March 20, 2012


a better brainDo you have trouble meeting your goals? Do you want to discuss issues but don't know with whom? Do you want perspectives from outside your company?

A large company might have an external Board of Directors. There's a practical solution for smaller businesses too: a mastermind.

With a mastermind, you get peer support and are held accountable for meeting the goals you set. The idea comes from Napoleon Hill in Think And Grow Rich (1937). You only need two participants. He had three, including steel magnate Andrew Carnegie and his stepmother. (I finally got to use "steel magnate" in a sentence!)

Last year, I helped establish and run three masterminds updated for today. Two fizzled. One is going strong.

The Agenda

Each group followed this simple three step agenda.
1. Victories:  What's working?
We start with good news. What are you bubbling to share? Your achievements could be personal or professional, minor or major. Avoid bad news.

Duration: 1-2 minutes each
2. Challenges: What needs work?
Have you met your commitments since the prior session? What challenges are you facing that you’d like our input on? This is the time to raise bad news.

Duration: 15-30 minutes each, depending on the group size (includes the group discussion)
3. Actions: What will you Ship?
What will you commit to complete by the next session?

Duration: 1 minute each

The Trio

Each mastermind is described in chronological order.
I. Online Mastermind (2-9 members)
Travel time in Toronto is lengthy and unpredictable. Selecting members based on proximity is suboptimal. After the initial session, this mastermind met online via free Skype videoconferencing.

To work out the kinks, this experiment started with two participants. The process worked well. There were glitches with video due to Internet congestion but audio worked well as a backup.

Meetings were originally weekly, then each two weeks and then never. There wasn't enough happening for two people to discuss. This group may start again.

Pro: Eliminated travel time; designed the format used in the other masterminds
Con: Didn't grow beyond the two initial participants

II. Mastermind Meetup (5-10 members)
This monthly mastermind was the most ambitious and had a Meetup group. The original members were going to help others by running other masterminds. Members of all the masterminds were going to meet for social events.

Each session included a meal. Gatherings became social. Members didn’t set goals or work towards them. Others wanted to join but weren’t suitable. The usual crowd selling real estate, investments or insurance.

Pro: designed to scale via
Con: members didn't set or meet business goals; became social; irregular attendance

III. Peer-To-Peer Mentoring (2-5 members)
This monthly group is the sole success.  We meet in person at a coffee shop. Originally, sessions were during the day but shifted to evenings to accommodate more members.

Pro: equal participation, high support, visible progress, experimental/open-minded
Con: progress on some goals has been slow

Keys To Success

A successful mastermind, requires the right participants. Chemistry is essential. They must also be committed, open and trustworthy. Competitors can’t be admitted. What's discussed in the group remains strictly private. Complementary skills lead to better discussions and better results.

The Price

The above masterminds were free and member-run.

You may benefit from a paid mastermind run by an experienced facilitator if you
  • have more serious issues and don't want private coaching
  • can't find a suitable free group and don't want to start one
  • want the administration done for you
Sessions seem to run once a month for half-day or full-day. You might also get private coaching.

Pick Four

If you have goals you want to finish within 12 weeks, Pick Four from Zig Ziglar and Seth Godin may help you. I'm currently in week 8 of this peer-supported program. The experience has been positive.


PS Would a mastermind help you?

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