Experiences from the Peer Coaching as a sustainable source of professional development course in Slovenia.
Coaching is defined as a form of co-operation, training or a process. The goal of peer coaching is to encourage individuals to tap into their own resources and take advantage of the opportunities offered by their life situation or surroundings. In peer coaching, knowledge, will and action are drawn from the individuals themselves.
Unlike teaching and mentoring, peer coaching does not have a coach who offers their own solutions as an option. Indeed, refraining from advising is the greatest challenge for an inexperienced peer coach.
In practice, peer coaching is a dialogue between two individuals, with roles that are clearly defined in advance: one has a problem for which a solution is needed and the other helps to analyse the problem and find potential approaches. The dialogue proceeds so that the coach asks questions and the person being coached contemplates how to answer them.
Questions must be open and encourage contemplation. An open question does not give any answer options and so Yes/No questions are forbidden. In this manner, the person being coached is guided to a solution model that is suitable for the person and perhaps even to take action.
The goal of the peer coaching dialogue is to make a decision on trying out an operating model that is as concrete as possible. Scheduling is also important. The person being coached must decide when and how to begin. At the end of the dialogue, the coach summarises its results to make it clear to the person being coached that progress has been made in contemplating the problem and that further progress requires concrete actions from the person coached, such as looking for missing information. The process begins and, at the next dialogue session, another step is taken towards solving the problem.
Peer coaching should be a process because problems are rarely so simple that it would be possible to solve them in one dialogue session. The method can also be used as a means of focusing properly on one thing at a time as nowadays work is often a multitasking-type performance in which the biggest problem is the deterioration of the ability to concentrate.
Coaching can be used especially in solving problems related to social relations
Being socially comfortable plays a key role in job satisfaction. However, increasing tension in the social atmosphere is not necessarily due to any major problems but simply differences related to the interpretation of behaviour. Behaviour-related interpretation differences and resulting unnecessary conflicts come about easily in human interaction.
Human behaviour is always founded on motivation-based purposes. However, often motivation is hidden behind the individual’s behaviour, sometimes even from the individual him-/herself.
The determination of personality types supports the peer coaching process
Each individual has their own way of reacting to a threat of conflict. In conflicts, others’ behaviour is easily misinterpreted as in these situations most people tend to change their normal behaviour. Behaviour changes already at the moment when the individual senses a risk of conflict in the situation. Consequently, the change in the behaviour of one individual, the one who is most prone to react, sometimes feeds the escalation of a conflict that may even be non-existent to begin with.
The SDI personality type theory can be used as an aid in identifying and explaining conflict-related reactions. The determination of personality types and the interpretation of behaviour helps especially in coaching processes but also in managerial work and teamwork.
Peer coaching prevents burnout
Workplaces should know the opportunities offered by peer coaching and encourage mutual dialogue. In a work community, applying an approach that encourages peer coaching is a major social asset. There should always be time to talk with a colleague and together find a way to proceed in a challenging situation that occupies the colleague’s mind. A group-based team meeting should not be the only work counselling situation.
A dialogue approach based on peer coaching does not impose any answers on the individual, but rather listens to the individual facing the problem and encourages them to try out the solution they consider the best for them. I believe that this is the best way for a work community to avoid problems, even major ones, such as exclusion in the work community and burnout.
This article is part of a series of articles about learning experiences in the field of adult education in an European context. Our ERASMUS+ KA1 project is called “European Educational Know-how Supporting Civil Society”.
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