A Chat with Charlie Stainforth, Co-Founder and CEO at Leadership Development Programme: Circl

Circl exists to create a world where leaders are empowering, empathetic & inclusive.

Our mission is to build a world where anyone, regardless of background, can learn to lead. We believe the way to get there is through real-world coaching experience alongside the next generation of diverse leaders.

We teach professionals and young people (Future Leaders) from underrepresented backgrounds how to coach, as equals, side-by-side, exposing them to people from different backgrounds whilst equipping them with new skills. We have 19-year-olds coaching CEOs, helping them achieve goals & vice versa. This unique model improves Future Leader confidence & widens perspectives of professionals, so they’re able to use coaching and empathetic leadership to manage diverse teams leading to social mobility.

We’ve already done amazing work with the likes of Facebook, McKinsey, Ebay, British Land, Google, Hello Fresh, and Innocent, Pepsi Co, Trustpilot.

How did you come up with the idea for the company?

I started my career at a London Pupil Referral Unit working with disengaged young adults from underrepresented groups. As a founding member of the skill development company, Elevate Education UK, I played a major role in their growth across the UK & SA. Following this I worked as Head of Partnerships at career coaching organisation, Future Frontiers, where I started exploring the mutual benefits in connecting professionals with young people.

It was here that I noticed that companies spoke a lot about building more inclusive leaders, but that they often lack the relevant skills and experiences of working with the diverse audiences they were seeking to include. Simultaneously, young people from underrepresented backgrounds needed connections, communication, and leadership skills to help them move forward. I worked with Just Eat’s COO Adrian Blair, to found Circl – a two way development programme where both professionals and underrepresented young people can learn to lead.


How has the company evolved over the last couple of years?

Over the last couple of years Circl has rapidly grown due to investment in technology to manage and deliver the programme to larger numbers of participants all over the world. Over 3000 professionals and young future leaders have now been through the programme from across the world.

What can we hope to see from Circl in the future?

I’d like to see the Circl Programme adopted by more and more companies and they identify an inclusive coaching culture as a key part of their people development, retention and performance strategy.

We’re working closely with big brands to bring the impact of the Circl Programme to other parts of their organisations. This will also mean that we can align more closely with companies to start to move our young future leaders into actual leaders getting jobs at the companies that we partner with across the world.