Top Ten 2022 Circles Outcomes

As the year comes to a close, we’re celebrating all the ways circles have served our customers this year. From safety and inclusion to connection and growth, here are ten customer quotes highlighting some of the top words used to describe Circles in 2022.

1. Connection. Circles’ primary purpose is connecting people together. “The struggles that I am going through in my company were discussed in depth. Connecting in the group helped me realize that the same challenges I face are the same in all parts of the world.” Harvard Business School’s Executive OPM Network

2. Growth. Meeting in Circles has helped JumpCrew identify and develop rising leaders. “I contribute a lot of my professional growth to Circles–I’m so thankful to have grown from a sales rep into a director, and from a participant into a facilitator” Amber Gold, JumpCrew

3. Community. Some of our customers gather professionals into communities from across organizations. “It was the first time in a training where there’s space to exchange with colleagues and interact. We shared the challenges we are facing, and I feel I am part of a community.” Milagros Jimenez, The GenderSmart Community

4. Inclusive. Circles provide inclusive spaces where teams can connect and grow. “ creates space for inclusive conversation, where people can think and exchange in a different way than the normal day-to-day business transactional conversations.” JP, Canadian Red Cross

5. Safe. Psychological safety must be present in order for people to truly open up. “I do not use the term “safe space” loosely–as a woman of color, I feel safe spaces are hard to come by. There is an immediate welcoming and safety that I feel comes with Circles, and that seems to be consistently stated by any of our colleagues joining a circle for the first time.” Karla Talley, Glassdoor.

6. Learning. “When I look back over the past year I am amazed at how much I have gained and learned through my Executive Growth Alliance circle – way beyond my expectations.” Oystein Bach Novartis, The Executive Growth Alliance Community

7. Facilitate. Our trained facilitators expertly guide circle conversations. “Circle is so simple, but it can change your life. When you have a really good facilitator who sets the tone and the participants settle upon agreements together, people slow down and listen not to respond, but to understand. We are attracting people who want to be relational, not transactional. So it’s a beautiful fit to have a platform and technology that is bringing people together to truly communicate.” Frances Kraft, Weave the People

8. Human. In circles, the design features and agendas enable authentic human connection. “Today’s circle was the best, and so relevant. Hearing that people are feeling how I am feeling is so comforting!” Stryker participant

9 . Listening. The platform and agendas promote growth in active listening skills. “One growth aspect that I appreciated was participants developing empathy non-judgemental listening skills. They were actually listening to people’s needs and emotions without giving advice. The circles agenda really helps–there were different tips on how to handle change and uncertainty.” Georgios Topolos, DuPont

10. Culture. Outsourced marketing firm JumpCrew connects their distributed workforce through circles. “Circles are a great tool to cultivate culture and transform the way that I think of “work” when I leave my house in the morning. To me, work isn’t just a job that I clock in, clock out, and collect money from; work is a place where I feel valued, seen, heard, and equipped with the tools to succeed and contribute to.” Adriana Wright, JumpCrew

Whether learning from peers or growing in active listening skills, facilitated circles change company culture by connecting employees on an authentic, human level. We can’t think of a better gift this holiday season than inclusive spaces to connect and grow in the new year. Contact us to schedule a demo today!

Three Ways Circles Address Leadership Challenges

Even while organizational leaders create belonging for their teams, many are looking for ways to stay connected with other leaders themselves. One thing humans all seem to have in common is a desire for community and connection.

That’s why we started inviting Talent Development & Enablement professionals into connection circles, allowing them to share their most pressing challenges. Many feel the isolation stemming from leadership in the digital era, sometimes leading to loneliness in their work. They’re often battling the weariness that comes from navigating constant change. Yet when they come together, they realize they’re not alone–in fact, they’re all facing similar challenges. And they genuinely want to learn from one another: one leader who joined stated: “I started a role in mid-October for the first time in my career and am keen to learn from tenured practitioners”.

Here’s a window into three topics they’re processing during our sessions, and how Circles can help.

  1. Shaping Culture From a Distance

In today’s digital era, many are still implementing “back to work” strategies in fits and starts, navigating the ever-changing future of work. One major workplace hurdle is the shift to full or partially remote teams–the leaders in our circles face training and retaining an increasingly non-desk workforce. The complexity multiplies for teams distributed globally, requiring content contextualized across multiple countries and languages.

Constant change also has many companies reforming their identities, asking hard questions like: Who are we, and what are we really striving to achieve? They must communicate culture changes in real-time, in an authentic way that outpaces and outlasts buzzwords.

One large consulting firm we partner with has turned to Circles to help solve their global disconnection problem, stating that “As we expand, circles is one of the ways we connect our global, virtual community.” Gathering employees in inclusive circles not only connects employees who work remotely, on-site or somewhere in between–it even connects them across the world, and sends a message about company culture while doing so: there’s space for every voice.

  1. Measuring Inclusion

Because the professionals in our circles have the pulse on the people, they understand uniquely how vital inclusion efforts are. While there’s generally increasing corporate buy-in that inclusion matters, these efforts are sometimes viewed as flash-in-the-pan trends left struggling to survive recession budget cuts. Prioritizing inclusion remains an uphill battle.

Especially in data-driven organizations, inclusion is also difficult to measure. Oftentimes, leaders rely on employee satisfaction tools to determine success of programs. Thriving Employee Resource Groups have been another way to measure inclusion, and some of our customers’ ERGs meet or have breakouts in Circles. Yet the leaders we hear from are still looking for new innovative benchmarks in the diversity, equity and inclusion space. 

That’s why we designed circles as inclusive spaces to connect and grow: implement circles programs and train a growing pool of facilitators, and you’ve added another inclusion metric to your toolkit.

Navigating culture change & buoying inclusion efforts leaves the leaders that participate in our circles on the brink of burnout.

  1. Avoiding Burnout

What’s the best way to navigate fatigue and burnout? Sometimes, it’s simply circling up with other leaders who understand and are walking a similar path. Those attending our circles sessions come from different backgrounds and experiences, and they leave grateful for the common ground found through dialogue and exchange, often equating it with group therapy.

One participant shared: “It’s great to meet in a small intimate session and build connection and relationship with others; I loved the platform, the centering of voices and the connection.”

One of our partner communities, GenderSmart, meets regularly in circles, bringing together finance professionals fighting for gender equity in finance. One participant described her sessions like this: “Circles conversations gave me grounding in terms of better connection–all the people in these conversations are just like me one way or the other. We’re all trying to make the world, just, fair, equitable, just in different ways.” Others mentioned how their sessions were confidence boosters in the battle against imposter syndrome, and how unusual it was to experience intimacy and bonding on a virtual platform.

The belonging these leaders walk away with is exactly what they’re trying to provide for their own employees.

Ongoing Involvement

Circles help leaders avoid burnout and shape an inclusive company culture for the modern workplace. Professionals who participate in one of our circles have multiple connection options going forward: joining our LinkedIn Community, investigating taking Circles into their own organization, and participating in one of our ongoing Leadership Circles.

Do you need a place to connect and grow in the new year? Try one of our circles this month!

The Importance of Facilitative Leadership

As flat as our organizations may become, leadership happens in functional workplaces. The problem is that we’ve all experienced a mixed bag of leadership at work: for every great encounter, we’ve survived not-so-great moments with colleagues (and, if we look honestly in the mirror, each of us can probably identify times we ourselves didn’t lead well). Agile, skilled leaders are hard to find, and becoming one might be hardest of all, especially now in our turbulent world.

Here’s what’s giving us hope at Circles: rising leaders emerging out of circle sessions with a new set of soft skills. These leaders are born by osmosis. As participants, they watched someone facilitate a conversation and caught the vision that a thoughtfully guided small group of 6-8 people produces connection, growth, and transformation. Inspired, they went on to guide circles for others, modeling facilitative leadership for the next round of participants.

We saw this multiplication happening with an enterprise client recently: what started as nine trained facilitators in one curated program multiplied into 36 leaders in the next, culminating with a growing pool of 48. As one of the original participants shared: “I enjoyed my Circles experience and the platform so much that I wanted to facilitate a circle. The proudest moment for me was to see two team members who I had invited into circles decide they want to facilitate circles going forward.”

These champions are developing facilitative leadership, a set of skills that not only transforms company culture more than any lone executive could, but has the potential to extend beyond the office into personal relationships, volunteer settings and more.

“I enjoyed my circles experience and the platform so much that I wanted to facilitate a circle. The proudest moment for me was to see two team members who I had invited into circles decide they want to facilitate circles going forward.”

From top-Down to Grassroots: Redefining Leadership

Like we observed in our enterprise customer, modern-day, effective leadership starts grassroots and spreads organically. It doesn’t flow top-down. It can’t be learned in a webinar or by reading an instruction manual.

Gone are the days of the following leadership traits:

● Pride

● The desire to teach

● The desire to argue, persuade, impose a certain point of view

● An interest in answers rather than questions

● A disposition towards judgmentalism, or pre-judgement

By contrast, facilitative leadership translates into the wisdom to bite one’s tongue or sit in awkward silence. Facilitators develop the attentiveness to take the pulse of a room and respond accordingly. Some qualities of effective facilitation include:

● Humility

● Warmth

● Genuine curiosity, both about ideas and human beings

● Comfort with ambiguity and uncertainty

● Willingness to hold space for discomfort or hard topics

● Openness

● An inclination to ask the challenging questions about what we might need to do


Who wouldn’t want to work with (and emulate) a leader like that?

Facilitative Leadership: Caught, not Taught

Facilitating comes more naturally to some than others, but like anything, it can be learned. I experienced this firsthand: when asked, I was hesitant to lead a circle of peers internally. I’ve read and written enough about circles to understand that facilitation is all about energy, timing and flow, and I know myself too well: when it comes to energy, I’m more of a reflector than someone bringing big energy into a group.

But I’ve participated in many internal facilitated circles. I’ve watched different types of leaders guide Circles conversations. Reading and writing about circles didn’t teach me about facilitative leadership: being facilitated did.

Because I knew I would grow and understand our product better if I stepped up and tried, I said yes. And what I discovered along the way is what our own customers have learned as they step from participant to facilitator: I’m improving in facilitative leadership. What helps is the support of the Circles platform, features and agenda which support a session’s energy, timing and flow.

More than that: I’ve noticed changes in how I interact with others in my everyday life. With my family and friends, I’m slowing down and becoming more intentional about energy, timing and flow–leaving space for others, reading the room, seeking to understand and ask the right question at the right time.

Why it Matters

As the world continues changing quickly, organizations must follow suit. Facilitative leaders can help employees navigate change together. The Systems Thinker recognizes how strategic it is for today’s evolving organizations to develop and maintain a crew of facilitative leaders. “Facilitation, while long associated with individuals leading workshops, planning meetings, or other group processes, actually encompasses a broad mix of consulting and coaching skills that are too critical to be relegated to the domain of a select few.” Implementing Circles programs into any organization and equipping a few champions sets the stage for a growing pool of facilitative leaders.

Circles help people connect and grow. The platform design and agenda content promote social learning and peer connection across companies big and small. But it’s the human element that creates the magic: people bringing their whole selves into the circles fuels transformation. Our data reveals that the shining stars are the facilitators rising up within organizations, employees who begin as participants, witness the power of a facilitated circle, then step up and guide their colleagues through everything from tough transitions to global crises.

So we’re letting our customers define modern, effective leadership, by watching the effect facilitated circles have on their company culture–and the type of leaders they produce. Some choose to go on and engage our booster training, to more formally step into a facilitator role; from there, they can even receive the new Circles Leader badge.

Are you interested in building a pool of facilitative leaders in your own org? Contact us today!