As the saying goes, everything old is new again. Take the concept of mastermind groups. Coined from the 1920s book The Law of Success by Napoleon Hill, mastermind groups bring people together to help each other work toward individual goals. Members discuss their goals or problems with the group, which then brainstorms fresh ideas and creative solutions. Everyone gets the benefit of different perspectives.
Toastmasters can take advantage of mastermind groups to reach any key goal. In my case, I formed a group for professional reasons, as part of my Toastmasters High Performance Leadership (HPL) project in the traditional education program.
My vision was to form a mastermind group of women business owners, consultants, and freelancers who would help each other become more successful and share ideas on topics of interest to sole operators, particularly prioritizing tasks, scheduling time, handling workflow, and finding trustworthy advisors. My first step was to research mastermind groups and define my goals: What would be my group’s main purpose? Who should participate?
You are much more likely to achieve a goal when you belong to a supportive, encouraging group of peers.
I learned that in a typical mastermind meeting, each member gets equal time in the “hot seat” to talk about a specific challenge or problem. (Some groups use “focus seat” or another term to refer to this opportunity.) The other members ask clarifying questions and, if necessary, probe deeper to unearth the root of the problem. Once it’s exposed, the group brainstorms ideas, shares insights, and recommends solutions or actions based upon their own experiences and knowledge. A leader or facilitator keeps the conversation on track, encourages the group to work together, and watches the clock to ensure each hot-seat discussion stays within its allotted time.
As anyone who has ever had a big idea knows, procrastination derails many good intentions. You are much more likely to achieve a goal when you belong to a supportive, encouraging group of peers who meet regularly, provide progress updates, hold each other accountable, and celebrate each other’s victories.
Variety of Formats
Like Toastmasters clubs, mastermind groups vary in terms of when, where, how often, and how long they meet. A group of marketers, for example, may meet for 90 minutes once a week over a three-month period to study and implement a new social media strategy. A group of business executives may hold 10 two-hour meetings throughout the year to help each other improve their companies. Some groups meet in person; others are virtual. Some are free; others charge a membership fee, which can be substantial. Most groups tend to be small, with four to eight members being common.
Starting Your Own Group
Since I live in a metropolitan area with a lot of traffic, I opted for a virtual meeting format. That meant learning to use video conferencing and practicing with my HPL advisory committee, so I could smooth out the kinks before holding my first meeting.
The most challenging part of the process was recruiting members. It takes time to find candidates and have conversations with them to determine if they are a good match. I used my network and social media resources (including my Toastmasters district’s Facebook page) to find four “solopreneurs” from different backgrounds, who knew the realities of self-employment and possessed certain qualities—such as friendliness, authenticity, and selflessness—that foster meaningful, candid conversations. My group was free to members.
Dianne Mouchon Rhodes, a member of Franconia Orators in Alexandria, Virginia, and a veteran of three mastermind groups, agreed to join. “I’ve seen improvements in the way I do business,” she says of the process. “For me, one of the biggest pluses is the exchange of information. It has been so helpful to present a business challenge to members and receive feedback. It is also gratifying to be able to give advice and suggestions to others.”
Finding a Group
Starting a mastermind group from scratch may not be for everyone. If you prefer to explore groups that are up and running, here are some suggestions for finding one:
- Use your network. Ask people you know if they belong to a mastermind group or know someone who does.
- Visit social media sites. Meetup lists more than 400 mastermind groups worldwide. LinkedIn, Alignable, and other business-oriented social media networks have forums that sometimes offer leads on both newly forming and existing mastermind groups for professionals.
- Vary online search terms. Mastermind groups sometimes go by other names. Include search terms such as “peer advisory groups” or “peer-to-peer mentoring” for more results.
Whether you join an existing alliance or form your own, a mastermind group can be a powerful addition to your success plan. It’s fun. It’s thought-provoking. And it just might provide that push you need to finally achieve an elusive goal.
Lynne Strang, DTM is a member of Galloping Governors Advanced Toastmasters and Sparkling Speakers Toastmasters, both in Fairfax, Virginia. She is a freelance writer and the author of Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs: Eight Principles for Starting a Business After Age 40.