Mastermind group

I remember when I launched my first mastermind group.   I had been learning about them and taking part as a participant for several years.  I had a good flow of individual clients and felt confident about delivering results.  Yet I was nervous about launching a group and stayed in student mode for awhile.  When I finally did launch, I not only filled one group but had enough clients to start another.   The combination of helping more people while making more money felt good!

That was 6+ years ago.  Since then, I’ve worked my way up to 3 evergreen groups (means they are running all the time) with a steady flow of clients with only gentle marketing.  I’ve also supported many clients and colleagues in launching groups their businesses.  In the past 2 weeks for example, 5 clients and colleagues have asked me about them.

So, in this post I want to share what I’ve learned about launching and running a successful mastermind group.  Let me be upfront – this is going to be a fairly long post.  I want to do everything I can to contribute to you being able launch your group in a successful way.

A well executed mastermind group is the epitome of win-win-win.   It simultaneously allows you to serve more people, gives your clients a way to work with you for less money and gives you a chance to earn a higher hourly rate than individual sessions.  Your clients win, you win and the world wins.  (This post is starting to feel like a Neruda poem titled Ode to the Mastermind Group.)  🙂

This post is focused on a professionally run mastermind group (paid).  There’s also a form of mastermind group that’s peer led.   If you’d like information on peer led mastermind groups, the Napolean Hill Foundation is a great place to start.  He was the first person to talk about how they support positive change.

Please know there are many ways to design and run a mastermind group.  I’m sharing what I’ve learned because I hope to inspire you to consider a closer look at this possibility for your business.  Instead of blindly copying what’s here, I invite you to consider the WHY behind each choice and then find something that fits your intentions and clientele.

The last thing I’ll say before getting into the details is that my groups have a business coaching focus.   And, I believe a professionally lead mastermind group can be helpful in many other situations.

Are You Ready?  Really?

In a recent conversation about leading mastermind groups in the Wisdompreneurs Community, Janet Zaretsky said this:

“I always tell coaches starting out to not do groups.  Do one on one coaching till you are strong and can manage the larger groups. I personally like to keep mine fairly small so that I can ensure I serve anyone- my promise and delivering on my promise is critical.

I agree 1000%.  Adding a mastermind group is something to do after you’ve built the skill and confidence you need to serve one person well.  Once you can do that reliably (and each conscious business owner will have his or her own time frame for this), then it’s a good time to consider adding a mastermind group.  Rushing to add one before you are ready can be detrimental to your business.

Mastermind Group Pricing

There is a very wide variety when it comes to mastermind group pricing – I know one colleague who charges $100 per month and another who cofacilitates a high end  mastermind program that costs $50,000 per year.  Where your pricing falls on this wide spectrum depends on factors like how well known you are, how desired your topic is, and how skillful you are at leading groups.

In my business, it takes about 4-5 hours per week to facilitate the group, complete the marketing and admin tasks and support the group members between sessions.  In addition, clients in my mastermind groups are one of the leading sources of new referrals for my business – both group and individual clients.  Many group clients are grateful for the more affordable yet still very effective option of working in a group.  That combo often leads to new referrals.

To determine your pricing, I recommend looking realistically at questions like:

  • How many people are familiar with your work?
  • What is your desired hourly rate?
  • How many hours per week will it take to run the group given your design?
  • What feels like a balance between being generous to your clients and taking good care of yourself financially?
  • In addition to financial, what other benefits might a group have for your business?

In sum, if your ready to lead one, my experience is that adding a mastermind group can be a significant boost financially as well as to help attract great new clients to your business.

The Importance of Screening

In the old days of group programs, people would put up a sales page on their site and at the bottom would be a Buy Now button.  Complete strangers could join your group after reading a few pages of description and a Q&A section.

I would advise you against this approach for a more intimate group.

Back in 2009, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh said something to me that I’ll never forget.   He said:

 

If you get the culture right, the rest pretty much takes care of itself.”

 

As the creator of a mastermind group in your business, I want to suggest that creating a conscious culture for your group members is one of your primary jobs.  Get it right, and your group members will feel safe enough to do the work that leads to desired changes they came to you for.  Then, they will go out and tell their friends about your mastermind group.  Ignore the culture, and your group members will likely be less satisfied with their results and you’ll struggle to maintain a full group.

One of the main things I’ve learned over the years is to do a screening interview with each potential member.  I have people fill out an application first (you can see it here).  If they sound like a viable candidate for a group, we schedule an interview where we explore questions like:

  • Where they currently are in relationship to the group themes (in my case, business)?
  • What is their wisdom and personal development background?
  • What works for them – and what doesn’t – in terms of a group culture that would support their growth?
  • What are the changes they want to see happen with the group’s support?
  • What kind of timeframe are they looking to see the desired changes to happen in?
  • What is their financial situation as it relates to the investment in the group?
  • What they need to know about me as a group facilitator to know if I’m a good fit for their needs and style?

At the end of exploring questions like these, it’s clear whether they are a fit or not for the group.  Given that my clients tend to be part of a group (often moving levels as they reach their goals) for at least year, this investment of an hour is SO worth it!

A Mastermind Group Structure

Here’s the structure I use for the meetings, which are 90 minutes long.

  1. Mindful opening. 5-7 minutes.  As facilitator, I lead a short meditation, poem, story or exercise to start us off.  The intent to help members bring more quality of attention to the meeting.
  2. Emotional Intelligence check in.   Each member gets 2 or 3 minutes to say what’s been happening for her/him on a heart level since the last meeting.  This is important because the change process almost always includes ups and downs and it’s hard to support a member if we don’t know what they are experiencing.
  3. Heart Seats.  Often called “Hot Seats” – but that feels overly confrontational to me.  These are two 25 minute laser coaching spots where a member comes to the group with something specific they are working on for feedback (in my groups, this is most often business related).  We have a shared Google Sheets document for people to sign up for a slot.
  4. Check out.  At the end of the group, each member says 1 sentence about what the group was like for them – something they appreciated or learned or something that was challenging.
  5. Facebook group for continuous learning.  Each group I facilitate has it’s own “secret Facebook group“.  The invitation is for each group member to post in the group as least once a week.  This is so we can provide an environment for ongoing support and learning.

For another take, I spoke with Karen Rubin of Quantum Leap Coaching.   Karen is part of the Passion Test world and they have been using mastermind groups for many years.  Karen said these are important aspects of the structure she’s used:

  • There is a clear ask to come to the group prepared.
  • Start with stating your intentions or their wins.   What’s gone well and wants to be celebrated.  1-2 minutes each member.
  • What were you supposed to do from last week.  Did you do it or not?  Each member has an accountability partner.   If someone did not complete an action step, accountability partners connect and explore what happened.
  • Next each person states 2-3 intentions they want to do in the next week.

Create Great Content

Great group facilitators go out of their way to create great content for their mastermind group members.  Some do this in the form of PDF handouts or video teaching segments on a private section of their website.   I prefer to make most of my content public in the form of blog posts and my YouTube channel.

However you choose to do it, your content acts like a map.  It gives your group members a sense of the terrain they are looking to travel and what are the options they have for navigating it.   Doing your worksheets, watching your videos or interacting with your blog posts will help your group members have more understanding of effective change and make more progress.

This makes for happy group members!

6 Additional Mastermind Group Tips

I ran this topic of launching a successful mastermind group by the Wisdompreneurs community and asked what there suggestions were.  Here are 6 additional tips:

  1. Polish your facilitation skills.  “I think facilitation skills are the key here. Great facilitation can overcome pretty much any other obstacle for masterminds.  Things likemaking sure that everyone is heard, setting and keeping appropriate ground rules and having a clear and shared purpose.” ~ Leland Mackinnon
  2. Include individual time.  “Include both individual sessions and group sessions in the program so that there’s an easy place to go for the bigger stuff that can hold them up. Since I added that, things are much smoother for them. (It was available as an add-on before but they are more timid about doing it if not built in.)” ~ Val Nelson
  3. Match people in similar stages.  “Groups work best when the members are in the same organizational life cycle or developmental stage.” ~ Glen Earl
  4. The leader sets the tone.  “Deep trust and sharing amongst the participants start with having the leader model and encourage dropping the water line to be real. When I do that first, others seem to follow, and it sets a tone for deep, meaningful and authentic shares from the participants so that the time together is truly helpful and valuable for all.  ~ Kathy Girija McNamara
  5. Open the group mindfully.  “A best practice is opening the shared space with an invocation, quote, or “Getting present” /mindfulness breathing practice. Also have been doing this with teams and clients since 2012.”  Bobbye Middendorf
  6. Have an accountability partner.  “Have each person check in on what the were supposed to do from last week.  Did you do it or not?  Each member has an accountability partner.   If someone did not complete an action step, accountability partners connect and explore what happened.” ~ Karen Lubin

What’s Your Experience?

Launching a mastermind group isn’t something I’d recommend if you are very early on in your wisdom based business.  However, if you’ve been around for some time, feel confident in you ability to serve your clients and pay attention to some of the guidelines above like creating a great culture, practice mindful screening and have enough of a structure without rigidity, you can create a sustainable and meaningful new resource in your business.

What are your biggest questions about running a mastermind group?  What have you found to be effective?   I’d love to hear your experiences and questions in the form of a comment below.

Paul Zelizer
Paul Zelizer
Paul Zelizer is one of the first business and marketing coaches to focus on the needs of Wisdompreneurs – people who have a business is based on the principles of wisdom and spirituality. In addition to conscious entrepreneurship, Paul is passionate about just about anything you can do in the mountain high country, power yoga, dark chocolate, sustainable living, ecstatic poetry and deep centering breaths. He lives in a solar adobe home in the mountains near Santa Fe, New Mexico.