The One Thing that Makes Mastermind Groups Effective
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The One Thing that Makes Mastermind Groups Effective

Group of People in a Circle

By Karyn Greenstreet

Why do some mastermind groups work better together than others?

As a mastermind group Facilitator, you know your job is to build trust, mutual respect and rapport among our mastermind group members. You 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.

Because the group dynamic is crucial, corporations have been researching this question for a long time. They’ve done some serious studies about what makes a group work well together, and what creates that elusive harmony that is the bedrock of a successful mastermind group.

When Google 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. This was more important than personality traits, knowledge level, IQ and creativity levels, having similar interests, socializing outside of the group, or even age and gender.

This impacts how you select members for your mastermind group and how your actions as a facilitator affect the success of the group.

It’s trust that makes groups bond

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 (if you are an outcast from the group, there’s less likelihood of basic survival). This desire to not be rejected by your group is also learned from cues 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 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, mistakes or vulnerabilities.
  • Don’t want to rock the boat? –Don’t offer ideas.
  • Don’t want to appear negative? –Don’t question or criticize what the majority of people are saying, even if you disagree.

Playing it safe, a no-no in mastermind groups

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 as the facilitator: create a vision of what everyone will receive from the discussion, so the risk of staying safe is offset by the reward of an amazing opportunity to learn, grow, and discover real solutions.

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

Do your members have psychological safety?

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.

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.

Five questions to gauge your group’s psychological safety level:

  1. Can members 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?
  5. How does the group handle it if a member doesn’t reach their stated goals?

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 less-than-stellar outcomes
  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 about:

  • mistakes and errors, in order to learn from them and create better future outcomes
  • disagreements about points of view, so that everyone’s voice can be heard
  • lack of progress, so we can untangle the foundational reason for it and more forward

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