Mastermind Your Career to Maximize Your Personal and Professional Development

By Stephanie Bouchard

If you’re looking for professional development opportunities, chances are you’ve run across mastermind groups or events. These groups have been around for years in various forms, but lately they have evolved into a hot trend in the professional/personal development scene.

For those who are unfamiliar, today’s mastermind groups are based on a concept attributed to author Napoleon Hill, who wrote a number of personal success books beginning in the late 1920s. In his work, he studied extremely successful people of his day, including Andrew Carnegie, to determine a set of commonalities that made these people successful.

He introduced the concept of a “mastermind alliance”—a “friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage one to follow through with both plan and purpose”—in his 1937 book, Think and Grow Rich.

Fast-forward to today, and masterminds groups and events have become big business, with personal success experts touting the benefits mastermind events and mega-groups can offer you if you pay a certain amount of money to attend sessions or become a member of a group.

But, you don’t have to pay thousands of dollars to participate in mastermind groups. There are many groups that don’t require any fee at all, and if you can’t find one of those to join, you can experiment with starting your own.

What are Mastermind Groups?

Mastermind groups are meant to be a group of peers who help each other meet their goals in their careers, says John Byrnes, MD, an HFMA board member who has run or been a part of numerous mastermind groups throughout his career.

They’ve been likened to having a personal board of directors, or, says Byrnes, an inner circle, because each group is an exclusive community built on a foundation of trust and similar interests and goals.

Most groups are fairly small, but some can be large and meet a couple times a year for many years. "Most group members become extremely good friends, and they act as experts they can call on between meetings," Byrnes says.

Being able to draw on the expertise and experience of group members is at the core of mastermind groups. Members agree on a set time and frequency of meetings, as well as on an agenda for each meeting so everyone is prepared.

Leasha West“You’re expected to contribute,” says Leasha West, president and founder of West Financial Group, based in Michigan and Texas. “You can’t just sit there and listen.” West is in three mastermind groups: one that she started and others she joined through people she met at various conferences.

The goal of mastermind group meetings is to offer a safe place where members can discuss their challenges and career goals. These meetings are places where you’re not going to get jealousy or competition, West explains. “This is a place where people celebrate your ‘wins’ and each other’s success and are going to be supportive,” she says. “This a safe place to address issues and get confidential, quality advice.”

Members keep each other accountable during each meeting, West says. They’ll ask you what you’re doing to achieve a goal you set for yourself at an earlier meeting, or what you did to solve a problem you presented and the group gave you advice about.

Mastermind groups have "had such an impact on my life because I’ve learned so much, and I’ve been able to grow so much in several different areas." West says. "I can’t imagine what my life would be like without a mastermind. I always look forward to those calls."

Most think of mastermind groups as tools for individuals, but they also can be used on an organizational level, as Pamela Tripp, the CEO of CommWell Health, discovered.

When Tripp joined this not-for-profit, federally qualified health center in North Carolina in 2009, it was in serious financial trouble. She instituted a corporate transcendence Pam Trippcurriculum to boost excellence and employee morale and get finances under control.

CommWell Health made great strides with the curriculum, she says. “We were getting noticed. Our debt was declining. Our quality was increasing.” But she needed something that had a powerful sustainability. The solution: mastermind groups. “It was magic. It just took us to a whole new level.”

At first, Tripp ran mastermind groups with only management-level employees, but these groups have expanded to include all staff levels, she says, and other members of the staff run the groups. They focus their agendas on professional development and topics such as conflict in the workplace and in life, accountability, and understanding each others' strengths.

The rewards of doing these mastermind groups with employees at all staff levels are great, she said, because the groups are as much personal development as professional, and as employees and managers learn about each other and discover skills and talents, there is growth for all.

For instance, she’s been able to move some staff around into positions where they are really thriving, she adds, which benefits those individuals, but it also ultimately benefits the overall organization. When healthcare leaders tap into employees' strengths, we can take our organizations further than we ever thought possible,” she says.

Today, debt at CommWell is under control, staff morale is strong, and the federally qualified health center has received numerous service quality awards.

Group Think

If you’re interested joining a mastermind group, keep these things in mind:

  • Know what your goals are before you go looking for a mastermind group. You’ll get more out of a group if you’re in the one that will best fit your goals and needs.
  • Look for mastermind groups through people you know or through people you meet at networking events, conferences, or other professional events.
  • Keep your group small (12 members or less) so everyone has a voice and can participate.
  • Groups should be made up of peers but be diverse enough so you can get the most out of people’s experiences and knowledge.
  • Join more than one mastermind group. For example, you can be in a mastermind group focused on your industry, another focused on leadership, and another on personal development.
  • If you can’t find a suitable group, it's possible to start your own. There are numerous resources, including books and websites, to help you get started.



Stephanie Bouchard is a freelance writer based in Maine. Visit her website.