There's magic in these Circles

Last year I was lucky enough to entice OD Consultant and Exec Team Coach Gill Martin to come and work with me at Clearworks, delivering our flagship programme in the #STEM #Biotechnology and #Medtech sector: Clearworks Coaching Circles - a very focused specialist leadership & personal development programme.

We’ve worked and worked to develop this product from its simple group coaching start and are seeing really exceptional outcomes now, after pooling our experience and techniques. I know other people say they deliver coaching in circles of course. I’ve stood next to other business owners selling what they describe as “coaching circles” and “group coaching”, but they are not the same. After courageous trials and experiments we believe there are now important characteristics to this product that makes them unique.

I asked Gill to reflect on her experience of delivering Clearworks Circles to see if we can get close to explaining them to clients and she’s eloquently managed to capture some of her reflections. We invite you to read about them from the perspective of the committed Coach and hope it inspires you to get in touch if you’re looking to develop your leadership resilience, confidence; drive a change agenda or simply offer an important and profound reflective process to your most brilliant minds. They’re worth it, right?

As we begin a new wave of planning for clients new and established, I send my enormous gratitude to brave, reflective, accomplished Gill Martin, Clearworks Group Coach and trusted colleague. She has added hugely to the integrity of this product.

From Gill:

"Discovering the magic of the Circles.

I’d heard Aly talk with such energy and belief about the ‘magic’ that happens in Clearworks Coaching Circles and I’d seen the feedback from group members. Stories of people getting the job they hadn’t dared hope for, of building professional networks that were transforming careers; of small but significant shifts in leadership which involved stepping up to be heard or letting go of control to allow others to flourish. So, I was delighted when Aly invited me to lead a group.

I think it was a fluke of the universe that meant I didn’t see Aly’s written description of the what the Circles are and how they work. But with experience of 1-1 and team coaching, of action learning sets and group supervision and Aly on hand to share her wisdom, I was excited to get started. What was a little daunting was a hunch that the ‘magic’ was in Aly rather than in the any process for running the groups. In fact, both these things set me up for the type of learning experience that suits me best – working alongside, working things out as I go, talking, talking and talking some more and then unpicking the experience from lessons learnt.

From my time working with the Clearworks Circles, I’ve identified some of the elements that come together to create the alchemy, the power of these Circles that continues to delight participants and deliver results for them and their organisations.

1. Rituals and routines create safety. We talk about the Circles as a semi-structured process and it’s the simple yet powerful practices that help people to build trust and open-up with each other so quickly. They signal that we meet without status, we accept and respect each other for who we are in the room right here, right now, and we act with positive intent.

2. You come to work on YOU. We are crystal clear about the purpose of the group. The world may need to change but that’s not the work of Clearworks Circles. This is a place to think about who you are, what you want, how you want to be seen and what you are prepared to change. We focus on what’s within your power and control.

3. We do the work as a group. We contract for active participation; Circles are not somewhere you come along for the ride. We all have our highs and lows and the group respects this. Yet the process is built for progress. Sometimes a jaw-dropping realisation of a need to change propels people to action. More often it is a continued discovery and acceptance of who we are and a small step towards where we want to be.

4. There’s power in the feedback of many. We contract for support and challenge. This is a given for any 1-1 coaching relationship, but I’ve been blown away by the impact when this comes from many. Seeing an entire group notice and call out the change of body language of someone who’s found their self-belief is awe inspiring.

5. We can work deeply and lightly. We are clear that our role as group members is firstly to hear each other. It’s not group therapy! Our role is not to fix or rescue but to allow others to voice hopes and doubts, concerns and aspirations. That’s often enough.

6. Connections build and last. We encourage the group to gather outside set monthly meetings but are clear this is theirs, not ours, to hold. This way each Circle finds its own way of connecting that will endure long after we leave. For some this sense of belonging, of having a go-to group of peers who really understand you, is the Circles greatest power.

7. We develop coaches. We take a coaching stance and help all group members to do so too. We don’t ‘teach’ coaching skills; we do shine a light on the impact of interventions each person makes in the role of coach. One of the biggest surprises for me was how much coaching capability develops of the over the life of a Circle.

8. We work from the heart. As coaches we hold the Clearworks values close. We aren’t all cookie cutter images of Aly but the way we work is part of the magic.

I’m quite sure the list isn’t exhaustive, and I’ll continue to uncover more the more Circles I work with. It’s also true that many of the above exist in other interventions such 1-1 coaching, team group and action learning sets. It’s the combination that creates the alchemy.

I’ve perhaps been guilty in the past of seeing group coaching as a way of reaching more people when you don’t have the budget for 1-1 work. It’s been a delight to discover the magic of the Clearworks Coaching Circles, it’s no second best to individual work but has a depth, power and place all of its own in the field of personal and professional development."

This article was written by Aly King-Smith. Aly is Director of Clearworks and writes for Clearworks and others as Aly KS & Co Ltd. Please get in contact via