Grass-roots support groups build confidence and bring employees closer together

Setting a benchmark for improvement drives the changes that matter


Inspired by an international support group, Senior Talent Acquisition Partner, Jenna Goldthorpe brought the network concept to Siemens UK, setting up the first company-wide Lean-In Circle. She tells us how every step of her journey has shown that ‘we’ is much better than ‘I’. 

 “You don’t have to do this by yourself.” 

I’d been on maternity leave and used the time to reflect on what I wanted to do next in my life; what my goals were and how I could begin to realise them. I’d also come across Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In: Women, work and the will to lead. Her book encouraged me to seek out my local Lean In circle where I was impressed by seeing the impact it had on people in realising their potential. 

“It was amazing for people to forge broad deep networks that lead to new insights and learning.” 

Going to local Lean-In events outside of work really helped me to focus on my own development.  They provide structured content on relevant topics and open discussion where you can really learn from other peoples’ experiences. I knew that I couldn’t keep this to myself. I was desperate to share the positive impact with other Siemens employees, so I investigated how I could set up a Lean-In circle internally.

“Rather than being an ‘I’ activity, Lean-In has really been a ‘we’.”

And the same applies for how the event went from an idea to a reality. I spoke to people who ran the external Lean-In community in Manchester and also used my own internal network within Siemens to gauge interest and how best to get it up and running. Knowing the benefits of hearing different points of view and getting a new perspective on your own situation, I was keen to merge the already established Lean-In circle with Siemens employees. I started by inviting the external network to use our event space and host a session at our Manchester office. The theme how self-doubt can hold you back, and it was so well received by Siemens employees who attended that I knew Lean-In could also have a place internally, where cross-business discussions, networking and debate could be generated. 

“We need to keep learning and evolving.”

Lean-in events are all about sharing ideas, solving problems and working towards achieving your ambitions. It’s wonderful to see the community grow within Siemens. We now have internal Lean-In circles and they are growing to other sites. We have already held circles on Mindset of Confidence and Building Resilience.  Importantly, although these events, externally, were primarily designed to support women, internally they are for every employee to come together, learn, grow and share their experiences and we are now branching out to collaborate across sites. For example, our next event invites Julian Hobbs, Head of Siemens Financial Services (SFS) & Emma Thomas, UK Country Proximity Project Manager at SFS, to discuss imposter syndrome in Manchester’s offices. I’m so happy that such important topics that are relevant to so many people are being given airtime for discussion and shared across our diverse organisation.  

“To reach your goals, sometimes you have to step outside your comfort zone.” 

If you’re thinking about starting something that helps bring people together, my advice is to just do it. Don’t ask for permission or wait for someone else to take the lead. Build your network and get the word out. You and the people who support you can only benefit from the experience.

My biggest tip would be to remember that you don’t have to do this by yourself. Start opening the conversation up early and working with people to flesh out ideas. I’ve reached out locally in my network as well as to the D&I Community and their many champions and have had so much support.

Whatever your ambition, it’s not all on you. Work with other people to fast-track your ideas and make them a reality.

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