Psychology of Mastermind Groups
The Success Alliance


Psychology of Mastermind Groups

Group of People Talking

By Karyn Greenstreet

It’s no surprise that both positive and negative group psychology shows up in mastermind groups. Humans are social creatures and we have similar behaviors in any type of group. But in a mastermind group, we actively push back against those negative group psychological norms, to create a productive experience.

The supportive group behaviors

We think and act differently in groups than we do on our own. We work better because it’s motivating to be part of a group. You form clearer goals, make wiser decisions, and take consistent action toward your goals when you witness others in your group doing the same thing. Working in a group makes your members feel they are part of a community.

Psychologists find that smaller groups work in a more cohesive manner. According to a study by Michael J. Saks, PhD., they studied the use of 6-person juries versus 12-person juries. In the end analysis, he indicates, “In smaller groups, members shared more equally in the discussion, found the deliberations more satisfying, and were more cohesive.” This is one reason I recommend smaller mastermind groups versus larger ones: you can take discussions deeper and create stronger bonds among members.

The behaviors that harm the group

Groups can support and encourage us. But we do odd things in groups that reduce our effectiveness.

  • Groups have a psychological need for a sense of harmony among the members. In the “groupthink” norm, people modify their ideas to go along with what the majority wants so they don’t rock the boat. But in a mastermind group, this can be deadly. As the mastermind group Facilitator, tell your members about this social phenomenon and assure them that each individual idea is important, even if it doesn’t match what the others are saying. Sometimes the best ideas are generated by outlier thinking, not consensus thinking.
  • “Social loafing” means avoiding effort because you think someone else in the group will pick up the slack. When you are facilitating a meeting, pay attention: Is everyone participating equally? Or do some members sit back and let the others do all the work and share all the ideas? Are the conversations deep and impactful, or do they only flit across the surface? Also note: As a group grows in size, social loafing increases.

The Google Team study explains it: On the good teams, members spoke in roughly the same proportion. As long as everyone got a chance to talk, the team did well. But if only a few people dominated the conversation, the collective intelligence declined.

And that’s what mastermind groups are all about — sharing the collective intelligence. We can’t control group social behavior. But we can be aware of group psychology and watch out for it in our own mastermind groups. Then, bring it up in your meetings and have your members discuss it.

4 thoughts on “Psychology of Mastermind Groups”

  1. George Mayers says:

    Yes, I have seen some of these things happen in my groups. I didn’t know they had a name for it.

    So, what do you do about it? How do you handle it, Karyn?

    Great article, thanks, looking forward to hearing your advice on taming my group. 🙂

    1. Y’know, George, I’m a big fan of bringing everything out into the open with a mastermind group. After all it’s the communication among the group that strengthens them. So if your group is acting in a way that you feel isn’t productive, just tell them what you’re observing and ask them if they are noticing it too — and ask them if the behavior is creating less success in the group. That will get them thinking and I’m sure you’ll see them modify their behavior.

  2. Aileen McKenna says:

    This phenomena in groups is a very important in terms of respecting all members of the group and maintaining the sense of value of the input of all members. I’ve participated in groups where one member simply took over, and there was no one in charge. I’ve also taken it upon myself to interrupt the one who just kept talking, by saying that I would like to hear what the other members had to say on the topic. As the facilitator of the group, I would set out the parameters of participation in the beginning, by stating that everyone will have the chance to input during each meeting.

    1. Karyn Greenstreet says:

      It’s crucial that members commit to being fully present and both giving/receiving help in each meeting. It’s so easy to just sit back and let a more active member do all the work! 🙂

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