Tag Archives: mastermind group

6 tips for starting a mastermind group in higher education

people participating in a facilitated meetingOver the past few years, I have participated in and facilitated several different types of mastermind groups (MMG) within and outside of higher education. (If you are not sure what a MMG is, see my earlier post here).

Most recently, I designed and co-facilitated an in-person MMG for educators in the first-year experience (FYE). The group was open to anyone who identified as an educator of students who are in their first year of an undergraduate degree. In this particular offering, there were 9 participants and the group was comprised of faculty members and staff at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver campus).

Given my positive experience with MMG, and the growing interest within the POD Network, I wanted to share some resources that will help you start your own.

Tips for the set-up phase

Here is a list of tips I have compiled to make the facilitator’s life easier in the setup phase:

1. Be as clear as possible about the purpose of the MMG when you advertise it. See here for how we articulated the purpose and structure for the MMG for FYE. In your introductory text, you may wish to:

  • define what a MMG is and isn’t (and, possibly, address some people’s aversion to the term?)
  • briefly explain what a spotlight is since it is a key feature of MMG

2. Once you have determined the purpose of your MMG, decide on the number of meetings and frequency of your meetings. We found that 4 meetings, every 2 weeks, worked well for this MMG. Meeting every 2 weeks allow the group’s energy to be sustained without overwhelming people with weekly commitments.

3. Set meeting dates/times ahead of time if (like me) you have an aversion to Doodle polls and to spending a lot of time trying to accommodate multiple people’s schedules. I found it easier to have the dates/times (and room bookings) pre-determined so that potential participants could easily ascertain whether they were available.

4. Begin to advertise the MMG approximately 2 months before the start date. This will give you a chance to promote it, answer questions from interested parties, and will augment the chances that people can block off the time in their calendar.

5. Consider a 2-step application process. For the MMG for Educators in the FYE, the first step asked potential participants to confirm that they could make 3 of the 4 meetings and that they were, in fact, actively involved in the FYE. The second step allowed me to reach back out to people and clarify anything that needed clarification and/or to immediately “accept” their application. See here for the wording/messaging that appeared on the CTLT website.

6. Specify whether the group is closed or open and who (if anyone) has permission to invite other participants. My preference is for a closed group that is consistent throughout the duration of the MMG.

I will be sharing more in a future post. If you have any questions, please reach out to me at isabeau(dot)iqbal(at)ubc(dot)ca. I am sure I’ve forgotten some details that would be helpful to others.

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