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Human connection is vital for mental health and even for business performance. This has never been more apparent than in the last 12 to 18 months during the global pandemic as many of us lost the chance to connect face to face. With many businesses having to enforce working from home, virtual communication was the only logical way for their teams to stay sufficiently connected.
As we emerge from the pandemic, we understand that personal connection is needed more than ever but have you considered Peer Coaching as an option?
Peer Coaching offers a way to connect peers and others on a deep, trustful and emotional level. The Harvard Business Review study “Roaring Out of Recession“ revealed that after the global recession of 2007, only 9% of organisations thrived, 74% survived, and 17% died. What did the companies that thrived do differently?
They didn’t sit tight and wait for the good old times to reappear. Instead they focused on a balance of cost-cutting and operational excellence on the one hand and targeted investment in future assets and competences on the other. Peer Coaching is the key to building critical competences, like an entrepreneurial mindset or an innovative culture, in the midst of need – and it can be done with little cost. It creates the necessary psychological safety and interactive space for better decision making, problem solving and opportunity creation.
What is Peer Coaching?
Peer Coaching is a form of reciprocal coaching, where three to six group members coach each other on business (and personal) issues without the support of an expert, external facilitator or coach.
It is a cost-effective method to provide the benefits of coaching without the need to match expensive coaches with leaders or schedule coaching appointments.
It brings leaders, called peers, from an organisation together who do not usually work together but share similar professional and leadership challenges and encourages them to draw from their own experience and knowledge to support each other.
What are the benefits?
Peer Coaching can:
- Provide a supportive environment conducive to professional development
- Improve the professionalism of leaders
- Contribute to the development of openness to accepting professional criticism
- Enable individuals to become more accountable and committed
- Develop listening skills
- Enable participants to appreciate the benefits of teamwork
- Provide protection from an increase in psychological distress during a stressful period
- Provide a positive impact on those who coach in addition to those who receive the coaching
- Break down internal organisational barriers and silo-thinking
How do you start Peer Coaching?
Usually, a group of three to six leaders is first trained in how to apply the Peer Coaching method and, following this, meets periodically in Peer Group Coaching sessions. In these sessions, participants discuss and work on pressing issues and problems in an organised fashion using professional coaching tools. In Peer Coaching, one member takes the role of the coachee while the remaining group members take the coach´s role. By applying a coaching skillset, participants help each other to find solutions and learn from experience.
Peers switch between the role of the coach and coachee so that they experience and learn from both perspectives. The duration of the coaching can vary, depending on the group’s needs. Groups can meet for Peer Coaching on a regular basis, face-to-face or virtually.
What steps are involved?
- Introduction to Peer Coaching
Peer Coaching is defined and distinguished from other kinds of coaching. Participants know theoretically what Peer Coaching is and how it will run in their organisation
- Matching: who works best together?
Peers are matched in groups. Peers assess each other for personal compatibility, sustainability of partnership, and best possible diversity.
- Peer Coaching processes and planning
Processes are defined and planned according to the group’s needs. The peer group knows what to do.
- Coaching skills
Coaching skills are introduced and practiced. Participants learn key coaching methods and how to phrase coaching questions.
- Psychological safety
Psychological safety is discussed and agreed on: how to build trust, openness, confidentiality, how to give non-judgmental and non-evaluative feedback, and how to conduct nonthreatening discussions.
Contracting the upcoming group support. Participants agree on how they want to work together.
Matching – who works best together?
Commonality in personal characteristics and experience is one of the core factors for matching as it works best if participants have similar backgrounds in their business and leadership experience.
Life experience seems to be a considerable factor for peer matching in Peer Coaching as well. By life experience, we include (but do not limit): age, status, family status, travel – basically, those who experience familiar situations not only in their professional, but also personal lives.
Another key matching factor to consider is diversity, which in this context refers to being part of a group with international and different cultural backgrounds. For some, being part of an international group may be a requirement for joining. Diversity seems to be a positive matching factor that creates a positive resonance amongst participants who are part of an international group.
The most successful matches may just come down to personal preference. Some participants prefer to be matched with others who are similar, while some value diversity in their group. Nonetheless, a common preference seems to be a match of life and business experience as well as small group sizes.
The CLP approach to Peer Coaching
At CLP, we constantly improve our Peer Coaching method. We have changed group sizes, processes and intentions to best suit the needs of participants. We run groups virtually or face-to-face, and sometimes combine both in one Peer Coaching process. Some groups focus more on problem solving, some on social interaction, while others ‘coach’ each other.
We started to introduce coaching techniques while developing the peer group method and learned that non-judgemental peer groups that coached each other using simple coaching techniques work better than others. Most leaders have reported improved collaboration among colleagues, budding friendship, increased learning and great personal and business value. But most importantly, they have learnt information sharing, self-reflection and consciously constructive emotional reactions to leadership situations.
Our peer matching, group dynamics, and specific peer coaching processes are factors that have shaped learning through influencing the learning environment. Psychological factors, such as trust and respect among peers, openness, empathy, and motivation are inter-connected with the learning experience. The results of the learning from our peer coaching have manifested in positive new behaviours in those leaders who have used our approach.
If you’re interested in creating a customised version specific to your organisation’s needs, please get in touch.