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Powerful Workplace Peers

In the professional world, we often think of coaching as something for executives. The truth is, everyone can benefit from coaching and appropriate “coaches” may be sitting in the office right across the hall…or floating in a rectangle on your most recent video meeting.

Teams and organizations use peer coaching to train, onboard, upskill, and develop employees, both new and experienced. There are myriad ways to use peer coaching:

    • Brainstorming solutions

    • Task development or knowledge building

    • Simulating scenarios to practice interpersonal communication, handle difficult dynamics, or prepare presentations

    • Creating accountability partners for one another to achieve goals or stretch opportunities

    • Supporting one another, serving as a trusted resource to combat workplace stressors

The only requirement for peer coaching is that it encourages relationships between two or more colleagues, none of whom have oversight or authority over the others, and who are committed to helping one another by sharing ideas, strategies, and feedback.

Why peer coaching?

The hybrid world has increased workers’ feelings of isolation and loneliness. Employees report feeling more disconnected than ever before. A lack of shared experience challenges team camaraderie. Peer coaching can create meaningful one-on-one or small group connections through non-hierarchical interactions, dialogue, and skill practice in a “safe zone.”

A commitment to peer coaching models the value of continuous learning in your organization, destigmatizes asking for help, and creates opportunities to gain insight into diverse perspectives. There is power in this singular strategy to promote engagement, growth mindset, stress management, and inclusivity.

For managers, the opportunity to connect their team members through peer coaching is invaluable. A strong peer coaching model offers quick, accurate feedback and tips for task and project management, and creates accountability partners among team members to ensure the work is done in a streamlined, efficient, and standardized way. It contributes to high performance across the team. The manager is no longer the sole provider of feedback, nor the individual arbiter of developing and enhancing team culture: it’s everybody’s job.

Organizations benefit from adopting peer coaching as an investment in their people; peer coaching builds leadership skills in all who participate. One in 5 job seekers wants more professional development opportunities. Employees want and expect to grow within the organization. Those who take advantage of peer coaching gain important leadership development skills of interpersonal communication, empathy, giving and receiving feedback, confidence, and accountability. This is vital for organizations to continue to provide challenging and dynamic professional learning opportunities for its employees.

Implement these five strategies to incorporate peer coaching in your organization:

1. Start small and set ground rules.

Clearly define what peer coaching is and what the peer coaching model values: confidentiality, trust, collaboration, and generosity. Start with a beta test group and let people self-identify or nominate colleagues to participate. Tell them why they are an excellent fit for peer coaching. Be sure everyone knows that peer coaching is not for poor performance, but for performance enhancement, relationship building, and growth for all.

2. Provide training on the key skills of peer coaching.

Active listening, giving and receiving feedback, dialogue, and goal-setting shape the successful peer coaching relationship. Will you develop these skills through an internal training series or partner with an outside consultant to facilitate?

3. Share a simple process for peer coaching.

Peer coaching can be as formal or as informal as your organization prefers. Meet in pairs, triads or small groups. Establish simple key questions to guide the sessions:

Your organization’s peer coaching model can focus on goal-setting, action planning, organizational issues, challenges or pain points, specific tasks, or skill development.

4. Create a tool or process for receiving feedback.

Peer-to-peer feedback is one element of peer coaching. Be sure to capture feedback for your team or organization’s peer coaching model. It will likely evolve as different individuals and groups participate. Consider how you will solicit feedback on the strengths and areas of growth for your peer coaching program.

5. Establish parameters.

Are all new staff assigned a peer coach? For how long? If someone takes a new role, how can peer coaching help support them? If I work with one peer coach, does that preclude me from working with others? Be flexible about when and how often peer coaching sessions occur. Encourage peer coaching participants to establish a natural cadence to the relationship and make time to gather emerging best practices.

Does peer coaching sound like a great opportunity for your team or organization? Contact Careerstone Group for a consultation appointment to discuss how we can help bring this dynamic practice to you!

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