‘It’s lonely at the top’. Is it just a saying, or is it true? As a CEO of a company or of your own business you have developed your skills, grown the business, increased the customer base and your team, worked through the challenges, and seized the opportunities. You have supported your team but who has been there for you?

As leaders we ensure that our teams have the resources and support, so that they can achieve their goals in both personal and professional development, however, it is equally important to spend time on our own development.

When I first established my business in 1994, the words ‘mentor’ or ‘mastermind group’ weren’t part of my vocabulary — I just battled my way through the maze of business. Then in my seventh year, I was asked to be a mentor for women in business with various government and private groups, sharing my expertise as an entrepreneur. I loved being a mentor, but I also realised how great it would be if someone offered the same structure for CEO’s to discuss ideas, challenges, and be held accountable. It was great to be helping others, but who was there for me?

For many of us, our partners or pets are the only ones who get to hear what is going on in our heads and although they may support us with kind words or a lick, we need more.

There is always the opportunity to catch up with a work colleague for a chat and for some of you that is all you maybe looking for. However, for others it needs to be structured, and here there are a couple of options: hiring a coach, or joining or even starting your own mastermind group.

Here are five mastermind group essentials:

  1. Trust between all members
  2. Clear expectations of all members
  3. Lock in dates — be respectful of each other’s time
  4. Give your opinion when it is asked for not when you think someone needs it
  5. Being supportive of each other

How many in a mastermind group?

When it comes to a mastermind group you need to consider not just who is in the group, but also how many and how often you meet. Four or five is a good number and meeting monthly or quarterly (depending on the need) with an agreed agenda is critical for a group to be successful. Would they be in the same industry or a cross section of industries? Personally, I have clients who have started mastermind groups with others in their industry who share business financials, plans, and career aspirations. People outside of these groups may see it as strange that competitors can work so closely together, however, what they don’t see is that through this collaboration there are great advantages to being able to ask the advice of others who have already gone through a similar process — you can save time and money by not having to reinvent the wheel yourself.

Business/career coach

Engaging a business/career coach provides individuals an opportunity to set goals and work towards them with someone who will challenge, as well as guide them, without judgment. As a career coach I love working one on one as it is extremely rewarding, however, I like to arrange educational retreats throughout the year that allow individuals to meet others, share ideas, and learn as a small group. It is always amazing the business connections that can be made when people start talking and discovering that no matter what the industry, we all have similar challenges.