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Non-Disclosures are Necessary in Mastermind Groups

Group of People Talking

By Karyn Greenstreet

The core principle of a mastermind group is trust.

One way to enhance that trust among members is to have everyone sign a non-disclosure agreement.

A non-disclosure agreement (also known as a confidentiality agreement) is a written agreement among the mastermind group members that all conversations, ideas and document shared among members will remain strictly private and will not be shared with anyone else, including spouses, co-workers, etc.

According to Wikipedia, a non-disclosure agreement has these elements:

  1. It’s in writing
  2. It’s signed by all parties
  3. It outlines what can and cannot be discussed outside the group
  4. It restricts what materials each party can use in public
  5. Exclusions for what is not confidential, if any
  6. Length of agreement

Privacy and Confidentiality: The Cornerstone of Mastermind Groups

For mastermind groups, a non-disclosure agreement goes a long way to ensuring that everything said and shared in meetings is kept private.

  • In personal mastermind groups, it means that all your thoughts and feelings about your personal life will remain confidential.
  • In business/professional mastermind groups, it means that any documents you share with the group members, any brainstorming you do around a new idea or project, and any discussions around particular problems or challenges will be kept confidential as well.

Some mastermind group facilitators feel that confidentiality agreements are too draconian. But most mastermind members I’ve queried say that they prefer to have it in writing, especially with a new group where the members don’t know each other well. It also helps members feel more secure should a member leave the group, that they are still bound by the same non-disclosure agreement.

Does an NDA Include Your Spouse, Business Partner, or Boss?

The non-disclosure agreement covers the private conversations that members have in meetings. There’s no reason why you can’t talk to your spouse, business partner, boss or team about what you brainstormed about in your own Hot Seat. But an NDA would prevent you from sharing what others talked about in their private Hot Seat, even with your spouse, business partner or closest friend.

When someone is in the Hot Seat, they are vulnerable. They’re going to talk about a problem they need to solve, or ideas they need to generate, or how to get into action. Each member needs to be assured that this conversation will be private. Otherwise, how can a member feel safe in disclosing a new business idea, talking about emotional or financial problems at home, dealing with difficult situations with employees, or even coming up with the title of their next book?

A secret that’s shared is no longer a secret. Once you talk about the private masterminding conversations, you lose control of privacy unless everyone agrees to keep it private and secret. Without this level of trust, safety saps from the group and eventually the group will dismantle.

So go ahead…create a written NDA for your group, get everyone to agree to it and sign it. Explain the importance of complete privacy and trust in your group discussions. You’ll be glad you did and your group will thank you for it!

Do you have non-disclosure agreements in your group? Are they written or verbal? Do you think they’re important to have? I’d love to hear your comments!


9 thoughts on “Non-Disclosures are Necessary in Mastermind Groups”

  1. George Sanders says:

    At first, when we started our mastermind group we thought we didn’t need to put this in writing as we all knew each other. Then things got really ugly and we all wished we had done NDAs. I’m in a new group now and the very first thing we did was create an NDA and we all feel so much more trust now. Thank you for the excellent article, Karyn.

    ~George Sanders

    1. Karyn Greenstreet says:

      You’re welcome, George, I’m glad you found it helpful. I always recommend groups have something in writing at the very beginnings of their groups, for the exact reason you talk about.

  2. Caroline says:

    I never thought about this before! Hmmmmmmm thinking!

  3. PJ says:

    Great article Karyn. NDAs are also important when contracting with clients. My agreements always include a clause that says “information contained in this document cannot be shared with anyone for any reason without prior written permission.” This works really well for me.

    1. Karyn Greenstreet says:

      I would think, PJ, that it’s also important to say that YOU won’t share confidential client information. Of course, not every client-vendor relationship is protected by law, so there might come a time in a legal situation where you’d be required to share confidential information with law enforcement (though I imagine that’s a very, very rare occurrence).

  4. Has this ever turned into a legal issue, and if so, how did it hold up in court?

    1. Karyn Greenstreet says:

      I’ve never seen this turn into a legal issue, Ali, though I suppose it could. Since the Facilitator can’t control what people do outside of the meetings, I would assume the legal issue would be between the two members. You might want to ask an attorney if a mastermind group NDA would hold up in court. My thinking is the NDA is to protect members inside the group and if someone shared private information outside the group they would be “fired” from the group because of the signed NDA.

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