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Finding Your Refuge, Your “Island of Sanity” through Peer Coaching

October 24, 2018

Fall is upon us. After summer vacation and quieter days online or in the office, activity boils back in a rush and suddenly it’s one stream of “I need this now,” “You’re the only one who can help,” “We’ve moved up the deadline on that project.” To handle all this activity, author Meg Wheatley says you need an “island of sanity,” a retreat or refuge where you can reclaim your best qualities and self. I learned about this idea from my friend and colleague Gabrielle Ganswindt, who studied with Meg and leads dialogue circles.

Peer coaching can serve as an island of sanity, for you and for others in your organization. Peer coaching is an outcome-oriented method that helps you take a step back, a look in the mirror, and gain a refreshed view of your work and life situation. A new perspective for rethinking where you would like to make a change or improvement. With peer coaching, you’ll make better choices, have more courage and skill to protect time and energy for the things that really matter; and feel more engaged and connected.

In our previous post, we introduced peer coaching and its benefits, relaying rigorous research by Polly Parker, Douglas T. Hall, Kathy E. Kram, and Ilene C. Wasserman and codified in their book, “Peer Coaching at Work: Principles and Practices.” In this newsletter, we’ll explore the first of three steps to successfully implement peer coaching, based on their research and my own experience with leaders and teams.

IDEA IN BRIEF:

STEP 1: HOW TO INTRODUCE PEER COACHING      

  • Choose a format. For example, will coaching take place 1-1 or in groups?
  • Create a strong foundation for the relationship.
  • Provide tools people can use to deepen self-awareness and get to know one another.
  • Establish agreements and commitments.

1-1 or Groups?

Peer coaching works in pairs or in groups. As an example, in a recent emerging leader program, we worked with the client to establish peer coaching groups that would support individuals in creating “Action Learning Projects.” These are specific products or services each individual would produce that were closely tied to the participants’ individual goals and objectives. Their peer coaches helped them think through their choices.Whether groups or 1-1, Parker, Hall, Kram and Wasserman’s research suggests that it is crucial that participants choose their peer coaching partners.

The first step to creating a successful peer coaching relationship is to create a strong foundation. Here’s how:

In any team or coaching relationship, a strong foundation is essential for success. Here are just a few of the elements:

 Personal sharing. I believe that personal sharing is the process of becoming more visible as a person, or unhiding. With today’s pace of organizations and the exponential rate of change and new knowledge, no one has the answers but many of us hide this, we hide our weaknesses, afraid to admit what we don’t know. On the flip side, we can lose sight of our strengths, which are essential to share.

 Norms/Agreements/Ground Rules/Principles: Whatever you call them, research has shown that the most productive relationships and teams are based upon agreed upon norms that each individual honors and practices. Example agreements:

  • Confidentiality
  • Promptness
  • Assume positive intent
  • Listen
  • Challenge

Commitments: If you’re embarking on a voyage to an “island of sanity,” you won’t reach your destination without commitment. Barriers will arise—the last minute, unexpected client deliverable; school calls and the kids are sick; budgets shrink. A sacred commitment is what you are willing to do to make your peer coaching situation a success.

Fall is upon us but December will be here before we know it. Time flies even if work-meetings seem to drag on and on. You reclaim your personal power over your circumstances by making time and saving energy for the things that truly matter. Using peer coaching, as your island of sanity, will help you get there.

Peer Coaching: The New Buddy System at Work

September 13, 2018

Recently, I took the plunge and started taking lessons toward scuba certification. That’s where I met Carmen Shultz, scuba instructor #8765432. Carmen proudly bares sun-damage spots and jelly-fish scars like war medals. Whether our group was in the classroom or in “confined waters” the right answers to Carmen’s quiz questions was, “the buddy system.”

Run out of air? Turn to your buddy.

 

 

Tangled in kelp? Signal your buddy.

 

 

Encounter a great white in the Boston Harbor? Stay close to your buddy.

Back up on the surface, organizational life has become a lot like the unpredictable waters below. The changing work of the future is here now and the waters are choppy.

For example, we’ve come to accept that 70% of the workforce is disengaged. One of the big reasons, studies show, is that people feel they don’t have a manager who cares or a buddy who has their back. This matters because we need an engaged workforce to deliver results.

 

IDEA IN BRIEF: PEER COACHING

  •  Peer coaching involves peers of equal status who support each other’s journey and goals.
  • For success, you must implement peer coaching correctly.
  • Use these three research-based steps to implement peer coaching in your organization.

Does organizational life need a buddy-system? 

Yes! But the old “mentoring” programs, when a wise sage imparted knowledge to a fledgling executive, don’t meet today’s needs. Instead, peer coaching has surfaced within the last ten years as a crucial and possibly more outcome-oriented alternative.

What is peer coaching? Is it different from mentoring?

Peer coaching is a “focused relationship between individuals of equal status who support each other’s personal and professional goals,” say my colleagues Polly Parker, Douglas Hall, Kathy Kram and Ilene Wasserman, in their latest book, “Peer Coaching at Work: Principles and Practices.” Through decades of research, these  experts in the field of mentoring and peer coaching have pinpointed the critical success factors that make peer coaching work.

Peer coaching is for everyone. In a world where no single person has the answers, we need to make the workplace safe for people to admit when they don’t have knowledge or skills and make it easy for them to seek advice and support. This will lead to greater organizational efficiency and ease in accomplishing the audacious goals organizations—and individuals—need to achieve to survive.

Why seek a peer coach or implement a peer coaching approach for your organization?

Peer coaching delivers what many people seek—opportunities to grow and develop, to feel connected. In their research, Parker, Hall,  Kram and Wasserman found the surprising benefits of peer coaching include greater “zest, empowered action, new knowledge and skills, enhanced self-awareness and a desire for more connection.” All of the benefits are well-accepted components of employee engagement.

Learning is a social process: cognitive scientists tell us that we learn and retain more when in relation with other people, a common trait of both mentoring and coaching. But I find peer coaching to be different from mentoring for several reasons:

  • Mutual goal-setting. Mentoring assumes that the mentor has knowledge to impart. The peer coaching process requires each learner to set goals and help the other move toward achieving those goals.
  • Method. Mentoring is often informal. Peer coaching uses a proven method – evidence-based approaches and tools which elicit insights and meaning and translate them into action.
  • Accountability. Mentors do not hold mentees accountable for outcomes. Peer coaching processes build-in accountability mechanisms.
  • Assumptions. Mentors may or may not be skilled in challenging mentees to face and challenge the assumptions that drive their behaviors. Peer coaching is a skilled process for surfacing assumptions.
  • Feedback and Feedforward. Mentors may pull punches or not. Peer coaches hold a mirror for one another and aren’t afraid to offer a picture of their colleague’s behavior and impact, or to offer advice for future success.

How can you successfully implement peer coaching in your organization?

Parker, Hall,  Kram and Wasserman outline three, evidenced-based steps for seeking a peer coach or for implementing an approach for your organization:

  1. Create a strong foundation for the peer coaching relationship.
  2. Create success through method, skills and self-awareness.
  3. Make peer coaching a habit, for yourself and for your organization.

In each of the next three newsletters, we’ll take a deeper dive into each of these steps, so you have a roadmap for implementing this new-economy way of generating knowledge, innovation, insight, engagement and connection, for yourself and for others.

What impressed me most about Carmen, scuba instructor #8765432, was her forceful yet caring way of ensuring that we each did what was needed to survive the unexpected while underwater. When it comes to scuba diving, I can’t imagine going to any depth without a buddy.

Like Carmen, all scuba instructors are required to have a number. People have come to feel like numbers in organizational life. Peer coaching is an important solution to creating a more human workplace, with greater depth of connection and learning.

But buyer beware: peer coaching isn’t just getting together for tea or happy hour. Success is a matter of being intentional. Before you take the plunge into peer coaching, make sure you have a plan.

Who Do You Work For?

July 6, 2017

Welcome to Careers 3.0 – we all work for ourselves now.

A few days before my new book, Take Charge of Your VIEW, launched on June 2, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Marion Estienne PhD, in her podcast on leadership, Present Tense Future Perfect.

We had a wonderful conversation about my book and the nature of career development today. Here are some nuggets from our wide ranging conversation:

Corporate culture has changed from a place where employees follow a pre-determined path of tasks and promotions that automatically take them to the next opportunity in the organization (Careers 1.0) to one where the employees seek out opportunities that line up with their passions and strengths. In today’s “careers 3.0 culture” you work for yourself, whether you have your own company or work for an organization.

No longer is career development side-lined to the HR department of a company. In companies that thrive today, career development is a core part of corporate culture. Companies want engaged employees and engagement surveys show that career development ranks as one of the top three qualities people look for in a company. The bottom line is that people are looking for work that taps into their best self.

This is a win-win for the employee and the company. The best leaders and company cultures are those that support their people to take charge of their careers by exploring how they can develop themselves within the company and providing opportunities for self-development. Two factors must exist for this to happen: first, employees must be given the tools to help them navigate work opportunities at the organization; second, managers must be willing to have these meaningful conversations with employees about their development and engage then in conversations about their VIEW.

Today’s Tip: The best leaders and company cultures are those that support their people to take charge of their careers.

I invite you to listen to the entire show about career development today and the six-week journey my book will take you through to find your best self.

Present Tense Future Perfect podcast link here.

Direct link to my interview here.

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