Our development budgets are being cut, our teams are lean and stretched, and we want to differentiate our organization from the competition. And while a better product or service is a start, the real differentiator comes from your people. That’s where your competitive advantage comes from. So how do you ensure that your team is delivering the high levels of performance that you need to stand out? The essential trait of both a high performance team and strong individual performance is peer-to- peer accountability. Similarly, the highest factor in measuring a team’s dysfunction is lack of “peer to peer” accountability (Patrick Lencioni, “The Advantage“, 2012)
With a peer-coaching program, team members help each other to be successful. Peer coaches help team members to look at situations from a different perspective, to stay on track, and to look for better solutions.
When organizations are going through change of any kind, leaders have a tendency to incent, push, or model the behaviours from the top. What gets stronger results though, is developing a strong network of peer-to-peer interactions and peer accountability. People are encouraged and motivated to change their behaviour by those around them as much as by incentives from the top. Peer coaching helps to build accountability, support and recognition across the team, so that peers hold each other accountable for behaviours and results. People willingly call each other on performance issues when they do things that fall outside of the team commitment or values.
Peer accountability is about support, outcomes and stretch goals outside of organizational hierarchy and therefore it has the added benefit of developing stronger relationships, teamwork, communication and responsibility for ones own actions. Peer coaches are not only vested in their own success, but the success of their team.
So HOW does it work?
- Everybody IS a coach and everybody GETS a coach. It is easiest to start with peer coaching at the same level. It can cross departments. The premise is simple. We are accountable to each other. And we all get a coach. That makes it “just how we do things”. It’s not a bad thing and it doesn’t mean you are in trouble or not performing. It’s a strategy to help us deliver the highest level of performance. It’s that simple.
- Equip coaches with the tools they need to be successful. It doesn’t come easy for everyone. Great coaches ask great, and simple questions. The questions typically start with what or how, and are open ended. They encourage people to go deeper, expand initial thoughts or look at a different perspective. They don’t judge or criticize. They explore. They support. They encourage.
- Accountability Pairings last for 8 – 12 weeks…then switch partners. It is important for the team members to get used to different approaches and different strengths. It helps them grow. It keeps it fresh.
- Encourage people to focus on behaviours before results. Often, it is easier to hold individuals accountable for results and ignore the behaviours. But since behaviours precede results, start by building new “behavioural ground rules” to hold themselves and each other accountable. When we establish the peer responsibility to call out behaviours that are exhibited and inconsistent with our new behavioural ground rules, we make it more of the expected routine for everyone. Best to pick one key area for behaviour change and start there. Both players pick one behaviour and ask for ideas to help execute new behaviours.
- Resist the temptation to fix – resist the temptation of telling people what to do or giving advice – it is about drawing out through questions.
Peer to peer accountability is one of the toughest behaviours to master on a team. It often feels messy and uncomfortable. And it’s not something most of us have had much experience with. But it’s worth it. Teams who can call each other out on lack of follow-through or missed deadlines and broken rules are the ones that excel. They are efficient and productive. They have fun, and their relationships are stronger because of it. Next issue focuses on how to structure your Peer Coaching Sessions. If you want help setting up your Peer Coaching System, visit Learn2.com to speak with a practitioner today.
Author: Tammy Sweeney, VP Program Development, Learn2 & CEO, Women in Leadership and Business (WILB) Conference