What is Peer Coaching, and why should we care? Peer Coaching is about moving to a model where everyone’s seen as a contributor, a leader, and a responsible person. The word “peer” means that we are equals: We have equal or comparable levels of status.

Coaching is the act of helping someone find success by guiding them to discover their own brilliance and their own solutions. Coaching is closely related to mentoring, which is about helping people develop specific skills.

Benefits of Peer Coaching

Peer Coaching improves the performance of the team or organization. Here’s why:

#1 Creating a Learning Culture

Getting help or assistance in problem-solving is not some special activity, it’s just part of daily work. Peer Coaching creates a continuous learning culture in which people can get help if they need it. It also creates a space of giving and receiving, where one time during one activity, person A could be coaching person B, but later during the day, person B could be coaching person A. 

#2 Strengthening Relationships

Peer Coaching develops and strengthens relationships between people that are working together.

#3 Developing Leadership Capabilities

Peer Coaching gives a way to not have leadership be something that’s limited to a few select individuals. Rather, it creates a space for everyone to be leaders. That’s really what we want: leaders at all levels to create a high-performance organization.

Leading Beyond Change

Peer Coaching Done Right

Peer coaching can create excellent results if done right. Here’s how to do it effectively.

#1 Get comfortable asking for help

The first step to successful Peer Coaching is to ask people for help when you need it. How do you know when you need to ask for help? When you’re struggling with something, when you’re not sure if you’re doing something right, when there’s this little voice in your back head saying, “I’m not really sure.” 

That’s how you know to tap into people around you. This doesn’t only help you grow and learn new information, but also helps you achieve success on the deliverable that you’re actually working on. That’s the first clue – just to say, “Could I use help?”

#2 Ask for permission when offering help

On the flip side, where do you see people around you struggling? Where do you see people that could benefit from some help? In this case, rather than just starting to coach them, your first step is to ask for permission. You can ask “Would you like some advice?” Or, “Would you like some help?” If you get a “yes” answer, they’re acknowledging they’re ready to receive your support and assistance.

How Leaders Can Set Up a Peer Coaching Environment

#1 Make time and space for Peer Coaching

All too often, we get so focused on meeting deadlines that we don’t stop to ask for help. Create a space where it’s normal and routine for people to seek help and advice. Can I get your help with this? Can I get your advice on that?

#2 Use group success metrics

Move toward measuring group success and group success metrics rather than individual ones. Ask, “How well do we function as a team?” Why is this important? What often happens in traditional “business as usual” environments is silo optimization, where we optimize our own work to show we are successful. When we do that, the notions of helping others, working together as a team, and Peer Coaching just fall away. Create an environment where taking time to help other people – coaching them, mentoring them, and supporting them – is an important characteristic of a high-performance environment.

#3 Let your best people be helpers

It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the best thing to do with our most talented people is to make sure they have no work assigned to them at all. Then, all they’ll spend their days doing is elevating and uplifting everybody else. A team only moves as fast as its slowest member: If we focus on helping those who are the least productive, we uplift everybody. The level of productivity goes up, and the team will operate at a much higher level. 

#4 Model peer coaching

In order to set up an environment in which Peer Coaching is used, we as leaders need to actually coach our peers and have them coach us. If you are not asking for help from peers and team members, how can you take a vacation as a leader?

When you invite people on your team to coach you, it’s very closely related to Peer Coaching. By treating them as an equal and having them coach you, you are modeling what you want to see from the rest of the team.

When you ask them to work with you on something or give them some of your own projects and coach them through them, then you can step away and have everything be handled. You’re building people who have the capabilities to do your job. When you do a great job and have a great team, you get promoted. Then, there’s someone there to seamlessly backfill your role because you’ve been developing those capabilities in people.

Final Thoughts

One of the secrets to creating a high-performance organization is having a learning culture: having leaders at all levels who show up responsibly and act like leaders. Peer Coaching is a very powerful, effective strategy for people at all levels to develop the capabilities they need to function more autonomously and become leaders.

Leading Beyond Change