The 5 rules of circles

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

It was 1869. Edouard Manet invited Claude Monet to join him at a cafe in Paris’ Batignolle neighborhood. Manet and a few friends met there evenings after toiling all day in the studio.

That’s where Monet met Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, among others. This circle of fellow artists gave rise to the Impressionist movement, which was a radical one at the time. The artists relied on one another for inspiration, while challenging one another’s ideas, pushing each other to take risks, and learning from one another’s mistakes.

“You always went home afterward better steeled for the fray, with a new sense of purpose and a clearer head,” Monet once said in an interview.

Circles play a major role for any leader who strives to make ideas happen. For example, the Young Presidents’ Organ­­i­zation is known for its “Forum” system. A group of eight to 10 leader peers meet 10 times per year to share experiences.

For any like-minded professionals to function as a circle, says the founder and CEO of Behance, Scott Belsky, “there are some key success factors.”

1. Limit circles to 15 members or fewer. Too many in the group, and people feel less accountable and the group feels less personal.

2. Establish a clear, consistent schedule. Whether the group meets a set number of times or is ongoing, let the desired outcome drive the schedule.

3. Meet frequently; stay accountable. “For ongoing circles, the most common practice is to meet either monthly or biweekly,” says Belsky.

4. Assign a leader. Leaders facilitate the beginning and end of conversation, and keep an eye on the time.

5. Extend your circle online—but avoid making your circle entirely virtual.

“Like most other relationships in life,” Belsky says, “the benefits you reap from circles are a function of what you contribute.”

— Adapted from Making Ideas Happen: Over­­coming the Obstacles Between Vision & Reality, Scott Belsky.

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