Two Types of Mastermind Clarifying Questions
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Two Types of Mastermind Clarifying Questions

Two Types of Clarifying Questions

By Karyn Greenstreet

There seems to be confusion about what’s a legitimate clarifying question to ask during a mastermind Hot Seat. In reality, there are two types of clarifying questions.

  1. Questions you ask directly after the Preamble so everyone is clear about what help the member is requesting
  2. Questions asked during the masterminding, to dig deeper and understand the entire situation

What’s the difference?

What’s the distinction between Preamble clarifying questions and Masterminding clarifying questions?

  • The first type of clarifying question happens directly after the Preamble. The member in the Hot Seat defines his Ultimate Question and shares his Backstory. Then, all the members (including the Facilitator) ask clarifying questions to make sure they understand the Ultimate Question. This is not the time for a fact-finding mission into the depths of the jungle! Instead, the purpose of these clarifying questions is to make sure you understand what help is being requested. Is there anything in the Ultimate Question that’s confusing? Is it clear what type of help the member wants and needs?
  • The second type of clarifying question is used during the masterminding and brainstorming portion of the Hot Seat. Sometimes we need to know more about their situation, or what they’ve already thought about or already tried. We need to understand their goals, and why this problem is arising now. We are seeking deeper information, historical context, motivation, challenges, limiting beliefs, vision, and values.

Let me share an example

Joe comes to his Hot Seat with this Ultimate Question and Backstory:

How much should I limit who can be in my mastermind group?

My first mastermind group didn’t seem focused enough and people didn’t feel compelled to join it. The more I learn about mastermind groups, the more I see that facilitators have a background of skills and knowledge that they use to focus their groups around specific topics or specific goals. I have a background both as a business owner for many years and many personal growth topics I’ve studied, so I could use any of those topics for my next mastermind group and make it more focused.

A million possible clarifying questions spring to mind

There is so much more we’d like to know about Joe so we can help him! We’re just itching to ask questions!

Here’s where the distinction between the Preamble clarifying question and the Masterminding clarifying questions becomes apparent.

Look at this list below; which questions will help in understanding what help he needs from the group, and which questions will give you deeper insight into Joe’s situation?

  • What type of business did you own? (MASTERMINDING – gathering historical information)
  • How long have you been in business? (MASTERMINDING – gathering historical information)
  • Joe, are you asking “Should I limit the focus of my mastermind group?” or are you asking, “I plan to limit the focus of my mastermind group — how tight should the focus be?” (PREAMBLE – This is the perfect type of question to ask directly after the Preamble so that we can understand what Joe is asking from the group. We need to know if he’s already made the decision to narrow the focus/topic of his groups and wants to talk about the next step, or if he needs help deciding if he actually should narrow the focus.)
  • Are you really asking us who is right for your group? Your original Ultimate Question was “How much should I limit who can be in my mastermind group?” but I’m not sure if you’re asking about who your prospective members should be, or if you’re asking about the topic of your group? (PREAMBLE – Joe did pose his Ultimate Question in a way that could be interpreted as him asking about who should or should not be in his group. But his Backstory implied the problem was in the topic of his mastermind group. So, his Ultimate Question didn’t clearly reflect which was most important to him.
  • Is your mastermind group related to your business and are you offering your mastermind group to the same audience? (MASTERMINDING – while it’s important to know the context of the problem, this question doesn’t clarify what help he’s seeking from the group. This is a fact-finding question.)
  • Did people tell you why they weren’t interested in your first mastermind group offer? (PREAMBLE – perhaps his Ultimate Question should be, “Why didn’t people feel compelled to join my first mastermind group and how can I target my next group to a more receptive audience?”)
  • What personal growth topics are you interested in? (MASTERMINDING – unless this is part of his mastermind group, this is merely a question asked out of curiosity and not pertinent to Joe’s hot seat.)
  • Who is the target audience for your mastermind groups? (PREAMBLE – perhaps his Ultimate Question should be, “Why did the specific people I invited to my first mastermind group not show interest in it?”)

The first set of clarifying questions, asked directly after the Preamble, is strictly to make sure we all understand the Ultimate Question and that Joe has chosen the right Ultimate Question for his Hot Seat. Once we know that, and we move on to the masterminding portion of the Hot Seat, we can ask fact-finding and insight-finding questions to probe deeper and find solutions.

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2 thoughts on “Two Types of Mastermind Clarifying Questions”

  1. One of the biggest challenges I find as a facilitator of 3 monthly CEO Mastermind Roundtable groups is keeping the CEO’s to the question period and not jump to the advisory portion too quickly. I have found that it’s really nothing more than their desire to help the hot seat CEO, as a flurry of ideas come to CEO’s naturally to solve a problem particularly when its another CEO’s problem. LOL. The easiest way I have found to manage it is to listen intently during the questioning phase and if it starts to turn into advice, I literally interrupt them and ask them if they are turning “this” into a question or to save it for the advice phase. When done diplomatically, it actually adds some fun to the session as the other CEO’s jump in to press the one who had the floor to “keep it to a question” I then ask the group if all of the questions have been vetted and “announce” that we are now in the advisory phase. As long as the CEO’s have all “checked their egos at the door” when they come into the meeting, there is always a balance of advise and feedback. As part of this process, I alphabetically assign a month to each member to give them a chance to noodle around a template I use to define the issue and bring some structure to it to make the best use of time. Yet at the same time, I keep the agenda flexible enough to address any critical issue that is discovered at the beginning of the meeting, during our elevator speech portion, so that we can be ready, willing and able to deal with a time sensitive issue that CEO’s so often have.

    1. Karyn Greenstreet says:

      I agree, Bryan, many members don’t have an understanding of the “modules” within a Hot Seat, and jump into giving advice. You’re right — they’re excited to share their ideas and solutions. So, it becomes crucial to explain to them about the value of clarifying questions as the middle module in a Hot Seat. I think you’re wise to interrupt them, and “diplomatic” is the keyword here. As a group matures and begins to bond/trust, I love that they’ll interrupt each other and ask, “Are you giving advice or asking a clarifying question?” 🙂

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