The Power of Mentoring Circles

There is always something about circles for me. I love the colorful, yet cozy environment a circle setup creates. It resembles being part of a team, but it is much more.

Mentoring Circles

For me, the most distinct difference between a team and a circle is that even though the roles in a circle are defined at the beginning like a team, these roles dynamically change throughout the very session being run or over the course of circle meetings.  In my experience, good and lasting circles are the ones where all circle members respect, honor and truly see the resourcefulness of each other, rather than acting from a role.

Wait a minute…is this not also what Ericsson’s Diversity and Inclusion Program (D&I)  is all about?

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Happy faces just about to start another circle

What is a mentoring circle?

Mentoring circles can be defined as a gathering of 6-8 individuals who meet regularly with a mentor. In my personal life, I enjoy being part of several circles and I would never have expected to have a similar, actually even better, experience at the workplace. In 2015, in the Middle Eastern Region of Ericsson, the Talent Management Team and the Regional D&I Council decided to start Mentoring Circles for female talent which later enhanced to include male talent as well. The purpose was to identify key talents and empower them during their career journeys. At the beginning of this process, we were looking for leaders to volunteer to be trained as mentors. I volunteered and started one of the most wonderful journeys of my life .

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Members from Gül Yücel’s circle and my circle posing for an interview photo shoot 

Mentoring Circles v1.0 started in 2015 with 8 circles in the region, some virtual, some face-to-face. As a junior mentor, my circle was face-to-face. Oh lord, how many fantastic people I met during the circles whom I would never have met otherwise at work place! My first circle met during the year and officially ended at year end. However, the circle members wanted to continue, and we did! Some people could not make it to all circles, some others wanted to join the extended circle. So, we kept growing and meeting. Some circle members left Ericsson and continued being part of the circle. It was and is still a fantastic experience. Mentoring Circles v2.0 and v3.0 continued in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Now in our small circle of mentors we are looking into kicking of v4.0 in 2018 for Market Area Middle East and Africa.

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A circle member joining us via live video connection

Benefits of a mentoring circle

Benefits of being part of a circle at work is beyond meeting interesting people and networking. We follow a material which takes us step by step from knowing ourselves better, creating awareness about our choices and eventually giving us tools to work on our internal compass to take us to where we want to go. As a mentor in a circle, my expectation is to facilitate and hold the space for the circle, rather than pretending I master the material or have answers to all questions. Being part of a circle who knows and accepts this is such a relief. Often, there is someone who knows more, either professionally or from experience, and we learn from each other.

The material usually kicks off a discussion and we start seeing the color palette of the people in the circle. For me, it has been an amazing instrument to see that there are other people struggling about the same things as I do, and this time they talk about it! Some people have already been there, gone beyond it and inspired many of us to make a move. Some people think exactly the opposite of what I do, and since they openly talk about it I can see where they are coming from.

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It was fantastic to have male and female members in Gabriele Metz’s circle in 2017.

Being part of circles at work place helps me see the true selves of my colleagues and also be my true self – knowing I will be accepted as I am in my circle. Are you part of any circle in your life and would you like to share your own experience?


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR
Fatma Ozdemir
Fatma is the Director of R&D at Ericsson Turkey.
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