“Here’s some input from Kevin on how you handled the last project team meeting. Get it fixed. Fast.”
Kevin and Barry were peers, both managers but in different departments. Both assigned to a cross-functional project team tasked with improving productivity. They’d joined the company on the same day, went through the same onboarding classes, had attended several leadership development offsites together, and occasionally met for lunch. They weren’t best buddies nor were they total strangers.
“Bill, I thought it would be helpful for you to know my reactions to the last productivity project team meeting. Barry led the meeting. He appeared disorganized and unprepared. His answers to questions from the finance department totally missed the mark. Given this was my meeting, it seemed prudent to share my observations.”
On his way into the meeting in question, Barry had received a call from the project team lead. The lead told Barry he had gotten ill and had gone home. He asked Barry to take his place in facilitating the meeting. Barry knew he hadn’t done his best work in leading that meeting yet was caught off-guard by what Kevin had reported to his boss. Barry wished Kevin had had the professional courtesy to tip him off to the problems before going right to Barry’s boss. It felt like grade school, when someone ratted you out to the school.
Ever been in Kevin’s situation?
3 tips for coaching a peer to improved performance
1) Talk-one-on-one before taking the issue further up the food chain. Peer-to-peer feedback is a valuable tool for supporting and helping fellow leaders grow into their potential. Leadership isn’t a duel to the finish with one person taking home the spoils. (Or shouldn’t be!) It’s a collaborative endeavor focused on delivering company objectives.
2) Sharing doesn’t mean conflict. Offering up well-framed observations and/or asking clarifying questions - ”today’s meeting felt disjointed to me. Is there a reason for that?” - sets the foundation, not for conflict, but for performance improvement.
3) Frame without judging. “Man, you totally blew it today. There goes your promotion.” Hey, who isn’t going to get defensive when someone lobs a grenade like that your way (and probably feel like a failure, too). ”I” statements deflect blame, “I got a little lost in the meeting when you were going over the balance sheet. Did I miss something?” They also advance the conversation. When people feel attacked, they may stop the conversation altogether or negatively escalate it.
Peers tactfully providing input on areas of improvement as well as kudos for success to one another is a powerful way to change the stories of leadership and build a culture of collaboration and camaraderie.
“Peer coaching can make a real difference in helping people change.” ~Stewart D. Friedman, Practice Professor of Management at Wharton