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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
Having a personal 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.
With that said, having a mastermind group agenda for each meeting is crucial. But it’s the group’s agenda of what they want to cover and what they need to brainstorm around.
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 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?)