Actually, let’s take a step back from how to start a Lean In circle, to first explaining what it is. If you’re extremely lucky, you already have something like a circle in your life, where you are a member of a group of encouraging women supporting each other to achieve their goals. You don’t have to be in the same field – although it may help – and you don’t need to include co-workers – who may hinder openness. These could be friends or they could be acquaintances with a shared interest to grow and learn.
The plan is simple to start a Lean In circle: grab a few friends, role models, or colleagues, but keep it small, generally fewer than 10 people, then get together, share, and learn. This could be a new aspect of an already established group, like a book club, and as a friend pointed out, it certainly could include wine. If you don’t have a group of friends who’d like to share this with you, the Lean In website will try to match people up with open groups.
In one aspect of my life, I was lucky to fall into a group that could be considered a circle. It’s a group of female photographers and while we are spread over the country, we have a private Facebook group to discuss issues, ask questions, and have actions supported. The common questions can be technical – asking for help with a program or a trick – or they can be about negotiating pay or rights. Members will say that they were contacted by someone who offered x amount to reuse a photo, and more established members will respond with what to spell out for the re-use agreement, and information on the true market rate (one thing that we’ve learned is that the first offer for less experiences photographers is dirt low). This group has been incredibly helpful and a fabulous resource.
To guide your circle, the Lean In site has videos your group can watch and discuss on subjects such as negotiations, influence, and more, especially as additional videos are added. It’s a place to ask questions without feeling silly or naive, and it’s a way to tap into the resources of those around you. And, there is always the wine.