A Proven Method for Success

In today's podcast, John explains the power of the mastermind principle. He recounts the history of the discovery of the Mastermind Principle in 1939 attributed to Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich

John first discussed masterminds in Episode 208 as a way to support and accelerate career transition.

He describes the Mastermind sessions he attended as a chief medical officer (CMO) of a community-based hospital. The highlight of those meetings was time on the “hot seat,” designed to help overcome a challenge or solve a problem that they were facing.

Our Sponsor

We're proud to have the University of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA Program, offered by the Haslam College of Business, as the sponsor of this podcast.

The UT PEMBA is the longest-running, and most highly respected physician-only MBA in the country. It has over 700 graduates. And, the program only takes one year to complete. 

By joining the UT Physician Executive MBA, you will develop the business and management skills you need to find a career that you love. To find out more, contact Dr. Kate Atchley’s office at (865) 974-6526 or go to nonclinicalphysicians.com/physicianmba.

Mastermind Principle Updated

A mastermind meeting typically lasts about an hour. During that time, the member in the hot seat presents a major challenge, and the remaining members probe to clarify the challenge and ask pointed questions to explore previous efforts to resolve it. Ultimately, possible solutions are generated and the hot seat member commits to following up with those ideas.

John, however, prefers using his “10-minute mastermind” approach for those pursuing job transition and advancement. This concept was adapted from “The 8-Minute Mastermind” by Brad Hart.

Meeting monthly, these sessions involve 5 to 10 clinicians each taking a turn on the hot seat. John currently holds these meetings on a Saturday morning or Wednesday evening. The sessions are recorded, and each participant receives a copy of the audio recording.

John also shares the “chat” record, with suggestions for experts and coaches, books, articles, podcast episodes, and other useful resources mentioned during the meeting.

Benefits of a Mastermind

The participants in this session have had outstanding success in selecting, pursuing, and landing nonclinical jobs.

Benefits of joining a Mastermind include:

  • a source of encouragement and support,
  • accountability,
  • networking opportunities, and
  • brainstorming.

They've been shown to help entrepreneurs and business leaders advance their careers and improve the performance of their organizations.

And for someone looking to change careers, it's great to learn about what others have tried, get support and encouragement, develop different approaches to your job search, and maintain accountability. As a result, you will progress steadily to your next position or career.

Your Own Mastermind Group

Start your own mastermind or join one that already exists. John has created a short worksheet called “Starting a 10-minute Mastermind” that you can download for free. It covers the initial steps to building a group and the outline that John uses to run his 10-minute masterminds.

To join one of John's masterminds, you can sign up at nonclinicalphysicians.com/mastermind.


For anybody wanting to accelerate their career transition, or to build success in whatever they're doing, leveraging the mastermind principle is the way to go. Done properly, there is no better way to develop a network, build confidence, overcome challenges, and maintain accountability.

In fact, being a member of more than one mastermind is not a bad idea. And if you can't find one to join, such as the Nonclinical Mastermind, you should get a few colleagues together and start your own. To learn how to do that, download our one-page worksheet and get started.

NOTE: Look below for a transcript of today's episode. [Also: the book links above are Amazon Affiliate links, so we receive a small commission when you buy using these links.]

EXCLUSIVE: Get a daily dose of inspiration, information, news, training opportunities, and amusing stories by CLICKING HERE.

Links for Today's Episode:

Download This Episode:

Right Click Here and “Save As” to download this podcast episode to your computer.

If you enjoyed today’s episode, share it on Twitter and Facebook, and leave a review on iTunes.

Podcast Editing & Production Services are provided by Oscar Hamilton

Transcription PNC Podcast Episode 267

Why You Should Embrace the Powerful Mastermind Principle

John: Today, I want to discuss a topic that many of you might not be familiar with. In the world of career transition and in business this is a concept called the mastermind or the mastermind group. I define the term mastermind group in episode number 208 called "How do I choose the best coaches, mentors, and masterminds for me?" I included a little description of masterminds then but today I'd like to dig deeper into the concept of the mastermind group and try to convince you to figure out a way to participate in one of them.

First, let me tell you a little story from my history. I served as the CMO for a small community hospital for over a decade. The senior management team includes all the C-suite people, the CEOs, the CFOs, CMOs, CIO. There were also some VPs in there. There were about 10 or 11 of us most of the time. And I was the CMO. We met weekly either to discuss operations or strategic planning, follow up on our management goals, and so forth.

There was a coach that the CEO had hired and who he was employing for quite a while. And he made his coach available to the VPs and the CIO and all of us on that senior management team to work with him and meet with him on a regular basis if we wanted to. And as part of that, that coach would come to one of our meetings every month or two and he would lead us through a process designed to help one of us, one of the VPs, overcome a challenge in their division.

We would meet for an hour or so and one of us would describe a challenge we were facing. Then the other members of the group would ask questions to help clarify the problem. And we called this being on the hot seat or being in the hot seat, however you want to phrase it. Even though I used the term hot seat. That was not a negative because when we had a challenge, which we all did, we were working in healthcare, which is constantly experiencing new challenges, less payment, more regulations, difficulty hiring, finding good people, you name it. We actually look forward to being on the hot seat so we could leverage the expertise and experience of the rest of the group to help solve a problem. The thing was, once you were in the seat, you would then be questioned and queried by the other members as the first step. And it was a critical step because identifying the real problem often actually reveals the solution in many cases.

So let me give you an example. I thought that an uptick in the number of sentinel events, those are serious patient safety issues that come up in any hospital. I thought it was due to staffing issues, and I couldn't see how we could increase staff sufficiently to reduce the errors. And these errors are important because they affect patients, but they're actually tracked by public health, the state health department and Medicare and joint commission.

And so, in this case, we really needed to come up with a way to reduce these sentinel events. And then by answering a few probing questions by the rest of the team, it became really clear to me that the issue was the one of the culture of the organization which needed to be addressed, that it really wasn't the fact that we didn't have enough staff, but that our staff looked at safety not as a priority at that time. Now, granted, they wanted to give the best care they could give and everyone tried their best. But the reality was that the issue of safety was way down below the top two or three or four things that our staff thought about when they were taking care of patients.

And so, as we were discussing this, it became more and more clear to me that it was a cultural issue. It needed to be addressed that way. And eventually then we took some time to discuss, "Well, how could we improve the culture of safety in our organization?" And then we also brainstorm side ideas and how to actually do that.

What typically we would do after clearing the true nature of the problem, the rest of the team would ask other probing questions such as "What have you tried so far to resolve this issue and what are the things you have considered and discarded and why?" And then like I said, we did a bro brainstorming session and the coach that was there would really encourage us to brainstorm any ideas. Normally when you're brainstorming, sometimes you will hold back because you'll think ideas might sound stupid or they've never been tried before. And so, you just don't even contribute those.

But the coach is there to promote and to say, "Look, nothing is off the table. Think outside the box. Whatever you come up with, share it, and then we'll talk about it." Over time, the suggestions could become more and more outrageous or extreme, but eventually we would have 10 or 12 potential tactics to consider to address an important problem. And I was always amazed by how many ideas would come up. Something that I wouldn't have thought would happen, that would just come up.

And the thing about the coach that he did in which I try to do now in most of my meetings is not let the stronger personalities take over the conversation. It's very common to be in a committee meeting of six to eight or 10, 12 people, and find that only one or two people dominate the conversation, even when the chair is trying to elicit responses. But this coach was great and I've learned to do the same thing of saying, "Okay, we've heard what you said, Dan. Now, Susan, can you please tell us what you're thinking? You haven't spoken up yet." And so, that's a good strategy in any committee or any team, but that's what happens in a hot seat. You're encouraged. You're trying to encourage everybody to ask questions and then do some brainstorming.

I'll give you another example. Our COO and our VP for strategic planning, both had been with the organization for a long time. And they were always the first ones to jump in with a solution any time the CEO brought something to our regular meetings. And my style was to spend more time considering possible solutions before speaking up. And sometimes that meant I wouldn't even respond during this meeting. I would come back a week or two later to another meeting and say, "Hey, I was thinking about some things we were talking about last time." And I wanted to do it back in that meeting context, because that way I would share it with everybody instead of just going to the COO or going to the CEO. And then we could have a short conversation and maybe others had thought of ideas. So, I think it was just something that happens often in any senior management team.

Anyway, at the end of this conversation, our coach would ask the person on the hot seat, "Which of the ideas seemed to be worth exploring further and get us to commit to what we would do of those ideas, which would we follow up on?" And then there would be a timeframe. So this is the way you maintain accountability.

I would say, "Look, this has been fantastic. You've given me some great ideas." Let's say, for example, we're talking about the culture of safety. "I'm going to look into what the best practices are for creating a culture of safety in a hospital and I'll report back. I have done some research in the past, and I know that doing a survey is a part of that. So I will bring back some examples of cultural surveys for employees, specifically those for a culture of safety." And then at some point, two, three, four weeks down the road, we would follow up and it'd be on the list of things that the CEO wanted to talk about would be my follow up or we would do it if we were doing a series of let's say mastermind groups every two or three months.

What I've described here is a mastermind session. When you use the term hot seat and particularly when you're talking about a group getting together and solving a problem, it's often one of these mastermind sessions. And a lot of business people have been using these for years and years, but you don't hear about them being used a lot for career transition. They can really be used for any kind of group getting together to support and encourage one another to make progress in whatever it is they're talking about.

Any collection of people going through this kind of process is called a mastermind group, or more simply just a mastermind as a shorthand. It's a process that's been around for a long time. Some people believe it was started by Napoleon Hill who may have coined the term in the 1930s. He was a self-help author and was known for his book "Think and Grow Rich", which was published in 1937. And I think it was in this book that I found this topic, this quote from the book. And let me just read it to you now.

"Here are some interesting facts about the mastermind, which will give you an idea of how important it is and how necessary that you embrace this principle and make use of it in attaining success in your chosen occupation. First of all, it is the principle through which you may borrow and use the education experience and influence, and perhaps capital of other people in carrying out your own plans in life. It is the principle through which you can accomplish in one year more than you could accomplish without it in a lifetime if you depended entirely on your own efforts for success."

That's the end of that quote, but you can kind of get the idea. You have to form a group and you learn and work with that group and you accomplish a lot more by working in a formal mastermind type situation. He originally called it a Mastermind Alliance. Later was shortened to mastermind group, or more simply a mastermind.

So why am I belaboring this topic? Well, because I believe that the mastermind is an awesome tool that you can add to your arsenal to enhance your growth and to succeed. Even if you're doing clinical medicine and you're in a group and you want to progress in the group, believe me, if you get together with a group of similar such physicians and talk about how you can progress in your practice clinically and administratively, you'll move much quicker than those that don't do such a mastermind session.

Here's some characteristics of a mastermind. Mastermind groups help like-minded professionals get peer support, brainstorm ideas, and create accountability. Those are three of the big parts of it. They're typically goal oriented and success driven. And some people have even used the term personal board of directors to refer to a mastermind group.

The thing is the members of the group are committed to the success of one another to the success of the other members of the group. There is a belief that you're basically the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. In other words, your success in life, your happiness, your advancement in a job are related to the people that are around you because you learn from them and they begin to expect certain things of you and you of them. That's just in general. Well, that's why we call a mastermind a personal board of directors, because it's just like that, but in a more organized and committed fashion. It's overt.

Another important component of a mastermind are resources and connections. Actually the people in a mastermind have been known to support one another financially. Now not to form a co-op or something but to make referrals, to use their products, that sort of thing. And the other thing is when you're in a mastermind, you can learn what other tools people have used to get their advancement to progress. Or a lot of times in the online world of courses and coaching and so forth we learn from our cohort, our colleagues in the field and particularly those in the mastermind group, "Okay, what electronic tools do you use and what professional societies do you belong to and where did you learn how to podcast? Where did you learn how to use email and what products are you using?"

Resources and connections are really important. Some masterminds lead to business partnerships. And even it can go so far as to learn skills which can be shared and learned in some masterminds where someone actually takes an hour and lectures the rest of the group. Although that's not the core part of a mastermind, the core part is this process of questioning and digging and encouraging.

Now, let me give you a list of just some of the famous people going way back who actually attributed their success to being members of a mastermind. That includes Andrew Carnegie. They're writers including C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Owen Barfield who were in masterminds. President Theodore Roosevelt attributed some of his success to being in a mastermind. And one of the more famous masterminds ever was one that included Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, President Warren G. Harding, and Harvey Firestone. They were all members of the same mastermind. And you can imagine that they were all buoyed up by each other's success and learn from each other as they were sort of progressing in the early industrial revolution in this country. Now the original masterminds obviously met in person but now it's easy to have meetings remotely with online conferencing.

And not every mastermind follows the exact same, outline or same way to approach things. People have taken masterminds and done them in different ways. There's such a thing as a face to face one or two hour mastermind section, like I talked about with our CEO. And the person on the hot seat might spend a whole hour on the hot seat during that time. And then there might be a second person on the hot seat.

More recently there's been something that was touted as the eight minute mastermind, which I have adopted as a 10 minute mastermind, but there's a book written by Brad Hart. I have a copy of the book over here called "The 8-Minute Mastermind" in which he describes his success with doing this kind of mastermind. And I found it so compelling that I just started my own 10 minute masterminds committed to career advancement and career transition.

There is another type where you might spend an entire weekend or even three or four days together, and get together with people where each person during that weekend gets to spend several hours on the mastermind hot seat. So, if you had let's say 10 people, and you might have this interspersed with some lectures, but then in between, you're getting together and attending number one gets to spend an hour on the mastermind and attending number two gets to spend an hour in the hot seat, I should say. And so they can be constructed in different ways.

Anyway, I mentioned that I created a 10 minute mastermind. And so, let me explain to you how I run my mastermind groups. I recruited a group of physicians to meet once a month using Zoom. Pretty straightforward. We limit the time in the hot seat to 10 minutes. Now that's a little tight, but the advantage of doing 10 minutes is that every time we meet, we can all get 10 minutes on the hot seat. Usually I don't get on the hot seat personally, sometimes I do if we have time, but I devoted to the other members.

And so, let's say that we have seven members. We've got a little bit of time at the front and at the back end, starting up and closing. And so, with seven members, we can spend 70 plus or minus minutes each one getting on the hot seat for 10 minutes. And during that time, they go through this process, it's very focused. And this is how I've been running mine and I really like it and the members have really liked it. And in this way, also, you get everybody on the hot seat at every meeting. Everybody feels they're making progress.

Now I will say this. If you attend a mastermind meeting and you run out of time, you just decide not to share. That's fine because you know what? You learn so much by listening to the challenges and the problems of others in the group. And that was even true when I was back as a CMO, where I was not on the hot seat, but I was participating, I was learning a lot.

It's the same thing. I can't tell you how many times I've had physicians who've participated in one of these meetings and they had to drop off, or we just had too many people to fit in in a 90 minute meeting and they said they learned so much. Because as you're brainstorming for other people, there's a lot that overlaps with what you might need.

So let me walk you through the process that I follow and maybe something that you can do on your own forming your own group. I facilitate the meetings and once we're all together, I actually record them. We run them on Zoom and the first one in the hot seat spends 30 to 40 seconds introducing themselves. Obviously they can't go into a very long step by step what they did during their whole career and their education and training, but they just introduced themselves. And the thing is, since these meetings are recurring, over time, we really get to know each other, even though we're only spending 30 to 60 seconds introducing ourselves.

Then I ask everybody to describe something that they're grateful for or that they're celebrating.

We like everything here to be on a positive note. We're all here to encourage one another, to help each other advance and to find success in their lives, in their profession, maybe even their personal lives.

And so, we all start by talking about something. Maybe like "My daughter got married last weekend, it was fantastic." Or "I just got a new puppy." Or "I just got this new job. I was promoted in this job I'm doing in my practice and it gives me a chance to do some new things." Any of these things are positive. You've got the intro, you've got the thing you're grateful for or celebrating. And then you have to describe the challenge that you're bringing to this meeting.

Again, we're not going to focus on something like, "Well, I'm not sure if I should leave my practice or not." I mean, we can, but that's not a very focused challenge. Now, we might move forward, but we might ask for someone to be a little more specific. So we try to find an individual challenge for that meeting, for that month. And we'll have multiple challenges.

So it's not necessarily going to be what you'd expect, but it should be focused, but not too focused. And then we learn over time as we meet over and over again how to do this, but here's one. "I'm really unhappy in my job, but I don't know whether I should look for another job or leave medicine altogether." That's a pretty big challenge. We could take that on. But if possible it should be a little more focused like "I've decided I want to pursue a job in pharma, but I'm not sure where to start." That's a little more focused. Or here's another one, "I'm a hospitalist and I work a few hours per week as a part-time medical director, but I'd like to figure out how to become a full-time medical director or chief medical officer." Okay. Still pretty broad, but a little more focused. How about this one? "I need to work from home and I've narrowed my options down to medical writing or medical communications with an agency and I'm not sure how to decide which direction to go." Now we're getting down to a choice between two.

But it could be even something as specific as "I've been working in medical communications as an associate medical director, but I need to learn how to advance in my job. So, I'd like to get some support and some help from the group on how do I prepare myself and position myself to advance in a job that's already nonclinical."

At that point, there'll be a lot of clarifying questions. That's the next step. The other members ask the person in the hot seat clarifying questions. It's interesting because sometimes in clarifying the question, the question is actually something else, something behind the first iteration of what you say about a question. And by simply clarifying it, you sometimes achieve the solution, you find the solution to it.

We spent a lot of time, probably it might be 2, 3, 4 minutes of other members asking questions to try and clarify the question, and then they'll ask more probing questions such as "Well, what have you tried? What's worked or what has partially worked? What hasn't worked?" And then as we think about similar situations for us, we'll ask them more leading questions. "Well, I tried this in a similar situation. Have you ever tried that?" And then you might move on to, "Well, if you haven't tried it, what do you think of trying it? How would it look if you were to try it?"

Sometimes we'll ask the kind of questions a coach would typically ask. Sometimes we'll say something a little cheeky like, "Well, I know this seems like a difficult problem, but if it were easy, what would it look like?" And so on and so forth. There's thousands of questions you could potentially ask. But usually people start to have "aha" moments and they start to get insights and others starts making suggestions like "I have a friend who did UM and they told me that the way they got over this hump was by doing this" or "The way that I found the experience I needed to advance in my group was I started volunteering for things" or "I know I was having a hard time getting a job in pharma till finally I figured out I needed to have the name of someone that I could get in touch with and let them know I was submitting an application and a resume. And I got a lot better response than just sending it online to just this black box of where resumes go to die." So, there's all kinds of specific feedback you can get.

And usually at the end, I will ask somebody before we close on their 10 minutes, "Okay, now, number one, what have you gotten and what are the two or three things you are going to follow up on for the next time that we meet?" Now, we don't always ask at the next meeting for them to dictate or to list everything that they said they were going to do and did they do it and what did they find out. We're all professionals. We expect people are going to listen and then follow up on things that are pointed out but sometimes we will, and sometimes people will just naturally do that at the next meeting where they'll say, "Oh yeah, I was going to check out this recruiting firm. I was going to check out this article or buy this book" or something like that.

The last thing we close with at the end is I usually ask them if they feel like they've been supported because in a group at a minimum the members of the group support and encourage one another. And usually there are very actionable things that come up, whether generated by the person in the hot seat themselves or solicited from the people on the call. And then this whole process goes with the next person, the next person, the next person. Over time, you become very good at doing it.

I've seen many times where we've had just one little nugget or one little referral to a company or two, a website or a podcast episode or anything, will have solved the person's problem and overcome their challenge and they'll come back and they'll be just so happy. These breakthroughs don't happen for everybody at every meeting, but the whole group keeps progressing and progressing at each meeting. It's very rewarding and very positive.

So, that's my experience with masterminds. And again, I would think we should all be in some kind of a mastermind. It's a useful and powerful tool for advancing your business. If you're in a small business, advancing your career. It's used all the time for people that work in business outside of healthcare and I think we need to bring it into the healthcare situations more than we have in the past.

The other thing is for business owners is a great way to connect and build relationships, learn new skills and keep up with new developments in the field because it's an automatic way to network and communicate. And for someone wishing to switch careers, it's awesome for hearing about what others have tried, to get encouragement and support, to brainstorm new ways to approach your job search and maintain accountability. So you move forward consistently to that next job or that next career.

My advice at this point after going through all of that is to implore you to either join an existing mastermind or to start your own. I've prepared a short worksheet called "Starting a 10 minute Mastermind", and it describes how to start your own mastermind. And it includes the outline that I follow for the 10 minute nonclinical masterminds that I run. There'll be a little bit of an overview, what are the steps to finding people and getting together. And then also the little outline that I use to actually run my 10 minute mastermind. You don't have to do yours that way. You can follow one of the other formats, but I thought I had to put at least one way to do it. And so, if you can just reach out to six or seven people that you know and start doing this in person somewhere near your home, or even online using Zoom. Most of us have access to Zoom. And in most groups, I send the Zoom meeting announcements to my groups personally, but somebody else in a group could do it if they needed to in my absence.

Anyway, to get that worksheet free, obviously you can find that by going to nonclinicalphysicians.com/mymastermindstartup. Now I'll give you another option. If you can't find a mastermind among your colleagues, or if you can't put one together for whatever reason, or you don't want to start your own, then you should consider joining one of mine. They're structured as a monthly group that meet on Wednesday evening or Saturday morning once a month. And for my masterminds it is a very low fee to join. It will be going up in October, but if you join now, it's locked in for as long as you stay in the mastermind. But it is an annual type of thing. So, it's 12 meetings over a year. We record the meetings and everyone gets a copy of the recording.

I keep track of some of the resources. We communicate in the chat also which I download and share with everybody as well. We do everything we can to make sure everybody has access to all the resources that come up during the meeting. And they also can go back and re-listen to it if they like.

I'll put a link to that. To access my mastermind, you'll go to nonclinicalphysicians.com/mastermind and it should take you right to the page where you can sign up. Sometimes I turn that off and I just collect names rather than have the sign up, but for now, I'm actually signing people up. Again, nonclinicalphysicians.com/mastermind.

And you can find that link and the link to the startup worksheet that I talked about a minute ago in the show notes of today's episode at nonclinicalphysicians.com/powerful-mastermind. Just go to the show notes, everything is in there including a copy of transcript of today's episode. That's always nice to go through if you kind of have questions about what I talked about today instead of listening through the whole thing. This will also be posted on YouTube most likely.

All right. So, that's all I have for today.


Many of the links that I refer you to are affiliate links. That means that I receive a payment from the seller if you purchase the affiliate item using my link. Doing so has no effect on the price you are charged. And I only promote products and services that I believe are of high quality and will be useful to you.

The opinions expressed here are mine and my guest’s. While the information provided on the podcast is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge, there is no express or implied guarantee that using the methods discussed here will lead to success in your career, life, or business.

The information presented on this blog and related podcast is for entertainment and/or informational purposes only. I do not provide medical, legal, tax, or emotional advice. If you take action on the information provided on the blog or podcast, it is at your own risk. Always consult an attorney, accountant, career counselor, or other professional before making any major decisions about your career.