Learning from Lean In Circles


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Learning from Lean In Circles

The idea of leadership is very simple. It means helping people realize their potential.

This is a very important piece of how I define my own success. I am always heartened when a previous team member says thank you to me for inspiring them or encouraging them to take on a new challenge, even a new role.

Creating team harmony is central. Leaders need to help people get along and work on achieving shared goals. Leaders need to avoid anything that encourages, or even ignores, divisiveness.

Good leaders don’t stop when the work day ends. They have to reach out into the community. I’m very involved, for instance, in a Bay Area Lean In Circle that was developed to empower women in transition to build a rewarding professional and personal life.

Lean In Circles reinforce my belief that everyone can have a chance, if prompted, to seek positive directions.

In the Circles we meet regularly to learn from each other and find ways to nurture each other. They are a great learning experience because everybody who comes to them wants to learn from the other people who join.

Think about a work environment where learning was really as first class a task as doing. While some organizations talk about continuous improvement, most don’t really embrace continuous learning. These ideas go hand-in-hand.

I think the Circles are a great model. 80% of members say they find the confidence to undertake new challenges or opportunities because of the Circle. If Circle members can translate that kind of self-confidence back into the companies they work for, we would see huge shifts in value creation.

Circles are collaborative. Too often work is about competition, not about collaboration. The Circles teach the power of peer support. Let’s talk about our shared goals and figure out how to achieve them. If we only compete, we end up undermining not just ourselves but our companies. When we cooperate, we all benefit.

Too often work is about competition, not about collaboration. The Circles teach the power of peer support.

The other thing I think companies can learn from the Circles is their informal approach to meeting. People meet at their homes, sponsor brown-bag lunch series at their work place, or get online and meet virtually. Learning from each other only needs the goal of learning plus people with a willingness to teach and share, listen and reflect. We too often mix up the ritual of work with value creation for customers and clients, but not for colleagues.

I have talked to people who have gained new jobs, found the courage to pursue a promotion or a raise, or absorbed feedback, in order to become a better leader  — all through Lean In Circles.

Businesses can learn a lot from what people do to learn and build relationships outside of the workplace. We need to encourage more of those approaches into the work experience, so that we can make business and personal improvement as important as meeting quarterly goals. Our ability to retain employees, create an environment for consistent performance and engage our staff at an emotional level requires that we find new ways to provide value for them that goes beyond traditional incentives. Lean In Circles offer a good insight that we should apply in our organizations.

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