How to develop your own peer coaching circle

Oona Eager
Article by: Oona Eager
How to develop your own peer coaching circle

Undoubtedly, a certain theme is dominating your inbox, Instagram, and LinkedIn this month:


New Year? New you!


Do slogans like these mean much to you? Or perhaps I should ask: do they make you want to act, and if so, on what exactly? Sure, you want positive change in your life this year, who doesn’t? But envisioning what you need and want with depth and clarity can be challenging and may even feel like an impossibility. Where does one begin? On top, if you do identify what it is you want and what stands in your way, the real question then becomes:


Who’s going to hold you accountable in 2019?

We all hit a point (probably many) in our lives where we need help imagining our dreams and goals, plus support to realize them. While there’s no substitute for professional coaching services, many leaders find they actually receive a lot of support by working with peers from outside their organization or friend groups. In fact, after learning the methodology in THNK’s program, our alumni (‘THNKers’) continue to coach each other long after their respective programs have ended. Practicing inquiry and the ascent to ‘level III listening’ helps them become more effective in building relationships in other areas of life: with friends, spouses, children, and in how they relate to employees and colleagues.

peer coaching

THNKer Patrick Leenheers shares his experience as a peer coach and peer coachee:

“My peer coaching circle [of four leaders] continues to give me fresh perspectives on how to handle the challenges in my work and life in general. It is a regular ‘look in the mirror’ on my leadership ability. It is a safe circle, where I find compassion, honesty, and inspiration.”

Here are some tips I’ve gathered from THNKers who have been peer coaching for years:

1. Develop a rhythm

Rhythms help build habits, so pick a date and stick to it (e.g. the first Monday of every month, every second month, every quarter…). It also helps to have a rhythm for each call or meeting – an opening check-in question and closing check-out.

2. Coach in a triad, rather than a duo

A THNKer from Class 3 in Vancouver told me that having a regular session with three peer coaches (or more) meant if one person couldn’t make it, the session would still always go ahead as planned. This allowed their group to keep their peer coaching group going on a monthly basis for an entire year. And this leads me to the next tip…

3. Select a check-in date to evaluate the process

This tip came from Patrick’s group which has been running for 5+ years! They always set a date to ‘re-contract’ each January where they discuss a number of items as a group: does everyone want to continue? Is there another THNKer we want to add to the group? What is working well or not working well?

This contract period can be shorter (every quarter or six months), but setting one before the process begins is very important: everyone knows how long they’re committing for and will do so because they want to, not because they feel pressured by others.

peer coaching
While there’s no substitute for professional coaching services, many leaders find they actually receive a lot of support by working with peers from outside their organization or friend groups. #peercoaching #leadership Click To Tweet

The peer coaching methodology and process

Ready to get started? Paul van ’t Veld and Rajiv Ball, have outlined the THNK Peer Coaching framework and methodology in detail. Some basic coaching questions are included in their piece, but there are many, many more, including some great open-source lists online.  

So, back to the year that lays ahead: are there leaders in your life who you could exchange coaching with in 2019? You needn’t be close friends – working with people who are acquaintances can be refreshing, as if starting with a blank slate. The key is to find leaders in your network who, like you, want positive change in their lives and are willing to commit to the peer coaching process manifest what they envision.

Good luck!

To discover and develop your own peer coaching circle, join the THNK Executive Leadership Program.