Organizations indicate that development of the next generation of leaders is a challenge. With the eminent retirement of the baby boomers, employers aspire to develop employees who are ready to replace them.

High potential employees have mastered technical skills and processes but, oftentimes, lack the requisite leadership skills to take the next step. Peer-coaching groups are a cost-effective way to promulgate a coaching culture throughout an organization. Technology companies like Microsoft operate between 60 to 90 peer-coaching groups at any given time during a year.

What are Peer-Coaching Groups?

A peer group is a cadre of four to five employees that share a common interest such as working for the same organization, but do not share a common goal. Peer-coaching groups meet on a regular basis to coach each other on priorities at work. Examples are challenges such as dealing with a difficult coworker, motivating their teams and managing work/life balance. Members gain new insights and perspectives into challenges at work and develop their coaching skills.

Peer-coaching groups typically contain three roles (a) peers, (b) facilitator and (c) timekeeper. Peers are ideally employees who work in different departments or job functions to enable diversity of thought. The facilitator guides the meeting and the timekeeper keeps the peer group on schedule. The peer group rotates the facilitator and timekeeper roles for each meeting.

Peer-coaching group programs begin with a training on the principles of coaching and the roles of facilitator and timekeeper. A professional coach, certified through the International Coach Federation, can assist with the fundamentals of coaching. Some organizations supplement peer-coaching groups with leadership development training.

After the principles of coaching training, the peer group establishes a monthly session at which each member is assigned time to present their priority and receive coaching from the peer group. Each member gets equal time to talk about their priority.

What are the Organizational Benefits of Peer-Coaching Groups?

Some of the benefits organizations realize are:

  • Growth and development of employees.
  • Solid approach towards creating an organizational coaching culture.
  • Real time feedback & help for specific needs.
  • Ease of scale in organizations.
  • Minimal cost to implement.

How are Peer-Coaching Groups different from
Team Coaching?

To reiterate, peer-coaching groups are employees working for the same company with a common interest. Team coaching, in comparison, involves employees who are aligned toward a common goal such as a team tasked with building new computer software. A team works together on a collective product with interdependencies/interconnectedness.         

How do I determine if Peer-Coaching Groups are a fit for my Organization?

The majority of organizations would benefit by utilizing peer-coaching groups.  However, organizations with a pool of knowledge workers with the ability to effectively listen, think independently, and reflect are ideal.  Organizational leaders should assess their workforces for these attributes and weigh the benefits of peer-coaching groups against their current practices to determine if such groups are a fit for their organizations.

By Dr. Peter Gabriel

Dr. Peter Gabriel is an Associate Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation (ICF), the incoming President Elect for ICF Pittsburgh, and a graduate of Duquesne University’s Professional Coach Certification Program.  Dr. Gabriel is a partner for Key Leadership’s Pittsburgh office, which offers executive/leadership coaching, and leadership/team development programs for organizations. He holds a Doctorate in Leadership from Creighton University.