ProImpress | The Workplace IS The Classroom (Part I)
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10 Feb The Workplace IS The Classroom (Part I)


Two Skills for Cultivating a Peer Coaching Culture

“Techies are thin skinned…” This and other comments about how people receive feedback jumped out at me from a recent interview of Jessi Hemple of Wired by Hunter Walk. Peer Feedback is the new normal (or should be, if you want to see your company grow). Flatter organizations mean that managers have too many direct reports for them to have the time to coach as frequently as needed. And lower training budgets mean that learning can’t be exclusively relegated to the classroom. The workplace IS the classroom. And peers are often the most available source of insight and feedback on the subject of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.

The risks of peer coaching are many: not every colleague in the sales meeting or the team huddle is as insightful as you might like; drama can run high and career-ending conflicts can emerge.

How can companies – and professionals, like you – cultivate a peer coaching culture? By adopting these two partner skills that support peer-to-peer performance discussions, companies – and professionals, like you – learn, grow and perform at above-average rates:

Openness to Listening and Learning: In the words of Gay Hendricks, author and early advocate of conscious business practices, “The willingness to learn from each moment—as opposed to defending ourselves by stonewalling, explaining, justifying, withdrawing, blaming—is much more important [in business and in life] than factors like IQ, family background, social standing, or degrees.”

  • Openness to Feedback is an experience of feeling Curious and leads to Creative outcomes. When you are open to feedback, your reactions often appear as open body postures; for instance, your arms and palms are open, and your eye contact is direct. You might express appreciation that a colleague shared their perspective with you. You might even ask that colleague to share more about their perspective. The net result is, as the person receiving the feedback, you’re actively looking for the value in the idea. This is not to say that someone else’s point of view is the “right” answer, nor the final word. But when you, the listener, are willing to consider your peer-coach’s input, and discern how it might be helpful, to you, your team, and your company grow.
  • By contrast, being Closed to Feedback is an experience of feeling Defensive and can lead you and your colleagues to Deadlocked positions. When a teammate is closed to feedback, her body might appear rigid, with arms crossed, posture turned to the side or head backing away. Obviously, these body signals need to be taken in context (sometimes crossed arms are about being cold!), but if they are exhibited at the moment that the feedback is delivered, that can indicate a lack of readiness to receive the input. Abruptly interrupting the peer coach, making excuses for the behavior in question, or “shooting the messenger” are all signs that a team member is closed to hearing – and absorbing – feedback. Again, just because someone wants to share feedback doesn’t make them right, and the other person wrong; but NOT having the capacity to even entertain another perspective might be a hidden (and limiting) weakness in the team, and a lost opportunity for that professional. Ultimately, it’s the company that loses, too, as performance flat lines on stagnant skills and a lack of openness in the culture

Click here to download a free copy of our 20-point scale on Openness to Listening and Learning. Work with your teammates to identify how you respond to feedback.

Stay tuned for The Workplace IS the Classroom PART II next week when we discuss The Feedback Formula: Increasing the Likelihood Your Suggestions Are Heard