Faced with a challenging issue in your workplace and need some good advice? The person who can help you best may be someone you already know well.
Peer coaching is process by which colleagues offer each other advice about issues each is facing in the workplace. The ground rules of peer coaching may vary but they typically revolve around a few key precepts. One, the advice given is straightforward and candid. Two, the peer coach offers advice that benefits the organization, that is, do what is best for the team rather than the individual. Three, peer coaches have one another’s best interests at heart. Therefore, they can be brutally honest.
Jodi Knox, Ph.D., an organizational consultant and executive coach, believes that peer coaching, “breaks the myth that you need a professional coach as the only vehicle of effectiveness for personal development. Instead, Knox, who has helped initiated many peer coaching programes says, you “have paired relationships where your peer coach is the “spotter” for your development.” The benefits, according to Knox, are “accountability, accelerated learning, and emphasis on using questions for personal development.” The peer coaching process is mutual and reciprocal; that is, peer coaches can switch roles, moving from coach to coachee, either for each other, or some other colleague. [It is a good idea, however, not to switch roles during a coaching session. That keeps roles distinct and focused.]
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Peer coaching differs from manager to employee coaching for two reasons; one, it is colleague to colleague, title and rank are not issues; two, peer coaches can, but do not have to, work in the same department or function. Peer coaching also differs from executive coaching in another two ways: one, most executive coaches are external; they are not employees; two, executive coaches work on time frames, say three months, six months or a year to achieve specific behavioral goals. Peer coaching may be an ongoing process and may not have specific intentions, save for one thing: to help the peer succeed.
Peer coaching as a process is relatively new, but its roots come down to age old principles of observation and dialogue. Sometimes the peer coach is referred to as a spotter, that is, someone who is looking for what his colleague cannot see. The key to successful peer coaching is dialogue in its truest sense. “Focus on asking questions, not conversation,” says Knox gets the peer to concentrate on how he or she can better “execute your goals and action plan.”
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Sometimes peer coaching can be personal. Two colleagues of mine, both independent consultants, have been using each other as peer coaches. Due to work and travel, they missed a speaking to each other for about a month. One said that during that time he had gained weight. He had credited his peer coach with keeping him focused on diet and exercise.
Peer coaching is gaining popularity, and that’s a positive for organizational health. A good way to initiate peer coaching is to set up a workshop on the peer coaching with a consultant or coaching specializing in peer coaching. The workshop will be an opportunity to lay out the ground rule as well as to do role plays to give people practice on how to coach one another.
Simplicity is the rule. Do not try to do more than you can handle. That’s a good rule for coaching in general but for peer coaches especially. That is, have dialogue around pressing issues for which you can find ready solutions. For example, it is no good to spend time complaining about a nasty CEO or an unfair compensation plan. Choose to discuss topics for which one or the other can make changes.
Peer coaching may not be for everyone, but it is a good step for those who aspire to senior leadership roles within their company. They get experience in giving advice, but more importantly they get in the habit of taking advice and deciding whether to implement it or not. Peer coaching, says Knox, “affords clients the opportunity to drive leadership and personal development deeper in the organization, on a larger scale, in a more cost effective manner.” Making choices, often hard ones, is what distinguishes good leaders from the pack. And peer coaching is an opportunity to refine that practice and build skills and insights for the future.
[For more on peer coaching, please visit Alexcel Group]