Show Up and Shut Up

Posted 05.08.2012

For the past couple of years in Next Level leadership workshops, I’ve asked the participants to do a lot of peer coaching exercises with each other. The coaching is always focused on real life issues the participants are dealing with and the conversations are intentionally brief. They’re brief because they more or less flow from three questions that the “coach” is asking their partner:

  • What outcome will you have if you’re completely successful?
  • How do you need to show up to make that outcome likely?
  • What else?

When we debrief these peer coaching conversations I always ask how many people have a better idea of what they need to do and how they need to do it. Invariably, just about everyone raises a hand. Next, I ask how many are surprised by how much ground was covered in a four to eight minute conversation. Most people are surprised. My final question is how many people have these kinds of coaching conversations with a peer on a regular basis in their real life day to day work. Hardly anyone does.

My observation is that peer coaching is the most underutilized leadership resource there is in most organizations. It’s free, it’s available, it’s easy to do and it makes a difference.

All you really need to do to be an effective peer coach is show up and shut up. The showing up part requires a little bit of commitment to making yourself available to coach and be coached. The shutting up part comes after you ask your peer coaching partner a few simple questions (see the list above for a starting point). After you ask a question (short and sweet is best), it’s important to shut up and let the other person talk.

I firmly believe that the biggest thing I do for my coaching clients is to give them the opportunity to listen to themselves think. You can do the same thing for a valued colleague and they can do the same for you. All you need to do is show up and shut up.

What experience have you had with peer coaching? What advice would you add to what I’ve offered?