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Why Peer Coaching Groups Are Becoming A Preferred Leadership Development Approach

Research from trainingindustry.com shows that companies spent more than $357 billion globally in 2020 on leadership development training. This huge investment in developing leaders, combined with the amount of research, articles, videos, classes and webinars available on the internet at little or no cost, allows leaders to access the most relevant leadership development topics, skills and knowledge. Access to information is not the central challenge for organizations with effectively developing leaders.

The primary challenge organizations face with leadership development is teaching leaders how to turn new knowledge and skills into successful habits during the speed and complexity of their busy days. Many organizations are leveraging the concept of Peer Coaching Groups to address this challenge.

Peer Coaching Groups provide an environment for leaders to practice coaching skills to support their peers in practicing and developing chosen leadership skills that they will then use in their daily work settings. Before we dive into understanding the benefits of this leadership development approach, you must understand the basic framework below:

  • Leaders will commit to participating in 6-8 Peer Coaching Groups sessions.
  • Sessions, virtual or in-person, occur approximately every 2-3 weeks.
  • Each session will last between 90 to 120 minutes.
  • Each group will have a Mentor Coach who provides subject matter expertise, facilitation, scheduling, and general organization.

Peer Coaching Groups better leverage the popular 70/20/10 model that many organizations use as the gold standard for how to develop leaders. The model is a general framework stating that leaders obtain 70% of their knowledge from job-related experiences, 20% from interactions with others, and 10% from formal educational events.

Benefits Of Peer Coaching Groups

Peer Coaching Groups offer many advantages over traditional leadership development workshops or leaders learning by themselves. Below are some of the benefits:

ownership

Peer Coaching Groups have more influence on selecting which topics are most important to their current leadership situations. This approach enables the group to make adjustments, if necessary, to address shifting needs and current events, which allows for a customized development experience. The design of these sessions relies on group members playing a more central role in developing themselves and others within their group.

contextualization

Many leadership development workshops rely on external consultants or internal HR professionals to teach and facilitate topics. The Peer Coaching Group approach helps leaders to consider both the development of new skills and the environment in which these new skills need to be applied. Because peer leaders will be coaching one another, they will be more in tune with understanding the culture, processes, systems and politics that they must overcome for leadership success.

Builds Key Relationships

Leadership can be a very lonely place. There are limitations to what leaders can share with their direct reports and bosses. This isolation has been amplified by remote work and the lack of time to establish a meaningful professional support system.

Peer Coaching Groups provide dedicated time, shared purpose, and a supportive setting for building peer relationships. Shawn Achor summed it up in his book Happiness Advantage, “The greatest predictor of success and well-being is a person’s social support network. Countless studies have found that social relationships are the best guarantee of heightened well-being and lowered stress, both an antidote for depression and a prescription for high performance.”

A Focus On Practice, Feedback, And Reflection

When kicking off a Peer Coaching Group, members should focus on developing the core coaching skills that participants will practice throughout the entire development experience. This first session, and each of the following sessions, ends with each leader sharing their meaningful practice goal. Sharing and documenting each leader’s practice goal establishes accountability because the next session will start with individual and group reflection on their practice experience.

The second half of each Peer Coaching Group session focuses on a new development topic or a deeper dive into a previous development topic. This part of the Peer Coaching Group session is where leaders explore new knowledge, skills, frameworks, and best practices for a defined leadership topic. New learning topics can be supported by pre-work, like online training, articles, research, etc., that prepares participants to engage successfully with the leadership topic.

Throughout the Peer Coaching Group experience, leaders will be engaging in the Applied Learning Cycle. This framework helps leaders accelerate their learning and the application of new desired behaviors and skills.

Practice Goals

After each session, each leader declares a meaningful practice goal. Setting a practice goal provides the benefits of clarity, focus and accountability. Meaningful goals are a magnet for maximizing effort to achieve an intended behavior change. Setting goals is easy; achieving them is hard.

Practice

Leaders must have the courage to practice new knowledge, skills, and behaviors if they want to evolve and learn. An important first step is establishing a healthy social support network that creates positive accountability for practicing new behaviors. The American Society of Training and Development conducted a study on accountability and found that you have a 65% chance of completing a goal if you commit to someone. If you have a specific accountability appointment with a person you have committed, you will increase your chance of success by up to 95%.

Feedback

Receiving honest feedback helps leaders address blind spots that get in the way of achieving desired goals. For leaders to receive honest feedback, they must be deliberate about creating a safe environment by actively giving permission and expressing openness and desire to receive feedback.

reflection

Having leaders coach their peers towards reaching their development goals helps them focus, discover, and clarify where they are today, where they want to go, and what they need to do moving forward. This practical approach provides a framework to assess experience, make meaning of the experience, and decide what the experience means for future action. Research shows that a regular practice of reflection is essential for learning and developing new skill sets. A practice of reflection is proven to increase the capacity to demonstrate emotional intelligence, social skills, and learning agility while also developing the desired new skill set.

Great leaders are great at learning and implementing new knowledge and skills. Peer Coaching Groups introduce a development framework that focuses equally on learning new skills and turning those new skills into desired behaviors. Peer Coaching Groups provide a better recipe for developing leaders.

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