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How To Start and Run a Mastermind Group

How To Start and Run a Mastermind Group

Some people like to cooperate with others to achieve their goals, while others prefer to chase their dreams on their own.  I find that involving mutually committed partners in my pursuits is intensely rewarding – especially mastermind groups.  I’ve strengthened my friendships, made measurable progress towards my goals, and continue to grow thanks to the support I’ve received in my mastermind groups over the years.

In this article I’ll lay out what a mastermind group is, the benefits of having a mastermind group, and concrete strategies and actions you can take to start your own mastermind group today.

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What Is A Mastermind Group?

The first place I came across the concept of a mastermind was in Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich.  In it, Hill describes a mastermind group as:

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The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.

In my experience, my mastermind groups have formed around multiple people striving for a common purpose – from goals as small as college admissions and improving fitness, to as large as your entire life.

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What Are The Benefits of a Mastermind Group?

  • Mutual support. I like to form groups around a specific activity, but even with differing goals you’ll be able to lean on each other for support.  Many times when my progress has slowed on a specific goal, the members of my mastermind are the only people who really understand what has been going on behind the scenes, and give me support in spite of my failed efforts.
  • Differing perspectives.  Hearing the different views my fellow mastermind participants have allows me to see issues I wouldn’t otherwise become aware of – in my life, and in my approach to my goals.  Whether I agree with their assessment or not, it always gives me a better understanding of how I can better improve my approach.
  • Resources.  Everyone in your group will have access to a different skillset and network of people. I’ve often found that when I ask for help in my mastermind groups, these resources help me make progress in ways I never could by myself.
  • Accountability.  My fellow group members hold me accountable to goals I set.  In addition, just knowing that I have a regularly scheduled meeting internally drives me to make progress – because I don’t want to be the only person reporting back that I haven’t made an effort to move my projects forward.

How Do I Start a Mastermind Group?

Starting a mastermind group is deceptively simple in its steps:

  • Pick a Topic.  This may be as narrow as you like, or as broad as you like (such as your entire life).  If you are new to mastermind groups, I would recommend picking one specific aspect of your life to start out with.  Perhaps fitness, your career, school, or some other broad area that you would like improvement with.
  • Pick your Partners.  I’ll discuss this in detail below.  A mastermind group is only as good as the people in it – pick your partners with care.
  • Agree On Ground Rules. I’ll provide some guidance below, but keep in mind the purpose of setting rules is not to stifle anyone – the purpose of the rules is to ensure everyone benefits from the mastermind group. I like to keep a loose set of rules and count on mutual respect of the individuals to keep everyone in line, but you may choose to have strict ground rules if you like.
  • Meet!

Who Should I Invite Into My Mastermind Group?

Two words:  mutual beneficiaries.  Any member in your mastermind group should not only be able to provide you with sound feedback and advice, but should be able to receive some benefit from your feedback as well. Some qualities I look for in a participant include:

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  • Similar Drive and Commitment.  You want everyone in the group to be similarly committed. If one person is striving to compete in a bodybuilding competition, while you’re just trying to cut the sugar out of your diet, you may not be compatible for a mastermind group.
  • Diverse Skill Sets.  For me personally, I am very analytical and approach things from a scientific, engineering perspective.  I enjoy mastermind groups where some people share this perspective, but also gain valuable feedback from people who are perhaps more abstract and in touch with their emotions (as opposed to a “cold” analytical approach).
  • Problem Solvers.  This is my personal preference, I like partners who are active problem solvers.  My purpose in a mastermind group is to get feedback, solutions to my issues and move forward.

I like to limit mastermind groups to between 3 and 5 people.  This keeps meeting short, in depth and on point.  You can experiment with more or less, but I recommend starting with 2 or 3 if this is your first time with a mastermind group.

How Do I Run A Mastermind Group?

  1. Meet Regularly And Precisely. I call this the “nuts and bolts.” Keep to a regularly scheduled time, ensure all members are punctual – and end on time. I typically meet for 60 minutes once a week. You may require more or less time, but ensure that you have adequate time because you want to…
  2. Give each member equal time. We don’t use a timer, but for larger groups that may be necessary.  I keep most of my groups to only three people, and generally we are all aware that we have approximately 20 minutes per person, and try to keep it in that time frame.
  3. Don’t Interrupt. One person at a time, and keep in mind the purpose of the meeting is to give everyone a chance – it’s not always about you. Hold all comments until the person speaking has a chance to speak. We generally do not jump in at all unless someone has a specific question.
  4. Decide if you need an agenda. My mastermind groups typically have a conversation topic (often decided at the meeting prior), but no explicit agenda.  I previously have run groups that had more explicit items on the agenda for accountability and progress reports – try it out and decide what works best for you.
  5. Decide on whether to have a facilitator. In my groups, I start the calls, and act as a very loose facilitator – I point out who is going to go first. That’s it – everyone polices themselves. Perhaps your group will need a facilitator who is more active – keeping people on target for time, and moving you from one items on the agenda to the next.
  6. Capture.  Make sure you capture what happened at each meeting – lessons and triumphs, goals, and items you want to keep each other accountable to.  I like to use Google Documents and Mindmeister.  When I conduct groups online using Skype I use MP3 Skype Recorder (free) to record mp3s of my calls.

Three Question To Kick Start Your Mastermind Group

If you’re ready to start a mastermind group, you may want some very basic structure help you in the beginning.  These three questions never fail to get my mastermind groups off to a great start.  As your group evolves, you’ll come up with your own agenda and questions that you’d like each member to answer – but if you don’t know where to begin, this is a great place to start:

  • What Are You Working On? Nice and broad, and each member can answer with whatever they feel comfortable sharing.
  • What Did You Learn? Very often my groups are focused on similar goals, and lessons learnt by one member benefit all of us.
  • What Do You Need Help With? By having a specific question on the agenda, this helps take pressure of members who want to reach out to the group for help.

Your Thoughts and Strategies?

What do you think?  Have you run a mastermind group before?  Do you have additional tips to share, or perhaps pitfalls to avoid?

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Last Updated on June 12, 2019

Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor

Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor

Humor and laughter provide so many rewards. Studies have shown 20 seconds of laughter yield the same benefits as 3 minutes of hard rowing. A Robert Half International study reported 84% of executives believe a worker with a good sense of humor does a better job. Incorporating humor more effectively in the workplace allows you to defuse difficult situations, reduce stress, create attention for new ideas, build rapport, and be a more approachable and memorable leader.

With those benefits, it behooves you to hone your workplace comedic skills. So in the tradition of David Letterman, here are the top 10 ways to more effectively lead with humor!

#10. Look for Joy in Life

An important step is continually looking for joy throughout your life. This happens in a variety of ways:

  • Focus less on yourself and more on helping others. Need help? Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” the classic by Dale Carnegie.
  • Laugh more – kids reportedly laugh 400 times per day vs. 15 times for adults. Aim for laughing 40 times daily to be at least 10% of your former self!
  • Regularly read humorous comic strips and look for quips and funny comments in your reading.
  • Even in challenging situations, hunt for something funny or humorous you can take away.

#9. Learn What Makes You Laugh

If you’re trying to laugh 40 times daily, it’s important to know what makes you laugh and have ready access to laugh-provokers. Figure out 107 things which make you laugh. Unrealistic? Hardly! Why 107? Because 107 is funnier than 100! Here’s a recipe for listing what makes you laugh by simply identifying:

  • 13 Movies
  • 11 TV Shows
  • 5 Words or Phrases
  • 19 Personal Stories
  • 5 Cartoons
  • 7 Audio or Video Pieces
  • 11 Comedians
  • 7 TV Personalities
  • 7 Funny Photos
  • 7 People You Know
  • 15 of Anything Else
  • TOTAL = 107 Funny Things

Collect & save these humor starters in a “Smile File” when you quickly need a laugh or comedic inspiration.

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#8. Use Your Own Comedic Material

Personal experiences are the most genuine humor sources for effective leadership. Look for humor in situations from your own life:

  • Funny things you have said or others have said to you
  • Pratfalls, be they mental, interpersonal, & physical
  • Embarrassing moments or unexpected happenings
  • Times of change or learning
  • Difficult life events (yes, even these can be humor sources)

When turning personal situations into comedic material, remember lessons learned from a childhood humor staple: Knock-Knock Jokes. These simple jokes work because the knock-knock structure highlights familiar situations, uses only essential words and phrases, and clearly signals a laughing opportunity. They also demonstrate how humor springs from surprise. The laughs come from not knowing who or what exactly is behind the door based on the initial response to “Who’s there?”

#7. Adapt Somebody Else’s Material

Beyond your own experiences, there’s a tradition of “borrowing & adapting” (I didn’t say stealing) funny stuff from others. That’s why old-time comedian Milton Berle was called the “Thief of Bad Gags.”

Part of borrowing successfully is using easily accessible humor sources in ways many don’t consider. Beyond simply Googling “funny” in front of quotes, one-liners, definitions, pictures, or videos, here are two other common sources you can adapt:

  • Cartoons – You can use cartoons in various ways by showing one in a presentation, telling the cartoon’s story (potentially making yourself a character) without any images, or using its punch line as a starting point for new humor.
  • Comedians – Mainstream comedians’ jokes or catch phrases are another source to modify and adapt to your personality or work situation. Watch lots of comedians and learn how professionals do it so well.

#6. Understand Your Audience

Using humor in a leadership position requires understanding boundaries on its proper use. It all starts with really understanding your audience by:

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  • Paying attention to top management’s attitudes toward humor.
  • Knowing the audience’s composition – this directly affects which humor types are appropriate.
  • Loving your audience as much or more than you poke fun at them.
  • Inviting others into humor since you can’t assume they share your same humor sensibilities.

In case you’re contemplating using ad lib humor, completely knowing your audience is even more vital. Ad-libs have the potential for going horribly wrong because audience sensibilities have been misjudged. It’s very beneficial to actually plan and rehearse ad libs. It may sound odd, but identify common work situations you encounter and think through what usually goes wrong or provides a source for potential humor. Work out some “safe” funny comebacks to use as “planned” ad libs.

#5. Know the Rules and Boundaries

There are blatant humor no-no’s in the workplace which are quite acceptable for an onstage comedian. At work, avoid harmful practical jokes or pranks, heavily sarcastic comments, and humor rooted in religious, sexual, ethnic, or racial themes. Think you know your work setting well enough to tread on this dangerous ground? Here’s some advice: DON’T. The way questionable humor will be perceived by a workplace audience is too much of an unknown to take big risks when your career is at stake.

Use this checkpoint to actually see if your intended workplace humor is SAFE. To pass the SAFE test, all of these statements need to be true regarding your joke, comment, or image:

  • I can Say/Show this to my mother.
  • It wouldn’t Anger me if I were the butt of the joke.
  • This wouldn’t trigger an FCC violation
  • Everyone in the audience will be able to get it.

With even a hint of one false answer, dramatically modify your idea or better yet, abandon it and start over.

#4. Get over Yourself

Effective leaders don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re comfortable laughing at themselves and letting others be funny as well. Leaders should become adept at appropriately using self-deprecating humor, i.e., self-directed humor downplaying your own talents, stature, or accomplishments

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You don’t want to use self-deprecating humor on simply any topic, however. It’s most effectively & appropriately used in:

  • Situations where you’re comfortable & self-confident
  • Areas where your credibility & competence are clearly established
  • Ways that fit your known personality & sensibilities

Remember – when trying to borrow someone else’s self-deprecating humor, you need to share that person’s perspective & situation. If not, it’s simply deprecating! I once heard a decidedly non-technical Marketing VP call out “data geeks” in the audience. While that’s what they called themselves, she wasn’t a part of their group, and her comment, intended to build affiliation, fell completely flat.

#3. Need Humor Ideas? Just Look Around

The workplace is filled with situations lending themselves to comedy. Humor springs from exaggeration, wordplay, misunderstandings, ambiguity, contradictions, paradoxes, pain, and inconsistencies. If you work in any type of business or organizational setting, there are plenty of these situations to go around!

As a leader, it’s your role to use the proper opptunities to encourage and employ humor successfully by ensuring that:

  • Your humor makes others feel good about themselves.
  • Hurtful fun isn’t made of those less tenured than you in the organization.
  • You don’t use humor when agitated since it can lead to apparent meanness.

#2. Surround Yourself with Joy

If you’re looking for more joy and levity in leadership, surround yourself with joyful people. These are people who are funny, easily spur laughter, and routinely cheer people up through their presence.

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Cultivate relationships with these types of people. Spend time with them, learn from their successful uses of humor, and emulate elements of their approaches that work for you.

Beyond basking in the joy these people create, select 3 or 4 of them to be an informal comedy team. As your comedy team, solicit their opinions to help you generate and refine humor ideas. They can also provide perspectives on potentially questionable humor material that makes it through the SAFE test, but still feels like it might not be right for a workplace audience.

#1. Dive into the Fun

Ultimately, the most important part of successfully using humor as a leader is actually sharing it in the workplace. Here are a few final tips to keep in mind:

  • Practice your humor in appropriate, low-risk settings to find out what works before trying it out with a bigger audience.
  • Signal a laughing opportunity through your words, actions, and tone. It’s also a good practice to give people “permission” to laugh in the workplace.
  • Finally, be earnest in using humor; don’t focus on laughs so much as lightening and adding fun into work settings.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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