Peer coaching unlocks leaders' abilities to strengthen others
The value coaching provides as a supplement to a leadership development program, or as a stand-alone development solution, for leaders is clear.
The Conference Board’s Global Executive Coaching Survey* speaks to that value, saying that coaching is optimal to:
- Identify gaps and blind spots
- Build self-awareness
- Increase confidence and resilience
- Strengthen critical leadership skills
- Strengthen relationships across the organization
- Retain top talent
And while coaching is still underutilized as a development tool, even given those benefits, we are seeing increased use in organizations today. Organizations recognize the value of this personal and personalized learning mode to help leaders realize their full potential.
Coaching is–of course–delivered in a variety of ways. External coaches are often deployed, providing an objective and safe environment for the coachee. In addition, more and more organizations are creating their own internal coaches. And the importance of manager-as-coach is more and more embraced. For any of these coaches, the method for delivery could be one-on-one, or coaching for a small group, or as a facilitator-coach of a project.
An emerging trend – beyond the single coach – is that of peer coaching.
What is peer coaching?
According to the American Society of Talent Development (ATD), “Peer coaching is a process by which professionals, managers, and executives, who may or may not work together, come together and form a trusting environment to help one another in supporting and facilitating self-directed learning. In the peer coaching process, each person alternates between playing the role of peer coach and peer client.”
We see how peer coaching provides a unique value beyond the other coaching methods and modes in the following ways:
- Provides a strong support system between members of a leadership develop program
- Strengthens cross-functional networks
- Creates innovative solutions through questioning and discovery
- Helps broaden understanding of functions and organizational business issues
- Enhances leadership skills for the participants
Modes for peer coaching can be one-on-one, of course, but peer coaching also provides great value in group settings, particularly with a structure that supports open discussion, sharing of ideas and experiences, and focusing on actions to be implemented.
Peer Coaching to Support Leadership Development
One of the clients we work with, a not-for-profit, has provided this type of coaching for years, and wouldn’t think of delivering a leadership development program without this peer support process.
The structure for their peer coaching process includes the following framework:
- From the 30 participants in a six-month leadership program, small groups of six to eight “peers” are formed to be the “accountability group” throughout the program.
- The “peers” in each group come from various departments and functions across the organization, and typically are the same level of leader.
- The group meets once a month, shortly after the delivery of a leadership training topic that the entire group attends. They discuss and coach each other on the topic and how each individual plans to implement the ideas and actions from the training.
- Each group has an external coach, primarily serving as a facilitator of the discussion. One of the methods used by the coach is the “mastermind” technique, helping the peers learn the practices to effectively support each other.
Not surprisingly, the participants in these small peer coaching groups continue to meet – sans the external coach – after the program has ended. The peer coaching provides that much value!
More and more, organizations recognize the impact coaching has to supplement a leader’s development. When determining which method to use, consider the “power of the peers”.