What Is Peer Coaching? (Plus 16 Effective Tips To Consider)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 14, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Peer coaching is the process of professionals meeting to discuss and reflect on their work with the purpose of refining their skills and developing professionally. You may benefit from peer coaching if you're hoping to grow in your work and gain feedback on how to improve and progress. If you're interested in participating in peer coaching, you may be curious about some best practices to follow so you can have the most effective coaching sessions.

In this article, we define peer coaching, review why it's important and discover 11 different tips for effective peer coaching.

Related: 11 Coaching in the Workplace Examples

What is peer coaching?

Peer coaching is a learning and development process where two or more professionals meet to discuss their performance at work. For this process, it's typical for professionals in the same line of work at the same level of work to engage with each other. Peer coaching typically involves the following:

  • Reflecting on current practices: You can gain insight into how your current practices and processes impact yourself and others and if they require change for improved efficiency.

  • Learning new things: You're able to learn new skills and processes from other professionals in the workplace.

  • Refining skills: You may be able to refine your professional skills by gaining advice and guidance from others on how to do so.

  • Developing skills: You can develop your current skills to master them by learning from others.

  • Sharing ideas: You can brainstorm and discuss ideas with each other and gather opinions on them.

  • Teaching each other: This allows you an opportunity to teach each other valuable workplace skills and lessons.

  • Conducting research: You and fellow professionals can conduct research on more efficient ways to complete work.

  • Solving workplace problems: You can collaborate with coworkers to find solutions to issues or challenges that you identify in the workplace.

Related: The Value of Learning and Development in the Workplace

Why is peer coaching important?

Peer coaching is important for a wide variety of reasons, and you can often receive a number of benefits from engaging in it. Generally, peer coaching is important for the following reasons:

  • Helps you better understand how well you're performing

  • Provides you insight into how you could improve

  • Fosters communication

  • Allows for collaboration among professionals

  • Enables you to learn new skills

  • Creates a sense of camaraderie

  • Allows you to expand your knowledge

  • Boosts leadership skills

  • Increases engagement in your workplace

Related: How To Use Peer-to-Peer Learning in the Workplace

16 tips for effective peer coaching

There are several good practices that you can follow when engaging in peer coaching, in addition to a number of tips to consider so you can have the most effective peer coaching experience. Here are 11 tips for effective peer coaching:

1. Prepare ahead of time

Whether you or your peer offers the coaching session, it's important to be as prepared as possible beforehand. Consider questions you may have for your peer, any concerns you'd like to share or lessons you may like to learn from your peer, by writing them down before your session.

If you're the person peer coaching for a session, you may outline any points you'd like to make to your peer, advice you'd like to give, specific instances you'd like to discuss with them or questions you'd like to ask them before the meeting takes place.

2. Be as respectful as possible

Being respectful is essential in the workplace. It's important to address your peer with an appreciation for their professional position and contributions in addition to who they are as a person. Demonstrating professionalism and showing that your peer coaching session exists to assist the both of you can help ensure that the session remains professional and respectful.

Related: 18 Tips for Giving Effective Peer Feedback

3. Select words carefully

It's important to be careful about the words and phrases you use while peer coaching. It's necessary to put much thought into what you say, either verbally or in writing, when speaking with a peer. Using more general language and constructive feedback can help ensure that you're only using non-emotive words while sharing with your peer. It's also important to proofread any messages you may send to your peer after meeting with them or before meeting with them to ensure that you're being clear, accurate and concise.

4. Give evidence

When making claims during your peer coaching session, it's important to provide your peer with evidence to back up said claims. For example, if you find your peer struggles with arriving at meetings on time and could benefit from attempting to leave a bit early from their original destination, you may describe certain instances in which you noticed there were important details spoken about at the meeting that they missed out on. You can describe these details and offer suggestions on how to get to these meetings a bit earlier.

5. Try to be empathetic

In general, receiving any type of feedback or criticism has the potential to be uncomfortable. It's important to keep this in mind while peer coaching, so trying to be empathetic with your peer can be helpful in understanding how they may feel during the coaching session. Consider how you may react to any feedback or advice you're planning to give to your peer and revise as needed if you find that it may be too harsh or not necessarily productive. Empathy can help you stay sensitive and have as effective peer coaching sessions as possible.

6. Avoid emotional language

Something you may consider avoiding while peer coaching is using emotional language. Emotional language tends to call out peers by using overly descriptive and personal details to describe instances in which a peer didn't meet expectations or failed to meet standards.

For example, instead of saying something like, "Everyone else on the team sent in their project proposals three days earlier than you did, so I assume you didn't have any good ideas," you may consider saying something like, "Most of our team members were able to send in their project proposals a bit earlier. Were the certain ideas you needed help fleshing out?"

Related: FAQ: What Is Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace?

7. Offer only constructive criticism

Criticism that doesn't offer suggestions for improvements isn't always the most helpful and doesn't guide peers in a manner that they can learn from and improve. As such, offering only constructive criticism can help a peer improve their work and produce more successful results. When offering constructive criticism, you may consider weighting your conversation towards strengths that your peer boasts of and incorporate how you think they can use these strengths to improve certain processes that they undertake in their work.

8. Use a passive voice

Using a passive voice when peer coaching can help peers better accept feedback and constructive criticism. Passive voice focuses on the action, not the person taking the action. For instance, instead of saying something like, "You don't send meeting reminder emails on time," you may consider saying something like, "It's helpful to send meeting reminder emails well in advance."

9. Be as specific as possible

The more specific you are when peer coaching, the better. Ensuring that any feedback, advice or guidance that you deliver to your peer is as specialized and actionable as possible can ensure that they're able to interpret that feedback and make a plan of action. Choosing specific suggestions or tactics for your peer to employ the next time they find themselves in a certain situation can help ensure that they make more efficient and effective decisions to lead them to success.

Related: Peer Recognition: Definition and Ideas for Recognizing Your Peers

10. Make a peer coaching schedule

Having a regularly set peer coaching schedule can be extremely helpful. The more frequent that you and your peer meet, the more you both can keep track of progress and results. The more you and your peer meet, the more constructive feedback you both can receive and the more comfortable you may feel receiving it. Determining an official peer coaching schedule, such as committing to meetings once a month, can work well.

11. Promote a growth mindset

A growth mindset is a mindset in which you focus on the journey to something, not the result. While peer coaching, promoting a growth mindset can help your peer receive and accept constructive criticism, process it and take action to implement changes in their actions and behaviors. For instance, in a situation where a peer who works in sales fails to reach their monthly sales quota, if they have a growth mindset, they may take some time to analyze what they did that month that contributed to not meeting said quota.

A peer with a fixed mindset would solely focus on the fact that they didn't reach their monthly sales quota. Having a mindset such as this one can help peers improve their work and results, so promoting it can really aide in their future growth and professional development.

12. Set rules

Create a code of conduct and a safe environment so employees feel comfortable sharing their knowledge and experiences. Emphasize the importance of respect, constructive feedback, boundaries, confidentiality and positive communication. The designated facilitator can help write the code of conduct and ensure employees follow it.

Related: The Key Differences Between a Colleague and a Peer

13. Identify behaviors

Peer coaching often involves analyzing behaviors in the workplace. When participating in peer coaching, it's important to focus more on behaviors or actions that a peer can address and improve instead of focusing on who they are as a person.

For example, the peer you're coaching may tend to lose focus easily during meetings and speak on topics that aren't necessarily relevant. Instead of calling them out by saying something like, "You're never focused at our meetings," you may consider saying something like, "It's best to discuss other topics while on a lunch break or while waiting for a meeting to start." By taking this approach, you discuss a behavior, not the peer themselves.

14. Don't offer too many suggestions

When peer coaching, you may want to suggest solutions for everything you notice that your peer can improve on, but depending on how many areas you identify that can benefit from improvement, it can grow to be overwhelming.

During each peer coaching sessions, therefore, you may consider selecting two to three specific suggestions for ways a peer can improve or become more efficient. It's helpful to clearly delineate each suggestion and offer as much guidance and detail when you do so to ensure that your peer fully comprehend your advice and thoughts.

15. Utilize technology

You can participate in peer coaching online, and it's not necessary to deliver feedback and have coaching sessions in person. You may use technology, such as a formalized digital feedback program, through e-mail, via text message or instant chat or through a video conferencing program. You can also send an agenda to your peer about the meetings to focus on in addition to follow-up notes that you both can view after your coaching session.

Related: Best Practices for a Peer Review at Work

16. Describe strengths

When peer coaching, it's important to point out any strengths that your peer has in addition to the areas in which they can improve. It's helpful to focus on areas of positivity in which your peer excels in the workplace. This can create a positive atmosphere and environment and foster a sense of camaraderie that leads to more effective and positive peer coaching sessions.

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