Mastermind Alliances 2 Getting Started
None of us is as smart as all of us.
Coming together is a beginning
Keeping together is progress
Working together is success
When Napoleon Hill first interviewed Andrew Carnegie. He asked him the secret to his fortune. Carnegie quickly attributed his success to his mastermind group. He then went on to describe a group of over 20 men in his employ in various areas of his steel business.
These men were Carnegie’s management team.
They had a single purpose: making and selling steel.
Andrew Carnegie’s model certainly implies that a mastermind group has a single definite purpose. But what he’s describing is a group of employees or a team concept like the Cabinet that advises the U.S. president.
We call this type of group an advisory board mastermind.
THE ADVISORY BOARD MASTERMIND
The advisory board model works well for corporate teams and community and charity groups. It’s also useful for high net worth individuals that have an accountant, solicitor and financial advisor all on their payroll.
But how well would this model work for a solo entrepreneur?
Let’s say I want to form a mastermind group to help build my Recruitment business. I’d need a telemarketer, a researcher, a copywriter, and maybe two or three other specialists, such as a solicitor and an accountant.
With a group where you’re the boss, there could be a danger that people won’t give you honest feedback for fear of losing their position. So you’d need to choose members carefully and foster a mastermind environment where everyone feels free to speak candidly.
This would be an extremely useful team to have on my side, but without compensation, why would the other members participate? With nothing in it for them, I’m unlikely to find qualified members.
Also, regardless of compensation, if any of those people wanted help meeting their own goals, they’d have to form their own mastermind in addition to participating in mine.
So the advisory board model certainly qualifies as a mastermind group but falls short in meeting individual members’ needs.
If you’re in business and can afford to assemble and pay your own advisory board, then by all means do so. However, not everyone will be in a position too necessarily want to go with an advisory board mastermind. If that sounds like you, consider forming a mutual support mastermind.
THE MUTUAL SUPPORT MASTERMIND MODEL
What if, instead of following the advisory board mastermind model, you suggested that this group meet to help each other accomplish their individual goals?
For example, the recruiter may help find a programmer for the web site designer in exchange for the web site designer working on a new Internet presence.
And the individual members could help each other brainstorm for new ideas and provide feedback for new product or service ideas.
With this type of group, the common goal is furthering each individual member’s goal.
During each person’s turn, it’s his or her Mastermind group.
Everyone is focused on that member’s needs.
At the end of that person’s time, the group refocuses its attention to the next member, and so on, until all members have taken their turn.
It’s also interesting to note that Carnegie himself used this alternative model with his mastermind group in Chicago, the Big 6.
That group had no common purpose other than furthering the individual wealth of its members.
DETERMINING YOUR GROUP’S PURPOSE
One of the first things you should decide is what you personally hope to gain from forming a mastermind group.
Be as specific as possible.
Don’t set vague goals like “I want to make more money” of “I want to become famous.”
The definition of a mastermind is that it is a group with a specific purpose. If you are just meeting and exchanging business cards, your group may be a support or networking group, but not a mastermind group.
You’ll need to know the purpose for your mastermind to put it together and to direct whom you invite into the group.
There are a number of different approaches to mastermind groups. Carnegie’s Big 6 intentionally didn’t have members from the same or similar industries. The goal was to allow members to discuss ideas without worrying about them being taken by a competitor.
That’s certainly something you need to consider when forming your group. Your mastermind group shouldn’t be a place where you have to keep things under your hat. You want to be able to float ideas freely without fear they will be leaked or stolen.
Another challenge with a group formed of people within the same industry is that people tend to do things the same way they’ve always done them. They rarely look outside their own industry for solutions.
In other words, if everyone in your group is in recruitment business, you’re all seeing the same problems and trying the same solutions. Yet if an outsider sat in on your meetings maybe someone who runs a financial services practice he or she would see your situation with an objective and fresh view, which could lead to surprising solutions.
If you are not careful, a group of people from the same business could lead to meetings where everyone just moans about the way things are rather than finding solutions.
The reality is that quite often, for every business problem you face, there is probably a solution to be found within another industry.
By having a group composed of people from different industries you might easily discover effective tactics that your competitors won’t be aware of.
As the group evolves they become good friends and trust each other, which is an essential element in a mastermind group. However occasionally an idea will come up and as others jump in and expand on the idea with each member contributing it can get a little awkward because two or three members could easily capitalize on the idea. Those who have contributed key elements may feel a little ownership. But it all works out, and there are plenty of chances for exciting new joint ventures.
SAME OR SIMILAR INDUSTRY GROUP
If you’re forming a group within the same industry, consider seeking members with diverse skills or niches within the same market.
For example, in a group of recruiters I am a member of :
I pride myself as new business sales junkie, whilst my colleague Sandy loves to get involved in interviewing candidates, Simon is a skilled copywriter whilst Robert is very good at research. Karen is our resident Human Resources expert and Steven our finance expert.
Although there is some duplication of skills within the group, we’ve got a lot of diversity, too. It’s a good balance. If we had six sales people in the group, we’d probably spend more time arguing than making any forward progress.
So diversity is the key, whether you’re going with a same industry group or a multi-industry group.
Look for people from different backgrounds, of different ages, and with different personal styles.
If you introduce an idea and need feedback, you want as many ideas and takes as you can get.
If you choose members who are too similar, the first person will fire off some feedback and the rest will just nod their heads in agreement and you’ll get little additional input.
BEFORE THE FIRST MEETING
Prior to your first meeting, we suggest surveying each person to see what his or her particular skills are. Your goal is to discover what each member will contribute and what each will gain by joining your group.
Also, don’t be afraid to approach people higher up the ladder than you are. Which person do you think you’d learn more from, a newbie or an experienced person who’s already had some success? It’s the latter, of course.
People are usually afraid to do this. They assume that the more experienced person won’t be interested in joining their group. Don’t make that mistake. You’re the one going to the trouble of organizing the group, so you’re making an important contribution. Plus, when you get one successful person to join, you can usually attract others.
We are fortunate in our St Paul’s Mastermind Alliance as we have a number of “retired” Captains of Industry who are colleagues of the private members club we use as the base, these guys have a lifetime of very senior experience that they are more than happy to share, they want to contribute to keep themselves active and often still have an active role to play in the business community.
So don’t exclude anyone you would like to see in your group. You never know who might say yes.
HOW MANY MEMBERS IS BEST?
For most types of groups, ideally, you want five to six members. When you have more, meetings can drag on too long.
If each member gets 20 minutes and you’ve got six members, that’s two hours.
Getting the meeting started, taking a short break in the middle, and wrapping things up will add a half hour. That’s two and a half hours. Beyond that is too long, especially if you meet once a week. So if you choose to go with more than six members, we’d recommend limiting each person’s time to 15 minutes.
On the other hand, when you have fewer than five members, meetings are unproductive when one or two people can’t make it. You’ll end up either cancelling meetings or having people drop out.
It’s possible that you will need to start out with more members than you ultimately want.
Over time, you’ll find that one or two members have a problem with attendance.
Or they’ll decide the group isn’t for them.
Three months in to keep momentum and build group loyalty narrow the group down to six firmly committed members.
Ask all members to either commit to regular attendance or let someone else have their spot. Obviously this can be awkward at first, but you will get a strong core group with consistent attendance.
ONE PLUS ONE PLUS ONE – REPEAT TILL FULL.
Another way to go about this initially is to just seek one other person to mastermind with. Make sure you get along well and trust this single mastermind partner.
Once you’re comfortable with him or her, start looking for a third member together, taking the same approach.
Once you’ve integrated the third member and there’s a spirit of trust and harmony, the three of you can begin looking for a fourth member. And you can continue this process, adding one member at a time, until you reach your ideal group size.
If you take this approach, your chances of building a strong mastermind are great, but you’ll notice that each time a new member joins the group; you’ll have to take a few steps backward before moving forward.
That’s due to the mandatory “getting to know each other phase” that all groups go through.
A trio, for example, that’s been meeting together for several weeks will develop a level of trust that allows them to be comfortable sharing certain information.
When a new person joins the group, the other members won’t feel that same level of comfort. Once everyone feels comfortable with the newest member that level of trust will return.
QUALITIES TO LOOK FOR IN POTENTIAL MEMBERS
First and foremost, you want people who are highly motivated, are goal-oriented, and have a positive attitude. Avoid complainers and those seeking more of an emotional support group. They will be a constant drain on the group. Please don’t think I mean to imply that the mastermind group can’t be supportive. They can be; ours certainly is. But you don’t want to attract people that are “stuck” and are all talk and no action when it comes to making a change.
Over time, you will find that the group occasionally takes on a group therapy feel. That’s natural once people get to know and trust each other. I strongly suggest you choose members carefully and invite new members on a probationary basis. If you’ve got one of the negative types, you’ll probably know after spending a little time with him or her on the phone. If not, you’ll definitely know by the time the first meeting is over. Don’t invite that person back.
Look for people eager to make improvements in either their career, business, or other areas. It’s okay if they haven’t clearly defined their goals yet, but they shouldn’t be so afraid to take action that they will never actually do anything.
On the other hand, if you’re talented but dealing with confidence issues, consider forming a group that’s more supportive. Also, consider working with a coach to deal with your more pressing personal issues.
It can be difficult to mix super achievers with someone prone to procrastination. The achievers will lose patience with the procrastinator and vice versa.
Sometimes these two personality types can work together, but they can just as easily clash. It often boils down to chemistry. Some groups have it, some don’t. If your first group doesn’t work out, take any members you feel comfortable with, seek out a few more people, and form a new group.
HOW OFTEN TO MEET
I’ve attended groups that met weekly and groups that met every fortnight, my preference is meeting weekly. It keeps things consistent. If you meet every other week, you spend too much time recounting what you’ve been up to since the previous meeting. Plus members who miss a meeting are out of the loop for a month. That’s too long.
However, I also have been a member of a group that by meeting monthly and using LinkedIn for group communication is very successful.
Also, you might try meeting once a week for a while and then cutting back if the group feels that schedule is too restrictive.
WHERE TO MEET
A mastermind group requires a quiet, private place where people feel comfortable sitting for two to three hours.
Select a location with room to park that’s safe and convenient for everyone in the group.
With the St Paul’s group I was fortunate enough to have a private members club with meeting rooms at my disposal.
Some mastermind groups choose to meet in members’ place of business or homes.
Either they meet at the same place every week or rotate, with a different member playing host each week. If you decide on this approach, make sure every member of the group is comfortable with the idea. If it’s not unanimous, don’t do it. Hosting five or six people for a few hours isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, if everyone feels comfortable with the idea, go for it.
If you can afford it, you can always rent time in a small conference room in a hotel or executive suite. With everyone chipping in, it isn’t that expensive.
If you’re having difficulty finding a place, I suggest checking your local newspaper’s group meeting calendar.
Most newspapers or entertainment weeklies have a list of meetings for various groups in the area.
Check to see where these groups are meeting.
Then either contact the location or the group to see if you can use the space too.
WHEN TO MEET
The day and time don’t matter as long as both are mutually convenient. The important thing is to remain consistent. For my group, it’s every Thursday at noon. Because we’re all self- employed, we’re free to meet during regular business hours.
If you don’t have that freedom, choose an evening or weekend.
When determining how long to set aside, plan on 20 minutes per member, plus about half an hour for opening and closing remarks and a short break mid meeting.
Regardless of what time you choose, always start your meetings on time. And those who arrive late should be expected to join the meeting in progress. Don’t take time to stop and catch them up.
CHOOSING A LEADER
In the three mastermind groups I’ve worked with, I’ve been the leader. This usually is an unofficial outcome of my having started the group.
Does it have to work that way?
Being the leader is an added responsibility. I’m usually the one who has to relay messages and contact people if there’s been a change. That in itself isn’t really a burden, but there are other responsibilities.
If there’s a problem, I’m the one that gets to play the heavy.
An alternative to having a fixed leader is rotating leadership. You could, for example, designate a new leader every month. Some mastermind groups that meet in members’ homes opt to have the leader be the person who’s hosting the meeting.
The leader is responsible for notifying the group of any changes, keeping time, and handling any tasks related to the meeting room, such as making reservations and arranging for drinks.
The leader should be the one who calls the meeting to order and keeps everyone on track as the meeting proceeds.
STAYING IN TOUCH BETWEEN MEETINGS
At the initial meeting, I ask members to fill out a brief form with all their contact info, including e-mail address.
I also ask them to post their profile on LinkedIn, this is of course great business practice.
I then formed group on LinkedIn, made it a CLOSED group so that it remained private and started discussions on there which everybody can contribute to.
MEETING FORMAT: THE FIRST MEETING
I’ve seen many creative ideas for breaking the ice at the first meeting.
Quite honestly, I’ve never used them. In my groups we have always chosen to simply take turns introducing ourselves and giving a little background info.
Beyond that, you want to identify each member’s long-term goal. If members don’t have one yet, their first task is to get a long-term goal. From that first meeting and every meeting that follows, members should give themselves a homework assignment or short-term goal for the next meeting.
REGULAR MEETING FORMAT
For subsequent meetings, each person gets 15 / 20 minutes. It helps for group members to make out a brief checklist of things they plan to bring up during their turn.
When it’s your turn, you can either go through the entire list and then ask for feedback or solicit feedback for each item on your list before going on to the next item.
What you share can be personal development or professional challenges.
The important thing is for each member to feel that he or she is gaining something by participating.
In our group, some of us give ourselves homework assignments. If you tend to procrastinate, this can be a good way to keep you on track. You’ll know that if you didn’t finish your homework, the group will hold you accountable.
For many, this is the key benefit of belonging to a mastermind group.
What kinds of things show up on members’ weekly lists?
Members might need feedback on a new product idea or marketing campaign. They might need to deal with a technical issue or need resources like a solicitor, web designer, or accountant.
If you set a goal or gave yourself an assignment the previous week, start your list by sharing whether you took the action or reached your goal.
If you have several things on your list, I’d suggest waiting until you’ve covered each before asking for feedback. If not, you’re likely to run out of time before getting to everything on your list.
And you don’t necessarily have to ask for feedback. After speaking, you can tell the group what you need. That might be feedback or holding you accountable to reach a certain goal.
It’s important that each member participate in the feedback process. If you have something to say, don’t feel intimidated that other members might have more experience than you do. The idea is for each person to get feedback from a variety of perspectives.
When you do offer feedback, keep it brief and to the point. Be aware of the clock so you’re not monopolizing the other person’s time. If all you want to say is that you agree with what someone else has said, say that and yield to the next person.
After all members have had their turn, unless there’s any group business, the meeting is adjourned.