Category Archives: Mastermind Group Facilitation

Holding Mastermind Group Members Accountable

When your members say to you, “I want you to hold my feet to the fire,” what are they really asking?

  • I want to commit to getting something specific done, and delivering on that commitment in a consistent manner.
  • I need help setting goals and making action plans that are truly attainable, and stop over-committing.
  • I need some sort of structure in my life so that I can get things done and I want this mastermind group to provide that structure.

Many ex-members of mastermind groups tell me horror stories about their former mastermind groups. Their biggest complaint? No one got results from being in the group because there was no check-in or accountability structure in place (or the group Facilitator didn’t enforce it).

What they’re really asking for is help being responsible for their results.

First Crucial Premise

Before we begin the discussion about holding someone accountable in a mastermind group, let’s face some facts: mastermind groups are not work teams, and you’re not their boss or their leader.

You’re there to facilitate their success, not create it for them.

You don’t have many tools in your tool bag for truly holding members accountable. The worst punishment is that you kick someone out of the mastermind group for not reaching their short-term and long-term goals.

Accountability skills you see in the workplace have very little to do with a mastermind group setting, so forget what you know about employee-employer accountability and let’s focus on how a mastermind group Facilitator holds members accountable.

Let Them Choose Their Own Goals and Timelines

To create success, ask members to come with goals for which they’ll be held accountable.

Caution: do not try to impose suggested tasks and projects on them, or shame them into shooting for higher goals than they feel they can achieve. Yes, there’s a subset of mastermind group members who will set the task/project bar so low that they’re not really making any headway towards their goals. You can encourage them to set higher standards, but you have to do it out of curiosity (“I wonder if that’s a strong enough task for you, Susan, given that you want to achieve your goal in 90 days?”) instead of out of shame (“Susan, it sounds like you’re being lazy.”)

Let them set their own projects and tasks, based on their resources, including available time in their calendar, people to delegate tasks to, the skills/knowledge necessary to get the job done, and the money to do so.

Help them to be crystal clear about what the goal truly is, and the exact tasks that need to be done to reach that goal. Clarity on goals and tasks will help them know the timeline for delivering on those tasks. Ask them to be specific. What exactly will get done, by what date, using which resources? And how will you report it back to the group?

Reporting and Checking In

  • Don’t wait until the next meeting to check in with each member. Set up time between meetings to shoot them a quick email, asking them the status of their action plans. This might help them course-correct if they’re already off target.
  • During meetings, ask each member to report on what their goal was and if they reached it. It’s important that accountability be public.
  • Consider posting, in a public place that all members can access, the list of each member’s goals and whether they achieved them each month.

When to Do Accountability Check-Ins

  • During meetings – ask each member for a quick summary of what they promised to complete and the actual results they achieved.
  • Between meetings – consider having a message forum where people can report on their progress.
  • Accountability days – a full day when members agree to work solely on their project without distractions, with hourly check-ins, either in a live setting or virtually.

Applauding Success

Acknowledging member successes at achieving their goals is vital. If you’re going to publically ask them to set goals, then publically applaud them for reaching those goals. Recognizing the attainment of goals reinforces positive behavior.

  • Verbally acknowledge that you’re proud of the member.
  • Give specific praise for specific actions.
  • Consider some small reward for each person who achieves goals: points towards prizes, gift certificates to restaurants, etc.
  • Use the leverage of the group dynamics for better peer accountability.

Dealing with Failure to Reach Goals

We often fear the conflict of truly holding someone accountable when they have not met their promises. But a discussion about what they didn’t do isn’t to criticize or reprimand, but rather it’s an exploration into the causes and barriers (so that they can be fixed and perform better next time).

Get the member to take ownership and responsibility for their failure to get the task/project done:

  • Give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if this “miss” is a one-time event.
  • If you noticed they haven’t reached their promised goal, do a notice-and-explore statement, like, “I notice you didn’t complete the article you promised yourself that you would write. Tell me about it.” (Note that we say “promised yourself” and not “promised me” or “promised the group.” Accountability in a mastermind group starts and ends with the member.)
  • Avoid moving into the “parent” or “boss” role. It’s not your place to be disappointed in them (let them be disappointed in themselves) or to rebuke or criticize them. It is your role to ask questions and help turn them around.
  • Ask the member what went wrong and listen with an open mind.
  • Ask the group to point out inconsistencies and trouble spots that the member might not see.
  • Ask them what they will do differently to change the outcome.

Some things not to do:

  • Act out on angry or frustrated feelings. Look at your own emotions and motivations before speaking with the member.
  • Embarrass, shame or mock them (or allow other members to do this).
  • Let it go – don’t ignore a clear situation that’s right in front of you.
  • Allow them to repeatedly reset the goal posts – why should they act responsibly when you give consistently give them a “pass” on achieving their goals? Don’t enable the behavior.

Be the Model – Hold Yourself Accountable

Your members will model your behavior, so you need to be in integrity with your own action plans. If you promise to get something to them by a certain date, and fail to do it, what message are you sending them? You have to show ruthless accountability for your own promises and your own success so that your members know they can trust you.

Accountability is Responsibility

Our members are accountable when they achieve goals, and when they take responsibility for not achieving goals.

As Facilitators, our responsibility is to create a consistent structure in which the members can set and achieve goals. Some of your members may be go-getters and not need the accountability, but nearly everyone likes to be acknowledged for having fulfilled their promises.


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?)