A coaching circle typically consists of a group of five to six individuals who meet for a day every 6 to 8 weeks to coach each other on complex issues they face in the workplace. Whilst the aim is to bring together a diverse group of people ie. in terms of function, experience and challenges very often the composition of circles consists of people from the same team. The key criterion to consider when forming groups is to ensure that the level of complexity of the work of those participating is comparable.
A coach/facilitator assists the group with the process until they are sufficiently competent to continue on their ownat which point circle members need to identify a coaching circle custodian per circle to ensure it is self sustaining.The coaching circle custodian should take responsibility for the scheduling of coaching circles every six to eight weeks. It may also be the case that the whole circle plays the role of ‘facilitator” and supports each other as the circle meeting carries on.
During these group sessions, each person gets an opportunity to address the issue they bring to the group and briefly outline what they have done and the most pressing issues or dilemmas facing them. Group members ask questions that help to shed new light on the issue(s) and to explore new possibilities for action, trying to avoid providing advice or getting into a problem-solving mode.
Near completion of each individual’s session, the facilitator or manager reflects on what was heard, which questions were helpful and what actions can be taken. Other participants also reflect on what they learned from the exchange and spend a few minutes sharing their insights and observations before moving on to the next person in the circle whose opportunity it is to present an issue. The process continues until the all participants have had a turn and the circle completed.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE?
The purpose of a coaching circle is to provide:
- a safe space for participants to present difficult challenges and consider possibilities to address these;
- opportunities for individuals to reflect and learn from their experiences and that of others in ways that empower them and their organisation to take effective actions;
- opportunities for participants to gain hands-on experience in coaching their peers with new possibilities for action, reflection and learning.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
The benefit of coaching and especially coaching circles has been proven in high performing organisations as a significant contributor to business performance and specifically individual growth and development.
Benefits for individuals are:
- to enhance relationships and create strong bonds with other trusted managers and colleagues over a period of time;
- to reflect on experiences and challenges and the process of exploring effective actions to address them;
- to accelerate the development of key leadership skills and competencies;
- to gain first-hand experience in coaching peers .
Benefits for the organization:
- having better equipped leaders with coaching skills;
- sharing knowledge, learnings and practices across the organisation and better solutions through the collective knowledge and skills of the group
- improving communication and networks across the organisation.
PREPARING ONE’S SELF FOR A COACHING CIRCLE MEETING
Points to consider :
- The issue an individual presents to the circle may be a challenge to be addressed, results to be achieved, options and possibilities to explore or a personal goal for personal developmental purposes and improving a competency.
- Topics for a coaching circle could be suggested by the participant’s line manager or direct reports; could be findings from a performance feedback session or employee engagement review.
- To ensure the coaching circle provides an effective conduit for learning, the issue presented should have a measure of complexity within the individual’s scope of responsibility and something that the participant is committed to and willing to make public within the peer coaching circle and, if necessary, outside.
- The issue needs to be relevant ie of importance to the organization and can be addressed in a reasonable period of time ie months or weeks rather than days without detracting from the participant’s current workload.
- Be open to coaching as well as providing coaching
QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU FRAME THE ISSUE YOU PRESENT
The following questions will help a circle participant clarify for themselves the value they wish to get out of a circle meeting:
- What are my most pressing issues? What is my opportunity about? Where do possibilities lie?
- How will this challenge my own development? What do I wish to learn?
- What is the timeframe for addressing this opportunity? What are its key milestones?
- What are the driving forces behind this issue? What is my level of responsibility and influence over this? What have I done about it so far?
- What future am I committed to creating?
- What obstacles am I facing or do I anticipate?
- Who all are concerned about the potential outcomes of this?
- What possibilities exist for action? What do I intend to do?
- What do I need the group to help me with? What request do I have for the group?