In his book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill introduced the concept of the mastermind. He defined a mastermind group as "the coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony."
People from all walks of life can come together in masterminds for all sorts of reasons: Business growth, personal growth, emotional support, motivation, to work on a specific project and to develop a sense of community. Masterminds go far beyond mere networking—they require commitment and a desire to learn, grow, support others and receive support.
Being part of a mastermind group offers five significant benefits:
1. Professional support
The group can help you develop business skills, give you insights and feedback on your projects and ideas, and stimulate you to think and do things you haven't considered before. They'll support and critique your vision, help you get clear on your plan of action, and point you toward reliable resources, suppliers, leads and referrals.
2. Emotional support
Finding sources of support can be difficult for self-employed individuals and business owners. Mastermind groups provide a safe environment to be vulnerable and share your ideas, dreams, victories and defeats. They help reduce stress and eliminate distracting internal dialogue.
Knowing where you are and where you want to be is important but knowing how you're going to get there is absolutely critical. It can be the difference between success and failure. A mastermind group can help you by offering a fresh perspective, pointing out your blind spots, reminding you of your priorities, highlighting the most efficient path, identifying opportunities and pitfalls and helping you create a clear, efficient action plan.
Masterminding with other skilled people can dramatically shorten your learning curve. New ideas and solutions arise effortlessly.
Most business owners struggle not because of what they know but because of what they don't know. A mastermind group can help you focus on the tasks and priorities you need for success, even when you're unaware of what they are.
Many different models exist. Some are democratic, while others are dictatorships led by a leader who makes decisions and facilities the directions and rules. Some are run like a business, with a business plan and a paid administrative person to handle notes and logistics. There are open-topic groups with fluid memberships, as well as event-based groups where as many as 100 people meet periodically for retreats, focus groups and presentations. There are even company-sponsored mastermind groups that focus on their company's interests, and purely social groups.
When joining or forming a mastermind group, you'll want to consider a number of things in advance:
- Group size: Large groups offer a deeper pool of resources but developing intimacy can be difficult. Small groups can be intimate and easy to coordinate, but may struggle if one or two members are regularly absent.
- Admission policies: Does the group admit new members? If so, what approval process does it follow? Do the current members vote? Does admission require a unanimous vote? Do new members go through a trial period?
- Meeting format: Does the group meet in person or by conference call? If conference call, do they hold periodic retreats or get-togethers? Where do they meet? How often?
- Commitment: How long will the group work together? (A short, realistic initial commitment works best. After that passes, many groups hold a formal process in which members decide whether to recommit or leave.)
- Group policies: How does the group handle confidentiality agreements, absenteeism, competition and conflict of interest, "firing" someone who's not a good fit, and complaints?
- Mission statement: What's the group's focus, direction, and intentions for itself? Who does this group serve? Do the members share a group vision?
Mastermind meetings don't have to be complicated—a simple agenda usually works best. Most groups start with a basic check-in. Each person takes one or two minutes to tell how they're doing, what's new, and any important issues they want to cover during the meeting. (In a large group, only those who have issues to raise that day may speak.)
An alternative method involves deciding in advance which person's needs and goals will be the focus of the next meeting. That person usually must submit any information that needs reviewed to the group before the meeting in order to give the group a chance to really help. At the end of the meeting, the group will work together to create an agenda and assignment for the next meeting.
Great achievers know the synergistic value of collaborating on a regular basis with a carefully selected group of peers. Their encouragement, insights, strategies, and connections can inspire and motivate you to reach greater heights in a shorter period of time than you would on your own.
Murray is a business advisor, entrepreneur, mentor, speaker and New York Times best-selling co-author of The Answer. Murray has started or turned around 13 different businesses including Indian Motorcycle, American Brands, Dave and Busters (Canada). As a testament to his abilities, he bought the Indian Motorcycle trademark from bankruptcy and built it into the second-largest U.S. motorcycle company in the world; with sales exceeding $75 million in the first year and a business value of $300 million. He currently operates three businesses dedicated to helping people, organizations and companies attract more clients and discover new and untapped revenues in their business’.