Peer coaching is a form of learning and development where two team-members work together to reflect on current practices; expand, refine, and build new skills; share ideas; teach one another; or solve problems. Peer coaching success depends on feedback giving and receiving skills.
People are meant to be social. Our skill to change our behavior, relying on feedback from our fellows, is the evolutionary adaptation mechanism. Feedback is your relationship with the world and the world’s relationship with you, it’s the way that you’re impacting other people. We are used to get verbal and non-verbal evaliations working in co-located environment: body language, tone of voice, facial expression. We’re great at picking up on various signals from others. When working remotely, people are isolated from these clues.
We believe that feedback helps us see our inevitable blind spots and grow:
- Keeps everyone on track
- Helps avoid major mistakes
- Form better relationships
- Motivates people
- Promotes personal & professional growth by establishing a Growth Mindset
- Enables a friendly work environment
- Instills trust amongst the team
Feedback can come in the form of “praise” for things team members do well, and in the form of “tips” pertaining to improvement areas. We encourage both types on a regular basis. To foster the feedback culture, we established dedicated time for peer coaching every 3 months. Outside of this formalized timing, the expectation is that we’ll just pull feedback from those around us whenever we need to.
It might be counter-intuitive, but the receiver is in charge of feedback. They’re the one who decides what to listen to and how to make sense of it. That is why it’s important for everyone to learn how to react to feedback. It might be easy, when it comes to the praise, but it might be hard to hold on your knee-jerk reaction and reject criticism. Try to do the following:
- Assume positive intent. It might be hard for your coach to choose the right words to describe behaviors, feelings or thoughts. Peer review is a coaching opportunity, and you can benefit from it. Peer coaching is not evaluation or performance review.
- Be open and non-defensive. Each time you listen to someone sharing their thoughts, imagine they are right. Try to be impartial and give a try to understand the opinion of the person you are talking to. To make sure you understand them correctly, try active listening.
- Accept the feedback for what it is: an attempt to help you improve your work or your professional relationships. If you do have to explain yourself, try to remain empathetic. Remember that it is not you in the focus, but your work. Feedback is not an assessment of you as a person, but of your behavior and specific tasks progress.
- Show appreciation. Say thank you and mean it.
- Reflect on feedback. Take time on thinking what you’ve heard and think of an action. Feedback might be wrong.
If you can get good at feedback-receiving, you can accelerate your own learning and learn from anybody! Find more tips in this aticle.
Anyone can master the art of giving feedback. It takes time to practice, but it totally worth giving a shot. Here is how:
- Evaluate the work, not the person. Don’t use absolutes like: “You did it wrong”, " You always…", “You have a problem here”. Instead, give a certain example: “This task was not completed on the timing that we agreed, and we failed to provide the report on time”. Use the Situation-Behavior-Impact (S-B-I) model:
- Situation - Define the when and where by anchoring in time and place.
- Behavior - Describe the observable behavior and how it was applied.
- Impact - Describe how the other person’s action affected you or others experiences and thinking.
Use I-messages. An I-message states the behaviour and describes the speaker’s feelings or beliefs rather than focuses on the person spoken to. I-messages are often used to be assertive but soft. On the other hand, saying things like “You did it all wrong again” will urge your listener to defend. You can use phrases “I feel..”, “I would like..”, for example: “I like that all issues are closed on time”. Avoid saying “I feel that you don’t…”, cause such statements typically express judgment.
Saying something to the effect of “as you might have heard”, “unless you’ve been living in a cage you know”, “as everyone knows”, or “as I’ve already mentioned” is toxic. The people that know don’t need it to be said. The people that don’t know feel like they missed something and might be afraid to ask about the context.
Remember the goal. When you give feedback, your task is to help a person improve his work. Not to point out mistakes or to criticize. With this approach, feedback will help a person grow, and would not demotivate.
|“You always give random names to the milestones”||“The last 2 milestone’s names you created are quite broad, and it’s hard for the team to understand what is the milestone for.”|
|“Your code is garbage”||“The last code for N-project is not solving the issue we are working at and gives errors when…”|
|“You are too slow to close the issues that I assigned to you”||“The issue I assigned to you is open for 22 days, and I don’t see any work in progress on this matter. The fact that the task is not completed makes our team…”|
If it’s hard for you to start, you can answer 3 simple questions to organize your thoughts:
- What are the things he/she better begin doing or do more? Examples: “I wish that you would start…”, “I think it would be great to…”
- What do you think he/she’d better stop doing? Examples: “I see/feel that (behavior) leads to (negative ourcomes)”
- What do you think this person should keep doing? Examples: “I like the way…”, “I appreciate…”
Start-Stop-Continue approach will help you contentrate on behaviors and make the feedback more useful and practical. These categories are not mandatory, and if you can’t find something that the person should stop doing, just leave it. The important thing is to avoid evaluating personality, as it’s not a subject for improvement.
Praising usually goes easy, but one can feel insecure sharing the corrective feedback. This is because there are fears of damaging the relationship, being wrong, losing face or hurting the person. There are studies proving that corrective feedback is easier to embrace, if you are in a good self-regulatory state and not tired or upset. Candidness is a crucial part of building the trust relationship. If you can notice someting valuable that a person could improve, it means you care. Reach out to @hygge-team in case you need professional guidance.
Every 3 months (Jan 1, Apr 1, Jul 1, Oct 1) we devote some time for self-study and peer coaching.
- Take time to analyze your job.
Questions that can support you research:
- What did you do well this quarter?
- Which goals did you meet? Which goals fell short?
- What 2-3 things will you focus on in the next quarter to help you grow and develop?
- What are your 2-3 strength that help you to get the job done? What can empower you?
As soon as you comleted this research, pick at least one other member of the team to be your coach. Don’t just pick your buddies, it has to be someone who can provide a useful feedback. It can be someone you look up to and want to learn from, or an intern who is learning from you and can tell you how good you are at explaining things to others. Even if you feel you don’t really have any peers, you can always pick the team-member from the project you work together, or somebody who seems experienced in the areas you have difficulties with.
To start, you set up a 30 min call with this person and have a chat about what you are doing and the difficulties you are having. You can share your thoughts from job analysis or concentrate on some particularly difficult goal. At the end of the call, together you identify things that you might start, stop or continue doing to address the issues that you were talking about. Peer coaching is a good opportunity to calibrate your perception and get additional valuable inputs. Your peer is welcome to share additional points that you are good at and should leverage as your competitive advantage, as well as things that are dragging you down and get in the way.
Over the next 3 months track your progress with things you discussed during the first call. You are in charge of scheduling at least one additional catch-up of your progress with your original coach. To make the process more efficient, you can schedule 10-minutes calls every week to check on your progress. It is important to be open to feedback, as your colleague is volunteering their honesty and trust that you will listen and collaborate towards improvements, just as you have for them.
At the end of 3 months, pick another team-member and repeat the same process (can’t be the same person you had for the last review).
You don’t need to share the details of your conversation or notes with anyone if you don’t want to. The coaching process is there to help you grow, not to keep tabs on you.