Dr Bev Smallwood

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends: How to Start and Maintain a Masterful Mastermind Group

Beverly Smallwood, Ph.D.
Julie Alexander, M.A.

Imagine this...

  • who have the experience to understand your struggles;
  • who show the courage to challenge you when you’re not operating at your best;
  • who encourage you when you go through the inevitable setbacks;
  • who share ideas that help you stay on track with your mission, generate more revenue, and save money;
  • who give you free consultation for which others pay thousands;
  • who hold you accountable for your commitments.

Sound too good to be true? Not if you are a member of a well-functioning Mastermind group.

Napoleon Hill described an effective Mastermind as, “coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two of more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.”

We’ve pooled our experiences with thoughts we’ve gathered from NSA members like Marjorie Brody, Richard Hadden, Sam Silverstein. We’ll share with you “best practices” for forming and maintaining this kind of mastermind group.

1. Group Composition.

Seek out people who are at similar levels of experience and career development, who share common values, who respect one another, who do not view each other as competitors, and who are willing to make a real commitment to the group. Find members who are actively invested in the success of others in the group, not just their own.

Some successful groups are comprised of people in the same geographic area, while others are national in scope. Either can work, provided prospective members make the clear, informed commitment up front.

2. Group Size.

Some groups are as small as 2 and others as large as 15-20. The ideal range seems to be around 5-8. Very large groups have scheduling nightmares, difficulty allotting enough meaningful “air time” to individual members, and limited interaction.

3. Ground Rules.

Honest discussions about expectations prevent problems as the group develops. For instance, many of the best groups have firm attendance policies; attendance is required except in case of illness, death, or family emergency. (They pass up business to attend.) Confidentiality is a must in a trusting environment. You’ll also achieve maximum results if group members commit to “loving candor” and healthy disagreement.

4. Meeting Format.

Depending on geographic issues, some groups meet weekly (difficult to maintain), some monthly, others quarterly. Schedule your meetings well in advance so that members can plan around them.

Most good groups include time for socializing, taking the time to know and like each other as “people”.

Meetings consist of discussing topics (e.g., latest technology that’s working), sharing successes and challenges, problem solving, and planning. Most effective groups allow fairly-allotted time for individual members to get whatever they need from the group, such as ideas on a new project or the celebration of a new achievement. Occasionally, your group might invite a guest speaker with expertise on a topic of concern to the group. Some Masterminds enjoy annual planning retreats or yearly “family weekends” that conclude with a private meeting of the Mastermind.

A caveat: Allow your format to “morph”; variety keeps it from going stale.

5. Leadership.

Members rotate leadership responsibilities in most successful groups. For example, one may arrange logistics of the meeting, while another is responsible for collaborating with the group to create the agenda and facilitating the meeting. Everyone in the group is responsible for keeping the group on track. Of course, decisions about the group must be made by consensus.

6. New Members.

Add new members only after discussing group needs and with 100 percent endorsement of an individual after interviews by each group member. This allows the opportunity to mutually explore fit with the group, potential contributions, and commitment to the group’s established norms.

Etiquette tip: Do not ask to join a Mastermind group that is already in existence. If the members want you to join, they will invite you. It’s much better to start your own.

Establishing and maintaining a successful Mastermind group is not easy, but it is definitely worth it. You’ll reap unbelievable dividends when you invest yourself, your time, and your money in a covenant relationship with a trusted group of professionals and friends. As Ray Kroc once said, “No one succeeds alone.”

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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