Coaching colleagues or peers who don’t report to us can be a delicate endeavor, as the dynamics of authority and voluntary participation are different than in a traditional superior-subordinate relationship. Here are five practical tips for coaching in such scenarios:
- Build Respect and Trust: How you approach your colleagues matters. Curiosity and openness, while showing your intent to help, are far superior to an attitude of judgment. Maintaining discretion and confidentiality surrounding those conversations is a must.
- Initiate Permission and Engagement: Unlike a traditional coaching scenario where the coach has an authoritative position, coaching peers begins with seeking permission. Always ask if they are open to feedback or coaching. You already know as a human being that when people are receptive, they’re more likely to engage in the process and take your feedback seriously.
- Listen Attentively: Choose to listen more than you speak. Engage in active listening to fully understand their perspectives, challenges, and goals. Less is more, so tailor your feedback and advice to be relevant and applicable without imposing your agenda.
- Pose Insightful Questions. Not Inciteful Questions: Use open-ended questions to guide your peers toward their realizations (hint: not yours!). Help them reflect, identify, and commit to their most appropriate solutions.
- Provide Specific Feedback: Only when directly asked for by the other person, focus on giving feedback that is both constructive and precise. Apply a model like “Situation-Behavior-Impact” or something equally direct to make your feedback clear and actionable—couple critiques with positive recognition. Remember, a well-executed coaching conversation should always encourage positive growth and self-reflection.
Remember, when coaching peers, your role is often more about facilitating their development than instructing or directing. It’s essential to maintain a collaborative and supportive stance along with patience, recognizing that your colleagues are capable professionals who are primarily responsible for their growth.