This guide is meant to help you get a better sense of how to lead a Hot Seat Session. We've suggested sample phrasing that you can use to help open and guide your Squad through the conversation.

Sample Structure of Hot Seat session

  • Mod: Thanks everyone for joining us today. ___ is up for her turn in the Hot Seat today. 

    • We’ll give her some time to tell us a little bit about the current challenge she’s facing

    • Then we’ll discuss how to approach the challenge with her

    • At the end, we’ll make sure ___ leaves today with some concrete goals and action steps  to help her move forward

    • ___, I’ll go ahead and turn it over to you :)

  • Hot Seater: 

    • Introduces her challenge and current situation

    • Gives us details that help us understand context, like:

      • Who’s involved?

      • How long has this challenge been in her life? 

      • Why does this challenge matter to the bigger picture of her life and career?

      • What does her gut tell her about this scenario?

      • Are there any underlying issues that she’d like to discuss?

  • Squad Members:

    • Ask Hot Seater any questions that might help clarify the situation/ help us figure out what’s going on

    • Offer listening ear and advice, especially if:

      • They’ve had a similar challenge in their life

      • They know of any resources that may help her

      • They know someone who solved a similar issue in their life/ career

  • Mod: If the conversation does not flow after the Hot Seater presents her challenge, ask the Squad:

    • Do any of you have experience with a similar challenge?

    • Do you have any resources that might be helpful to the Hot Seater in her current situation?

    • Is Hot Seater approaching this challenge in a way that will help her overcome it? If not, how can we help her?

  • Mod (with 5 minutes left): Wrap up the session

    • Thank everyone for their contribution to the session today

    • Ask Hot Seater:

      • What are your 2 or 3 goals you’d like to meet in the next month or two towards figuring this out?

      • What are your 2 or 3 next steps to face this challenge head on?


Challenges you may face during a Hot Seat:

  • Your Hot Seater may struggle with any of the following:

Hot Seater’s Challenge

Ways to work through it

Unaware: Hot Seater doesn’t know her challenge

Help her figure it out by giving her prompts:

  • Where are you now in your career and where would you like to go?

  • Do you feel like anything is holding you back right now?

  • If you could have a dream career, what would it be? What would you need to do to get there?

  • Do you have any challenges outside of work? How are they affecting you -- emotionally, financially, intellectually?

Defensive: She struggles to accept constructive feedback and leans on language that defends her perspective 

Be respectful. Be mindful that oftentimes, other Squad members’ feedback or ideas could potentially trigger her -- so you may need to say things like:

  • When you think of this challenge (you can replace “challenge” with “person/ situation/ moment/ trigger”), how does it make you feel?

  • What sort of ideas or feedback would help you today?

  • How are you feeling right now?

  • Can we sit down and break this up into manage-able chunks today?

  • Taking small steps is the only way we achieve big things, so you should be proud of yourself for signing up for this Squad in the first place and making it to this meeting today.. 

Lost: Appears confused (about the session, her life, her career -- anything really)

Sometimes we all need to take a step back, so consider asking her:

  • What made you want to sign up for a Squad?

  • What is your favorite thing about your job/situation right now? What is your least favorite?

  • How are you feeling today?

Shut down: Struggles communicating, may be overwhelmed or anxious

When people shut down, feeling any sort of comfort or positivity can help them feel safer/ willing to open up. So you can try:

  • Have you had situations before where you shut down like this? If so, what has made you feel better or more like yourself?

  • Is there something bothering you today? What can we do to help you out? If it’s just listening, or even telling our own stories, we can do that.

  • It’s ok to feel overwhelmed. Do you want to take a few deep breaths together?

  • On rare occasions, group dynamics might be a little off:

Group Challenge

Ways to work through it

Talking over one another/ interrupting

  • Remind everyone that we each get 5 minutes max to speak when it’s our turn

  • If someone continues to interrupt (over 3x in one session), send them a Direct Message after the session with the Code of Conduct as a reminder

Not talking at all

  • Ask specific people specific questions on the session

  • If they are slow to respond, share your own story and then ask an individual in the Squad to share something specific with the group as well

Emotionally charged

  • Remind the group that it’s ok to feel passionate about some things, but Respect is our #1 priority in the Squad

  • If someone needs to take a break on the session, they can turn their camera off/ mute themselves for a moment

  • Bullying is *never* tolerated in the Squad and Ellevate can help you manage this if it ever comes up on a session

Low attendance

  • Remind Squad members that they depend on each other for a productive experience and attendance is not optional

  • You can always get something positive out of the Squad, even if there are only 2 people on the session. If you need guidance on how to make sessions with low attendance work well, reach out to Ellevate directly.

Extremely different life or work experience levels

  • Remember that everyone can gain something from another’s experience and verbalize that to the group

  • Be sure to remind Squad members that they all have something positive to contribute, regardless of their experience

  • Ask each person specific questions based on what you know about them and how it applies to the conversation you’re having