Peer Coaching para-competency – Courage to Challenge


According to a study quoted by Marshall Goldsmith, 65% of the Peer conversations at workplaces are about boss bashing i.e. how bad our bosses are and how smart we ourselves are. These type of conversations can be very therapeutic but clearly lack inspiration and problem solving.

You have a person “A” starting a Peer Conversation by highlighting specifics of his smartness followed by the person “B” taking over and this goes on till, each one has had his fill and is starting to feel great about it. Both get a sense of accomplishment for having “vented out” and feeling supported. At the end of the conversation, person “A”  and “B” thank each other for being so understanding. They promise to meet more often to repeat the exercise.

Is this a coaching conversation?  Certainly not.

Consider another scenario.

Person “A” is going through a challenge and wants to talk about it. Person “B” volunteers to listen as a good friend and encourages person A to “take it out” of the system in order to feel better.  Person “A” speaks while person “B” simply listens without asking questions or seeking clarifications. In the process of “taking it out of the system”, Person “A” releases emotions attached to the challenge and is now probably more open to to reflect on the challenge.

What has been Person B’s contribution in the above two sample conversation?

What could have been the contribution of Person B in the above conversation?

Having the courage to challenge another person’s thinking requires :

  1. Inherent wisdom
  2. Courage to Challenge

Inherent wisdom: I’m not going to talk about wisdom here, since many times, questions from not so very wise people( even small children) can also trigger insights.

Courage to Challenge:

Courage to challenge requires one to be “be Present” in the coaching conversation. You need high degree of clarity to understand the situation and your ability to connect the dots. Only when you are confident of the complete understanding of the situation, can you have the courage to challenge. Courage to challenge one’s thinking comes with many risks because people take it more as criticism and  ego hurts rather than feedback which is an opportunity to to use a different perspective. Let’s explore the above scenarios.

Why did Person B not challenge Person A?

Probable answers:

  • Person A doesn’t like to be challenged
  • Person B fears it may dent his relationship
  • Person B doesn’t want to inconvenience the already upset person A
  • Person B doesn’t really care
  • Person B wants to look good

So the answers are more in the favour of Person B who could have contributed as a Coach and challenged Person A to reflect on his thinking, interests and roadblocks. This could have helped Person A in moving forward rather than staying stuck in the situation.

That is where Peer Coaching helps.

If these peers had used Coaching skills and used methodologies of Peer Coaching, they would have been competent to stand-in as Peer coaches. In doing so, they would have been more productive and positive for self and the organisation.

Peer Coaching involves two equal ranked executives coaching one another. It is not a friendly, social chat. It is structured around a mutually committed peer coaching relationship where peer executives partner to bring out the best in each other.

The best part is “the organisations have to simply put their people on “Peer Coaching auto pilot” mode and worry less about people development processes.

Peer Coaching helps future leaders identify their areas of improvement, make their own development plans, structure peer coaching partnerships and start coaching.

Peer Coaching turns unproductive conversations into productive and positive ones. It brings in the culture of self-awareness, people focus , self-learning and goal setting. Peer Coaching provides techniques for leadership development at all levels within an organisation. It expands the leadership base and strengthens it by introducing focus on bringing out the best in people.

Peer Coaching is the way to “leverage the peer power at workplace”.