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Food4Thought, Think Tanks, and Masterminds… oh my!

If you’re looking to connect with like-minded professionals, source innovative solutions to common and uncommon problems, and increase performance, maybe it’s time to consider starting or joining a Mastermind. Here are some tips to ensure success.

What is a Mastermind? They can be called different things (I call mine one of mine a ‘Think Tank’ and my She-Suite one, ‘Food4Thought’). 

It’s any opportunity to brainstorm with professionals in a confidential setting about relevant challenges with the goal of finding support, resources, and innovative solutions.

CONSIDERATIONS…

If you’re considering joining or founding such a group, here are some tips:

• Time – Because professionals are SO stretched and we are all attempting to strike an ideal work/life balance, I prefer when they are conducted during working hours. According to studies, most people are in their offices the first and last hour of a workday so the chance of getting the best turn-out is to hold it during those two timeframes. Because most of us are ‘fresher’ first thing in the morning before OOP (other people’s problems) arise, the first hour of the workday may provide better engagement. Consideration: You may have to juggle this if participants are in different timezones. Weekly sessions can run 60-90 minutes. Monthly sessions may require more like 3 hours to give everyone a chance to share and contribute. Away sessions should include some ‘downtime’ for reflection and rest.

• Method – The four most common options to meet are by phone, online, in person, and away. Phone calls do not have a visual component, therefore are sometimes less indicative of a person’s expression, emotions, and body language. By contrast, they can be convenient for professionals who are on the road where a call can be taken while driving. On-line platforms like Zoom or Skype often offer the choice of participating by calling-in or logging in with or without seeing the other participants. Being able to see your participants adds a layer of communication (expressions and body language) that can enhance comprehension. In addition, platforms like this also offer screen sharing and recording options; this can be useful for creating plans, sharing resources, or listening to/reviewing the recording at a later date. In Person is my preferred method of these three. There is an added energy when people get together – live – in the same space, when possible. In addition, body language is communicated fully when we see the whole person rather than a 2″ square of their face (only) on a screen. Away is by far the most ideal method for achieving the deepest, fullest, most catalytic results is. Booking time away from the office and home interruptions for a prolonged timeframe (2* to 5 sleeps) offers participants the added benefit of bonding, staying focused on the objective without distractions, and being able to digest, reflect, reframe, and come back fresh the next day. *I find that off-site and retreat-style masterminds are far more effective when they are two sleeps away from home rather than one. Participants usually find the third day offers a deeper connection because trust has been deepened over the additional day. I just came back from attending ChannelNext WEST in beautiful Banff Alberta.  Participants confirmed that a getaway mastermind is a much-needed pause button to do the blue sky thinking every leader needs for exponential growth!

• Frequency – If I could take off sailing to the BVI (my last mastermind) every week, I’d be in heaven! But the reality check is that then I’d never grow my business – and my family would leave me. There is a balance between too frequent and too infrequent. Too frequent is not enough time to reflect on the take-aways nor enough time for implementation of the solutions your mastermind produced. Too infrequent is when people don’t remember any of one another’s commitments, challenges, or solutions. Precious time is wasted ‘catching up’ before you can get to ‘the good stuff’ of brainstorming solutions. I do my Zoom mastermind weekly, my in-person mastermind monthly (we could do bi-monthly), and my away mastermind annually (because of cost, downtime, and travelling) though I’d do those bi-weekly if I didn’t have a family who insists on seeing me from time to time. I also suggest that session be held the SAME day, SAME time, whenever possible. It’s easier for people to remember and they are less likely to have scheduling conflicts.

• Tech – To find convenient times to meet, I’ll often use a scheduling app like doodle.com. For online sessions, I like Zoom (I subscribe to and pay for the professional version) For in-person, I suggest having a ‘no-tech-at-the-table’ agreement. For all methods, you can set up a Facebook or Linked In or Channelizer group for communication between sessions. To find a Channel mastermind, contact TechnoPlanet, or post the request in groups you belong to in Linked In.

• Theme – Whether formal or Informal, depends on the group and the objective. I believe that career-building masterminds, whether weekly or monthly, will want a structure and a dress code. We tend to stay in-the-career-zone when we are dressed in business attire. Away masterminds – because of the importance to ‘let down the walls and let in the transformation’ (and the fact that they can be in fun, sunny destinations – are best kept casual attire. 

• Setting – Phone-in sessions can be difficult at best. You may want to therefore request that participants find a quiet, closed office (or keep the windows of the car closed). In person groups are best in offices/spaces that limit interruption. We meet at a restaurant with a private room. I asked the serving staff to take orders, deliver food, then leave us alone for an hour – and I make sure to tip staff extra for compliance. It also means that there are fewer interruptions from staff or family members. In the spirit of ‘breaking bread’, I find that food is an elixir – it promotes sharing and a chance to connect on a different – sometimes deeper – level. Another that I participate in is held at a lodge with a garage that’s converted into a meeting room – in a spa; we cook then eat together then take our desserts out to the meeting room (equipped with wifi and all the tech we need to present sessions)

• Rules – You will want to engage a Code of Conduct from the start. This helps avoid sticky situations – and potential difficult conversations – before they begin. You might want to include in your participant’s agreement:

1. that sessions are confidential. What gets shared in a mastermind stay in the mastermind. This is the most important rule for maintaining good relationships and allowing competitors to work together in the same mastermind.

2. how interruptions, chronic tardiness, and chronic absenteeism are handled

3. that all participants use appropriate language and suggestions are made in a compassionate and positive way

4. that all participants are ‘present’ – emotionally and physically

5. that prep work (when there is any) is done before the session 

6. whether or not business-promotion/selling is permitted

7. whether quorum is necessary to continue with a session

8. whether or not guests are permitted (I suggest masterminds be closed unless someone leaves the group and you choose to replace them)

9. and lastly, how a breach of these rules by a participant is handled by the rest of the group.

• Methods of Accountability – According to research, within a day of any event, people only retain 40% of what they learned/experienced. Within four days that decreases to 10%, therefore IMMEDIATE actions promotes the best success. Therefore, I ask my participants for a W.O.W. before they leave. A W.O.W. is what ONE THING* they want to accomplish Within One Week – even if we only meet monthly. *be diligent about participants choosing only ONE action to commit to – and that it can be accomplished in one week. This sets participants up for a ‘quick win’. Also FOCUS is to ‘follow one course until successful’ – it’s better to do one thing thoroughly than more of three things.

• Structure – again this depends on the participants and the objective of the mastermind. I find including a celebration, an ask, a contribution, and a WoW accountability piece offers a good framework. The celebration is that each person shares one thing that’s going well that makes them happy. This sets the tone of positivity for the session. The ask is the burning question or challenge that the participant want to leave with a shift in mindset, a resource, and/or a solution too. The share is the crux of the mastermind – it’s where participants clarify, probe, suggest, discuss, and debate. And finally, the accountability – the WoW – part is where each person shares a call to action they commit to. It is recommended for each person to write it down in a place they will see often to stay mindful and ensure completion – and celebration!

• Timing – Be mindful of equal airtime. You’ll want to allot one sixth of the total time (divided by the number of participants) for celebrations, and another sixth for Wows. That will leave 4/6 (two thirds) of the time (divided by the number of participants) for getting to the good stuff – solution finding. Make sure to use a timer and agree (at the beginning of each session) that when the timer rings – regardless of where you’re at – you move to the next participant.

THE BENEFITS…

…are countless! In addition to tapping into the expertise of people you like, trust, and who want you to succeed (like that isn’t enough!), masterminds can provoke social connections, recommendations for products and services outside of business, an accountability when fear is high or discipline is low, a re-frame of mindset, affirmation against naysayers (and family – sometimes they’re synonymous), someone who listens when it feels no one does, a ‘tribe’, …and the list goes on. Most of my mastermind participants I now count as my tribe… my most treasured friends!

Glynis E. Devine works with leaders who want MORE – more time, more balance, more joy, and more fun! She leads food4thought, a dinner-setting mastermind for her She-Suite (female C suite) members, Your Soul Journey retreat, a one-week transformational mastermind for women in Portugal(www.yoursouljourneyretreat.com/portugal), is a mastermind leader for Channel Next, and participates in several masterminds for leaders. She is a Purpose expert, certified in Core Motive, a psycho-metric that assesses why we do what we do.

www.glynisedevine.com