The Elements

By Andrea Schlapia   |   October 6, 2016

The Glue that Holds Us Together: Creating an Advisory Mastermind Study Group

Categories: Learning and development, Operational Effectiveness, Practice Management

As a practice management consulting firm, my team and I support financial advisory professionals across the country. We get to see the good, bad, ugly and inner workings of all size teams. One question that consistently surfaces in our network is, ‘how effective is a study group and should I join or create one?’

If this brings back memories of your school days, it’s comparable since a study group can be your best resource in moving you forward as an advisory professional just as the school group helped you prep for and successfully pass that exam.

5 Top Benefits of Forming an Advisory Study Group

The genius of an industry specific study group of professionals versus the academic group in your formative years is the ongoing benefits received in these key areas:

  1. Immersing yourself into all things practice management
  2. Sharing your unique talents for a 360-degree perspective
  3. Gaining a sounding board for problem-solving
  4. Enjoying a safe and confidential environment to share ideas with like-minded individuals
  5. Ensuring you don’t go it alone through the day to day without an accountability partner

As we enter Q4, there is no better time of the year to create, join or re-engage with a group to act as your strategic catalysts for year-end planning and forecasting for the new year.

At the very least, share these best practices with your group to refresh and recharge your collaboration and gain renewed momentum.

advisory study group

In the words of Stephen Covey, let’s focus on ‘sharpening the saw’ by examining the fundamentals most vital to creating a successful and committed mastermind study group.

What is a Mastermind Group?

Napoleon Hill shares with us in the classic financial book, Think and Grow Rich, “The Master Mind may be defined as, coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.”

To further define this concept, he paints the picture of multiple brains coming together to create increased energy, transferred to each individual, the incredible influence of one mind upon another and the power produced through the alliance of minds.

How to Gain and Maintain Momentum

I’m in an independent advisory office on a regular basis to observe and analyze the current condition of the business, collect data and make recommendations for improvement. Most recently I was working with a team and found that several projects were “in progress” yet not moving forward because the team had not come together as a group to discuss. A timeout to review the outstanding items allowed the team to come to a consensus, move forward and celebrate a win.

What seems obvious to me in a solution is not so clear to the business owner, advisor or team member. The daily grind can cause you to be blind to the obvious solutions in front of you and slow your progress. By stepping out of your daily routine to connect the minds of your internal team or your external mastermind group is a period to stretch your mind and business in ways you could not do alone.

The commitment and cost of the time are the usual suspects for not joining a group or to even come together with your own team to slow down and focus internally. I challenge you to consider what is more costly in your effort for personal and business evolution – mastermind time or individual effort going down a rabbit hole and unrealized potential?

Just as Michael Gerber promotes in The E-Myth, working “on” your business, not just “in” your business is critical to designing exactly what you want. With your trusted masterminds you can step outside your comfort zone, have fun, build excitement and create accountability to reach new heights.

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?”
― John Wooden

What are the Elements of a Mastermind Group?

In the interest of time, keeping things simple and the well-known attention span of advisor professionals (wink, wink), here are several resources and guidelines to consider for your own mastermind group:

Ideal Study Group Elements:

  • Work with colleagues that motivate and inspire rather than those that are superficial.
  • Individuals must be committed to the group, respect the membership requirements, and add value.
  • Choose a small group (four to six people) to avoid difficulty with coordination, communication and maintaining discipline
  • Rotate location of quarterly meetings to accommodate members – 100% attendance required.
  • Prepare the necessary documents and a detailed agenda before the meeting for group collaboration to be valuable to each participant, supports members to move forward, and holds members accountable for implementation.
  • Call a spade a spade. If your group is spiraling down and no longer effective, disengage, take a break or dismantle it.

Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA):

  • Do not disclose to anyone outside the group any information pertaining to the individual group members or their practices.
  • Signing an NDA ensures a right to confidentiality and privacy of the group members.
  • Confidentiality within the group setting is a shared responsibility of all members and based on mutual trust and respect.

Rules for Responsible Membership:

  • Stay the entire meeting, avoid multi-tasking, remain focused, and be an active participant in the group.
  • Share ideas, challenges, successes and discuss my practice management goals and reason(s) why they are priorities to achieve.
  • Support and help group members, contribute constructively and provide feedback to ensure best practices and responsibilities are established.
  • Communicate throughout the “off time” with group members and/or outside facilitator when need support and will reciprocate when group members are in need.
  • Be accountable and not expect peers or facilitator to do the work.

Checklist for Formulating Your Advisory Study Group:

  • Who / how many
  • Timeframe of meeting
  • Frequency
  • Location
    • Onsite and online
  • Objectives / agenda
  • Practice Management Goal Setting
    • Use Ironstone Fundamental 4™ as a guideline for topics
    • Individual updates – be clear, but don’t be a time hog
    • Don’t be too informal, respect the process and group
    • Have a time checker, facilitator, note taker
  • Identify a Facilitator / internal or external
  • Online collaboration tools
    • Skype
    • Go to Meeting
    • Join Me
  • Message boards
    • Private LinkedIn group
    • Google Community
    • Sharefile
  • Conference line
    • Free Conference
    • Uber Conference
  • Virtual resources and shared files
    • Dropbox
    • Box
    • Google Docs
  • Project Management tools
    • Asana
    • Redbooth
    • Smartsheet
  • Define a Lifespan for the group
Hear from Your Peers – Advice from Current Mastermind Group Members

More importantly than hearing from me is hearing directly from advisors that are currently in a fruitful mastermind advisory study group. We took the time to interview four of our advisors to get their feedback to bring you real-world application.

Ironstone Advisory Study Group

I think you will enjoy their perspective and insight to help determine if this kind of group is for you. Here’s what they had to say.

Conclusion & Questions to Consider

Speaking from my own entrepreneurial experience, it can be the loneliest profession if you don’t put yourself into the midst of collective genius to get advice, share ideas, borrow brainpower and to give back to others what you have gleaned. There is something about being part of a group that lights the fire under your feet to get you going.

  • Do you see how the power of a committed study group could benefit you as you explore new opportunities for professional growth in 2017?
  • Are you ready to start or join a group?
  • Are you committed to the important work to be done?
  • Bottom line, don’t go it alone – collaboration and combined brainpower is the real secret to success and the catalyst to move you forward. Start your journey today.

Contact us or connect with us on social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) to collaborate about your objectives and get your community of advisory masterminds started.


Andrea Schlapia
Organizational Development and Human Capital

Andrea Schlapia, RCC™, HCS, sHRBP, is the Founder and CEO of Ironstone, which represents the culmination of her 20+ year career within the financial services industry. Her experience began as a financial advisor evolving into a consultant coach for advisors entering the field. This ignited her passion to support others through learning and development of best practices in order to achieve substantial results. To this end, she followed her desire into positions of senior-level practice management specialists for Dreyfus, Prudential, and DWS Investments prior to the realization of Ironstone.  Andrea’s focus is on practice management strategies to enhance and improve both business and personal life.

Andrea identifies 4 key performance areas known as the Fundamental 4™, which are required to design, develop, and sustain a successful business. Through coaching sessions and speaking engagements, she captivates her audience with interactive, high-energy presentations which are built with “how-to” strategies resulting in real-world implementation for significant impact. Andrea has been featured in multiple publications and audio broadcasts as a specialist and distinguished spokeswoman in the financial industry.

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