A mastermind group is a group of peers who meet to give each other advice and support.

I first experienced a mastermind group as a participant in my business coaching community in 2019.  I found it a powerful way of eliciting input and gaining actionable insight on a challenge I was wrangling.  Hearing about and working through the challenges of peers in a similar context with familiar challenges (or ones I may face in the future) also provided me with useful takeaways.  The final benefit was learning from my own experience as I provided input to them.  It’s easy to under-estimate the value of our own experience and we know more than we give ourselves credit for.

The mastermind format I was introduced to is domain-agnostic.  It is a generic format that can be applied to any area of practice.  I started using it in 2020 in a Business Partnering program I ran for a client.  Several weeks after a cohort completed the program workshops they were invited to join a mastermind session with others in their cohort.  In this context the sessions served not only to support people to work through a challenge, but also to build stronger relationships between people in the same job role across a geographically distributed organisation.  The format was powerful for this group.  I’ve encouraged them to run future sessions themselves as they can be self-facilitated.

The format is outlined in the diagram below.   It consists of three stages:

Stage One – The set up is conducted with the whole group.  Everyone is given several minutes to identify their number 1 challenge or opportunity. (I’ve added the ‘or opportunity’ to provide people with a positive option.)  It should be something that they genuinely do not know the solution to – something complicated or complex.  They are then asked to frame this as a specific question and identify two possible solutions.

Stage Two – The second step is done in small groups, typically four to six people.  This may require going into breakout groups.  The larger the group the longer the time required for step 2. Each person is given 10 minutes in the ‘warm’ seat (so much more comfortable than a ‘hot’ seat).  The allocated of time within that 10 minutes is shown in the diagram below.  The more succinctly the person in the warm seat can present their question and solutions, the more input they will get from the group.  If the group requires further detail in order to provide insight and advice they can ask questions.  Listening actively and being open to input will increase the value they get from the group.  In the last minute the person in the warm seat states one key insight they gained from the discussion and three actions they will take.  For each warm seat ’round’ one person acts as host with the goal of keeping the group input flowing with rich insights and including everyone in the discussion.  Another is timekeeper and simply announces the 1 minute, 8 minute and 10 minute points for each round.  The host and timekeeper also participate in the conversation.

Stage Three – The whole group then reconvenes for a few minutes to share insights and allocate some form of ‘value’ to the insights gained.  Value should be stated as concretely as possible in units that are meaningful to the domain or area of practice that the group have in common.  In my coaching community value is typically stated in terms of increased business outcomes, reduces costs or wastage, time savings and the like.


In the coming three weeks I’m hosting several mastermind sessions for Learning and Development leaders.  I have invited people who I know through my network or work and I believe will both contribute and receive value from this process. The mastermind conversations are confidential so I won’t be sharing what we discuss.  I will post about any insights about the process.

Where could you use this process?  Who could you form a Mastermind group with?  What groups do you support that would get value from this process.  It’s straightforward to set up and run.  In my experience the most critical aspects to a successful Mastermind are:

– ensuring there is an area of common interest between participants

– balancing this with some diversity e.g. in background, experience, or some aspect of their work context

– clearly explaining the process and insisting that the timing is adhered to

– having all participants agree that the conversation remains confidential

Let me know if you run a Mastermind.  It would be great to hear how it goes.


  • How PKM is integrated in my work – Michelle Ockers

    […] is a process I use with clients and others in my network where I run a round of mastermind groups every quarter. These sessions allow me to listen to a real world challenge from every person in the […]


  • Fiona mogridge

    Great process for peer coaching thanks for sharing Michelle!


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