Peer-to-Peer Coaching Puts Leadership Skills into Overdrive | Gail Sutton

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Natural talent only takes you so far. That’s why the most successful people surround themselves with other experts with whom they share experiences and insights and discuss options. They have formal networks, but often it’s the informal, peer-to-peer coaching and resources that spur the most personal growth.

The reason is simple: peer-to-peer networks offer the wisdom of a select group of peers and a low-risk environment. Here, it’s safe to admit what you don’t know and then to fill that gap.

As a result, peer-to-peer coaching has a dramatic impact on employee performance. Study after study shows employees who participate in peer-to-peer coaching significantly outperform employees who approach tasks independently. Documented benefits include:

  • Enhanced reasoning.
  • Less anxiety.
  • Greater confidence.
  • Improved leadership capabilities.
  • Expanded influence.
  • Clearer communications.
  • The ability to manage upwards.
  • Higher productivity.
  • Better performance.

Peer-to-peer coaching isn’t a replacement for professional coaching. Having a network of peers who can discuss goals and challenges and help each other find solutions, however, often provides the encouragement and broader insights people need to help them advance their goals. In fact, peer support has a stronger influence on whether training is implemented in the job than even the support of supervisors, according to researchers at Louisiana State University.

Studies estimate that between 10 and 40 percent of learning actually is translated back into the workplace. In a poor work environment, that transfer of knowledge is on the lower end of that scale, but peer-to-peer coaching can overcome that. A study from Cleveland State University researchers indicates that, despite a bad work environment, trainees who had peer support translated as much of their training into their work as trainees who had a positive work environment.

Regardless whether the work environment is stellar or has challenges, peer-to-peer support and coaching increases the return on training and enhances the effectiveness of formal workforce development activities. This is because peers:

  • Have no vested interest in the outcome. Their role is simply to encourage and to help each other find new or better ways to take the next step.
  • Increase motivation by increasing employee support.
  • Become “value creators” who add worth to the organization and to their own careers.
  • Spread intangible knowledge – how to get things done here, whom to involve, and why.
  • Offer a safe space to ask questions and explore ideas.

Peers vs. Experts

While employees could rely on experts as coaches, those experts aren’t necessarily available. There’s another benefit, too. Peers often use what’s called a background reasoning process to assess new challenges. Because they may not have faced a particular challenge, they tend to analyze the situation from the ground up rather than fast-forwarding to a conclusion based on previous experience. As a result, they learn more and the learning is more deeply ingrained.

Peer-to-peer coaching also encourages employees to try something new, and holds them accountable for results. Not every approach will be effective, of course, but talking with a network of peers helps minimize mistakes and maximize successes. Because this peer support group will want updates, employees tend to feel obligated to follow through on their ideas and to provide progress updates. These updates typically trigger more discussion, improve the knowledge of the peers and, ultimately, enhance accountability.

If, however, peers find their solutions lacking, they can feel confident bringing a challenge to a manager’s attention knowing they’ve assessed the situation to the best of their abilities. This process protects managers’ time while simultaneously helping employees learn from peers’ experiences.

For peer-to-peer coaching to be most effective:

  • Start with a small network of people who care about helping one another achieve their goals.
  • Be aware of your own biases.
  • Listen actively.
  • Ask questions…even the “dumb” ones.
  • Know when to seek expert help.

The results of peer-to-peer coaching are overwhelmingly positive. To learn more about how you can support peer-to-peer coaching, contact Jubi.

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