How to Use Peer Coaching to Up the Game Of Your Team


Your development budgets are being cut, your teams are lean and stretched, and you want your organization to stand out from the competition. And while a better product or service is a good start, the real differentiator comes from your people.  That’s where your competitive advantage comes from.

So how do you ensure your team delivers the performance to stand out?

The essential trait of both high-performance teams 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).

Inside a peer-coaching program, team members help each other be successful. Peer coaches help team members to look at situations from a different perspective, to stay on track, and to find better solutions.

“You’re the sum of the people you surround yourself with.”

When organizations go through change of any kind, leaders like to incent, push, and model the desired behavior from the top. What gets stronger results though, is developing strong peer-to-peer interactions and peer accountability. Leaders + their teams get encouraged to change their behavior by those closest to them.

Peer coaching helps build accountability, support, and recognition across the team, so peers hold each other accountable for behaviors and results. Leaders willingly coach each other on performance when things fall outside the team commitment or values.

Peer accountability delivers support, outcomes and stretch goals outside of the typical organizational hierarchy and therefore has the added benefits of developing stronger relationships, teamwork, communication, and responsibility.  Peer coaches are not only vested in their own success they are also vested in the success of their team.

So HOW does it work?

1. Everybody IS a coach + everybody GETS a coach. Start with peer coaching at the same level. It can even cross departments.  The premise is simple.  We are all accountable to each other.  And we all get a coach.  Which makes peer coaching  “just how we do things”.  It becomes a learning experience and stops meaning someone is in trouble or not performing.  Peer coaching becomes a strategy to help us all deliver the highest level of performance.  It’s that simple.

2. Equip coaches with the tools they need to be successful.  Peer coaching may come easy to some.  Great coaches ask great, simple questions.  The questions typically start with what or how, and are open-ended.  Peer coaches encourage others to go deeper, expand initial thoughts or consider different perspectives.  They avoid judgment and criticism.  They explore.  They support.  They encourage.

3. Accountability Pairings last for 8 to 12 weeks. Then sometimes we suggest everyone switch partners. Team members get used to different approaches and different strengths.  So changing pairings helps everyone continue growing.  Keeping conversations and relationships fresh.

4. Encourage people to focus on behaviors before results.  Often, new coaches focus on holding individuals accountable for results and ignore their behaviors.   Instead, focus on behaviors.  Because behaviors precede results, start by building new “behavior ground rules” to hold ourselves and each other accountable.  When we establish our peer responsibility to coach up behaviors inconsistent with our new behavioral ground rules, we make it the culture for everyone.  Start with one key area for behavior change and start there.  Both peer coaches pick one behavior and ask for ideas to execute new behaviors.

5. Resist the temptation to fix – resist the temptation of telling others what to do, what they “should” do or giving advice – it is about drawing out insights through questions.

Peer to peer accountability is one of the best behaviors to instill in a team.  While peer accountability starts out feeling messy and uncomfortable, it’s because most of us have not had much experience with peer accountability as organizations rely on organization structure for accountability.  It’s worth instilling.  Teams who can call each other out on lack of follow-through or missed deadlines and broken rules become the teams who excel.  Those teams become efficient and productive. They have fun, and their relationships are stronger because of the honesty and openness.

Next issue focuses on how to structure your Peer Coaching Sessions. If you want help setting up your Peer Coaching System, visit and start a conversation with us.

Author: Doug Bolger



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