The power of peer coaching: 5 tips to improve your team's performance

Peer coaching appears to be a vibrant business strategy that management and human resources experts are applying to improve employee’s motivation and performance.

It’s only for the past few decades that peer coaching is being used as a learning tool that assists in the ongoing developmental process of the workforce. Although the roots of coaching are found in the early 1980s at the educational field, as a tool to improve mentoring abilities to the educational community, its dynamic and its viability started expanding to several other fields.

Currently, peer coaching is a popular yet growing technique in business settings that is being implemented between two or more colleagues. Their main purpose is to share their knowledge, reflect on their practices, build new skills, teach one another new techniques, solve problems, improve competencies and effectively confront several issues arising within their working environment.

Why is peer coaching a catalyst for today's workforce performance and motivation?

With today’s business environment being far more fluid and fast paced, smart leaders realize that gathering employees input only from performance appraisals is not the most effective way to set goals and facilitate the process of learning and development.

Generation Y stands beyond those practices. Today’s workforce is much more focused on interactive communication, ongoing feedback, network building and constructive dialogue. Peer coaching has been proved a powerful way for professional growth, where transformational conversation elements find a solid ground to grow.

What makes peer coaching an effective learning approach? 

  • Individuals use their own resources to find solutions to problems. The peer coach serves as facilitator, helping the other party identify and select the best options. Together, they share knowledge about successful interventions and techniques, redefine goals and opportunities and clarify facts and assumptions

  • The coaching partners explore other possibilities that might have not thought before

  • The environment within the coaching session is evolving is a non–judgmental and trust based environment, far less threatening to a discussion with a manager

  • The feedback is given in a constructive way, encouraging them to express their feelings and ideas without the fear of shame or guilt, as they are both “thinking partners”

Are all people competent enough to engage in a peer coaching experience? 

People involved in peer coaching must be mutually open to welcome new ideas and learn from each other experiences, trust and respect each other. It is usually an uncomfortable situation as a result of the changing process, where both parties must be eager to experience in order to reveal their concerns and emotions to each other.

In that sense, not everybody is coachable and not everybody can coach. The key for an effective peer coaching is that both sides must possess certain simple, yet crucial competencies in order to engage in this transformational process. Make sure that the people involved in peer coaching have or must cultivate the following attributes:

  • They are both good listeners. It is considered to be the most important element for the coaching to take place. They both need to be patient, not to interrupt, not to have an aggressive communication style – forcing their own ideas and agendas - but rather equally listen and talk. Those conditions facilitate the coaching process, creating space for the other person to think and share concerns and ideas

  • They are open minded and willing to change. Individuals, who believe that they are perfect, usually consider coaching a waste of time. However, the majority of the workforce is open to change, eager to give and receive feedback and willing to appreciate new perspectives and alternative ways of acting and thinking

  • They are curious to learn. People with a genuine curiosity are usually those who are willing to engage in any kind of interaction and feel comfortable to share information and learn from each other

  • They have self-awareness. Those people can be spotted relatively easy. They are individuals that are flexible to accept other best alternatives, they recognize their strengths and weaknesses and they gladly accept feedback even if it’s a negative one

Some companies prefer to hire external professional coaches to coach employees at all levels of the organization. This is a good approach especially when it comes to executive coaching. However, in regard to employees, peer coaching is proving to be a more effective, simple and low cost way for their professional development.

Just make sure that the employees that participate in the peer coaching process are competent enough to effectively communicate with their peers. A good way to educate them is to set up a peer coaching workshop with a professional consultant to train them on the peer coaching strategies and make coaching much more effective.

FINALLY KEEP IN MIND THOSE 5 USEFUL TIPS. PEER COACHING BECOMES MORE EFFICIENT WHEN:

  • Feedback is given in a way that opens up new possibilities to explore

  • The coaching partner believes in the coachee, endorsing strengths and not only weaknesses

  • Engage peer partner’s curiosity, imagination and inspiration

  • Remain confidential and non-judgmental

  • Set open questions which create space for a substantial conversation