IoD East Midlands has launched the Mastermind programme, a unique series of small group sessions that give directors and senior business leaders the chance to discuss the key issues and challenges they face in an open, constructive and confidential environment.
Rob Beswick spoke to Mastermind facilitator Carole Harvey about the new programme
Carole Harvey is very clear as to what she see as the USP of the IoD Mastermind series: it’s the other participants. “It really is extraordinary, the level of expertise and knowledge you have in the room when you get a group of IoD members together,” she said. “There isn’t a problem or challenge that one of them won’t have encountered at some point in their career. It’s a remarkable pool of talent.”
Carole is lead facilitator of the IoD Mastermind group in Central Nottingham and offered a quick run-through of how the programme works. “We will have Mastermind groups across the East Midlands, in all the regional branches: Nottingham, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire. Each will be run on similar lines: we’ll have 10-12 people in each group. They’ll attend an informal dinner in a private room, and over a meal discuss business problems and challenges they are facing, with the intention of working through the problems collectively and solving them.
“Each group will be as diverse as possible. We are keen to have a good gender balance, people from different communities and crucially, different business sectors. “There is a temptation to think that this kind of event will attract a host of business consultants, but that’s definitely not the plan. We want participants from every sector: from professional services, from manufacturing, sales, from the public and not-for-profit sectors – as broad a coalition of business experience as possible. “That way, no matter which way the discussion goes, we’ll have people in the room who can draw on their own experiences to provide answers.”
The main purpose of each session, then, will be to address problems, opportunities or challenges that business people encounter. The ‘owner’ of the issue to be discussed will offer key points and background information, then throw it open to the room for ideas, thoughts and observations of how to tackle it. “As a group we’ll decide how many topics to examine each session,” said Carole. “Probably, it will be two or three, but it could be more, or fewer if we have something we can really get stuck into.” By drawing on the experiences of the group the hope is that new solutions to problems will be found, or existing strategies fine-tuned to create better outcomes.
“The key point will always be, whatever the issue, the chances are that someone in the group will have an understanding of it and a way of resolving any difficulties. It’s a brain’s trust for directors.” It’s not vital that contributors have a deep knowledge of the business sector under review, insisted Carole. “Let’s face it, if the problem involves people or money, you’ve covered about 75 per cent of all business problems. Throw in sales and you’ve taken that up to 95 per cent!” The sessions won’t just be ‘talking shops’, though. “Each one will be facilitated closely to give it a sense of direction and purpose. “We’re not there just to talk: we will diagnose a problem, identify options and then draw a conclusion as to the right way to tackle it.”
The ultimate goal will be to “open an window on an issue and dig out any blind spots in the way the challenge is being tackled at present.” Such peer-to-peer problem-solving isn’t just beneficial for the recipient, either: “Solving someone’s else’s problems can be really rewarding,” says Carole.
She also stressed that the Mastermind concept was grounded in absolute confidentiality. “This is a safe but open environment at which you can hold any discussion. We hope that, over the months, we can build strong, lasting relations between group members.”
It’s not a sales shop either. “All the facilitators will be quick to stop anyone in their tracks if they think someone’s on a sales pitch. This isn’t about your business; it’s about the business of the person who owns the issue being discussed.” It will also be very low tech. “We’re not talking ‘death by Powerpoint’ or fancy presentations: just simple, open discussions, getting to the heart of business issues that directors face.” Carole sees the Mastermind concept as being one all IoD members should consider getting involved with. “Being a business leader can be a very lonely role, particularly if you have serious challenges to face. Where can you go for advice, or find a sounding board for new ideas with the requisite experience or knowledge? “You now have the answer to that question: it’s at a Mastermind group.”
If you interesting in booking onto a Mastermind session please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or find out more below, including dates in your area.