Shana Bosler
Director, Coaching,
Learning & Development
Emergenetics International

Creating a strong coaching culture is a growing trend within many organizations. What this means is that businesses are looking for ways to support their employees in learning new skills and growing as professionals.

At the core of this sort of culture is traditional coaching, where managers provide feedback to their direct reports. It’s critical for managers to learn how to do so effectively and often. In fact, Joanne Trotta, Certified Emergenetics® Associate and CEO of Leaders Edge, Inc., wrote about this topic last month.

As Learning and Development teams seek to build an effective coaching culture, we are beginning to see more organizations add peer-to-peer coaching in addition to coaching from managers. In this coaching model, colleagues provide constructive feedback to one another and support each other’s professional development.

Why use peer-to-peer coaching in the workplace?

As you evaluate your options for employee development, peer coaching can be a great addition to your existing programs. In fact, a survey from Quantum Workplace recently reported that employees rated peer-to-peer coaching as one of their top five preferred methods of learning and development.

A few other reasons to consider peer coaching in the workplace include:

1. Accountability

Sometimes, the people who best understand workplace performance are not managers or executives. Teammates and peers tend to be more aware of a person’s day-to-day activities and actions and may be in a better position to provide constructive feedback.

2. Immediacy

42 percent of millennials want weekly feedback, which is twice the percentage of every other generation, and only 19 percent say they receive routine feedback. Even if you aren’t coaching a millennial, feedback is typically most useful when it occurs immediately (or shortly) after a situation has occurred.

While managers can and should offer guidance, sometimes it can be delayed to the next performance review cycle, or because of the volume of meetings managers generally attend. Colleagues and peers may have an easier time providing real-time feedback.

3. Teamwork

When peers coach each other, they are demonstrating that they have an interest in supporting the professional development of their colleague, which can build stronger relationships. And, when peers consider the Emergenetics preferences of their team members when delivering feedback, they can establish even greater connections by being thoughtful in their approach.

4. Power dynamics

Receiving feedback on your professional development from a manager or executive may be perceived as a high stakes conversation, especially during performance reviews, whereas coaching from a peer can deliver the same advice and may feel less intimidating.

5. Leadership development

Anyone who wants to ultimately lead a team, division or organization should learn how to give effective feedback since people management will be part of their day-to-day job. Participating in peer coaching helps employees build the skills they need for these future leadership roles.

How can you establish a successful peer-to-peer coaching program?

I recommend that you start with a small, committed group of peer coaches. By starting small, you will be able to check in with each participant more easily and better assess the program’s success, challenges and impact.

Next, set some ground rules. You don’t need to be overly prescriptive about the format for how peers should coach one another. However, it is helpful to give guidelines, such as:

  • Approach conversations without judgment
  • Stay open-minded about the feedback you receive
  • Emphasize questions over directive statements when coaching
  • Assume positive intent in that your coach truly cares for your professional development

I also recommend asking participants to bring their Emergenetics Profiles to the first meeting. This way, they can share their Thinking and Behavioral preferences with one another and how these preferences impact the way they prefer to receive feedback.

Coaching pairs should commit to providing feedback in a way that supports the preferences of their partner. For example, I’m third-third Expressive. When I give feedback, my natural inclination is to find my peer and talk through my thoughts out loud.

However, if I’m coaching someone who is first-third Expressive, they may not want to talk it out initially. They may appreciate my feedback more if I send them an email first and give them some time to process my input before we connect in person.

If your coaches need reminding of how best to approach one another, encourage them to connect with their partner on the Emergenetics+ app to receive recommendations on how to best interact with each other.

Receiving feedback is vulnerable by nature, so when your peer-to-peer coaching participants make a commitment to consider the way their peers want to receive feedback, the program will be far more effective and well received.

Check in with your coaches on a monthly basis initially to discuss how the program is going, identify opportunities for improvement and celebrate successes. As your participants start to see the impact of the program on their professional development, you can begin identifying opportunities to expand peer-to-peer coaching within your organization.

By establishing successful peer coaching in addition to traditional coaching from managers, you will start to build a culture where employees as well as leaders feel empowered to support the development of others. Once these programs are firmly in place, you can start to transform your culture to support multi-directional coaching where all employees feel encouraged to help those at every level grow as professionals.

Fill out the form below to learn more about using the Emergenetics Profile to strengthen your coaching programs.