What is a Mastermind Group?


Ryan Battles  •   Entrepreneurship

What is a Mastermind Group?

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“Few things can accelerate you toward your goals faster than participating in a mastermind.” - Michael Hyatt

About a year ago when I went into full-time entrepreneurship, I started hearing the word “mastermind” thrown around. At first it conjured up thoughts of an evil genius who is the mastermind behind some sort of catastrophe, but of course, the business world has another definition and use for the term.

Mastermind Group Definition

A mastermind group is simply a meeting of highly motivated folks who share a common goal and are looking to encourage and help each other improve.

That’s basically the definition of what we talk about when we talk about business mastermind groups (shortened to “mastermind group” from here on out). These meetings can be in person, but they don’t have to be. Mastermind meetings can also be online or over the phone.

Who Invented Mastermind Groups?

Mastermind groups have been around for a long time, but the phrase “mastermind group” was first coined by Napoleon Hill in his book Think and Grow Rich. According to Hill, a mastermind group is a “co-ordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.”

Some well-known examples of mastermind groups throughout history (even though they may not have been called that at the time) include:

  • The Junto - Established in 1727 by Benjamin Franklin, The Junto initially consisted of 12 members who met together for mutual improvement by discussing moral, political, and scientific topics of the day.
  • The Inklings - In the 1930’s and 1940’s, a group of English authors met together to read and discuss the author’s unfinished works. Notable members include C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Owen Barfield.
  • Nine Old Men - A group of Disney animators that were responsible for many of Disney’s hits from 1930-1970. Classics such as Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland were birthed in these meetings.

Whether the group is meeting for professional, political, or inspirational reasons, successful people have been meeting together in group collaboration for centuries.

Mastermind Group Agenda

There is no one way to run a mastermind group. However, it is important to have a structure, to ensure that everyone’s time is respected and the group achieves its purpose of growth for its members.

The following is an example of the “Hot Seat Method” I learned from entrepreneur Pat Flynn:

  • Recap - Each member updates the group on how they did accomplishing their goals from the previous meeting. The purpose here is not to go into too much detail or probe, but simply have that accountability of vocalizing out loud how you did.
  • Hot Seat - A chosen member will share details about their situation, and any problems or questions that they have can arise during this time. The other members of the group then have the opportunity to provide specific help and advice to this individual.
  • Goal Setting - Similar to the “recap”, each member will go around and briefly state their goals for the next meeting.
  • Hot Seat Selection - The next person to become the “hot seat” is selected, so they can come prepared with questions or concerns to bring before the group.

This method ensures that each person has the chance to participate, and only one person gets to dominate the conversation for a time in order to deep-dive into their current concerns. By rotating through the members, each one will get a chance to hear advice from the other members on their specific situation.

An alternative method that has been laid out by Chris Ducker is to distribute the focus during the meeting to each member as opposed to a hot seat. In order to achieve this, each member has to share the following:

  • Something that is working well for them.
  • Something that they would like help with.
  • A resource (website, app, service, blog post) to share with the group.

Ducker shares another tip of utilizing a Google Doc that everyone in the group has read/write access to during the meeting to collaborate on notes. Another interesting fact about Ducker’s mastermind is that it lasted several hours, so it was not a weekly event.

I think this sort of extended mastermind meeting is great for making a huge impact, and gaining some momentum that can last several months. Recently Barrett Brooks wrote about a “mastermind retreat” that he took with the members of his group. He explains how they normally meet weekly for a short time, but were looking for something more:

“Meeting for an hour a week or 90 minutes every two weeks allows us to stay up to date and hold each other accountable, but it doesn’t allow for deep understanding of each other’s businesses or comprehensive business planning.” -Barrett Brooks

Brooks also comments on how virtual meetings can grow dull over time, and the energy level of the group can take a hit without the occasional physical meeting.

However the agenda of the group plays out, again it is important that the time is spent intentionally, and that everyone gets an equal opportunity to seek help from the rest of the group.

The Benefits of a Mastermind Group

It is the temptation of many entrepreneurs and consultants to try to go it all alone. However, as poet John Donne wrote in the 17th century: “No man is an island”. By tapping into the minds of several like-minded individuals, a group member experiences the following benefits:

  • Accountability to think ahead and make a plan until the next meeting
  • Accountability to act upon that plan
  • Feedback and constructive criticism from others who want to see you succeed
  • Insight you might not have otherwise gained
  • Access to new resources
  • Motivation to grow and avoid stagnation

It’s true, participating in a mastermind group takes time and energy, but the clarity and insight it provides is time well spent.

Why Mastermind Groups Work

When you plug into a network of people with similar goals and the desire to help each other, you plug into something that you aren’t likely to get any other way. When you expose yourself to a mastermind group, you benefit from the differing perspectives of the other group members, which bring about insight that you otherwise wouldn’t have been privy to.

Entrepreneur and author Timothy Ferriss states: “I don’t think people need more motivation. I think they need more feedback and accountability, that’s it.” I would venture to say that feedback and accountability, such as what is found in a mastermind group, tend to provide the type of motivation that makes a difference.

Where to find a Mastermind Group

Mastermind groups are everywhere, and certainly many are occurring online and are open to new members. The quickest way to find a mastermind group is to visit the MasterMinds Meetups page on meetup.com. Here you will find a map and listing of mastermind groups around the world:

Meetup.com MasterMind Meetup Map

However, as I’ve stated earlier, the best masterminds consist of folks with similar goals. If one person is an aspiring author while another is looking to reduce churn on his SaaS application, the two might not have as much in common as would be ideal for a mastermind setting.

In order to find like-minded individuals who are open to forming a mastermind group (or know of one you might be able to join), you can check the following sources:

  • Twitter - Engage with people around a certain hashtag or interest topic. Tweet out that you are interested in joining a mastermind group for your particular niche.
  • Forums - Find a forum where people in your situation are hanging out, and look for mastermind opportunities there.
  • Blog Comments - I’ve read more than one interaction where someone comments on a post and asks for advice on joining a mastermind on that topic, and others follow up with similar interests as comment replies.
  • Facebook/LinkedIn Groups - Groups on these social networks are often a great way to meet like-minded people and look around for mastermind opportunities.
  • Conferences - By networking at conferences you can make connections with others interested in your particular niche, and looking to meet as a mastermind group.

Of course, if you poke around and can’t find a mastermind group with your particular niche or in your area, then it’s time to start one!

Starting a Mastermind Group

Every mastermind group is started by someone. Why not you? All it takes is one other person to get a mastermind group started. Of course, in order to have a successful group meeting, a few key items must be discussed amongst the founding members:

  • Pick a Topic - State specifically what this mastermind group is going to be about. Be as specific or general as you’d like, knowing that the more specific the focus the stronger the growth in that area will be.
  • Pick the Ground Rules - Will there be consequences for so many missed meetings? Will there be a time limit? Come up with a few of these foundational rules to ensure that everyone is on the same page, and they all know what they are signing up for.
  • Chose the Agenda - Again, having an agenda will keep the meeting moving and show respect for everyone’s time. This doesn’t have to be set in stone, perhaps it will evolve over time, but never start a meeting without an agenda.
  • Keep an Eye out for New Members - Many masterminds are invite-only, and for good reason. You want your mastermind group to maintain a high level of focus and to be filled with other motivated individuals. Some masterminds even have an application and interview process to join, while others grow only with recommendations from existing members.

Once the topic, ground rules, and agenda are discussed, then it’s time to meet! During the meetings, it is important not to interrupt (which can happen more often than we realize), and give each person an equal chance to share and give feedback. Another topic to discuss is whether or not the meeting will be captured, either by written notes or a recording.

Conclusion

Like many other successful entrepreneurs, you can elevate your success by starting or joining a mastermind group. Pat Flynn recently wrote:

“I would not be where I’m at today if it weren’t for the mastermind groups that I’ve been a part of since I began doing business online.” -Pat Flynn

Whether you are stuck in a rut, on a plateau, or experiencing slow growth, a mastermind group can provide the boost in energy, new perspectives, accountability, and resources necessary to take your game to the next level.