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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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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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