Mastermind 101

A while back I got interviewed by Rachel Weingarten, writer for theladders.com.

She wanted to know how what Masterminds actually are, how we can utilize them, and their advantage.

Below you’ll find my statements and here you can see her final article on ladder.com

What is a mastermind group and why do people want to join mastermind groups? How do they differ from other business type or networking groups?

The focus and goal of a mastermind is to use the combined  brainpower and experience of the group members to elevate, educate and help everyone. As opposed to networking groups or meetups, masterminds are built around being a collective.

Think of a mastermind as a group of mentors that fill in for each other’s shortcomings, things we haven’t learned or experienced yet, allowing each member to brainstorm, get educated, being held accountable and challenged.

Mastermind members are student and mentor at the same time and need to be willing to give just as much as they take.

Do not mistake a mastermind for group coaching. Masterminds are a group effort, only having a facilitator to keep the group on task, rather than coaching them.

How do you choose your members? How many should you have?
How do you choose the leader? What do you do if they don’t work out?

Mastermind applicants should go through a vetting process, just like employees. Every mastermind should also have a mission and vision statement, outlining the focus and goals of the group.

It should also be determined what type of mastermind it is: topic-based (building online courses, marketing yourself), mission-based (raise awareness for breast cancer, run a 5k in 5 months, e.g.), or is it a business mastermind (product-based businesses, online businesses)

The success of a mastermind is straight-up connected to its members. Matching up members in regards to their level of expertise, revenue, and goals is therefore vital.

All of these points also determine if members should or should not be in the same type of job/business. If the focus of the group is advancing a skill, having members of the same job/business can be of great advantage. Whereas a business builder mastermind most likely will have more success including members that are alike but not the same, those who can complement each other rather than competing for the same market.

The size of a mastermind is crucial. Not enough members and the group will lack diversity, too many, and voices won’t be heard. This is why 3-5 members is most common.

One pro tip – when starting a mastermind, start it with beta test round of six months. That allows everyone to test it, potentially adjust the goal and gives everyone an easy excuse to leave if things don’t work out. Having a commitment sheet for each meeting as well as a penalty for no shows will allow less committed members to move on.

Speaking of commitment — humans tend to value and commit more to things they have to pay for, so a monthly mastermind fee might be of advantage and is the standard.

How do you structure meetings? How often/what happens/what do you hope to accomplish?

Masterminds have two common structures, the “hot seat” or “equal time” approach. In a hot seat mastermind, all the time goes to one member of each meeting. This structure allows for a deep dive and plenty of time for all other members to respond and advise. This kind of layout is great for weekly masterminds.

For monthly masterminds, the equal time approach might be more advantageous. As the group only meets once a month, time is limited. Splitting up the meeting time in equal parts for all members will allow everyone to take advantage without having to wait months on end for their turn.

Prep-sheets do wonder to keep everyone on track and help them prepare for the mastermind call. But also allow for tracking milestones.

Questions like:

What to share for my short update:

  • What were the results of my business goals last month:
  • What were the results of my personal goals last month (if any):
  • Other news/updates?

Current projects and priorities:

  • What could I really use support on right now?
  • What help looks like to me:
  • What’s my expectation for today’s meeting? Am I looking for support or am I just giving?
  • What have I learned recently that could be beneficial to one or all of my team members?

What are some benchmarks or milestones?

Using a prep sheet and goal setting often determine the mastermind’s (and its members’) milestones.

Benchmarks or milestones could be anything from “not smoking for a week” for a member of a health mastermind and the group holding him accountable to a business goal of doubling income/revenue within a year.

If members do not reach their benchmarks or milestones, the mastermind in itself is not reaching its milestones (being the success of its members) and the group and facilitator need to analyze the cause.

Causes for not reaching milestones could be lack of commitment or accountability, or simply the energy and mix of people in the group.

Anything you’d like to add?

A successful mastermind not only engages but inspires and becomes a “family.”

Members feel comfortable to share “failures” because they know rather than being judged they will receive encouragement, me too stories, and advice on how to do better next time. Ideas can be shared and tested without fear of someone else selling them as their own. It will become your new home away from home.

If you are debating to join or start a mastermind, this workbook will help you in the process.

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