When I first designed my Mastermind, I’d been coaching people 1:1 for several years. Designing a group process is a whole different ball-game though, because the chemistry within the group is the most important factor. When it works, you get an effect of the whole being more than the sum of the parts. As the great Gloria Steinem quote goes,
“Imagine we are linked, not ranked.”
That sense of being linked, being able to support one another, and, to use another Steinem image, not fight over crumbs from the pie but instead come together to bake a bigger pie – that’s the magic of working in small groups.
“The small group is the structure that allows every voice to be heard. It is in groups of three to twelve that intimacy is created… we discover that our own concerns are more universal than we imagined. This discovery that we are not alone, that others can at least understand what is in our mind, if not agree with us, is what creates the feeling of belonging…”
– Peter Block, Community: The structure of belonging
I’m in such a group at the moment, and our coach describes the group magic as the feeling that, whatever big leap you’re poised to take, you have a ‘wall of women’ behind you, cheering you on.
In my 1:1 work, I aim to ensure that my clients feel supported throughout the whole period of our work together (and beyond), with email support in between coaching sessions. Oddly though, it is actually possible to create more of a sense of ‘wraparound’ care within a small group – there are the group calls, but also the group forum (whether that’s a private FB group or another forum) AND 1:1 calls, and copywriting feedback, and office hour sessions.
Although I’m there to facilitate and to take the lead in supporting members, people do very much support one another too, which comes back to that concept of the ‘wall of women’. And because everyone gets to know one another so well, this support isn’t the (well-meant but relatively meaningless) ‘you go girl!’ cheerleading that can happen in a big online course – it’s nuanced support that takes into account the specifics of your particular situation.
Although my clients and I work predominantly online, our work still revolves around the power of relationships – and the Mastermind gives you a new (small, but mighty) network of relationships, in which you get to know four or five other business-owners really well.
Friendships are formed, joint ventures and partnerships are planned, various collaborations emerge, and people connect one another with friends of friends who can help with a particular project.
The Mastermind itself only lasts for 13 weeks, but acorns are planted during that period that go on to grow into oak trees over time.
One of the side-effects of setting up in business for yourself can be intense loneliness – working in a small group doesn’t just alleviate this loneliness, it also helps to protect you against the mistakes you can end up making because, as a solo entrepreneur, you can’t see into your own blind spots.
In this small group environment, not only do you have a coach there to help with this, you also have the perspectives of the other business owners in the group AND you see other people falling into patterns of behaviour (procrastination, self-doubt, overwhelm) that are so much easier to recognise in someone else than they are in yourself. Once you’ve seen these patterns emerging a few times in other people though, it’s easier to spot them in yourself, which makes it that bit faster to get unstuck.
And of course, by definition, you can’t see these patterns in other people when you’re in a 1:1 coaching relationship, since you’re not in that small group setting. And this works infinitely better in a small group than in a big online course, where you just don’t get the opportunity to get to know other group members as well as you do in a Mastermind-type setting.
“The biggest challenge working on my own is the lack of stretch and perspective to my thinking. It's been great to hear new thoughts, fresh ideas and how other people handle their challenges. Even when the business may be very different to mine, hearing someone else's thought process always seems to unlock a new way of thinking that I can apply to my own.
I would definitely recommend the Mastermind. It's given me the support, connection and practical tools to take action at a time when I was feeling incredibly stuck."