Check In

Group activity

15 min

An icebreaker is a great way to get people talking. Given that this is your first meeting, start by going around your Circle and introducing yourself as if you’re meeting everyone for the first time (even if you’re not):

  • My name is . . .
  • I spend most of my time . . .
  • I joined this Circle because . . .

Circle Fundamentals

Group activity

15 min

In this and most meetings, you’ll be asked to be open and honest about your thoughts, skills, and experiences, even if that means pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. That’s where our Circle Fundamentals come in. They are values that everyone in your Circle agrees to so you have a shared understanding of what you can expect from one another.

Read and discuss our Circle Fundamentals. If they don’t feel quite right for your Circle, take some time to adjust them together. Once everyone is ready, go around your Circle one by one and commit to them with a quick thumbs-up or “I’m in.”

If you end up writing your own Fundamentals, you may want to have someone type them up and share them with everyone in your Circle. You can always refer to ours at leanincircles.org/running-your-meetings.

Connection Activity

Group activity

25 min

Connection Activities are focused on sharing personal stories and benefiting from your Circle’s ideas, experiences, and support. In this activity, you’ll answer questions designed to get you to think about your personal goals—and your motivations for joining your Circle.

Step 1: Member Q&A

Group activity

1 min per round

One by one go around your Circle and answer one of the following questions. (It doesn’t matter how many times a question has already been answered; choose the one that most resonates with you.) While other members are speaking, resist the urge to ask for more information. Just listen quietly.

  • When you look back a year from now, what do you hope this Circle has helped you accomplish?
  • What is one thing in your life you wish you could change?
  • If you had to describe your life in three sentences, what would you say?
  • What holds you back from pursuing your boldest dream?
  • What is your biggest fear, and where does it come from?

When everyone has answered one question, go around the Circle one by one and answer a second. Continue to respect one another’s space and refrain from asking follow-up questions or breaking into conversation.

Step 2: Reflect on the exercise together

Group activity

5 min

Without discussing the previous activity, one member should read out the following statements, and everyone should raise her hand when a statement feels true for her.'

  • As other members answered questions, I felt like sharing more freely.
  • I learned something about myself or someone else that I didn’t expect.
  • I was surprised by how much I have in common with other members.
  • I feel an initial connection with the other members of my Circle.

If you liked this initial sharing activity, we recommend you consider incorporating our Connection Cards into your next meeting. We developed the cards with Carole Robin, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. The goal of the cards is to get to know one another better by answering questions and sharing a lot of information fast—think of them as TableTopics for your Circle! You’ll find a guide with everything you need to run a Connection Card meeting at leanin.org/connection-cards-guide

Circle Goals

25 min

Setting shared goals for your Circle will help you choose relevant topics for discussion, gauge the success of your meetings, and generally stay on track.

Step 1: List your personal goals

Individual activity

1 min per round

Write down your three biggest personal goals (such as taking more professional risks, creating better work/life balance, building a network of supporters).

Step 2: Identify the top goals of your Circle

Group activity

20 min

Go around your Circle and share your top three personal goals one by one. Have a member write them down on a whiteboard, large piece of paper, etc. so everyone can see them.

When you’re finished, spend some time identifying up to three goals that are common across your Circle, grouping similar goals together wherever possible. If you end up with more than three, use a show of hands to vote on a final list. And remember, it will be easier for your Circle to stay on track with very specific and focused goals.

When you’re done, make sure you type up and distribute your final list of goals so you can refer to it going forward.

Wrapping Up

20 min

Step 1: Decide how you’re going to run your Circle

Group activity

10 min

You’ll need one or more moderators to manage your Circle and facilitate meetings. We’ve seen lots of approaches work, from a single moderator with a yearlong term to a rotation where everyone takes turns running a meeting. If you already have a moderator (or at least your first one), you’re off to a great start, and she likely has some thoughts on how your Circle should run. If not, discuss how you want to run your Circle as a group. No matter what you decide now, you can try new approaches as you all become more comfortable with the day-to-day rhythm of running a Circle.

Step 2: Finalize logistics of your next meeting

Group activity

10 min

Before you break, make sure you have the basics covered for your next meeting: day and time, location, food and drink. Decide who’s going to send out ideas or what you’re going to do when you get together—for example, you may want to dive into our Connection Cards together.

You may also want to talk through what worked—and what didn’t—in today’s meeting and brainstorm improvements going forward.

Step 3: Close on an energetic and inspirational note

Group activity

2 min

End your meeting by sharing your final thoughts with one another. For example, go around one by one and describe how you’re feeling in three words. Best we’ve heard so far: “Ready for anything!”