In September, five Marines from the Camp Lejeune and surrounding area congregated in a small room only familiar with the fact that they were there for a meeting that would help them understand how to better connect with Marines back at their unit. In a matter of only a month, the Camp Lejeune All Ranks Lean-In Circles would grow to 41 members and continue to see new faces.
On Sept. 21, the Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter announced Department of Defense participation in Lean-In Circles, a series of groups inspired by author Sheryl Sandberg, as part of an ongoing effort to enhance workforce culture and collaboration.
“I was on a flight to Phoenix, and I was reading Sheryl’s book when the idea crossed my mind to start a circle around Camp Lejeune,” said Lt. Col. Mary Flatley, assistant chief of staff of the G-1, 2nd Marine Logistics Group. “Coming up through the ranks, I didn’t really have the mentorship that I wanted or needed.”
The goal of Lean-In Circles is to provide a safe and confidential environment for people to discuss ongoing problems in the workplace, such as gender-related issues. The circles initially focused on the empowerment and mentorship of females, but has encouraged men to engage in the meetings as well.
“The goal of our circle is to create a positive climate and strong leadership throughout the Corps,” said Flatley, the founder of the North Carolina Chapter.
Flatley contacted Patricia Turner, Camp Lejeune’s Marine Corps Community Services deputy director of human resources.
“She called me about a week after she returned from Phoenix and told me she had an idea to start a chapter for the surrounding area,” said Turner. “We wanted to reach out to both military members and MCCS workers.”
Flatley says that she and Turner sent out countless e-mails to people they thought would have an impact as mentors in the circles.
“We started out with two informational meetings where they could come and see what it was all about,” said Turner. “We also called those who we e-mailed and talked to them so they would have more of an understanding of what we are trying to do.”
Today, the North Carolina chapter is comprised of six circles and 77 members. Each circle aims to recruit like-type members such as training supervisors, administrative support, and military members.
“We try to meet once a month, mission permitting, and talk about a different topic each time,” said Flatley. “Members share personal experiences, ideas, and information on balancing life with work.”
Higher-ranking members of the All Ranks circle plans to meet January 15 to discuss how to better market the circles to Marines of II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Station New River, and MCAS Cherry Point. The meeting will give the Marines a better understanding of what to expect in the future as the chapter grows.
“We didn’t expect it to blow up so fast,” said Flatley. “It’s taken off on us and we’re looking forward to see what this will become.”
Flatley says that she hopes that the chapter will have upwards of 1000-1500 members in a year.
For more information on Lean-In Circles or to join one, please visit leanin.org/military