The Seven Steps Needed for Effective Peer Coaching in the Workplace

Advisory_GroupPeer coaching models, resources, and interactions are no longer limited to school-based services. Many organizations and businesses that emphasize cooperation, communication and team building are turning to peer coaching as a way to increase the resourcefulness of employees and provide a higher quality workplace.

One area where peer coaching has expanded is in law enforcement and emergency services. Several such organizations that use peer coaching are now listed in the Peer Programs section of the Peer Resources website. The model of peer coaching that is typically used is based on the seven-step model created by Rey Carr of Peer Resources. His model, called the Experiential Learning Cycle, is based on the steps necessary to maximize learning from experience.

What follows is a brief description of the focus of each step, a sample of what a peer coach might say in that step, and a short list of the skills a peer coach would use during that step.

1. Greeting, rapport building, expression of appreciation, setting an agenda. (“Hi, Kathy; I’m glad we’re able to get together today; I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you. One thing I’d like to do in the time we have together is to practice my coaching skills. How about you? What would you like to add to the agenda?”)

2. Exploration of the concern, issue, or situation. (“Okay, Kathy, tell me about your situation, concern or circumstance.”) Peer coach listens, expresses understanding, asks clarifying, not directing questions.

3. Setting goals or outcomes. (“Kathy, what’s the end result? or How would you like it to be? or What’s your goal here? And why is that -are they- important to you?”) Peer coach listens, expresses understanding, asks clarifying, not directing questions.

4. Establish a plan. (“Kathy, now that we know where you want to go and why getting there is important to you, what actions can you think of to bring your current reality closer to your goal?”) Peer coach listens, suggests ideas, shares experiences and what result they brought about and asks partner how peer coach ideas/experiences fit for him/her.

5. Plan for potential barriers. (Kathy, now that we have some ideas how to deal with your situation, what barriers, roadblocks, or resistance do you think you might experience trying to put your plan into action?”)

6. Action planning. (“Kathy, what do we need to do to put your ideas into practice? Which actions, who needs to do what, when; and are there any other steps that might be required?”) Peer coach listens, shares ideas.

7. Ending, rapport building, expression of appreciation, expression of confidence, follow-up schedule. (“Kathy, we’ve come up with a solid plan of action that seems like it will bring your reality closer to where you really want to be. And I’m confident that your plan will work given clarity of your goals, your motivation, and the attention you’ve paid to potential barriers. I particularly appreciated your willingness to talk with me about it. When do you think would be a good time for us to get together to talk about your progress?”)

Peer coaching and other forms of coaching clearly have much in common. What makes peer coaching more suitable for peer interaction in the work place is that peer coaching emphasizes mutuality or reciprocal interaction. Peers take turns coaching each other. There is also a greater degree of disclosure by the peer coach regarding his or her own experience and what the peer coach learned from that experience. Peer coaching builds on the natural inclination that peers in the workplace have to share and learn from each other.

While employees can benefit from training to strengthen their peer coaching skills, a majority of peer coaching takes place informally and spontaneously. Many employees have significant experiences at work or because of their work and do not have the opportunity to maximize their learning from those experiences. By having a person within their peer group who can act as a catalyst for such learning, employees are more likely to benefit from their experiences and improve the contributions they can make to living the vision of the organization.

Distinctions Between Mentors and Coaches May Rely on Spiritual Development

MENTORS Peer Resources LogoOne of the most frequently asked questions sent to the mailbox at Peer Resources is “What is the difference between a mentor, a coach and a counsellor?” Distinguishing between these three roles may actually be misleading, according to a recent e-mail response from Rey Carr, Chief Executive Officer at Peer Resources. Carr believes that “the language of distinction is at best motivated by a need for clarity or at worst indicative of turf guarding or competitiveness.” In order to distinguish between mentors, counsellors, and coaches, for example, someone has to pinpoint or describe each role. Such descriptions in Carr’s view typically stem from outdated, stereotyped or “straw man” role definitions. Carr reports that it is not unusual for a practitioner in one of the areas (for example, counselling) to read a description of what a coach does and remark,”Hey, I do most of those things too.”

Carr hypothesizes that few experienced practitioners in any of these roles worry about or spend much time on role differences. According to Carr, “experienced coaches and mentors can tolerate considerable ambiguity in their roles. Such acceptance can often lead to more productive, innovative and effective interactions. New coaches (or mentors or counsellors) may be developmentally unready to accept role merging. They may be more worried about where they fit into the scheme of things and how they are going to market their services.” Carr, who has trained hundreds of coaches, counsellors and mentors, believes that moving from a competitive stance, where one tries to distinguish oneself from others to a cooperative stance, where one discovers commonalities with others is a measure of spiritual growth, often ignored in most professional training programs.

People and Globe

Four Themes That Unite Peers, Mentors and Coaches

While professionals often use research to support the value of peers helping peers, certain topics that provide a foundation for peer work ignite the interest of the general public. Information about these popular themes appears frequently in magazines, newspapers and talk shows, but they are often presented as great ideas without anchoring them to something as practical as a peer program.

Volunteerism is one of the four current themes that is gaining interest across North America. Virtually all peer programs are examples of involving volunteers in a meaningful way. The Canadian response of volunteers to assist refugees from war-torn countries is an example of peer-to-peer volunteerism. From more about this type of activity, contact

Character Education is a trend which has seen a resurgence as schools and communities seek ways to help young people become more connected to appropriate values, models, and behaviour. Often devised as a curriculum, character education teaches skills and attitudes that parallel most of the training programs associated with peer assistance. Learning how to listen, expressing empathy toward others, and making good choices are often at the core of the character education approach. For more information about this trend visit the Character Counts website.

A third contemporary topic that acts as a foundation for peer assistance is Emotional Intelligence. Learning how to deal with feelings (awareness, expression, recognition understanding, and using) typically is the primary topic of most peer assistance interactions. Therefore, peers are often in a position to not only strengthen their own emotional intelligence but to also help others do the same. One of the best books for school-based peer programs on this topic is Developing Emotional Intelligence: A Guide to Behavior Management and Conflict Resolution in Schools, written by Richard Bodine and Donna Crawford.

This concept is not limited to schools and was originally developed for the larger society and has been actively applied to business settings. Peer programs in non-school based settings will benefit from a book by Steve Simmons, Measuring Emotional Intelligence: The Groundbreaking Guide to Applying the Principles of Emotional Intelligence.

One of the most popular topics discussed at many professional conferences is Resiliency. How do we bounce back from traumatic or adverse events? Resiliency was originally identified as that set of characteristics that distinguished young people who were subjected to toxic early life experiences and were debilitated by them in later life from young people who had the same toxic experiences yet overcame such conditions when they grew older.

Resiliency experts have identified a number of “protective” factors that help people deal more effectively with adversity and they have organized these factors into principles that can be learned and applied on both an individual and community basis. Many of these factors are identical to the principles associated with peer assistance. For more information on resiliency, visit Resiliency in Action or go to Peer Resources’ Top Books on Mentoring web page to read a review of the book, Resiliency in Action.

Core Mentors Provide Mentoring from a Distance

Mentoring has traditionally involved people who interact with each other in person. Technology has expanded mentoring to include partners who communicate exclusively by email and telephone. But in both cases, the mentor and the partner establish and acknowledge their relationship.

However, there is another type of mentoring relationship where the partner is unlikely to meet the mentor and the mentor has no knowledge of the partner. Rey Carr, the CEO of Peer Resources, calls this relationship “core mentoring.” According to Carr, “Core mentoring occurs when you learn specific life lessons from the actions of a public or even historical figure.” A core mentor is more than a source of inspiration, a role model, or an admired hero. Carr believes that although we may observe or read about thousands of people worthy of our admiration, only a few prompt us to reflect on what we learn from them and integrate that learning into our everyday life.

Annika Sorenstam

A recent example of a core mentor for Carr is Annika Sorenstam, considered the most   successful woman golfer of all time. Even with all her tour titles, tournament wins, and   record career money winnings, Sorenstam sought additional ways to challenge herself.   She accepted an invitation to play against the men in the PGA Tour at the Colonial in Fort   Worth, Texas. She wanted to take her game to the next level. She wanted to test herself   against the best golfers in the world.

“Dream big is one of the things I learned from Annika,” says Carr, “and then create goals to help you achieve your dreams.” Carr believes that all successful people, like Sorenstam, have dreams and put those dreams into practice through goal-setting.

Because Sorenstam was the first woman to compete against men since Babe Zaharias put the same dream into practice 58 years ago, her participation in the Colonial tournament garnered worldwide media attention. TV networks, journalists, and thousands of fans lined the course to watch her tee up. The pressure on her to perform was enormous. Every shot and putt was being viewed by millions of people.

Sorenstam’s ability to stay focused and maintain her concentration was clearly a life lesson. “Sometimes when I’m working on a project, my focus is more like melting ice cream,” Carr said, “but Sorenstam taught me that my focus needs to be more like a laser beam. Work on what is most important and what will result in the greatest payoff.”

She was prepared. Her training and practice included thousands of hours of physical and mental toughness exercises. But after 72 holes and the second round of play, she had reached the top of her “Mt. Everest.” She said, “I climbed as high as I could. It was worth every step. I’ll never forget this day in my life.”

Although Sorenstam did not make the final round of this PGA tournament, she had stretched herself beyond her normal comfort zone. She went on to win the Kellogg-Keebler Classic the following week with a 17 under par score. “Going beyond my comfort zone is not something I look forward to,” Carr admits, “but Sorenstam’s example brings home the need get out of my zone to really make life progress. One way I’ve found to do this is to surround myself with a safety net of people who challenge me and will also provide support and encouragement regardless of how well I do.”

Virtually every daily newspaper provides a story about a person who qualifies as a core mentor. Libraries, bookstores, and other media sources abound with works about core mentors. The key to recognizing a core mentor, according to Carr, is to tune into your emotional reaction when you read about or observe another person. “A sense of ‘resonance’ will occur indicating that something is touching your core. By asking yourself, ‘What am I learning from this?’ you will be able to generate a number of life lessons.”

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.

~ Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) ~


A major league baseball player’s talented bat and glove contributed greatly to his team’s winning seasons. But most of his multi-million dollar contract earnings went up his nose or into his veins. His drug troubles, time-outs for rehab, legal fees, fines and conflicts with teammates left him unemployed, bankrupt and living in a friend’s basement apartment.

Devastated by painful injuries that occurred week after week for 9 years and making it almost impossible for him to get out of bed, a star National Football League player decided to retire and start his own business with the substantial earnings he made playing a game he loved. But retirement led to isolation, loneliness, and depression. Mood swings, minimal business experience, and an altered lifestyle that no longer included a giant salary, public adoration, or teammate camaraderie led to several failed businesses, significant alcohol use, and divorce.

After many years of being a scoring leader, a top National Basketball Association player planned to retire, write a book on the game, coach youngsters, and use his salary savings to fund community projects. Less than a year after retirement he was in jail, convicted of spousal abuse.

One of football’s best running backs who appeared to have established a successful post-play career is arrested and tried for a double homicide.

Stories such as these appear with much more frequency in major newspapers. Athletes from virtually all professional sports are with increasing regularity involved in activities that are disturbing, personally debilitating, and highly contradictory to the spirit of sport and their own vision of their future. The thrill of competition, the high-salary lifestyle, media attention, and fan adoration, while intoxicating during their careers, are suddenly missing during retirement. And prior to their professional careers, most athletes never considered having or preparing for a “plan B.”

Making a successful transition from active player to retirement has become a major, yet hidden, problem for many professional athletes. Post-play life is of little concern to team owners and league officials. Although they know significant problems exist, they don’t want to bring a focus on these issues for fear that it will upset the public’s image of the athlete/hero.

Current players have minimal sympathy or time for their retired colleagues and their own fear of retirement typically results in derisive comments about the former stars. Problems that were hidden by agents, ignored by coaches, or suppressed with money during a high-profile sports career are often magnified during retirement.

Described as one of the best defensive linemen ever to play professional football, Jerry Sherk had dedicated his current career to finding ways to help athletes achieve a successful and spiritually-rewarding life during retirement. After a 12-year career with the Cleveland Browns, Sherk returned to graduate school and earned a Master’s degree in counseling.

During his graduate work, Sherk studied what psychology calls, “Athletic Transition,” the difficult but rarely discussed move from public to private life. Sherk also researched mythology, and he found the “hero’s journey” and the pro athlete’s experience to be one and the same. He points out, “As an athlete you move from an ordinary world to a special world, but in the end, the task is to return back to the ordinary world, and to be able to function and be happy there.” Sherk goes on to say, “As with any type of hero, for the athlete there are two things that can help you return successfully. One is to let go of the past–to let it die, and the second is to give back to others. Mentoring is a great way to give back to the next generation.”

Sherk has put that learning into practice through creating opportunities for mentoring and leading an organization called Mentor Management Systems ( Sherk’s understanding of the challenges that active and retiring players experience combined with the knowledge he has gained about dealing with transitions has enabled him to have greater insight and sensitivity to assisting other players.

Mentoring, according to Sherk, is a way to bring together players who have made a successful retirement transition with current players prior to their retirement. By sharing their wisdom and assisting current players to articulate and plan for their vision of a post-play life, mentors can provide the support and guidance necessary to help players approach post-play life challenges with the same talent, fervor, determination and skill they used on the playing field.

Locating ready-made mentors is not an easy task. Although there are many professional athletes who have successful and productive post-play careers and lives, finding athletes who are both motivated to help and clear about the boundaries of mentoring is more difficult. Sherk has created a training program to help mentors stay focused and not become immersed in the perks typically associated with today’s player contracts and lifestyles. In addition to providing mentoring skills, Sherk’s training program enables the mentors to be clear about their expectations, learn how to share their experiences without preaching, and facilitate in-depth discussions about the future without telling others what to do.

Sherk believes that such mentoring connections are suitable for athletes from every professional sport and that the same principles and practices of mentoring ought to be available to college and high school athletes. From his office near San Diego, Sherk has been a leader in California for youth mentoring and has helped hundreds of organizations create effective mentoring programs.

For more information about what Jerry Sherk is doing to assist athletes, contact him at Mentor Management Systems, 1819 Bel Air Terrace Encinitas, CA 92024; Tel: (760) 633-1807 Fax: (760) 633-1517; email:

“Aging has produced pleasures never imagined in youth: twirling a cotton swab in your ear, keeping regular, and remembering the ages of your grandchildren.”

~ Grey Owl ~

Mentoring Plays a Role in Contemporary Music: Part II

MENTORS Peer Resources LogoVirtually anyone can benefit from having a mentor. And most well-known, accomplished and successful people can identify people in their lives who acted as mentors. The mentor pairing that is described in this article was identified from a variety of sources including autobiographies, biographies, newspaper articles, personal interviews, and diligent historical research. An extensive list of additional well-known mentor pairings, including those from TV, motion pictures and fiction, can be found on the Peer Resources website at

In addition to the list of mentor pairs from the world of entertainment, business, creative arts, sports, politics, history, and science available in the Peer Resources listings, a few historical facts or humorous references to the term mentor are also included.

On many occasions, we have featured the mentoring relationships of various well-known musicians, singers and songwriters. But behind almost every successful artist there is a producer or music business specialist who has played a significant role in identifying and developing the artist’s musical talent.

Even these music business specialists attribute their own success in business to someone who took the time to mentor them. UK citizen Don Grierson, legendary Vice President of A&R at Epic, Capitol, and EMI, is directly responsible for signing and/or working with some of the world’s most noted artists including Celine Dion, Heart, Iron Maiden, Sheena Easton, Joe Cocker, Wasp, Bad English, Little River Band, George Clinton, J. Geils Band, Kate Bush, Gloria Estefan, The Jacksons, Duran Duran, Tina Turner, Queen, Indigo Girls, Spin Doctors, Alice Cooper, and many, many more.

Awbrey Madison, a Los Angeles-based independent artist, said that “Don has been a great mentor and I am currently working on my second project with him. He is a professional who knows every facet of the music business, goes the extra mile to find the best musical fit, and is great at finding the right people to work with. Above all, he is a great guy who’s honest and supports the artist’s vision. I count myself very lucky to have someone like Don Grierson guiding my career!”

Don attributes much of his success to his mentor Jerry Moss, an American recording executive, best known for being the co-founder of A&M Records (he is the “M” in A&M Records). Don says that he owes his success, in part, to “Jerry saying to me ‘I believe in you.’ That support led me to work hard, and now I work hard to help others have their dreams. My advice to anyone who wants to be successful in the music business is to believe in yourself, hone your craft, fight for yourself, and educate yourself.”

“In my experience, a mentor doesn’t necessarily tell you what to do, but more importantly, tells you what they did or might do, then trusts you to draw your own conclusions and act accordingly. If you succeed, they’ll take one step back, and if you screw up, they’ll take one step closer. What it is they teach you…pass it on.”

~ Michael J. Fox ~

Canadian actor and father

Foundation for Parkinson’s Research


Virtually anyone can benefit from having a mentor. And most well-known, accomplished and successful people can identify people in their lives who acted as mentors.

Harvey_PhillipsHarvey Phillips (1929-2010), known as Mr. Tuba or the “Heifetz” of the tuba led a lifelong campaign to move the tuba from ridicule and its reputation as the “orchestral clown” to become a prominent solo instrument. His goal was to make sure “that no great composer is ever again going to live out his life without composing a major work for the tuba.” He worked tirelessly around the world to create a wide- spread appreciation and understanding for his instrument.

Mr. Phillips’ first work as a tuba player occurred when as a teenager he left the University of Missouri to run away with the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The band in the circus had the responsibility to play an “alarm” in the case of any accident or problem. The purpose was to alert other circus folk that heard that particular tune to know there was trouble but to not alarm the audience. Often the “alarm” musical piece was a signal to “send in the clowns.”

On a trip to New York, Mr. Phillips met his soon-to-be mentor, William Bell, the tuba player with the New York Philharmonic. Mr. Bell arranged for Mr. Phillips to study with him at the Julliard School of Music. Mr. Phillips often practiced while riding in the back seat of his car. While his wife drove, their children watched the road to warn of approaching potholes. The children would yell, “Daddy, bump!”

Tuba_XmasTo honor his mentor William Bell, Mr. Phillips gathered tuba players for a special holiday concert in Rockefeller Center. This Tuba Christmas spectacular became a tradition and is echoed yearly in places around the USA. Mr. Phillips was regarded as a mentor by tuba players around the world, was the principal tuba player in the Circus Hall of Fame Band, was inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in the same year as Yo-Yo Ma, and in 1994 was awarded the Association of Concert Bands inaugaral Mentor Ideal Award.

Harvey Phillips died at his home, “Tubaranch,” in Bloomington, Indiana at age 80.

Mentoring Plays a Significant Role in Contemporary Music Part I

Virtually anyone can benefit from having a mentor. And most well-known, accomplished and successful people can identify people in their lives who acted as mentors. The mentor pairings that are described in this section of the Peer Bulletin were identified from a variety of sources including autobiographies, biographies, newspaper articles, personal interviews, and diligent historical research.

An extensive list of additional well-known mentor pairings, including those from TV, motion pictures and fiction, can be found on the Peer Resources website at In addition to the list of mentor pairs from the world of entertainment, business, creative arts, sports, politics, history, and science available in the Peer Resources listings, a few historical facts or humorous references to the term mentor are also included.

Many well-known artists are revered for their talent and creativity, and those two characteristics are often considered as solitary or individualistic activities. However, in his recent book, Keith Sawyer, Associate Professor of Education and Psychology at Washington University of St. Louis, advances the idea that almost all creative endeavours are based on collaboration with others.

In examining the biographies of people in the music business, they often make reference to those individuals who inspired them or assisted them in some practical way to become the creative and successful artist they are today. Here are just two examples.

189_JW-PepperJohn Wilfred Pepper (1919-2009), born in Saskatchewan, left school in grade nine to support his parents during the Depression. Although he didn’t finish school, he had a life-long passion for music. He received a violin when he was a boy and fell in love with classical music. He was also an expert with his hands as he learned to do many repairs on his parent’s farm. He also started to craft violas and violins.

He moved to Victoria, British Columbia and played with the Victoria Symphony and local chamber groups. Like many other musicians, he needed to supplement his love of music with paid employment from another area. He used his Saskatchewan farm experience to establish a career in the grocery store business.

Mr. Pepper’s determination and compassion touched everyone who came into contact with him; and according to a story in the Victoria Times Colonist, one young boy who was strongly influenced by Mr. Pepper was Canadian and Grammy-award winning music producer David Foster (born in 1949), who lived next door to Mr. Pepper.

189_David-FosterMr. Foster recalls, “This was a guy that was so dedicated to practicing. I was just a kid, practicing classical piano, and he had that work ethic that just filtered down to me. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, so that’s what you’ve got to do to be good.'” While Mr. Foster acknowledges the influence of Mr. Pepper’s musical mind, what he remembers most is the “gentleness of the musician.” Mr. Pepper died peacefully in his sleep with his family at his side at age 90.

Mr. Foster has gone on to be a mentor to Celine Dion, Michael Buble, Philippine singing sensation Charice Pempengco, Josh Groban, Whitney Houston, Faith Hill, Christina Aguilera, and dozens of other highly successful artists.

Townes Van Zandt

Townes Van Zandt (1944-1997), a Texas poet, songwriter and folk hero, was a mentor to   a wide variety of recording artists. Although Mr. Van Zandt struggled with bipolar   disorder and died from alcohol addiction at age 52, his power as a songwriter attracted   singer-songwriters from Bob Dylan to Willie Nelson as part of his legacy. He was a   mentor to many other musicians including Steve Earle, who, according to online   biography, said Van Zandt was ‘the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.’ Van Zandt responded, the online bio continues, saying: “I’ve met Bob Dylan’s bodyguards and if Steve Earle thinks he can stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table, he’s sadly mistaken.’

Some of the other artists who described Townes Van Zandt as a mentor (and the songs he wrote that they sang) include: Mickey Newbury (“For the Sake of the Song”), Guy Clark (“Old No. 1”), Cowboy Junkies (“Black Eyed Man”), Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard (“Pancho and Lefty”), Emmylou Harris (many different hit songs), Lyle Lovett (“Step Inside This House”), the Flatlanders (pioneered the Texas brand of country-folk created by Van Zandt), Norah Jones (“Feels Like Love”), and Neil Young (“Harvest”).

Sawyer, K. (2010). Group genius: The creative power of collaboration. New York: Basic Books.