While peer coaching has been around since the beginning of business, more and more people are embracing this form of coaching to achieve their career ambitions. Peer coaching is “a type of helping relationship in which two people of equal status actively participate in helping each other on specific tasks or problems, with a mutual desire to be helpful,” according to The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science. No less than the “Bible of Business”, the Harvard Business Review, sung the praises of peer support networks in a recent piece, The Surprising Power of Peer Coaching.
Given so many people’s increased sense of isolation due to the pandemic, the timing of this attention to peer coaching makes perfect sense. We’re also in the midst of the great resignation. According to Gallup research this year, 48% of the American workforce was actively looking to change jobs. The three most common reasons Gallup found employees to be disengaged at work were:
- Not seeing opportunities for development
- Not feeling connected to the company’s purpose
- Not having strong relationships at work
No wonder, people are looking around for a better path and looking for a structure to help them turn this desire into reality.
According to the HBR piece, peer groups can provide an enduring source of support, helping people shed their experience of isolation. Moreover, “the benefits of small-group coaching come from powerful learning interactions among leaders who aren’t on the same team but are roughly equal in experience and position. By bringing people together who have no formal accountability to or interactions with each other, you can create deep learnings that wouldn’t be available otherwise.”
Any program that helps people set goals, keep them top of mind and prompts meaningful reflection and accountability will help them move closer to their goals. According to a study on accountability by the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD), the probability of completing a goal depends on planning and accountability.
- You have an idea or a goal: 10%
- You consciously decide you will do it: 25%
- You decide when you will do it: 40%
- You plan how you will do it: 50%
- You commit to someone you will do it: 65%
- You have a specific accountability appointment with a person you’ve committed to: 95%
Peer group coaching helps everyone achieve their goals by creating a structure to set goals, test ideas, get feedback and have a community for accountability. Members of the peer group act as one’s personal advisory board, offering advice, insight and support.
“I loved learning new frameworks for being a better manager and I really valued the opportunity to step out of my busy life to reflect and prioritize. It’s made me a better manager and I’m hitting bigger sales targets than ever before. I built relationships with amazing women who can help me with my career going forward, which is incredibly valuable.”
Types of peer groups
There are an abundance of programs and I hope the summary of features below helps you think about the right program for you.
- Led by a dedicated coach (or not): The biggest difference among offerings is whether a group has an executive coach to structure and provide coaching for group sessions. Those without a dedicated coach tend to be less expensive (though that is not always the case). With a paid coach, these groups are better able to stay on task and ensure that all members have time to process their challenges and opportunities.
- Focus on specific audiences: Some programs seek to advance the leadership of defined populations, with some groups like ours that serve women and others that serve the LGBTQ population.
- Size, frequency, and other details: Groups may vary in size, ranging from 6-18 members, who are largely the same members over time. Other features are frequency of meetings (monthly or bi-monthly), duration of meeting time, Many of the newer companies offer 2 hour sessions, but some programs are full day commitments each month. And some groups, like Trajectory Women offer half-day kick-off sessions for relationship building and setting vision.
- Seniority in one’s career: Longstanding organizations like YPO (Young Presidents Organization) and Vistage have provided peer group experiences for decades exclusively to CEO’s and top executives. Newer models, like Trajectory Women, are extending the model to women at mid-career who have already experienced substantial career success and are looking to better optimize their careers. We see women with varied needs. They may:
- Want a promotion
- Not be passionate about their role
- Believe they can do more, but don’t know how
- Want to work in a different culture
- Just want a change – not clear on how or what
While the effects of the pandemic are ebbing, Covid has radically altered leadership development, networking, and support systems. It revealed that the need for powerful community, accountability and coaching is stronger than ever. For some women, it will take years to recover the ground they lost due to the pandemic. We hope many of them will find peer coaching can propel them back on track.