How to make a Mastermind Group fail

Like any group of people, a Mastermind Group can be a fantastic place to improve. But it can also degenerate into an environment that has no clear purpose and does not contribute to anyone

There are inspiring stories of people whose lives have been changed by your Mastermind Group. Professionally and personally.

Unfortunately, there are also scary stories: from Mastermind Groups that undermined the trust of one member, to many others that simply become a waste of time.

If you are in a Mastermind Group, or lead one, pay attention to the following signs that may indicate that things are going downhill.

It becomes a chat room

Has your Mastermind Group conversation turned into a social chat session?

When one or more members start talking about irrelevant topics, everyone loses focus and the quality and value of the Mastermind Group degrades. If members want a coffee chat, let them meet in their free time after the meeting or at another time that suits them.

It goes off topic

Remember that members join your Mastermind Group because they have goals and want to focus on specific challenges.

If you have chosen a topic for the session or you are going to discuss a specific issue that concerns one of the members you need to check that the conversation is focused on getting answers related to that specific topic. If the conversation wanders, everyone will feel that they are wasting their time. Pay attention to the progress of the conversation and when you detect that you are losing focus, quickly bring it back to the main topic of the meeting.

The original topic may in some cases give rise to other ideas that are as or more interesting than the initial one. But still check with those who have proposed the topic that they agree to abandon the main topic in favour of the new one or if it should simply be postponed to a later meeting.

Some members give and don’t get in return

The aim of a Mastermind Group is to share: to give and receive. It must be a two-way flow. If some members feel that they are always contributing to others but their issues or concerns are almost never addressed by the group they will soon lose confidence in the group.

Often this is because there are people with different levels of experience and the more experienced may be able to resolve many questions from those who are less experienced, but the group provides few solutions for them.

As a facilitator, you should be watching how each member feels, making sure everyone is getting value from the group. Look out for any imbalance before it becomes a problem. Otherwise, you risk losing the most valuable members.

It becomes a festival of complaints

One of the biggest advantages of joining a Mastermind Group is to feel positive and energetic after the meetings, but what happens when the meeting turns out to be a meeting to complain about injustices and a competition to see who suffers more misery? At the end of the meeting, members will feel exhausted and depressed.

Who wants to spend an entire meeting building a list of frustrations and not finding solutions? Your Mastermind Group is a safe place to vent and share problems, but you have to know how to cut through it properly and move on to the creative part of the conversation should be, “So what can you do to fix that and move on?

There are members who do not participate

Members cannot expect to join a Mastermind Group and then show up when it suits them. They have to commit to participating actively and promptly in discussions. There can be no casual bystanders sitting on the sidelines of a Mastermind Group meeting.

As a facilitator you have to demand a level of commitment and participation to be part of the Mastermind Group and if this is not met you have a pre-established mechanism to deal with it.

The facilitator has its own agenda – and it’s not serving the group

Having a personal agenda has everything to do with the ego, and the ego has two very specific goals in mind: to be well and to look well.

As a Facilitator, you must remember that the group meeting is not a showcase for you. (That’s why you are called a “facilitator” and not a “leader” of the group). It’s not about you and how smart you are, the topics you want to cover, or the direction you want to take in the conversation.

It’s about the members and how they help each other find the solutions they are looking for. The focus is entirely on them.

Keep in mind that a Mastermind Group is not a class or a group consultancy, but a learning programme and a peer exchange experience. The facilitator can share your experience with the group, but will always do so after everyone has shared to avoid conditioning the rest of the participants and to avoid becoming the star of the meeting. If you are the Facilitator, leave your ego layer at the door and enjoy being part of the creative (and much more productive) experience of many minds working in harmony together.

That said, having a Mastermind Group agenda for each meeting is crucial. But it’s the members’ agenda of what they want to explore and brainstorm, not yours.

Members come to meetings unprepared

If members want valuable help from other members, they have to explain their situation clearly and ask the right questions. It takes time and preparation to ask them.

When members present themselves without clear issues they want help with, it will be very difficult for the group to provide adequate assistance. Improvising your Hot Seat preamble on the fly leads to superficial and confusing Hot Seat discussions and poor decision making. The right goals will not be set or met, and responsibility goes out the window. Things will not get done and this leads to disappointment and frustration for everyone.

The facilitator does nothing about these problems

The most difficult part of being a Mastermind Group facilitator is that you have to pay intense attention to every detail of your group, both during and between meetings.

Are you aware of whether any of the above situations are occurring in your group?

Even if you are not aware, your members are, and will complain or leave if they are not happy.

How to create a successful Mastermind Group

These problem points need to be given continuous attention, members need to be asked how they feel about the group process and problems need to be addressed as soon as possible.

Don’t wait for the problems to go away on their own. It works the other way around. If they are not addressed they get worse.

If you are in a Mastermind Group that is going downhill, talk to the person leading it and let them know that it is not working for you. Hopefully they will be willing to make some changes. If not, maybe it’s time to start looking for a better Mastermind Group.