We all crave connection to some degree. Whether we’re introverted or extroverted, working remotely or in side-by-side office cubicles, enriching connections with others can make or break our day. Research consistently shows that strong social relationships are a key to happiness, and that they can support both personal and professional growth.
But what if you’re one of nearly half of Americans who report feeling lonely? Enter the mastermind group. Described as a collection of people coming together on a regular basis to support one another’s development, a mastermind offers you accountability, candid feedback, and greater connection with others who are on a similar path. It could even be the difference between forging ahead solo in your career and taking the journey with powerful partners invested in your success.
Why you need a mastermind group
The key is for everyone to give as much as they receive, thereby amplifying the impact of each member.
Imagine a mastermind group as the cheering section of your youth turned into the advisory board of your professional years. It’s comprised of other professionals who care about your well-being, support you in achieving goals, share insights or tools that address challenges you’re facing, and collaborate with you on important projects. You can even use your fellow mastermind members as accountability partners (for example, “If I don’t email you by next Tuesday to tell you I’ve finally launched that huge project, bug me about it!”). A mastermind can also combat our tendency to stay in the weeds instead of look at the entire forest of our professional lives.
But let’s be clear. A mastermind is not intended to be one-on-one mentoring, one-sided advice giving, or a place to advertise your project or service. Instead, think of collective wisdom, gentle candor between group members, a way to energize your work, and openness to feedback. The key is for everyone to give as much as they receive, thereby amplifying each member’s impact.
Where to find members for your group
You can create your own mastermind group through careful recruitment. Look for fellow mastermind members whom you admire, make you laugh, and ask thought-provoking questions.
You likely have in your current network several people who looking for personal development in a group setting. For example, check out partner organizations in your employer’s network or people who work in your same functional area (marketing, operations, fundraising). You can also build a mastermind around an affinity group to which you belong, such as early-stage entrepreneurs. Whatever you decide, be sure that the group you assemble keeps your energy high and gives you confidence, but with a comfortable stretch.
Finally, if you decide to work with a professional mastermind facilitator, look for someone with experience facilitating groups of this kind. Also look to local professional associations like your chamber of commerce, nonprofit training groups, or leadership programs to see if they offer masterminds in your area.
How to structure your mastermind group
At its foundation, a successful mastermind group satisfies three questions, according to Jullien Gordon of Masterminds.org:
- Does the group increase my awareness of who I am, where I am, and what I have to do?
- Does the group inspire me to take action based on my new awareness?
- Does the group offer accountability for the actions I commit to taking?
Be sure to carefully consider the above questions questions when structuring your group. And here are five elements to keep in mind as you go through the organizing process:
- Frequency. Mastermind meetings should be frequent enough that you are energized to meet goals between sessions, but not so infrequent that you forget about everyone else’s goals from one meeting to the next. A typical group will meet for 60-90 minutes every two to four weeks.
- Leadership. You can find a facilitated mastermind and get expert advice and support, plus an experienced facilitator who can pair you with a group that will best support your particular needs. Or create your own mastermind. In either instance, the roles of each member should be clear at each session.
- Size. A group of five to 10 members is typical and produces the best results.
- Format. Consider either online (e.g. Skype or Zoom) or in-person sessions, depending on which is most logistically feasible given the members.
- Group norms. The most important element of a successful mastermind is trust, built up by time because all members honor confidentiality and bring their own authenticity. After all, if you’re going to stretch yourself in scary ways, you want to know that your struggles are safely held by the rest of the group, and no one else.
Once you’ve made some decisions about what you want, create a written document so that others who are interested can learn about the nature of the group, expectations, and benefits.
Above all, your aim is to create a group that has a collective kinetic energy above and beyond what each member brings individually. Start with synergy, collective wisdom, and laughter. Bring some structure and professionalism to ensure that you’re using time productively.
Are you a member of a mastermind group? What have you found to be keys of success for you? If you’re not, share other ways that you find professional support from others.