Category Archives: Mastermind Group Facilitation

How to Choose the Best Mastermind Group Members

Creating your own mastermind group — whether for your own participation or as a paid service that you offer to your clients/members — will help you to grow your business or organization.

There are many factors that affect the success of your group, but one of the most important is the selection of the right participants: Who do you want to be part of your dream team?

I’ve been running mastermind groups since 1995, and I’ve been teaching how to create and run groups for over 10 years.  These are the crucial six factors I’ve discovered for selecting the right people to be part of your mastermind group:

  1. Commitment: No mastermind group will function for long if people are not willing to make a sustained commitment to the group. Commitment comes in two forms: commitment to showing up for every meeting without excuse, and commitment to participating in the mastermind group process.
  2. Balanced Two-Way Sharing: The true benefit of a mastermind group is the brainstorming that happens when one member presents a problem, challenge or decision, and the entire group gets involved with idea and solution generation. The best members are those who are willing to both ask for help and give help. Sometimes you will find members who either want to hog the limelight, or who never ask for help at all. Finding members who will participate in a full and balanced way goes a long way towards making a successful group.
  3. Follows the Guidelines: Every group should have written guidelines about what’s acceptable behavior. Group members vote on these guidelines so that everyone is in agreement, and every group member must abide by the guidelines. Remember, you are trying to create a spirit of harmony and trust with your group; guidelines help to set the boundaries and create a safe place for everyone.
  4. No Competitors: It is impossible for someone to be open about their problems, or about their next great idea, if one of their competitors is listening in. When choosing your mastermind group members, be diligent about the connections between people and separate competitors into different mastermind groups as necessary.
  5. Similar Success and Experience Levels: One way to guarantee that your mastermind group will fail is having people at different experience levels in it. What ends up happening is the more experienced members mentor the less experienced members, but get no real value for themselves. Being in a mastermind group with people who are more successful is great for the junior member, but eventually the more experienced members quit the group in frustration. Instead, try to find people who have similar levels of experience and success.
  6. Varied Skills: It’s not always possible to screen members about the skills and knowledge they bring to the group. In an ideal group, however, members come from different backgrounds and have specialties they share with others. For instance, in one “internet marketing mastermind group” I belong to, one person is a social media expert, one is a branding expert, one is a copywriting expert, etc. In this way you can tap into the wisdom of the people who study a topic and use it daily, and get the added benefit of hearing from everyone about how they personally approach a problem or topic. The experts bring granular detail and the rest of the group brings experience, ideas and intelligent questions.

I would not be as successful today if it weren’t for the mastermind groups that I have been a part of. They’re extraordinarily powerful, and the members find incredible support and encouragement, as well as creative and exciting ideas and solutions.

By taking your time when putting together your membership, you’ll have a successful and productive group for years to come.

Inviting Guest Speakers to Your Mastermind Group

One of the best ways to add variety and richness to your mastermind group meetings is by inviting guest speakers to give a talk on a particular topic.

First, survey your group and ask members to suggest speakers who can be approached by the Facilitator. Second, ask your members for specific topic areas they’d like to learn more about from an expert. Third, have your members vote on how much meeting time the speaker should use. For example if your meetings are two hours each, should the speaker use the full two hours, or perhaps only one hour?

As the Facilitator, it’s your job to contact the speaker, explain the nature of your group, and discuss the possibility of that speaker joining you for a meeting. Some speakers charge a fee, so ask upfront about any fees involved. Some speakers will speak for free and these speakers typically want to sell their product or service to the group.

Set limits on how much time the speaker can spend talking about their products and services; make it clear that it’s the content of their speech that the members are primarily interested in. If they enjoy the content, they will be much more open to purchasing from that speaker. If they feel the speech is nothing more than a sales presentation, the speaker is wasting the group’s time.

If the speaker charges a fee, find out what it is. If you don’t already have a fund in place to pay for speakers, go to the members and ask if they’re willing to contribute to pay the speaker’s fee.

Finally, set a date and time for the speaker to present. Remind the speaker how many minutes they have and stick to that schedule, especially if you are planning to run a regular mastermind meeting after the speaker departs.

How Mastermind Groups Go Bad

I hear wonderful stories from people about how their mastermind group has changed their lives.

Unfortunately, I also hear the horror stories: from mastermind groups that undermined a member’s confidence, to ones that merely wasted their time.

If you are in a mastermind group, or running a mastermind group, watch out for these tell-tale signs that things are going downhill:

Turning Into a Coffee Klatch

Has your mastermind group conversation devolved into a social chitchat fest? When one or more members start talking about irrelevant topics, everyone loses focus and the mastermind group quality and value degrades. If members wanted to have a coffee chat, they might as well just meet with a good friend during their spare time.

Getting Off Topic

It’s important to remember that members joined because they have goals and want to focus on specific challenges. If time is spent going into topics that the person in the Hot Seat isn’t interested in (while not getting the answers they are looking for), they will feel like their time and money is wasted. Listen carefully to what the person in the Hot Seat wants to focus on and keep the conversation tight and deep. There are times when the topic needs to be broadened, but make sure you do so with the consent of the person in the Hot Seat.

People Give and Don’t Get

A mastermind exchange is a give-and-take dance, with members freely sharing ideas and best practices in a two-way fashion. Members who are always giving help, and not getting help in return, lose out of the value of the group. As the Facilitator, you need to keep your fingers on the pulse of each member to makes sure they’re getting value out of the group, and to take care of any imbalances before they become a problem. Otherwise, you risk losing those valuable members.

Turns into a Complaint Fest

One of the biggest perks of joining a mastermind group is to feel positive and energized after the meetings. But what happens when the meeting turns out to be a complaining match to find out whose miseries are the greatest? At the end of the session, the members will feel drained and ill tempered. Who wants to spend an entire meeting building up a list of frustrations and finding no solutions? Your mastermind group is a safe place to vent and share problems, but the very next part of the conversation must be, “And what can you do to fix that and move forward?”

Members Don’t Participate

Members can’t expect to join a mastermind group and then show up as tourists. They have to be actively engaged in the conversations. There can’t be casual spectators siting in the sidelines of a mastermind group. If only a few members are contributing, what’s the point of the others being present? Facilitators must articulate the level of commitment and participation required in a successful mastermind group, and be vigilant that everyone is participating equally.

The Facilitator Didn’t Share His/Her Knowledge with the Group

Sometimes Facilitators forget that they’re part of the group, too, and their wisdom experiences, and best practices should be shared with the group. On one hand, mastermind groups are not classes and the Facilitator should not be the only source of answers. On the other hand, the Facilitator shouldn’t hold back on information that can be helpful to the group members. The rule of thumb for Facilitators: always be the last to speak, not the first. But speak up when you have something to share!

Facilitator Has Their Own Agenda and Isn’t Serving the Group

Having an agenda has everything to do with ego, and ego has two very specific goals in mind: being right and looking good. As a Facilitator, you need to remember that the group meeting is not a showcase for you. (That’s why you’re called the Facilitator, and not the Coach or Leader of the group.) It’s not about you and how smart you are, the topics you want to cover, or the direction you want to take the conversation. It’s about the members and how they help each other find the solutions they seek. Keep in mind that a mastermind is not a mentorship program or group consulting program, but rather a peer-to-peer learning and sharing experience. While you can share your expertise with the group, you do it after everyone has already shared, instead of dominating the conversation yourself. If you are the Facilitator, leave your ego cloak at the door, wear your humility slippers and enjoy being part of the creative (and way more productive) experience of many minds working in harmony together.

People Come to Meetings Unprepared

If members want valuable help to come their way from others, they have to explain their situation clearly and ask the right questions. It takes time and preparation to formulate them. When members show up without clear topics they want help with, it will be very difficult for the group or the Facilitator to provide adequate assistance. Improvising will lead to shallow discussions, confusing Hot Seats and poor decision-making. Proper goals won’t be set or met, and accountability goes out the window. Things won’t get done and this leads to disappointment and frustration for everybody.

The Facilitator Doesn’t Do Anything about Any of These Problems

The hardest part of being a mastermind group Facilitator is that you have to give intense attention to every detail of your group, during meetings and between meetings. Are you aware whether any of the above situations are happening in your group? Even if you’re not aware, your members are – and they’ll complain or leave if they’re unhappy. Make it a ritual to pay attention to these trouble spots, ask members how they feel about the group process, and make sure you deal with problems quickly. Don’t wait to see if they’ll go away by themselves. They never do.


Let’s create mastermind groups that flourish. You are the gardener in your mastermind group; look for and eradicate the weeds!

P.S. If you’re in a mastermind group that’s going downhill, speak to the person running it and let them know that it’s not working for you. Hopefully they’ll be willing to make some changes. (If not, maybe it’s time for you to start looking for a better mastermind group?)


The One Thing that Makes Mastermind Groups Effective

Why do some mastermind groups work better than others?

As a mastermind group Facilitator, you know your job is to build trust, mutual respect and rapport among our mastermind group members. So we juggle personality types, knowledge and experience levels, and success profiles, to create the “perfect” mix of mastermind group members — only to have the group fall flat.

Anytime you get a group of people together, whether it’s a mastermind group or a working team inside an organization, some groups do extremely well together while others flounder.

Google has been researching this question for a long time and they’ve done some serious studies about what makes a group work well together, creating that elusive harmony that is the bedrock of a successful mastermind group. When they researched the five keys to a successful group, how the members interacted with each other was significantly more important than who was on the team (personality traits, knowledge level, IQ and creativity levels, having similar hobbies, socializing outside of the group, or even age and gender).

Groups Bond Based on Trust

No one wants to risk humiliation or being rejected by the group. It’s a natural tendency, inherent in any group situation, partly lodged in our DNA (being outside the group means less likelihood of basic survival), and also from cues learned in childhood.

Amy Edmondson from Harvard Business School has been studying groups and teams for many years. Overall, she says, individuals have some inherent psychological goals in relation to their place in the group:

  • We don’t want to look incompetent, negative, intrusive or ignorant
  • We’d prefer to look smart and helpful

To protect themselves, Edmondson says group members have coping mechanisms to stay safe with the group:

  • Don’t want to look ignorant or out of the loop? Don’t ask questions.
  • Don’t want to appear incompetent? Don’t admit weakness or mistakes.
  • Don’t want to appear intrusive? Don’t offer ideas.
  • Don’t want to appear negative? Don’t question or criticize the status quo.

Sound familiar? Every mastermind group Facilitator struggles with members who play it safe in the group environment.

The goal of the Facilitator is to help group members move away from the self-focus of worrying about what others think of them (interpersonal risk) to sharing their ideas and mistakes in order for everyone to learn together. Your task: create a vision of what everyone will get from the discussion, so the risk of staying safe is offset by the reward of an amazing opportunity to learn and grow, and discover real solutions.

When mastermind group members are focused on self-preservation, they rob the mastermind group as a whole of ideas, learning and chances to create successful outcomes.

If you can create a trusting environment, the “who” in your mastermind group matters much less than how these individuals interact with each other. Your mastermind group is significantly more successful, and studies show that creating a psychologically safe environment for your group means members leave less often.

So how do you create psychological safety in your mastermind groups?

Amy Edmonson defines psychological safety as the expectation that a member of a group will not be punished or humiliated for sharing ideas, questions, concerns, or for making mistakes.

Four Questions to Gauge Your Group’s Psychological Safety

  1. Can individuals in your group take risks around the other members?
  2. Is it okay to not have a specific skill set or piece of knowledge?
  3. What happens when a member says they don’t have an answer or solution?
  4. Are members supported if they admit to not being able to complete a task or project successfully?

Three Symptoms of an Unsafe Mastermind Group

  1. Silence, when questioning someone’s action, idea, decision or solution would have been more appropriate
  2. Unwillingness to admit to having made a mistake or having a less-than-stellar outcome to a project or task
  3. Unwillingness to admit that you don’t have an answer

Creating a Climate of Openness

When you build a mastermind group where members are willing to take risks in their interpersonal communication, the members are strengthened and empowered, and the group moves to a higher level of creativity, effectiveness and success.

Your goal, then, as a mastermind group Facilitator, is to create a climate of openness that allows discussion of mistakes and errors, in order to learn from them and create better future outcomes.