Tag Archives: helping

Starting a mastermind group

I first heard the term “Mastermind Groups” in the Coaching for Leaders podcast approximately 8 months ago. Since I am thinking about starting one, but wasn’t clear on how these differed or were the same as other support groups, I did some reading on the topic and wanted share what I have learned.

Graphic Conversation

What is a mastermind group?

A mastermind group is created when two or more people come together to work towards a purpose. Individual members set goals and seek to accomplish these. Meetings provide support in a group setting and often involve feedback, brainstorming, sharing resources and peer accountability.

How is a mastermind group different from group coaching?

Mastermind groups draw on the wisdom of the group and allow individual members to benefit from everyone’s feedback, support and advice. The facilitator, if there is one, helps with the process and conditions to support the group. In group coaching, the mentor/facilitator coaches individuals in a group setting.

Determine a focus

A mastermind group works best when there is a clear focus. Whether you are starting a group or joining one, you’ll want to think carefully about this piece as it affects the success and sustainability of the group and its membership.

Selecting members for your mastermind group

I have belonged to various ‘support groups’ (i.e., writing groups, PhD cohort, and others), and, based on that experience and according to what I have read on mastermind groups, the who matters a lot.

In a successful mastermind, members have:

Your screening process may be more formal or less so, depending on your preference. Members should be clear (to the extent that they can) on what they hope to get from/contribute to the group.

How many members should you have?

Several posts (e.g., Lifehack and ChristineKane) suggest masterminds should be composed only of a small group of 3-6 people. In my experience, a group of 6 can work when you have a set meeting day/time (i.e., every Friday at 1 pm) and group of 3 is better when people’s schedules vary and you find yourself having to alter the meeting times.

Structuring and running a mastermind group

Mastermind groups may meet weekly, every two weeks or once a month. Scheduling meetings in advance is advisable, meeting less than once a month isn’t. Your conversations can be in person, by phone, or online.

Overall, your meetings will be guided by your “unifying purpose”. In his post about mastermind groups, Michael Hyatt suggests the following structure:

  • each member shares their highs and lows from the week/month (15 minutes)
  • one member gets the “hot seat” meaning they get focussed attention and time during which they discuss a particular issue, can benefit from the group’s input, and strategize (30 minutes)
  • each member determines and shares one action to which she wants to be held accountable (15 minutes)

Others (Savara at Lifehack, Karyn Greenstreet at the Success Alliance), however, suggest that every member should be in the “hot seat” at every meeting. If you choose this option, time in the hot seat needs to be shortened to keep meetings to a reasonable time.

My next steps

As mentioned at the start of this post, I wrote this because I have an interest in starting/joining a mastermind group related either to writing or to doing educational consulting as a “side gig” (as Dr. Katie Linder calls it). The accountability aspect of masterminds appeals to me at this time and the focus on a common purpose because I think both of these matter a great deal to the success of the individual and group.


In writing this post, I have discovered there are many resources on the internet about starting and running a mastermind group.  Some additional resources that I have not linked to above include:

You’ve Got This Podcast by Dr. Katie Linder (Thank you Katie for inspiring this post!)

Go Beyond Simple Networking and Organize your own Mastermind Group


Photo credit: Marc Wathieu, Flickr, Graphic Conversation https: //flic.kr/p/5xi8KT


Determining priorities: 3 helpful images

This post presents 3 images that you might find helpful as you work at determining priorities for your work, family, health and otherwise.


Urgent/Important Matrix


Image Source: http://10minutemanager.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Action-Priority-Matrix.jpg



Impact/Effort Matrix


Image source: http://10minutemanager.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Action-Priority-Matrix.jpg


Importance/Feasibility Matrix

Priority (feasibility & importance)

Image source: http://www.slideshare.net/Raza_Ali/monitoring-and-evaluation-of-health-services


Helpful coaching questions


I recently listened to an excellent conversation between Michael Bungay Stanier and David Stachowiak on the Coaching for Leaders podcast. The theme of the episode was “These coaching questions get results” and, at the end, Michael invited listeners to reflect on how they might use the information. I’m taking him up on the invitation.

As you might know from reading some of my previous posts, I am keenly interested in exploring the ‘helping role’ of educational developers.  Michael talked about coaching as helping people learn versus teaching them. I liked that distinction. I recognize, however, that as an educational developer, I do both; yet, when in ‘coaching’ mode, I need to remind myself where to focus.

Bungay Stanier also talked about the power of questions and the importance of asking good questions (remember to wait, he reminds us). These are some questions I especially liked and will use/continue using:

  • “what is on your mind?”
    • I like this one because it leaves the response open and doesn’t assume the conversation is going to be focussed on topic A/problem B.
  • “and what else?”
    • I like this question because it allows the conversation partners to go deeper, but doesn’t assume a particular direction

And I chuckled when Bungay Stanier said :

A statement that starts with “Have you considered….?” is really just ‘advice disguised as a question’!

Yikes! That is one change I’m going to make!

Finally, he suggested incorporating the following into a coaching conversation:

  • What was most valuable about our conversation?

I haven’t been using that question when I coach/help because I feel some discomfort about doing so (mainly around worrying that I’m looking for compliments). But others have used it ‘on me’ and I’ve typically appreciated the opportunity to reflect on–and solidify–what has been most useful. I’m going to try it out.


Teamwork: Reciprocal helping relationships


“The essence of teamwork is the development and maintenance of reciprocal helping relationships among all the members”*

In my third post on the topic of helping, I consider teamwork as a helping relationship (see here for my first and second posts). Below are  some notes/quotes/ideas on teamwork from Chapter 7 of Schein’s book ““Helping: How to offer, give and receive help”.

Teamwork as perpetual reciprocal helping (title of Chapter 7)

Early on in his book, Schein refers to teamwork as ‘perpetual reciprocal helping’ and the phrase stuck with me because it offered an interesting perspective on this word and concept. Traditional definitions of teamwork, such as the one found at Merriam-Webster online, go something like this: “work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.” Unlike this definition, Schein’s emphasizes trust and exchange, which I believe are important.


About subordination, Schein notes that teams work best when the higher status person exhibits some humility, and “acknowledges that others are crucial to good outcomes”. Thus, for effective team functioning, the higher status team member should create space for other members to develop identities and roles that feel equitable within the context of that group.  One way of doing this is by taking on the process consultant role and helping members figure out responses to the following issues:

  1. Who am I to be? What is my role in this group?
  2. How much control/influence will I have in this group?
  3. Will my goals/need be met in this group?
  4. What will be the level of intimacy in this group? (p.109)

He rightly notes that members should not strive for equal status and rank within the group. Rather, teammates should strive to be comfortable with the status that corresponds with their role.  The goal is mutual acceptance because that is essential to the development of the trust, which is needed to sustain group performance. “Effective teams do not have to be love-ins, but members must know each other well enough as fellow team members to be able to trust them to play their roles in the accomplishment of the group’s task.” (Schein, 2009, p.111).

The previous quote resonated with me because I used to think that even workload distribution was an essential feature of good teamwork. However, as I think back to my experiences of teamwork and collaboration, clarity of role expectations has been a much more important factor. Effective teamwork happens when people understand, agree upon, and stick to, their roles.  

Clearly, good teamwork needs more than clarity around role expectation; however, this is a piece I plan to pay more attention to  in future collaborations.

*(Schein, 2009, p.107)

Reference: Schein, E. (2009). Helping: How to offer, give and receive help.  San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Photo credit: “Teamwork” by Kim S. Creative Commons Licensed.

Helper roles: Process consultant, expert, doctor


This is a continuation of my thoughts and notes on “helping” in the context of educational development (see here for my first blog post on this topic). I have been reading Schein’s “Helping: How to offer, give and receive help” and am finding it very relevant to my work (and beyond).

 In Chapter 3, Schein describes three helper roles that we can potentially adopt:

  • Expert resource who provides information or services
  • Doctor who diagnoses and prescribes (extension and enlargement of above)
  • Process consultant who focuses on building an equitable relationship and clarifies what kind of help is needed.

Though we often go between all three roles, we should begin any helping relationship in the role of process consultant. By engaging in humble inquiry, the process consultant establishes trust between the client (the word Schein uses for any individual who is receiving help) and herself; this minimizes the imbalance between the two individuals.

Adopting the process consultant role does the following:

  1. Reduces the ignorance inherent in the situation
  2. Minimizes the initial status differential
  3. Identifies what other role(s) may be most suitable for the identified problem.

Fundamental to the process consultant role “is the assumption that clients must be encouraged to remain proactive, in the sense of retaining both the diagnostic and remedial initiative because only they own the problem identified, only they know the true complexity of their situation, and only they know what will work for them in the culture in which they live” (Schein, 2009, p.62)

The above has prompted me to think about the role(s) I adopt in my educational development work. Though I strive to be/stay curious and ask questions, I wonder if I do so to the extent that is necessary to be truly helpful, especially when I am first approached for help.  I will pay more attention to this and to how I switch between roles.


Reference: Schein, E. (2009). Helping: How to offer, give and receive help.  San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.


Photo credit: Eva the Weaver “Help” (Creative Commons Licensed)