The Magic of Masterminds

  • Are you part of a Mastermind? 
  • Do you know what a Mastermind is? 
  • Do you know how a Mastermind can supercharge your learning, ideas, inspiration and connection?

Discovering Masterminds

If you are answering "no" to any of these questions, join the club - I didn't either until about 2 years ago when I listened to an interview with Danny Bauer, past school leader and creator of the "Better Leaders Better Schools" Podcast.

Since I liked what Danny had to say, which included:

  • Owning your time, such as being disciplined enough to focus your time on what matters (ouch, that's still a challenge!)
  • Connecting with others trying to solve the same problems you are and figuring it out together (yes please, sign me up!)
  • Agreeing that honey badgers are the chief ruckus makers of the animal kingdom (It's a fact people),

I decided to go "all in" and join his Masterminds for educators who wanted to build something to make impact outside of their own schools (in my case, I wanted to build the Learning Pioneers community - I wanted to figure out, with likeminds, how I could make this community as impactful, meaningful and joyous for every educator it touched. I still wonder about that every single day).

Here’s a different video of Danny wondering about PE and the Arts. What do you think about the ideas he’s sharing?

Since learning with Danny and his generous crew, I have been inspired to set up Masterminds within Learning Pioneers to support and challenge teachers and leaders in education. And the impact has been deep and far-reaching.

What is a "Mastermind"?

In a nutshell it's gathering together with people on a similar mission to you, who might share similar values, who might be facing similar problems you are. I’m sure you’ve heard this saying: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, then go together. At Learning Pioneers we value community over isolation, scale over speed, impact over independence.

In my case, this was building something greater than myself to empower others to be the change from their classrooms. 

It could be so many other things - Whatever that thing is that gets you buzzing, gets you out of bed in the morning - that you can't quite figure out how to do alone or could do with a crew of enthusiastic like-minds to help drive your vision forwards. For the Learning Pioneers Mastermind crew, it's about the most impactful classroom practitioner and leader they can be. Huge respect for that.

Here are some keys I consider to be essential to an impactful Mastermind:

1) Meet regularly at the same time. Show up.

With Danny's Mastermind, we met every week. With the Learning Pioneers Masterminds we meet twice a month. Whatever feels manageable. You want to balance progress with impact. In hindsight, I realised I did kind of have a Mastermind with some likeminds - we met once a year - progress was kinda slow! So, work out that sweet spot where you can show up as your full self and do the work in between meetings; balancing inspiration with action and progress. To show we're serious about our growth, we ask for 80% attendance to Learning Pioneers Masterminds. 

2) Have a shared goal or focus

  • Learning to master your business
  • Becoming a better leader
  • Improving your classroom practice
  • Getting fit
  • Mastering gardening

Whatever floats your boat and you want to learn about and improve in with a group of enthusiastic like-minds.

3) Have an impactful structure

We use the same structure as Danny's Masterminds. This includes:

- Sharing "wins"

To celebrate together, bond the group, learn from each other, keep up momentum, gain conscious competence in what we do

- Discussing a chapter of a shared read

To gain perspective, inspire action, deepen understanding

- Hot seat

For one person to share a particular "grapple" they have and for other Mastermind members to share their own experience and ideas to problem-solve this idea. In Learning Pioneers we use the "SAIL" thinking routine (thank you, Ron Ritchhart!) to structure our hot seat.

This was the most impactful area for me. As my fellow Mastermind members shared their "grapples", I learnt about potential pitfalls before they happened (thank you Mastermind crew!), gained inspiration in areas that were most problematic to me and learnt from a plethora of ideas I hadn't even thought about.

Mastermind members in Learning Pioneers report the same impact. They say they feel bonded and committed to the group, that Masterminds are the highlight of their week - they feel energised and full of ideas - and they gain inspiration from their fellow members. They also report that they love the organic nature of Mastermind inspiration - they never quite know what amazing ideas they will leave with to implement the very next day. Oh, and they love that, often for the first time that week, they don't have to talk about COVID. Not once. It's all about the good stuff. Here's a few of our members sharing what they get from Masterminds:

The model behind Masterminds

There is a method to the structure of Masterminds. Danny talks about the "ABC" of Masterminds. Check out this video of Danny explain this:


A = Authenticity

B = Belonging

C = Challenge


the world needs you! But it can be a struggle to operate out of your gifts and be the leader you were created to be. If we are not leading as our true selves, we are limiting our impact. This is about finding our voice and consistently acting in alignment with our values. 


Masterminds are a safe space to share ideas. There's no judgment. Ever. When do you get that in life?! We're all here to learn together and support one another in our growth. I think this element is especially important whilst we often feel in crisis and are pulled from pillar to post. We need a crew, people who get us and will 100% have our back. 


Once we feel safe and supported, we are free to challenge ourselves, challenge our pre-existing beliefs, grow, soar, become the best versions of ourselves - both professionally and personally (One of the pieces of feedback I have loved from Learning Pioneers Masterminds - that it was one of our members professional and personal highlights of her year - yes!)

In our Leadership Mastermind, we collectively added "purpose" to this list (kinda annoying because it doesn't start with a "d" - Maybe we could go for "direction"?!) We love how our growth develops organically, but we also wanted to add a progression across the year. So, we came up with this neat little cycle for our year's plan:

The idea being that we have cycles of 7 Masterminds, with a key thinker at the end to clear up any questions we couldn't ask ourselves.

This is in our community’s ethos- we figure things out for ourselves, fueled by inspiration from the world's lead thinkers (check out a few of the speakers we've had so far here) - so it makes sense to weave this into our Masterminds. 

This year, we are exploring the research of Dr Kulvarn Atwal and Professor Guy Claxton's research into Learning Power Leadership - so it makes sense for Kulvarn to join us and for Guy and his co-authors to join us at the end of those cycles. As with any impactful system, it grows, deepens and develops with its members - After all, this is true agency - we design it together to suit our needs. I love this diagram, from Regenerative Leadership (one of my top reads this year) which depicts the ownership and organic growth in Learning Pioneers.

What next?

As I mentioned, we're keen to develop models with cycles within our Masterminds to discuss key areas of interest with our crew. We're also looking to collaborate with other Mastermind groups. For example, James Nottingham and his team at Challenging Learning are developing online learning models with their schools and leaders. We have spoken about getting together to share ideas and practice. Inspiration breeds inspiration and the more viewpoints and range of experience we can gather, the more impact on our ideas and practice. 

And, what next for you?

What are you stuck in that you could do with a group of like-minds to support and inspire you with? Message me here to share your thoughts. Or tag me on Twitter. Or write it down, ponder on it, let it sit until you are inspired into action.

Are you an educator interested in developing a project greater than yourself? Why not message Danny to find out more? 

Are you a teacher who would like to join our Masterminds? We have a spot with your name on it. Click here to receive a PDF of how you can get funding from your school to join our Mastermind. 

Are you a leader wanting to join a Mastermind? Check out Danny's leadership Masterminds here; and Learning Pioneers Masterminds here.

Danny Bauer has just published a book on Masterminds. Pre-order your copy here. I've already ordered mine!

Find out more about Danny’s approach to Masterminds here:

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Post written by:

Becky Carlzon

Becky is the co-creator and thought-leader of Learning Pioneers. She loves the magic of children's imagination and thinking and has taught in classrooms across the world from Argentina, to Thailand to the UK, where she is originally from. She has co-authored a book with Professor Guy Claxton and travels the world inquiring into the most meaningful, purposeful, joyous educational settings across the globe.


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