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Peer coaching micro-learning 2

Setting up a peer coaching conversation

Components of this Let's get real learning experience

There are four components to this Let's get real learning experience:

  • Setting up a peer coaching conversation
  • Documented approaches for peer coaching: the ICA model
  • Video exemplars of good and bad peer coaching
  • Using reflective questions

Setting up a peer coaching conversation

The very definition of a “peer conversation” suggests that you are having this conversation with a person or people you know.

So what makes this different from any other interaction that you might have with them? How do you make it clear to everyone participating (even if it is just one other person) that this conversation is bounded by slightly different rules and expectations?

You do this by making it explicit and gaining acknowledgement of these differences from all involved.

The elements of a successful peer coaching conversation include the following:

  • Using the ICA coaching model, which provides a conceptual frame and guide for the conversation.
  • Using an intentional coaching mindset helping you to listen with fascination, consider with curiosity, and respond without judgement or answers.
  • ensuring confidentiality, which is fundamental in encouraging openness and vulnerability. This is needed even more so in a peer coaching relationship when there are likely to be other times the participants connect through their work but outside the coaching context.
  • Role clarity is required to keep participants within the unique environment that is a peer coaching conversation and underpins the ability to maintain the coaching mindset and apply the coaching model objectively.

Documented approaches to peer coaching: the ICA model

The ICA coaching model encompasses both the process of coaching (develop Insight, build Commitment and take Action) and three of the most important characteristics to occur within the coaching conversation (Listen, be Curious, show Compassion).

Establish the environment and boundaries

A peer coaching conversation starts with acknowledging that the participants are having a peer coaching conversation (as opposed to any other interaction) and there are some specific rules that can be usefully applied. If the participants are early in their journey of peer coaching then it can be helpful to talk to these rules directly; if the participants have established a productive rhythm a simpler acknowledgement of the rules and expectations can be made. Suggested rules and expectations:

  • This is a meeting of equals where any professional relationships that might exist outside this conversation no longer apply.
  • The role of the coach and coachee can shift within the conversation between the participants. This certainly needs to happen over time but may also happen within a single conversation too.
  • Confidentiality

The process of coaching:

  1. Check-in
  2. Develop insight, and then, and only once a good level of insight has been developed, move to . . .
  3. Build commitment
  4. Take Action

The process of coaching (I+C+A) is not one that needs to be completed in a single conversation.

The first step in the process – developing Insight (I) for the coachee – should take as long as is useful. It may take several conversations and should only be progressed to the next stage if and when the coachee finds it useful. It is not uncommon in a peer coaching relationship for a coachee to end the process after Insight and take that insight and any subsequent action outside of the coaching relationship.

Therefore, of all the competencies to be developed from this framework, developing Insight is the one to focus on developing first.


Establish that all parties present are about enter into a peer coaching conversation that is bounded by confidentiality and where everyone listens with fascination and maintains curiosity without judgement or providing answers. Use language that works for you – it doesn’t need to be formal. Some examples:

“Hey Kerry - could we have a chat at some stage with you wearing your “peer coaching hat” for me? I have a few things that I would really appreciate kicking around."

“Hi everyone, my name is Ross and I would like to confirm that this conversation is a coaching conversation where we are all equals, we maintain objectivity, we support each other to find their own truths and hold everything said within this conversation confidential. Can I check we are all on the same page?”

"Hi Ross. Thanks for making the time for a coaching conversation. I have something I would appreciate your insight into but would like to ask where you would like to start.”

Develop Insight

During this stage, the person(s) in the role of coach listens to the coachee for everything both said and unsaid and asks curious and clarifying questions to help the coachee develop insight into the challenge they are facing.

Sometimes the coach will have an opinion on or answer for the coachee and it can be very tempting to provide that solution. Many of us are experienced leaders who have highly developed trouble-shooting skills, but a coaching conversation is not the place to use them. Instead encourage the coachee to examine their thinking, their biases, the emotions and their responses to the challenge that they are bringing to the conversation.

The two skills to develop in tandem here are listening and questioning.

Video example

Watch this video clip for an example of how to listen and question well, and to see an example of when that doesn’t happen.

Using reflective questions

Here are some useful reflective questions for a peer coaching situation:

  • What is the impact on your work?
  • What is the impact on your team?
  • What is the impact on your other work relationships?
  • What might you want to do more of/less of?
  • What might you wish you could understand more about?
  • What has worked well for you in the past when faced with a similar situation?
  • If you could change one thing about this all what would it be? Why?
  • What do you need right now?
  • What would success look like for this situation?
  • What is working well?
  • If everything worked out perfectly what would you see in the next 6 months (or whatever timeframe is relevant)
  • May I feed back what I think I have heard?

And that's micro-learning 2, done!

Reflect on micro-learning 2 throughout the next day before you move on to micro-learning 3 for peer coaching.