How to Run a Mastermind Group

October 31, 2007  

This morning I was having a conversation with an aspiring speaker. He asked my thoughts on the best ways to further his career.

My response was, “Join a mastermind group.” What is a mastermind group? It is a group of people who get together and work on each other’s business (or personal lives). The concept was developed by Napoleon Hill in his book, “Think and Grow Rich.” The purpose is to “multiply an individual’s brain power and continually motivate positive emotions.”

I am in a few mastermind groups and have been in many others in the past.

Let me give you some interesting ways in which you can run your mastermind sessions. Unless noted otherwise, assume your mastermind group is four to six people who meet on a somewhat regular basis (once a month or once a quarter).

Accountability Model – I am in one group that is organized like this. Each person has 45 to 60 minutes to present their status report to the group, focusing on progress and obstacles. It is more of a conversation, with others jumping in with thoughts and ideas. At the end of the day, each individual declares what they want to achieve before the group meets again. This format is good for holding others accountable for results. Unfortunately, there is less time for creativity and problem solving. To speed things up, status reports can be sent via email in advance of the meeting.

Problem Solving Model – This is my favorite model. When it is your turn, you have 60 to 90 minutes to present a problem you are facing and get feedback/creative solutions from the others. For example, the latest version of my website is a result of such a mastermind group. I printed off copies of my home page and asked for feedback. One person said, “I like the unconventional thinking concept, but there is nothing unconventional about your homepage text. What are some provocative thoughts?” As a result I fleshed out my 10 unconventional thoughts and turned them into a flash header. My most recent session was feedback on a new product I am developing. The feedback you get is incredible. The key is to solve an issue that is of importance to you. And if you can’t think of a problem/opportunity, the group can help you find one. This is a highly creative and focused mastermind model.

Book Club Model – Prior to getting together, every member in the group reads/listens to the same article, book, CD/MP3 that descriptions a useful tool that can be applied to your business. For example, one time when we met, we all read the same article on copywriting for websites. We then applied the article’s concepts to our respective businesses. Because everyone is working on the same problem (e.g., creating an elevator pitch), you learn a lot about your business even when you are helping others.

Theme Model – This model works better with a larger group (e.g., a dozen people). You choose a theme for the meeting (e.g., technology or sales). Each person comes prepared to give a 15 minute presentation on their best practices for the selected theme. Each person is encouraged to bring a handout. A dozen people can present in approximate 3 hours. When you leave, you have 11 handouts with great ideas. And as you are not working on each other’s businesses, different people can attend each time. This model is a fantastic way to get lots of tips in a short period of time. I learned more about technology during a 3 hour mastermind than I had in the previous year. And it didn’t cost me a penny.

Micro-Model – This is a variation of the “Problem Solving Model,” where each person brings a problem/opportunity they want to work on. But this time there are only two people who participate. The dynamic is very different when it is one-on-one. It is more focused. If you are paired with the right person, you can get even more done in a shorter period of time. Plus, you are working on your business half of the meeting. You can work also with different people each time. I really like this model and use it on an ad hoc basis as often as possible.

There are many other models too. Colleagues I know have mastermind groups comprised of four people from different geographic areas. Once a quarter they meet in a “neutral” location for a weekend. Friday night is socializing and catching up. Then on Saturday they work on two businesses, and another two on Sunday. This is a very intense model.

You can meet via phone. You can discuss via email or online bulletin board. You can meet weekly or monthly, quarterly, or on an ad hoc basis. There are no rules. I prefer face-to-face meetings once every 6 to 8 weeks with email exchanges in between.

Who should you have in your mastermind group? That’s up to you. I have two groups where everyone is a professional speaker. This has the advantage of our sharing specific ideas that work for our industry. I have another mastermind group where no one else is a professional speaker; the others are a trainer, a consultant, and a marketing guru. The advantage here is getting ideas from other industries.

One critical point is that each person must be at the same “level” relatively speaking. You don’t want anyone who is a drain on the group because they can only ask for advice but can never give it. You also don’t want a situation where someone does not receive personal value because they are constantly giving. Regardless, you want a commitment from everyone to go to all (or at least most) of the meetings. Slackers should be ditched as they will bring down the energy of the entire group.

Play around with it. Find what works for you. But just do it. The value you will gain is immeasurable. It may even save you thousands of dollars that you might otherwise spend on coaches or mentors. For me, my mastermind groups augment, not replace, the experts I hire.

Do you have a mastermind group? What have you found that works?

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5 Responses to “How to Run a Mastermind Group”

  1. Success Giants on December 6th, 2007 2:25 pm

    How Would Ben Franklin Run A Mastermind?…

    Ben Franklin is one of the most amazing men that has ever lived. He was wildly successful as an author, political theorist, politician, printer, scientist, inventor, civic activist, and diplomat.
    The idea of having a “mastermind” or “…

  2. Laya Saul on May 6th, 2008 8:55 am

    Nice article, found searching for a friend who wants to start a group.

    One thing I’ve found important is to have someone be the “time keeper” at each meeting. The time keeper watches the clock and gives a 5 minute warning so the group knows to wrap up and be ready to transition to the next member.

    Another aspect for us is that we build in celebrations from time to time so we can acknowledge our progress.

    Flexibility is important as is bringing new ideas or tidbits we can incorporate into our thinking. The group will develop its own personality.

    Thanks again for the article!


  3. bob on February 19th, 2009 7:14 pm

    Last week we had our first meeting of 8 men in downtown honolulu.
    The idea grew out of Napoleon Hill’s books.
    We are about to have our 2nd meeting. I would appreciate suggestions on what comes next? We all are CEO’s or in marketing and all want to improve our client list and of course our wealth. ny suggestions would be appreciated.
    Thank you,
    Bob yeager

  4. Stephen Shapiro on February 20th, 2009 12:49 pm


    Thanks for your comment.

    The question of “what comes next” depends on the group.

    Some mastermind groups simply meet every quarter and use the same format each time. They work on each business for a period of time. They make commitments of what they expect to achieve before the next meeting.

    Other groups focus on a common piece of content that is useful to them. For example, if improving your client list is your common objective, you may all want to read the same book before your meeting and then discuss how to apply its concepts to your businesses.

    There is no right or wrong answer. Just meet regularly, have mutual respect for each other, and hold each other accountable. Oh, and have fun! Hawaii is not such a bad place to hold these events.


  5. Masterminding » Reinventing My Business on December 19th, 2011 9:36 am

    [...] If you don’t have a mastermind group, I strongly urge you to assemble one (or more). A few years ago, I wrote an article on how to run a mastermind. [...]