What is a mastermind group and what can it do for me and my business?

Running a business as an owner or a manager can be lonely. While everyone expects you to come up with the answers all of the time, we all need to remember that we are only human. Mastermind groups are becoming popular amongst one-man bands and even small businesses are getting on board with the idea that working together can enable you to discover new ideas, new solutions and resolve long-standing issues.

Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich first defined the concept of the mastermind as a coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose. Since then many have gone on to define and explain mastermind groups, but Hill was originally inspired by Andrew Carnegie who attributed much of his wealth from Steel to surrounding himself with others who’s knowledge and expertise enabled him to gain their help via a mastermind group. So if it’s all about sharing and working together, how simple is that?

The term is now often used to describe a group of people, each with their own knowledge and experiences, coming together for the purpose of assisting each other when it comes to overcoming problems in their work or business. They are often used by small business owners who get together and share ideas, consider issues and work together on larger projects.

How does a mastermind group work?

A group usually comprises about eight to 15 people with similar needs, values or aims who agree to speak together on a regular basis – usually once a month, sometimes more, sometimes less. Discussions take place face-to-face or virtually using Skype or Google+ hangouts. On the whole, participants of the group agree to take it in turns to bring an issue to the table. Issues tend to be about their job or business, such as managing a difficult staff member, overcoming an issue with a client, production or sales. Then in a non-threatening, non-judgmental way, members of the group will offer assistance, bounce ideas around together or offer advice based on their own previous experience or professional knowledge.

The thinking behind a mastermind group is that they are based on the premise that the power of collective minds are more successful than a single one who is closely involved with the problem. Or as Andy Lopata says: “You don’t have to do it alone.”

Do mastermind groups only deal with problems?

No, that’s not the case – often the group will talk about all the great things that they are involved with and highlight positive experiences, especially as these can be just as powerful as a learning tool. Your mastermind group can agree its own purpose and format to suit the needs of the group.

Mastermind groups offer a combination of brainstorming, education, sharing knowledge, peer accountability and support in a group setting. It is usually used to sharpen your business and personal skills.

Think a mastermind group is for you?

A mastermind group helps you and your group members achieve success. If you think that this sounds like the right thing for you then you can either find one to join or get a group of people together and set one up to suit your own needs.

How to set up a mastermind group

First of all, keep it simple. Get in touch with a few like-minded people and ask them if they would be interested in getting involved. It’s a good idea to try and have a variety of people with different backgrounds and skills. Then follow my simple five-step guide to setting up and running a mastermind group.

  1. Establish guidelines on how the group will run. For example, how frequently you will meet and where. Then you need to agree on things such as boundaries and confidentiality. For example, no negativity and no putting others down, but instead being helpful by offering solutions and avoiding any further problems. Find a way to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to speak and that no one dominates the meeting. You can do this by agreeing to take it in turns to be the facilitator/chair/timekeeper. The most important aspect of mastermind groups is mutual respect and agreeing to work in an atmosphere of co-operation.
  2. Determine a focus for each meeting, possibly a topic or particular type of business problem. I suggest agreeing it in advance and giving members the chance to prepare what they need to bring to the table. This way you will have more productive meetings. I often start new groups off by getting them to evaluate each other’s marketing materials and business plans as I find this helps them to really get to know the person and their business.
  3. Each meeting needs to start by sharing success or talking about new things that are happening. That way you can all celebrate together; as business owners we are often too busy to celebrate successes and move on to the next thing. Then you can move on to the pre- agreed topics and share the areas in which you need support.
  4. Allow everyone an opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas around the topic and individuals problems and concerns. If you think you have a resource a book, web address or handout that could help, make sure you bring it to the meeting and share it with the others.
  5. Don’t forget to leave the meeting on a high. Agree your own success targets for the coming weeks and commit to an action that the group can hold you accountable for the next time you meet.

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