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By Katherine Mapp
NSWC PCD Public Affairs
COVID-19 restrictions have prevented physical events and gatherings – including recruiting efforts. Lean In Circles leaders at Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) recently held virtual information sessions to engage prospective members and foster inclusivity.
Lean In Circles are small peer groups who meet once a month, for approximately a year, to encourage and support the circle participants in an atmosphere of confidentiality and trust. The Lean In Circle concept is based on the book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead written by Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook. Though specifically written for women, the text offers an array of concepts and relatable examples that speaks to all genders, backgrounds, and experience levels. Lean In Circles focus on encouraging and empowering its participants to pursue their ambitions with the power to lead.
Allison Price, Lean In Circles lead at NSWC PCD, said as soon as she and the other coordinators realized the pandemic would last longer than a few months, they sprang into action to keep their circles engaged.
“Most started with teleconferences, and now a few of our circles have transitioned into using Microsoft Teams so it feels more like their previous in-person meetings,” said Price. “A benefit of Lean In Circles being virtual is that you can be anywhere and call in to a meeting. Our circles thrive because of our amazing moderators and engaged participants. They keep our circles going while in this telework environment.”
Price said Lean In Circles are important for professional and personal growth.
“We make our Lean In Circles as diverse as possible so everyone gets exposed to different perspectives and life experiences,” said Price. “We want our circle participants to feel empowered to use their voices to advocate for themselves and their ideas.”
NSWC PCD currently has four active Lean In Circles, each with eight to twelve participants along with the two moderators. Lean In Circles feed into a larger effort of encouraging our workforce to bring their whole-self to work as demonstrated in Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Warfare Centers Executive Director Dr. Brett Seidle’s Intentional Leadership discussion. Additionally, the NSWC PCD Lean In Circles feed into the NAVSEA Campaign Plan 3.0’s priority of building a team to compete and win.
“Lean In Circles help our workforce grow personally and professionally by seeing things from another person’s perspective. The Lean In Circles improve and encourage communication,” said Price. “Better communication builds stronger, more efficient teams, which ultimately improves our ability to protect the warfighter.”
Kelly Betliskey, NSWC PCD for the Mine Warfare Sustainment division financial analyst, and new Lean In Circles moderator, said she enjoyed attending her first virtual Lean In Circle discussion, as it provided information to eager attendees about how they can get involved and make a difference.
“I am looking forward to finding ways to assist me in growing personally, career wise, and gain confidence in my work. I love my job and want to advance and be better for my Division, for the warfighter, and for myself personally,” said Betliskey. “I feel Lean In Circles will allow me to step outside of my comfort zone and further enhance my skillset.”
Ivan Pereira, Littoral and Mine Warfare Department chief engineer at NSWC PCD and Lean In Circles moderator, said the benefit of these circles allows a cross section of the workforce to meet and discuss issues that are important to them professionally and personally.
“The circles contain people from different departments, both technical and business operations, and different levels, experiences, and backgrounds. The circles allow folks to grow individually and to make the command a better place to work as well,” said Pereira. “Given the fact that there is an understanding that what is said in the circle stays in the circle, it allows people to open up and have more meaningful discussions. The circles allow for different topics to be discussed that are of interest to the circle members, both professionally, and maybe more importantly, personally.”
Price added Lean In Circles are for everyone.
“While Sheryl Sandberg’s book is geared towards women, her advice for building a career, finding balance, and opening the lines of communication is beneficial to everyone,” said Price. “With Lean In Circles, you don’t just listen, share, and learn. You also grow.”
The NSWC PCD Circles received such a resounding response from their virtual information sessions, local Lean In Circles leaders are in the process of adding an additional four circles.