Create a peer coaching habit in your group coaching programs

“Let me pause and ask the group to bring curiosity to this situation. What would you like to ask in this moment?”

Our trainees were stunned. The coach who was offering the demo had just asked THEM to ask the questions! It took just a second for the first question to come and for the following 8 minutes, the group gently probed their peer, helping her dig deeper and come to a powerful insight.

By showing self-awareness and self-regulation the coach had opened the floor for the group to step in, take the lead, and grow.

What is peer coaching?

It’s learning with and from others in a similar life situation or work context and level. But this doesn’t just happen. For peer coaching to work, group coaches need to be adept at creating a safe space that allows for risk-taking, weaving the thread of connection and stepping back to allow the group to co-create its members’ and its own transformation. Peer coaching affords the members time and space to help each other create awareness on their current reality, reflect on their vision and create clear actions. In this process, they ask each other questions, offer observations and share perspectives.

Why create a peer coaching habit in your group?

The value of the group lies in its diversity as each member brings their own view of the world, their own mode of functioning and perceptions. Peer coaching allows the person being coached to view the situation from multiple perspectives as each participant’s curiosity takes them in a different direction. Each group member will consider and focus on a different aspect of what is shared and will prompt the person being coached to reflect in a multi-dimensional way.

In addition, peer coaching provides you, the coach, with an opportunity to step back. It allows you to observe more keenly what is happening within each member. As the group members engage in coaching, your role is to notice each person’s body language, tone or reactions so that you can bring those up and create more awareness for all of your coachees. E.g. “Person X, I noticed that when Person Y asked about boundaries, you smiled and nodded, what was that about?

Another reason is that you might notice common themes emerging in the group. When you’re not engaged in asking questions of the group, you can pay close attention to all the members’ contributions and reactions. You might see some commonalities emerge that you can bring to the surface for the group. E.g. “Many of you asked questions about expressing your own value in the work place. I wonder what some of you might want to share about this.”

How do you create a peer coaching habit?

Here are some ways to get started:

  • Teach your members to do it. Spend some time sharing some powerful questions they can use and explaining what great coaching questions are.
  • Call it out explicitly. Put a label on any peer coaching moment. By naming it you are creating an intentional space where group members understand expectations and objectives.
  • Create Space. Hold time in every meeting to allow for peer coaching. Turning an individual challenge into a universal conversation is not just beneficial for the member working through the challenge, but also for the group. This could happen as a full group or in smaller breakouts, depending on how many coachees are in the group.
  • Time it. Adjust the amount of time spent peer coaching based on what works best for your group's needs. The point of this isn’t to limit the amount of support members get but  to ensure the whole time is not monopolized by one person’s unique challenge.
  • Reflect. What was created? What was the impact? How can they continue and expand?
  • Accountability: Ensure they explore to help each other be accountable towards each other.

As a general rule, reminding all participants to go from an advice-giving mindset to a curiosity mindset is the way to go. This will take practice and as we mentioned before, being very explicit about the moment.

For example, if someone always tries to give advice, you might need to ask them to turn their advice into a short story so that they are sharing their own experience and letting the group make meaning from it rather than then telling others what to do. You can then encourage other members to share their learning and curiosity.

The last and not least aspect to remember is that peer coaching trains your group members to adopt a coaching mindset in and out of sessions and who wouldn’t want that?

Happy Group Coaching!