You keep hearing about masterminds and how they have helped other business owners. But you’re wondering – what’s so special about a mastermind, and what are they anyway?
Full disclosure, I have been in a few of masterminds, and while I’m not in one now, when I have needed them, they were an amazing experience and really helped my business grow.
So, first up – what is a mastermind. Well it’s when a few people, usually in or around the same business stage you’re in, get together for peer to peer coaching. You’ve heard the term, two heads are better than one? Well six heads are better than two!
The focus of the mastermind can vary depending on who’s in the group, the structure (you may or may not have a facilitator), and the foundation (some masterminds are formal coaching functions of groups like Vistage or Entrepreneurs Organization), and others are offered by coaches as a part of their coaching services. No matter, one thing that all masterminds have in common is that they exist to help you achieve your goals and keep you motivated.
The reason I love masterminds is because being an entrepreneur, sure it’s fun and can be exciting, but it’s also hard…and lonely. You can’t always easily find someone to talk to about your challenges and fears. You don’t want to burden your partner. You can’t scare your team. But talking to people who have, or are, going through the same things, who understand how it feels – well, that can be a real game changer.
Another huge value of masterminds is that you aren’t just complaining about what’s wrong. The real value is that they help you fix it.
A good mastermind group will help you brainstorm creative ideas. They’ll use clarifying questions to challenge you to get really clear about what you’re asking. They’ll gently, and sometimes not too gently, nudge or push you to reach outside your comfort zone, or see things from a different perspective.
And above all – your mastermind group will hold you accountable.
You know how it is. You tell yourself you’re going to accomplish something by a certain time “I’ll launch that class in the 2nd quarter”. Then the day to day responsibilities start to pile up. You have to onboard a new client; two of your team quits and you find yourself filling the gap; taxes are due and your accountant is hounding you for your numbers; you need to find a new bookkeeper, and on and on. Oh, and what about that class launch. Well, you begin to rationalize to yourself. ‘What would really happen if I pushed it to the 3rd quarter”? Or worse yet, you don’t push it, you just keep waiting around until it’s the last week before everything is due, making yourself feel overwhelmed and stressed out. You miss the deadline, and then waste time berating yourself for not getting it done.
A mastermind will gladly start challenging you well in advance of the due date. What is the plan, what are the milestones and when are they due. Did you get that milestone done. Are you changing the project schedule, what is the new timeline.
See, they’ll drill down in a way that you can’t even begin to squirm out of what you said you would do. And if you ultimately decide not to do the thing, then that’s OK too – but they will hold you accountable to be honest with yourself about what you’re doing, or not doing, and why.
“…they will hold you accountable to be honest with yourself about what you’re doing, or not doing, and why.”
You’ll also get fresh ideas and great feedback. Let’s say you’re having a problem with marketing. You just aren’t getting any hits on your ad. Well, maybe someone in your mastermind group already went through that and discovered a great funnel tweak that worked magic for them – and now it can for you too.
So, all that brings me to – what should you look for in a mastermind.
First off, I would say start by looking for an established mastermind. Oh I know that a mastermind could be as informal as pulling a few businessowners together for lunch once a quarter – but I think to get the most out of the mastermind experience it really helps to have a facilitator or specific process to help guide the group.
The members of the group should not have niche duplicates. And by that I mean, I don’t want to be in a mastermind with someone who runs an HR company. After all, we may be competitors. And even if we aren’t – I want fresh ideas from other industries, other types of companies. And, I’m not going to feel comfortable sharing my company processes with someone in the same geography and the same industry.
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Which brings me to Confidentiality. Confidentiality is critical. What happens in the group has to stay in the group. Without confidentiality you all might as well go home – because no one will feel comfortable enough to really share what’s going on with them – for fear of it getting out.
Also think about where the group members are located. You want it to be fairly easy for everyone to get together without it being midnight for one person and midday for another. And you want to mastermind with people who will actually show up.
Too many times masterminds can fall apart because the members treat attendance casually. What good is a mastermind when only 2 people show up? And besides, it’s really disrespectful – which is yet another reason that you might have some sour feelings about opening up to them.
And finally, it has to be, and stay, a judgement free zone. Think about it, how open are you going to be if you feel like you’re being judged. Right – not open at all. I know I wouldn’t like it – at all. And I’d have a really hard time sharing – which means I would be getting any value from the experience.
Now, generally a mastermind will cost some, and sometimes a lot of, money. So you want to be sure you’re getting the most value possible.
How do you find a good mastermind – well first, ask people you know for referrals. And don’t forget Dr. Google – just google it. Then do your homework. Do not, I repeat, do not just decide something sounds good so you’re going to drop a ton of money becoming a member. Get referrals, vet the group, find out what it’s about and the requirements to become a member. Then, if it’s a fit – go for it!