Why you should join a mastermind group (and how to run a super-successful one)

To the list of things I’ve wrongly and prematurely written off in the past (including tablet computers, mint tea and the nation of Spain), I can add a new item: mastermind groups.

If you remember a certain British TV show, this photo is VERY funny. Otherwise...not so much.
If you remember a certain British TV show, this photo is VERY funny. Otherwise…not so much.

At the end of this post, we share all the document templates you need to get your own mastermind group off the ground. Scroll straight to the bottom to skip the small talk and grab the files!

If you haven't come across the idea of a mastermind group before, it’s defined by growandimprove.com as:

..a small group that you meet with for the purpose of reinforcing growth and success. while offering support to one another.

Which I always read as, “People sitting around talking about doing business because it’s easier than actually doing business – c’mon, I know what I need to do, I just don’t have enough time to do it!”

But earlier this year, I set up several masterminds for members of our community The Property Hub – and after seeing the tremendous benefits that group members were getting, I actually joined a group for online community owners myself.

It was only a few weeks before I started getting huge results from being a mastermind group member – so, embarrassing about-turn complete, we’ve recently started to put a formal structure in place for running masterminds within The Anywhereist Group.

In this post I’ll try to persuade you why you should make it a priority to join a mastermind group – as well as share what I’ve learnt from participating in and setting up a number of groups this year.

The benefits of mastermind groups

So, what makes a mastermind group so great that you should take an hour out of your already-overloaded week to participate in one?

Impartial advice / brainstorming. However much you think you know your business, when you get stuck it can be useful to get advice from people who aren’t as close to the situation.

Accountability. In a good group, when you say you’re going to do something, someone’s going to follow up and make sure that you did.

Motivation. Getting on a call with a group of successful people every week, and hearing about everything they’ve achieved since you spoke, is a great way to make you feel bad about your own accomplishments – in a good way.

Sharing ideas. You can spot things that are working for other group members and see if you can apply them to your business too – and if you need a specific idea, the most creative suggestions often come from those in other industries with fresh perspectives.

Support. As business owners we’re all pushing ourselves and doing things that most people won’t understand, so the moral support aspect shouldn't be underestimated.

What makes a good group?

Depending on the structure of the group (which we’ll come to in a minute) the right group size seems to be between four and eight people. These people need to have a high commitment level to the group, and be willing to keep their egos under control: there’s nothing more damaging than a know-it-all who can’t take criticism and is always forcing his views on others.

If the group members can come from different industries and backgrounds, all the better – differences make for a wider base of ideas and experiences to share, and prevents the situation where people are afraid to fully share because they’re competing for business with other group members. All that matters is that however different they are, the members have shared values and goals: they’re all trying to get to the same end result in the same kind of way.

The focus for the group can be:

  • Topic-based, like “membership site owners” or “freelancers”.
  • Mission-based, like “working towards a seven-figure year” or “buying my first investment property”.
  • Accountability-driven, where members push each other forward regardless of topic or mission.
  • General, as long as group members are happy not having a particular focus.

You also need to think about how often the group should meet. Depending on the aims of the group, I’d suggest either weekly or monthly – or perhaps quarterly for a much longer session, perhaps in person. I’d advise against doing a session every other week, because it becomes tricky to keep track of which week is “on” – and attendance can be erratic as a result.

How to run a successful mastermind

As (newly) enthusiastic as I am about masterminds, you can’t just put five people together in a Google Hangout and expect magic to happen. Running a successful mastermind involves a bit of work – mainly just at the start, when you're setting everything up.

Appoint a leader

It’s vital that one person is responsible for taking the lead and running each session – ensuring the agenda is kept to, encouraging quieter members to speak up, and generally keeping things on track. It’s probably easiest for the same person always to act as the leader (generally the person who put the group together), but you could try taking it in turns if nobody wants to step up.

Establish a clear purpose and ground rules

It should be possible to sum up in a sentence why the group exists: what’s the purpose for you all to take an hour out of your week to spend time together? In other words, what’s the mission, topic, or aim of the group? There must have been a version of this purpose at one point – in order for the founder to have successfully persuaded others to join – but it’s worth having it in writing to keep everyone focused.

The ground rules can be as stringent or as lax as you like, but I’d suggest covering at the minimum:

  • Attendance. “Three strikes and you’re out” is generally a good rule.
  • Confidentiality. If people know that what’s said in the group stays in the group, they’ll be much more willing to share.

Structure each session

Each session should have a structure to make sure the time is used productively. It can be structured in any way you like, but one that’s worked for me is:

  • Start with short updates from each member about what’s happened since the last session (no more than 1 minute each).
  • One member takes the hotseat, explains a challenge in their business and asks for suggestions. The hotseat member should prepare in advance to make sure they clearly explain where they need help, and ideally they should circulate some brief notes or any relevant background materials in advance.
  • After the hotseat, the group has a discussion around a certain topic that’s agreed in advance.
  • The session ends with each member making a statement from each member about what they will achieve before the next session.

The overall length of the session depends on how many members the group has (more members means more updates at the start and end, as well as more opinions to be heard throughout), but somewhere between 60 and 90 minutes is usually about right.

Prepare a list of documents

Sharing the key group information will give everyone something to refer back to when they’re preparing for a session, and will help new members to understand the culture of the group. The easiest way is probably to just create a Google Drive folder and share it with every member, and I’d suggest that it should include:

  • Purpose statement and ground rules
  • List of members and their email addresses
  • Template showing the structure of each session
  • Schedule of upcoming sessions (with the hotseats and topics arranged for each)
  • Hotseat preparation document
  • Template for giving your weekly update
  • Minutes of previous sessions

Circulate an agenda before the call

A day or so before each call, the group leader should circulate a reminder of when the call is happening, and what’s planned – such as who’s in the hotseat and/or what topic will be discussed.

Ideally, if someone is in the hotseat, they will have provided the leader with some notes they can circulate as part of the agenda. This will help other members to understand the basic facts in advance and be better able to ask the right questions and make helpful suggestions.

Keep talking between meetings

The regular calls should be the non-negotiable part of group membership, but it’s helpful to keep the conversation going between sessions too – whether that’s as an email chain or a private Facebook group.

Review progress regularly

Every so often (perhaps every other month if the sessions are weekly), it’s a good idea to add to the agenda a brief discussion about how the group is going. This makes sure that everyone is getting value from the sessions, and allows you to explore new ways you can shake things up to make them even better. If your members are the type of people who might be shy to speak up, you could always make this an anonymous survey rather than part of a session.

All the documents you need to get started

To make it easier to start your own group, we’re sharing the templates for all the documents we use to run our mastermind sessions.

It’s a Dropbox folder with templates for each session, hotseat preparation, session schedules and so on: you can just download the folder to your own Dropbox and modify the files to suit your own needs.

Click here to grab all our mastermind document templates

What’s been your mastermind experience?

Are you in any mastermind groups – or have you been inspired to start/join one?

Do you have any tips for running a super-successful group?

I’d love to know, so please leave a comment below!