The most successful managers are highly connected throughout the organization. HBR refers to these people as ‘Connector Managers,’ writing, “The employees of [Connector Managers] are three times as likely as subordinates of the other types [of managers] to be high performers.” This level of connectedness—evidenced by high-quality workplace relationships—positively impacts both individual employees and the overall organization, something proven by studies.

Since workplace connectedness can foster a sense of belonging, shape how employees see their jobs, and even make work more meaningful, I’ve been thinking about how organizations can actively foster more high-quality connections—beyond naturally-developing relationships. One approach is to leverage Internal Mastermind Groups.

What Is A Mastermind Group?

Mastermind Groups are exclusive groups of like-minded individuals who meet consistently over a period of months or years. The structure of Mastermind Groups can vary, but the primary goal tends to be the same: Help fellow members tackle challenges by sharing experiences and offering input. 

Internal Mastermind Groups can be especially valuable to organizations because they provide a designated space for employees to support one another’s development—a positive result that extends beyond individual impact. As SHRM reports, socialization practices (like Mastermind Groups), “…can help new hires become embedded in the company and thus more likely to stay.” Additionally, according to HBR, work friends can make employees more productive.

6 Tips On How To Start A Mastermind Group

So, how can you form Internal Mastermind Groups within your organization to create more connectedness?

Start small

Avoid creating too many groups right out of the gate. Before you roll out Mastermind Groups to the entire organization, form a few test groups. The optimal group size is 4-8 members. Corporate trainer, Jack Canfield, says, “Most people find that 6 is the ideal number.” Fewer than 4 people, and the energy level may drop. More than 8 members, and the group can become unwieldy.

Create peer groups

Cross-functional peer groups tend to work best. A few years ago, I joined a Mastermind Group and couldn’t relate to the other members’ struggles because I was at a different phase of business. That mismatch taught me how important it is to join a group of peers. If some group members have 10 years’ experience and others have one, the value gained is incredibly lopsided.

Don’t mix formats

It’s best to create Mastermind Groups that are in-person or virtual, not a combination of both. Although both formats can be successful, creating a Mastermind Group with a mix of virtual and in-person members can lead to inconsistent experiences for participants.

Define the Mastermind

Make sure every member understands the purpose of the group: Sharing and learning from each other. Create mastermind guidelines to explicitly define group expectations and make sure everyone is on the same page. Determine things like meeting frequency and what the meeting structure will look like.

Evaluate ‘fit.’

As you form Internal Mastermind Groups within your organization, identify members who are a good fit for each group. Evaluate potential members to ensure that each person brings a unique perspective to the table.

Foster psychological safety

Successful Mastermind Groups create psychological safety, or the shared belief that the group is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. Amy Edmondson, professor at Harvard Business School, says psychological safety “…is about giving candid feedback, openly admitting mistakes, and learning from each other.” Three essential traits of successful Mastermind Groups.

Since workplace connectedness has been proven to influence everything from employee purpose to retention, organizations should actively form and foster high-quality connections, rather than passively wait for relationships to form. To benefit from Internal Mastermind Groups, start small by creating a few in-person peer groups to support personal and professional growth.