How to Start Your Private Peer Coaching Group

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    Purpose of This Information

    The following information and resources are focused on the most important guidelines
    and materials for you to develop a basic, practical, and successful PCG. The
    information is intended for anyone, although it helps if you have at least some
    basic experience in working with groups.

    All aspects of this offering are free, including guidelines and materials.
    The offering is sponsored by ActionLearningSource
    (ALS) as a free community service to citizens around the world. The founders
    of ALS have been providing long-lasting, and highly successful peer coaching
    groups (PCGs) since 1995.

    The following basic information is adapted specifically from the peer coaching
    group format
    of Authenticity Consulting’s Authenticity
    . Those wanting more advanced information and materials to customize
    peer coaching groups for specific applications and/or cultures should consider
    advanced group coaching
    . The information on this page is provided in accordance
    with the terms of a creative
    commons license

    What is a Peer Coaching Group (PCG)?

    People have been solving complex problems and achieving challenging goals for
    1,000s of years — by counting on each other. They form close communities of
    support in which each member gets help from the others.

    Help can be in the form of ongoing advice and materials — and especially thoughtful
    and respectful questions (coaching). This is most useful when people also share
    support and accountabilities to actually apply the help that they get
    from others in the group.

    Getting that kind of help is much easier than you might think. Here is how
    you can conveniently arrange that help, with even one or two other people —
    and it can be done over the Internet. In your group, you all are equals — or peers
    — in coming together to support each other’s progress and learning.

    Would You Benefit From a Private PCG?

    History and research have shown there are many benefits of PCGs, including
    for personal, professional, and organizational development. This webpage is especially
    about using them for the personal development of yourself and your group members.
    PCGs are useful for each group member to work on a current and important priority
    that each member selects themselves. For example, do you need help with:

    • Getting ongoing support to solve a problem or achieve a goal?
    • Responding to the coronavirus crisis?
    • Better manage your time and stress?
    • Achieving a personal or professional goal?
    • Improving a certain skill?
    • Applying guidelines from a favorite article?
    • Others?

    The PCG framework has been used many times over many years to help members
    solve problems, achieve goals, and cultivate confidential networks. As long as
    the members are caring and curious about each other, the results from the framework
    can be transformative.

    PCGs are based on a powerful peer-based process called Action Learning that
    is used around the world in numerous types of organizations. Other benefits of
    PCGs are listed at
    from Action Learning

    First, Watch This Video to Orient You to PCGs

    The very practical, 30-minute video An
    Overview of Action Learning: Peer Coaching Group Format
    teaches you all
    about a common format of a peer coaching group, including about:

    • The peer coaching group process
    • How to select a priority to get coached on in your group
    • Doing the coaching in the meetings
    • The types of useful follow-up after each meeting
    • Useful activities to do between meetings
    • How to know if you are “doing it right”
    • Where to learn more

    The video refers to “Circles,” which is a common term for peer
    coaching groups. The video also refers to two key tools for conducting a successful
    peer coaching group meeting, including the Authenticity Circles Quick
    and the Session Management Form that each
    member of a group gets. You might print out those tools to have them available as
    the video references them. A PDF of the slides for the video can also be downloaded
    from An Overview of Action Learning: Peer Coaching Group Format.

    Then, Draft the Initial Design of your PCG

    Key Considerations

    1. What is the common goal or challenge that each of you wants to address?
    2. How many members will you have (Four to five is typical, but no more.)
    3. How many group meetings will you have? (Six is typical.)
    4. How long will your meetings be? (Ninety minutes is typical. See the suggested
      agenda below.)
    5. How often will you meet? (Every two to four weeks is typical.)
    6. How will you communicate among yourselves (in-person or virtual)?
    7. Who will facilitate each meeting? The Circles Quick Reference includes the
      tasks of the facilitator.

    Consider These Ground Rules

    These ground rules have been used in many meetings. They are listed in the
    Circles Quick Reference that each member gets. They are mentioned at the beginning
    of each meeting.

    1. Start and end on time.
    2. Confidentiality is assured.
    3. Keep the session process highly focused.
    4. Manage your time slot; help the Circle to help you.
    5. All opinions are honored.
    6. One can disagree with other members and the facilitator.
    7. Contact the facilitator and other members if you cannot attend the next

    Then, Organize and Train Your Group Members

    1. Select at least one additional person who might have a similar interest
      or need as you.
    2. Share this web page with them.
    3. Encourage them to see the video.
    4. Ask them if they have any questions or suggestions about the information
      on this page.
    5. Ask them if they would like to try forming your own peer coaching group.
      It doesn’t have to be perfect. You can improve it as you go along.
    6. You all could plan your progress in the group by each of you having a personal
    7. Hold your first 90-minute meeting in which all of you:
      1. Share your confidential contact information with each of you.
      2. Share your impressions of the information in the video.
      3. Share your introductions.
      4. Schedule your next six 90-minute meetings.

    Consider This Agenda for Each Group Meeting

    The recommended step-by-step agenda is itemized in the section “Circle
    Session Agenda” in the Circles Quick Reference that each member gets. Notice
    that peer coaching groups are not training or discussion groups. Instead, they
    are structured meetings intended to meet the current needs of each member of
    the group.

    Opening (7 minutes)

      1. Review values and ground rules in the Circles Quick Reference
      2. Each member selects a priority to get coached on.
      3. Do a brief check-in with each member.
      4. Quickly share any materials suggested in the previous meeting.
      5. Review guidelines for coaching and coaching others (in the Circles Quick

    Sharing Help (up to 75 minutes)

    In the round-table approach, each member gets 15 minutes to:

      1. Share the status of any actions that they took from the previous group
        meeting, and what they learned from those actions.
      2. Share a current priority that they’d like to get help with.
      3. Get help from other members in the form of advice, materials, and especially
        thoughtful questions.
      4. Select at least one realistic action to take toward addressing
        their priority.

    With four members instead of five, each member would get 18 minutes. Even though
    coaching sessions are 15-18 minutes, all members learn during the entire meeting.

    Closing (8 minutes)

    1. Each member documents learning and results from the meeting.
    2. Members optionally share out loud what they have learned.
    3. Each member shares out loud, a rating of the quality of that meeting from
      “1” (very low) to “5” (very high), and what could be done
      to improve future meetings.
    4. Verify the date and timing of the next meeting.

    Consider These Actions for Members Between Meetings

    Each group member conducts the action(s) that they selected when they were
    coached. They also might share questions, answers, and suggestions to help members
    address their priorities and improve their meetings. They also update their
    Learning Journals. Here is a sample Learning
    in which each member can document their own new learning from the

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Asked Questions About Peer Coaching Groups

    General Resources

    About Facilitation
    About Meeting
    to Improve Your Listening Skills
    in Questioning
    Activities for Learning

    Forming Your Own Study Groups

    The above agenda for a support group could be slightly modified to form a study
    group, as well. During each member’s time in the meeting, he or she can get
    help, especially with understanding and applying the content from some source
    of expert knowledge about a topic, for example, a lecture from a class, a chapter
    from a book, or content from a podcast. Here is more information about forming
    study groups.

    Tips for an Effective Study Group

    to Form a Successful Study Group: Tips and Strategies.
    To Create an Effective Study Group
    to Run a Successful Study Group

    Forming Your Own Coaching Group

    The above agenda could be modified to form a peer coaching group, as well.
    During each member’s time in the meeting, he or she can get help, especially
    in the form of thoughtful questions about the member’s perceptions, assumptions
    and conclusions.

    Guide to Coaching Groups
    Group Coaching 101
    Coaching: Benefits and Key Characteristics
    All About

    For the Category of Personal Development:

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