do a deep dive and have plenty of time for thoughtful feedback from other members. We opted, however, for the inclusive meeting structure, where time is divided equally among all members. We have 1-hour meetings, where each member gets 10 minutes to use as she wishes (typically, 5 minutes explaining a pain point in her business and then 5 minutes of feedback), and then we finish by sharing resources and setting goals for the next week. We also use a private Facebook group to continue conversations between in-person meetings.
One last thing, if you’re already in a mastermind or consider joining an existing one, read about the 5 signs of a bad mastermind to make sure it’s a great fit. Oh, and if you’ve never attended a mastermind retreat, check out the reasons I think you should consider it.