What Success Looks Like
Peer-to-peer coaching reveals opportunities
Openness and Trust
November 2, 2010
When you run into a roadblock on a project, or just can’t seem to get the results you want, you generally talk with a boss, a family member, or a friend. All of those people offer great insight in the moment. But what about getting that ongoing advice, and talking with someone who may be a bit more objective? A peer coach can offer you ongoing insights on specific items, as well as things you might not have thought about.
Peer coaching is a relationship where two people share insights and seek better understanding about what’s going on in their lives, and practice skills that can improve their personal and professional effectiveness. No matter the job titles, it’s a partnership of equals. Benefits from this relationship vary, from getting tips on how to practice behaviors that reinforce our values, to advise on how to approach a problem.
Two staff members in the Office of Human Resources have been peer coaching each other for the past fifteen months, and have seen great benefits. Shayla Fields and Renee Fawcett have similar experiences but different perspectives. They’ve seen many benefits from their peer coaching partnership, including encouragement, new insights, new ideas, and support. The experience has helped them grow personally and professionally.
For example, Fawcett wanted to explore an event management program to better prepare her for future communications jobs, but was concerned about the high cost. She mentioned this in a peer coaching session, and Fields offered a creative solution in looking for grant assistance. With her suggestion, and the coaching she offered on how to complete a strong application, the program is a stronger possibility for Fawcett.
“I like having structured time to dive into professional development, and it helps to talk with someone who offers supportive suggestions,” said Fawcett.
Fields said that sharing your vulnerabilities with someone can be uncomfortable, but its benefits are much greater than the discomfort. She and Fawcett offer these tips on building a strong peer coaching relationship:
- Build openness and trust. Set expectations, be open to sharing, and keep confidences. Clarifying the parameters and goals of your relationship up front ensures both people benefit. Sharing complete information and offering honest feedback is vital to maintaining a worthwhile relationship.
- Be consistent. Meet on a regular basis, set a basic agenda for each meeting, and follow up on conversations. Fawcett said she and Fields meet every other week, and get away from the office to limit distractions. They also talk outside of their meetings to continue conversations and get immediate feedback. She said they also make sure to touch on what they discussed at their last meeting.
“Having someone genuinely interested in my progress and development enables me to feel encouraged and helps me to remember to practice my “I Will” statements,” Fields said.
- Focus on personal and professional development. Look at where you can increase your personal effectiveness, and how you can make your next career step. Fields and Fawcett recently attended a non-profit volunteer fair to explore community involvement opportunities. Talking about ways to volunteer helped the pair look for ways to expand their professional skills, and contribute to the community.
Getting started or getting more with Peer Coaching
Starting – or enhancing – a peer coaching relationship isn’t difficult.
In your unfreezing retreat, you had the opportunity to select a peer coach. If you haven’t talked with this person in awhile, reach out to resume the relationship. If you don’t have a peer coach, think about who might be a good person to work with, and talk with him or her about beginning a peer coaching relationship. Once you’re ready to get started, there are peer coaching resources available to help you make the most of the opportunity.
If you already meet regularly with your peer coach, these tools may give you new ideas for your coaching sessions. Use them directly, or as a guide for difference exercises.