Over the past decade, mastermind groups have gone from being the quiet practice of a few entrepreneurs to a widespread cultural movement. And it’s not because they’re a fad. Mastermind groups are powerful, and they have real, transformative effects on their members.
When personal development author Napoleon Hill coined the term mastermind group in the early 1900s, it came from his study of some of the most successful people in his day. He realized that they didn’t build their empires alone. They worked closely with other people, coming together to form what Hill called a mastermind–to encourage each other towards success.
This is the principle behind a great mastermind group, walking a journey together towards greatness at something. In this article, we’ll talk about who should start a mastermind and who shouldn’t, and we’ll cover everything you need to know about getting a successful group off the ground.
If you’ve been thinking about launching a mastermind group but don’t actually know how to start, this article will teach you all you need to know.
In this article...
What is a mastermind group?
A mastermind group is a community of peers who gather to support each other in gaining mastery over a subject. Usually, the peers have a similar level of knowledge and competence to bring to the group, but all have slightly different skill sets and experiences in a shared domain. Mastermind groups are common among entrepreneurs but are gaining popularity in other spaces such as careers, investing, and personal development.
Should you start a mastermind group?
5 Reasons you should start a mastermind group
You have mastery of something and you want to get better
Just as the name suggests, a mastermind group is not for amateurs. A mastermind group is for people who already have a certain level of mastery in their field, and they want to get even better. A mastermind group thrives on mutual benefit; the members have to learn from each other.
If you bring together a group of people who have little to no experience in their shared domain of interest, they won’t be able to share their knowledge in a way that’s valuable for everyone.
You want to round out your expertise
Although every mastermind group has mastery at its core, it’s still important to understand that group members are often masters of different things. In this way, when members come together, they each bring unique expertise and perspectives.
A mastermind group of entrepreneurs might have members with different competencies: product development, funding, and online marketing, for example, and each member will have a different story and have learned different things. Sharing that unique knowledge and perspective is what makes a group work well.
You have a clear niche
Just because you want unique perspectives in a group doesn't mean you should have totally different people. On the contrary, you should have a really clear niche for your mastermind group. "Entrepreneurs" might even be too big of a niche. The more focused you can get with your definition of an ideal member, the more valuable the group can be. "Investors in commercial real estate" or "CMOs at major tech companies" would be great examples of focused mastermind groups.
You want to grow your network
It shouldn't be a secret that one of the top reasons industry leaders join mastermind groups is to grow their network in a meaningful way. When Napoleon Hill wrote about mastermind groups, this was one of his observations. The wealthy people he studied would create mastermind groups, not only for the knowledge they would gain but from the networking and opportunities that flowed from it.
Mastermind groups often lead to collaborations, investment, and a ton of other great things.
You want accountability
Being an entrepreneur or leader in an industry can be really lonely, and it can be really hard to keep momentum on your personal growth. One of the best things about a mastermind group is it keeps members accountable.
When the group meets regularly, it helps group members to be more productive because they know that people will ask about their work at the next meeting.
5 reasons you shouldn't start a mastermind group
You are a rookie
We're not saying you have to have total mastery of your field to create a mastermind group. But you shouldn't be a rookie either. It's totally possible to create a mastermind group of people with more knowledge and experience than you and use it as an opportunity to learn from them. Your gift to them can be setting it up and doing the hard work of keeping it moving.
However, the masters you bring together need to see you as a peer to create a proper group. As a mastermind group leader, you are not just a rookie trying to learn from them. You are an equal participant who can also share knowledge.
You want to coach
Unlike coaching, mastermind groups have horizontal power dynamics. What this means is that it's a community of equals who share equal knowledge. The host is not a coach; they’re an organizer and perhaps a facilitator. A good mastermind requires people who are all learning from one another.
If you are an expert in a subject and want to share your knowledge with people who don’t have any, that's fantastic! But we would probably call that a coaching business, and not a mastermind.
You're not ready for commitment
Good mastermind groups require serious commitment; this means busy people must still make the time to show up on a regular basis. This includes you as the leader. If you're not serious about committing to a regular meeting, even if it's only once every month or every quarter, a mastermind group probably isn't the right thing for you. Consider launching some sort of virtual summit instead, that will give you a ton of value but won’t require a long-term commitment.
You haven't dealt with your own stuff
Cards on the table, this mastermind group is not therapy. You definitely should learn and grow in it. But if you have serious stuff you need to work on, it might be better to do that first.
You don't know anyone else who wants to join
One final thing, a mastermind group will take other people. It needs to be carefully cultivated to make sure that it has maximum trust and safety. It's a place for people to get real. So don’t start a mastermind group until you’ve had a few conversations with some potential members.
Do some networking with people who would be in your ideal group, and find out what they want and need from a mastermind group. This doesn't mean you aren't going to start a group! It just means you should do the leg work first to make sure that there is a hunger for your group in your particular niche. As a bonus, this process will also help you assess who would actually be a good member, and who wouldn't.
Benefits to a Mastermind Group
- Deep mastery of a subject
- Growth from group experience
- Horizontal power dynamics (as opposed to coaching which is vertical)
- Amazing networking opportunities
How to start a mastermind group
Create your tentative big purpose
One of the first things you can do as you start your mastermind group is to create a tentative big purpose statement. We encourage every community to do this, so it's not unique to mastermind groups. A big purpose statement looks like this:
The reason why we are calling this a tentative big purpose statement right now is that it's a good idea to keep a loose grasp on it, recognizing that it might evolve a bit as you bring your group together.
A mastermind group is so tight-knit and the connections run so deep that one of the best things you can do is to run the big purpose statement by your members and make sure that everybody has total buy-in.
Selecting potential members
The second thing you should do when starting a mastermind group is to think about some potential members. Unlike other types of online communities, where you might open it up to anyone who wants to join, mastermind groups are usually cultivated carefully. It will probably take some work to meet and vet potential members, but do it. It will be worth it for the quality of your group.
Look for members with:
- A common domain (e.g. small-business owners)
- Experience to share
- Openness and kindness
- Desire for improvement
Solidify your big purpose
The first time you bring your group together is a great opportunity to check that you are all on the same page. Run your big purpose statement by the group and see if they are in agreement with it. You're going to need everybody to buy in. Make sure all the group members know it and commit to it, and make any changes you need to.
Choose a platform
At some point in your collective journey, you might decide to choose a platform to host your community on. Not every mastermind group needs a platform. But we've learned from experience that a great platform can add so much value to a group, give you a place to bring important discussions together, and help the group stay in touch between meetings.
In short, a good platform gives you the space to set up and host great conversations.
Set your group rules
As you bring a group together, you should also establish some ground rules. Obviously, these can and should deal with important subjects like respect and safety.
But a mastermind group isn't your average community.
Some mastermind groups, for example, require almost 100% attendance. For these groups, if you miss more than one meeting, you’re out. This might sound a little bit extreme, but it's an example of how seriously some mastermind groups take what they do. For some members, this might seem like overkill. But for some, it's just right. If they're going to invest the time in building deep connections to group members, they want to make sure those members are in it for the long haul.
Set a price
You don't have to charge for your mastermind group, but some do. Some mastermind groups charge a lot. The money can help to pay for group expenses, like a platform or the moderator’s time and preparation. But it actually goes deeper than this.
As we often say around online communities, people value what they pay for. Putting a real, monetary value on your mastermind group means that your members have some skin in the game. Believe it or not, this is going to increase the chances that they get what they need from the group and take it seriously.
Decide on a meeting frequency
You can decide this on your own or together, but it's important to establish how often your mastermind group will meet. Resist the urge to meet too frequently. If the group becomes too much of a time commitment, people may resent it.
Your members should have time in between meetings to implement things that you've discussed; this will help them to feel real progress. It can be a challenge to feel progress on a week-to-week basis. Meeting once a month or once a quarter might be a better option to actually help your members realize their growth.
Set a time limit
Some mastermind groups meet indefinitely, but some leaders swear by having a time limit. Consider setting the time limit of your group for three months, six months, or a year. Commit to ending it at that point, or at least having a group conversation about whether you want to keep going. This time limit helps to keep your group focused and time-bound, and it will give your members an out if they are not getting what they need from it. It will also give you opportunities to take a break from the group before reflecting on whether you want and need to start another session.
Decide on a meeting structure
One final thing you can think about when creating a mastermind group is what your meetings will look like. If you are only meeting for one or two hours every month, how do you make the most of that time? How do you make sure nobody monopolizes the discussion?
Set a clear meeting structure, and communicate it to your members. For example, you might ask certain members to bring a problem they are working on for the group's input, and then give someone different an opportunity the next month. You might have an opportunity to go around the circle and have every group member share something they're struggling with or something they learned. You might devote some time to having members identify goals they want to achieve by the next meeting.
You decide, but make sure you have enough structure in place to make the meetings valuable.
Unlike other communities that evolve as you go, with a mastermind group you have probably done a lot of the work up front. So now, the only real thing left to do is to start! Get your members together for your first meeting, and start growing! Good luck!
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