How to set up a Mastermind group

So, you’re sold on the benefits of a Mastermind group. How then do you go about setting one up?

Well, ideally you want five or six members. This will give you a diversity of perspectives and ideas within the group without your meetings having to be impossibly lengthy. Also, with fewer people than that in the group, you can easily end up having to cancel meetings because a couple of people can’t make a given session.

Opinions vary as to whether everyone should be at the same stage of business (and/or life), or in the same industry, since there is strength in diversity but also in solidarity. If you DO have people who are at very different stages of business, it’s important to ensure that it doesn’t turn into a situation where the more experienced people spend the sessions advising the newbies – if it’s a Mastermind, it needs to be an exchange of views between equals.

You may also want to consider running a group where members have something else in common as well as their businesses – such as running one for parents who are also entrepreneurs. One of the biggest reasons to be in a Mastermind in the first place is to be able to be with people who just get your point of view, and the more you hone in on a particular type of person, the more true that will be.

As C.S. Lewis put it,

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

One of the big benefits of a Mastermind is that of expanding your network, so if you’re the one organising the group, you should reflect on whether you want to invite all the members yourself or whether you want to invite someone, who invites someone else, who invites someone else, in order to have a more wide-ranging group. On the other hand, you may want to have some control over who joins – and you can still expand your network by inviting people to join whom you don’t know well but think seem interesting.

Curating the group, bringing together a collection of people who will gel well together and spark off interesting ideas, is the single biggest factor in a Mastermind’s success or failure.

It can be a delicate business to get right (and is socially complex if someone whom you want to invite then wants to invite someone whom you feel won’t add to the balance of the group) – one of the big reasons to go for a paid group is if you don’t already have a sense of 4 or 5 people whom you’d like to invite and/or you don’t want the responsibility and time suck of inviting and co-ordinating everyone.

Other big decisions are:

·         how often to meet

·         where to meet

·         whether the meetings should be in-person or virtual

·         what time of day to meet

·         how long the meetings should be

·         whether you’ll have rotating facilitators

·         how will the group set initial ground rules

Most groups meet either weekly or fortnightly. My preference is for fortnightly, which feels often enough to be staying closely in touch (especially if you’re also using a private FB group/slack channel or similar online forum in between times) but can also feel more sustainable than committing to lengthy weekly meetings. In my facilitated Mastermind groups, I offer office hours on the alternate non-meeting weeks, so that if something comes up, there’s the option to talk it through without having to wait a fortnight until the next session.

Some groups experiment with monthly meetings but those I know of who’ve tried that have gone back to a fortnightly rhythm, because monthly sessions are far enough apart that they become all ‘catch up’ on what’s happened in between sessions, without there being the chance to go deeper into individual issues.

Remember that, lovely as it is to meet in-person, virtual meetings can still be the most convenient and time-efficient way to meet even when people are based within commuting distance of one another.

If you’re going to take on the facilitation yourself, this is a big job. If you’re trained and experienced in this area, you can end up feeling resentful about giving away a core skill for free.

If you’re not trained or experienced, you can quickly find yourself out of your depth, particularly if it transpires that there’s one group member who wants to dominate the airtime in the group or is determined to offer uncalled-for advice. You also need to think about whether you want to be responsible for facilitating sessions in which people may feel that they’re making themselves very vulnerable by admitting to things going wrong in their business – or whether you feel up to facilitating a session where someone got very upset or angry.

Equally, if you’re going to go for rotating facilitators, this might be an up and down process, where the group will need to keep adapting to different styles and experience levels among the facilitators.

So, there’s a fair amount to decide when it comes to setting up your group, and then a significant amount of work co-ordinating schedules and facilitating meetings. It’s up to you to decide whether the benefits outweigh the time and the effort that’s involved in doing it yourself. Or whether you’d rather pay someone else, not just to save the time, but also to ensure that the group is well-chosen and well-facilitated, so that attending meetings feels like a gift you’re giving yourself and your business, rather than yet more work on your plate.