026 – Mastering the Mastermind: facilitating small groups for big results

026 – Mastering the Mastermind: facilitating small groups for big results

While the term “mastermind group” was coined in the 20’s, it has been used by business leaders, writers, artists and philosophers going back much further to develop new ideas, themselves and accomplish amazing things. In this episode, we get some coaching from a Mastermind Master, J.R. Russell on how to facilitate a mastermind group – and we do one live on the air with PM Happy Hour members!

Big thanks to J.R., as well as our PM Happy Hour Members for joining us, Kalya, Drew and Matt!

Also, for the first time, we have video of a Podcast session, which you can watch here!



Our guest, J.R. Russell, is PMP and PM Happy Hour Member with 40 years of diverse experience as a project, program, and portfolio manager. J.R. Russell is the CEO of Imaginarium Masterminds Inc., a women-owned/veteran-owned small business that will be launching the PM Mastermind Academy in the last quarter of 2018. The PM Mastermind Academy is an exponential learning community for new Project Managers in their first five years. The Academy will provide a foundational curriculum of project, relationship, and wellness management topics to help new PMs fast-track their careers and enhance their lifetime earnings potential. The app-based ecourse and video training curriculum is enhanced with assessments, coaching, and mentoring that have occasionally been used to reinforce training. But what’s unique about the PM Mastermind Academy is its use of mastermind groups that have been used successfully in the past mostly by C-Suite executives.


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Check out this episode!

Show Notes

J.R.’s Current Role [2:44]

J.R. is the CEO of Imaginarium Mastermind Inc., where they are developing an app based program called PM Mastermind Academy. He got to this role after acquiring 40 years of project management experience. What he’s trying to do is give back as much as he can to the profession, and is specifically targeting people who are early on their careers or those who would like to be PMs. J.R. admitted being an accidental project manager and that’s how he got to where he is.

The journey that brought J.R. to his current role [3:43]

His journey started in the military, where he served for 21 years. When he became a supervisor, he was tasked with thinking of ways on how he can best lead his team. He wanted to have a collaborative approach where he could to his people sitting down. It was later when he realized that this collaborating and brainstorming method gives good solutions and that it was called mastermind.

The most valuable lesson that J.R. learned the hard way [4:37]

It took J.R. a long time to learn how to establish and implement repeatable processes. When he did master it, he was able to build and apply the same process in different countries where he worked on different projects. Because of this he became far more productive than anybody else.

How J.R. discovered Mastermind Groups [5:50]

J.R. discovered mastermind groups through collaboration and brainstorming sessions in the U.S. Army with subordinate leaders. He gained a good reputation of leading the highest-performing and most-productive teams at assignments. He used similar strategies as a civilian project manager with project teams and stakeholders with like results. It was only later that he learned these were called Mastermind Groups.

What is a Mastermind Group [7:03]

Napoleon Hill initially coined the term “Master Mind” in the first half of the 20th Century in three books, including The Law of Success and Think and Grow Rich. He defined the “Master Mind” as, “The harmonious cooperation of two or more people who ally themselves to accomplish a given task.” He also likened “the Master Mind” to the combined power of a group of batteries versus only having a single battery. Here’s a list of some popular people who were part of specific Mastermind Groups:

● Benjamin Franklin and the “The Junto.”
● Theodore Roosevelt and the “The Tennis Cabinet.”
● Warren Harding, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone and “The Vagabonds.”
● J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and the “The Inklings.” Products of this collaboration included The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings.

An In-house Mastermind Group is one of the most common Mastermind structure that has been
used for decades. Here are the benefits that you can get from being part of it:

▪ A feeling of community with like-minded and like-positioned members that often grow into long-term close and trust based relationships.
▪ Peer advisement to overcome a feeling of “being alone.”
▪ Collaboration and brainstorming to get intuitive insights on bright ideas and solutions to problems.
▪ Enhanced learning from members from other members’ from various levels of knowledge and past experiences.
▪ The ability to “Think Bigger” to regularly achieve “Stretch Goals.”
▪ Group accountability for goal setting and progress reports

Until very recently, Executive Mastermind Groups were limited to in-person meetings when all members could gather in the same place at the same time with a facilitator. This made the cost of a Mastermind Group out of range for most Project Managers. The synergy of recent technological advancements in video conferencing, online learning, and community forums now can bring Mastermind Groups to Project Managers. PM Mastermind Academy trains Project Managers to utilize Mastermind Groups with their Project Teams attain the same levels of collaboration previously only available to top executives.


Mastermind Layout [12:44]

The duration of a Mastermind Group session at the PM Mastermind Academy is two hours, and is dictated by a set of guidelines. Members agree to these guidelines in advance and they usually include:

o A pledge to attend each session and are fully present. (No distractions like emails.)
o Privacy and Confidentiality NDA (What happens in the group stays in the group!)
o A pledge to treat each member with respect and to approach each comment from a place of positivity and integrity, especially when sharing criticism.

Members also submit a Meeting Preparation Form the day before the meeting that identifies the issue the member would like help from the group on, as well as Wins achieved, or problems encountered while working on tasks committed to in the previous meeting. This is an example of what the layout is like:

● Greetings – Session begins with greetings as the Facilitator greets members when they join the video session over the first few minutes. Once everyone is online, the facilitator calls the session to order, and give announcements of interest to the group.
● Accountability – The facilitator announces Wins from the Meeting Preparation Forms, and members add feedback.
● Training – Every month, Academy members do an online course of a topic in either project, relationship, or wellness management, as well as two 10-minute videos on a PM process, such as Developing a Project Charter or Identifying Stakeholders. Time is spent discussing these topics and answering questions that might not have gotten answered in
the community digital coaching forum.
● Imaginarium – The most important component of a Mastermind Group meeting is collaboration and brainstorming session that is called “The Imaginarium.” (aka Hot Seat.) A member tells the group what outcome they desire (options; answers; solutions; etc.), and then briefly explains the issue to the group. One after the other, the other members offer possible solutions or outcomes. When all the input has been given, the facilitator asks the member if they are attracted to any of the offered solutions. The member and facilitator then work out a plan to execute the initial deliverables required.
This process is then repeated with other members.
● Wrap-Up – Facilitator and members discuss lessons learned and reiterates the need for actions the tasks members’ committed to.
● Preview – Facilitator previews the next month’s upcoming training topics and other events in the next month.
● Close – Members and facilitator sign-off

Being part of a Mastermind Group helps you get associated with other people who will give you new ideas and inputs on something that is concerning you at the moment.

Home Forums 026 – Mastering the Mastermind: facilitating small groups for big results

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    Kim Essendrup

    I'm sorry, you are not authorized to view this page. Why not sign up for a membership so you can get access to this and even more content!

    Kayla GlennKayla Glenn

    It’s a bit late, but I just wanted to say how much fun it was to be on this call! I hope I didn’t sound too slow at 7am my time 🙂 The mastermind tactic seems incredibly valuable and I hope JR gets his service up and running soon.

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