Health Education and Care
Health Edu Care, 2019 doi: 10.15761/HEC.1000155
Volume 4: 1-3
Benets of participating in mastermind groups
Pernilla Garmy1,2*, Ulrika Olsson Möller2, Cecilia Winberg1,3, Lina Magnusson1,4 and Nelli Kalnak5
1Department of Health Sciences, Medical Faculty, Lund University, Sweden
2Faculty of Health Sciences, Kristianstad University, Sweden
3Ystad hospital, Region Skåne, Sweden
4Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Section of Social Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy, Gothenburg University, Sweden
5Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit, Department of Clinical Sciences, Medical Faculty, Lund University, Sweden
e academic career path is seldom straightforward. Many health professionals and researchers face stress and uncertain employment opportunities. Joining a
collegial support group, a so-called “mastermind” group, is one way to help navigate these challenges. We investigated postdoctoral researchers’ (N=16) experiences
with participating in a mastermind group using an online survey. Four themes emerged from their responses: (I) A place that oers conversation in condence; (II)
An opportunity for personal and professional development; (III) A quality break and time for reection, and (IV) Challenges experienced by mastermind group
participants. is study establishes that taking part in a mastermind group can eectively help shift focus from the negative aspects of a challenge faced by its group
members to the positive aspects of a potential solution.
*Correspondence to: Pernilla Garmy, Department of Health Sciences, Medical
Faculty, Lund University, Sweden, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Key words: collegial support, mastermind group, peer-mentoring network, higher
education, postdoctoral fellow
Received: March 26, 2019; Accepted: April 03, 2019; Published: April 05, 2019
e academic career path is seldom straightforward. Many health
professionals and researchers face stress and uncertain employment
opportunities. is experience motivates many to abandon health care
and/ or academia . Participating in a collegial or peer-mentoring
network (e.g., a mastermind group) represents one way of managing
the challenges associated with working in health care and academia.
Expectations and challenges can be demanding for early career
health professionals and researchers. Faculty support is not always
available and oen fails to meet specic individual needs . Mentoring
is traditionally based on one-to-one hierarchical relationships, e.g., new
faculty members being mentored by senior ones. However, more recent
models of mentorship in academia suggest forming peer-mentoring
networks composed of non-hierarchical partners . e value of
peer-mentoring networks for early career academics lies in extending
beyond their own institution/department’s walls, as emphasized in Pegg
et al. . A network based on reciprocal partnerships with university
colleagues who are not involved in the same institution/department
can provide a positive and non-dependent context for mentorship. Pegg
and colleagues highlight the importance of formalizing informal peer-
mentoring networks and they recommend meeting regularly, setting
goals, dening how to meet (in person or online), and consciously
determining the size and composition of the group.
A “mastermind” group is a peer-mentoring network usually
composed of three to six participants with a maximum of eight to
ten participants. e main purpose of a mastermind group is to help
its members navigate the challenges and solve problems using their
collective knowledge and experiences. ese groups are self-directed.
e original purpose of the mastermind group concept was to enable a
group-based approach to problem-solving . Each mastermind group
agrees on the agenda, goals, approaches, timelines, frequency, and
format of its meetings. Meetings are regular and can be face-to-face,
virtual (e.g., via teleconference or Skype), or a mixture of both based on
the group members' needs and preferences. e agenda of the meetings
address a specic common interest of the participants, e.g., research or
teaching . e members support each other by contributing dierent
skills, perspectives, and experiences. Mentoring programs with
colleagues at a medical faculty can lead to participants experiencing
an appreciative culture, clarifying their own career goals and priorities,
and feeling enhanced enthusiasm for collaboration . e success of
peer-mentoring programs in a university setting has been reported to
rely on the relationships within the group and on the use of feedback as
a coaching tool .
is study was conducted using an empirical qualitative approach.
Qualitative research methodologies aim to describe and understand
subjective experiences . e selection of this research design was
dependent on the nature of the issue being addressed. A survey with
open-ended questions was used to provide answers to questions
concerning early career researchers experiences with participating in
a mastermind group. Next, we performed a qualitative content analysis
because this method describes variations among experiences and
distinguishes between their dierences and similarities .
Sample and data collection
In December 2018, an online survey with information about the
study and its voluntary nature was sent to 100 early career researchers
Garmy P (2019) Benets of participating in mastermind groups
Volume 4: 2-3
Health Edu Care, 2019 doi: 10.15761/HEC.1000155
who had participated in the university post-doctoral career program at
a Swedish university, from which the opportunity to join a mastermind
group was oered. e participation was anonymous.
e following background information was collected: age, sex,
faculty of the participant, the duration of their participation in
the mastermind group, how oen the meetings took place, if the
mastermind meetings were in person and/or online, and the number of
participants in the group. e survey also included the following open-
• Please describe your experiences of participating in a mastermind
• Please give examples of topics discussed in the mastermind group
• Please describe challenges as well as positive experiences of participating
in a mastermind group.
Conventional qualitative content analysis was used, specically
an inductive approach . e text material was analyzed using
qualitative content analysis focused on both the manifest content and
the latent content because the purpose of the study was to describe and
understand the early career researchers’ experiences. is approach is
appropriate when describing dierences and similarities in a textual
format . is analysis was executed by all of the authors by reading
the responses to the open-ended questions several times to achieve
comprehension. e meaning units that responded to the purpose were
condensed by the rst and last authors, which involved summarizing
the content without losing its core meaning. is codication method
enables understanding context through its relationship to the text.
All of the authors met to compare their codications and discuss the
similarities and dierences. Similar codes were highlighted and formed
four themes [9,10].
Before participants were recruited, a research ethics application
was approved by Kristianstad University, Sweden (2018-232-624). All
procedures were conducted in accordance with the Declaration of
e survey was completed by 16 early career researchers aged
29-47 years; 13 women and three men. e faculty of medicine was
represented by nine participants and the faculty of natural sciences
by seven. e duration of their participation in a mastermind group
varied from four months to two years and the frequency of the
meetings ranged from once per month to every third month. Only
one participant reported that the mastermind meetings were mainly
conducted online (Skype) and all of the others reported that the
meetings were in person. e number of members per group ranged
from three to six.
Topics discussed in the mastermind meetings
e topics discussed by the dierent groups all focused on how to
navigate in academia as an early career researcher (Table 1).
Four themes describing experiences were identied through
content analysis of the answers to the open-ended questions: (I) A place
that oers conversations in condence; (II) Personal and professional
development; (III) A quality break and time for reection, and (IV)
Challenges experienced by mastermind group participants. e themes
are exemplied with quotations, presented below.
eme (I): A place that oers conversation in condence
e participants described the importance of having a safe place to
engage in conversations in condence. ey valued having a context
in which both personal success and failures were discussed in a warm,
non-judgmental, and friendly way.
“To me, this network is a safe and friendly place that is stimulating
and creative. An opportunity to reect my reality in others.”
“It has been valuable with a small forum with the opportunity to speak
freely, i.e., in condence, about what is relevant, both disappointments
“e meetings have been a ‘safe spot’ where I have been given the
opportunity to express thoughts that I otherwise did not have a clear
eme (II): Opportunity for personal and professional
The second theme highlights that the mastermind group
meetings contributed to both the personal and professional
development of its members. The participants reported that they
felt inspired and motivated to visualize their future career more
explicitly and that they gained new insight about themselves during
the mastermind meetings:
“I have been able to think a bit higher, dare to dream a bit bigger, and
have space to share both dicult and fun experiences safely.”
“It gave me the opportunity to dedicate time to thinking about my
career, something I would have considered a luxury otherwise.”
eme (III): “A quality break and time for reection”
e participants expressed that the mastermind meetings provided
quality time for reection as well as opportunities to learn from others’
“I really like this breathing hole that provides me with new energy.”
“Creating a sense of community and lightning the feelings of insecurity
by sharing them and hearing them echoed in others.”
“…getting opinions from outside my narrow eld is excellent
considering I want a career in science management. eir advice has been
The scientic writing process and publication strategies
Authorship on publications
Grant and fellowship applications
Job applications, interviews, and tests
Short- and long-term career goals
Navigating and networking in the research community
Productivity and time management
Table 1. List of topics discussed in the mastermind meetings
Garmy P (2019) Benets of participating in mastermind groups
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Health Edu Care, 2019 doi: 10.15761/HEC.1000155
increased satisfaction with academic skills (e.g. scientic writing) and a
sustainable eect on academic productivity .
Pegg et al.  suggest that peer-mentoring networks can help to
identify key aspects required to move the academic career forward
and the people and resources best-suited to support an individual’s
professional needs; the data in the present paper support both of these.
Furthermore, the importance of condentiality was highlighted by both the
positive and negative experiences of the participants in the present study.
e current study is limited to a small sample of participants from
only one university. However, previous studies describing Mastermind
groups in a medical academic context are lacking. Future studies in this
area may elucidate which kind of coaching tools peer mentoring groups
use, and explore their eectiveness in moving the career forward.
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eme (IV) Challenges experienced by mastermind group
e most common challenge reported by the participants was
scheduling the meetings. It was oen dicult to identify a time when
all of the members would be able to attend. Other challenges concerned
trust issues, i.e., the fear of a lack of condentiality and the worry of
personal information being spread outside of the group. Other negative
experiences related to the composition of the group, which included:
feeling excluded by subgroup formation based on, e.g., having the
same profession or being at the same career level; unbalanced gender
composition, e.g., being the only man in the group; and, lastly, a
dominant group member obstructing the aim of the meetings.
“It was sometimes dicult to agree on an appointment because of our
“Originally, we thought that we would plan in advance the topics to
discuss at the upcoming meetings but this didn't happen. Oentimes, we
would decide on the same day. It did work out and it worked for us, but
going forward, it might be worth trying to plan ahead.”
“e other three participants come from somewhat more similar
and very technical elds than me, and we did not have an equal gender
balance with three male and one female group member.
Discussion and conclusion
A mastermind group is a peer-mentoring network that contributes
to a deeper understanding of each member’s current work situation,
experiences, and skills. e members collectively tackle current
challenges and opportunities, mentor one another, and hold each other
accountable for actions collectively agreed upon at group meetings.
ese groups can be eective toward shiing focus from the negative
aspects of a challenge faced by a group member to the positive aspects
of a potential solution. Involvement in a mastermind group facilitates
early career researchers’ pursuit of a career within or outside academia.
e mastermind group provides a level of support beyond that oered
by the department/institution. In the long-term (median four years),
involvement in peer mentoring activities has been associated with
Copyright: ©2019 Garmy P. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use,
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