You might have seen from my Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn that I was privileged to spend my birthday weekend with #mytribe of professional speakers, facilitators and coaches at the Annual PSASA Convention. So so many of these special colleagues have become very dear friends and we are in numerous masterminds together. I owe so much of my professional development over the past 15 years to these masterminds. So what is a Mastermind I hear you asking? I am often asked this question, and this weekend has inspired me to answer it here and I hope to inspire you to join or create a Mastermind and take Key Steps together to…

‘be the difference that makes the difference.’

  1. What is a mastermind? Mastermind groups are still relatively new to most people, even though the concept is not. Napoleon Hill is often credited with coining the term in his book Think and Grow Rich (1937). Although Hill has been shown to be a fraudster, we should not discount his work entirely as there is much wisdom there and his definition of a mastermind is a good one. He says, “a mastermind alliance is the co-ordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.” Note: The concept of a mastermind or ‘Success Teams’ definitely isn’t new or founded by Hill. People have been using the mastermind since ancient times to solve great issues of concern. Many sayings have affirmed the existence of the mastermind in ancient times, e.g. “the sum of a whole is greater than the parts”, “two heads are better than one.” And these concepts still hold true today, with more organisations and individuals harnessing the power of mastermind groups to accomplish greater results in a shorter time. The term mastermind may seem new but the concept of tapping and harnessing the power of a mastermind group is definitely not.
  2. How does a mastermind work? In essence, a group of smart committed people meet weekly, monthly – or any rhythm that makes sense for the group – to tackle challenges, solve problems together and keep one another accountable. It is about collaboration and co-creation, knowing that when we combine the power of several minds to tackle problems, when we lean on each other, share advice, share connections and do business with each other when appropriate, we all benefit. It is a type of peer-to-peer mentoring and if you are fortunate enough to get invited to one or industrious enough to create one, you will most likely see a marked change in yourself, your career and/or business and your life in general. I can attest to this first hand!
  3. What does a mastermind do? A mastermind alliance stimulates dialog and challenges thinking, it encourages the sharing of ideas and experiences, successes and failures, as a means of fostering individual and collective achievement. I almost want to say that a mastermind achieves anything it chooses to because it really can be that powerful! One of the suppositions of a mastermind is that 1 + 1 does not equal 2; it equals 3 or more because the synergy between the individuals creates its own presence and energy. I can assure you that the right group of people creates an alchemical energy that can feel quite magical and be extremely powerful 
  4. How to start your own mastermind group? Let’s assume you have bought into the benefits of a mastermind group. Now what?Here’s some critical Key Steps to get you started…

    4.1  Let desire trump ego. If you want to create a successful mastermind, you’ll have to put your fears aside and put the word out. Sadly, many people aren’t willing to step out and tell others that they want to create a success circle because they are afraid – consciously or unconsciously – that this means they are not successful already. In addition, they underestimate the effort it will take to sustain the groups momentum long-term. It takes a lot of time and effort – believe me – a lot! But it really is worth it. If it isn’t, you are in the wrong circle and, if there is not mutual benefit, the effort won’t be sustained. One of the wisest things you can do is realise when you are not in the right circle.

    4.2  Determine the purpose of the mastermind group and give it a name. Get REALLY clear. This clarity helps to attract the ‘right’ people. Consider someone approaching you saying, “I’m thinking of putting together some people in the hope we can chat about being more successful” versus “I’ve begun an exclusive mastermind called ‘The Conscious Success Circle’. I’m in the process of choosing members who are go-getters and really committed to making big shifts in their lives and business. I’d like to invite you to join the first meeting?” I am sure you get my point here. Now it is important to…

    4.3  Outline the MUTUAL benefits for all who will participate. We are all busy, so be clear to assist everyone who is considering participating. At times you might deviate from your original purpose and there’s often some members who have more to mastermind than others, but the process must be shared to ensure it is mutually beneficial. All members must help and be helped. If there are members who frequently do not show up and do not help, they might fall away naturally. If not, you might consider removing them, so they do not deflate the energy of the group. This also allows you to refine the group and decide whether there are others you’d like to join.

    4.4  Determine who will be part of the group. If, in a perfect world, you could have exactly the type of individuals you’d like in the group, who would they be? The quality of individual that you let into your mastermind group is critical. In some groups, to accept a new member, the group must be unanimous and feel there is a good fit. If you get a “taker” in the group, act quickly or your generous and engaged members might become despondent.

    TIP:  Remember that your mastermind group members are typically not your lawyer, accountant, banker and so on. Those people are your direct advisors, which is not the same as a mastermind participant. Your mastermind group members are normally peers who have no direct or vested interest in your outcome except for their commitment to the process and group. That way they will speak freely without worrying about the political correctness of protecting their contract with you.

    4.5  Outline your expectations of the group. If you are starting a new group, invite only individuals who are at your level and above―people with expertise around the purpose of the group. Once you have attracted a couple of members, invitations to other prospective members should be made by the group, not by you. Use each other’s network. Make sure all your mastermind members are committed to the group process.

    4.6  Outline the process and structure of your mastermind group. Various groups meet in ways that work for them, such as monthly or quarterly, virtually, in person, at semi-annual conferences or any combination that works for the group. The key is that whenever possible, all mastermind members are present at the same time so you can tap the synergy of the group. Also, consider the systems of formal reporting, accountability systems or any methodology that contributes to the purpose and success of the group and its members.

    4.7  Designate a facilitator or rotate the responsibility. Many groups have a paid facilitator because everyone is so busy. It is the facilitator’s role to run the mastermind group. In most of my groups, responsibility is rotated or someone volunteers to be responsible for a defined period (often a year).

    4.8  Have non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements in place. Depending on what you plan to share, you might need to put agreements in place. As we now often meet virtually, a simple – but critical decision – is whether or not you allow sessions to be recorded. I am typically not in favour of this as it unconsciously lets people off attending and then they seldom watch the recording anyway. This means that they miss out on helping and on being helped. And, if they do watch the recording, then they are only in the role of being helped. Of course, if the group is happy with this, that is up to all members. You need to decide on the rules and agreements that work for your group.

    I wish you every success as you form your own success group and take Key Steps together to…

‘be the difference that makes the difference.’


NOTE: The information in my blog may be freely shared and re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line: This was written by Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, and originally appeared in her free weekly  ‘Key Steps Food for Thought Blog’ available on the Key Steps website.

Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

About Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 25 years’ experience in leadership development and organisational transformation. Her PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that was published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of numerous business schools and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. In 2020, Sharon was inducted into the Educators Hall of Fame, which is a lifetime achievement award, recognising excellence and her contribution to the field.

Sharon is one of only three women in South Africa to have achieved the title of
Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – the Oscar of the speaking industry. She is also a COMENSA Master Practitioner (CMP), a qualified Modern Classroom Certified Trainer (MCCT™) and an accredited Global Virtual Speaker. Sharon is also a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner.

Most important to Sharon is that she has become known for her genuinely caring manner, practical and transformational approach, and for providing valuable tools and that allow people to take Key Steps to really… ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’