They Why Behind Peer Coaching

Sharon Castle

Capacity Builder

“This has been the single most impactful Professional Development I have ever been a part of. This process of utilizing empowering questions to guide coaching, along with reiterating thoughts, and not going straight to advice- this has all been a game changer for me and how I communicate.”

“Peer coaching is BY FAR one of the best continuing education courses I've ever taken. I use the skills in my personal and professional life, and they have gotten me unstuck from many challenging conversations and relationships.”                       ~ Peer Coaching Cohort Participants – March 2023

Back in college I was lucky enough to be guided to Gryphon Place, a wonderful organization in Kalamazoo, Michigan which housed a 24-hour crisis line and was the community’s suicide prevention center.  Folks wanting to volunteer on the helpline underwent vigorous “Empathy Training” learning what empathic listening was really about. 

Gryphon Place and empathic listening changed my life…I will be eternally thankful for the skills I developed and the tools I acquired to become a Gryphon Place volunteer.  What I learned helped me navigate a successful career and personal life.

Fast forward several decades (not going to share exactly how many) and I so appreciate the opportunity to facilitate Nonprofit Network’s Peer Coaching cohorts.  While the terminology has changed – empathic listening is now paraphrasing – and the process is not nearly as intense or time consuming, the premise and outcomes are similar.  As with Empathy Training, Peer Coaching teaches the “listener” skills to reflect back what the “talker” is actually saying; provides examples of “empowering questions” to help create an engaging dialogue within a safe environment where the facilitator models the behavior helping participants learn in real-time and have ample opportunity to practice their new skills during seven monthly 2.5 hour meetings. 

The role of Executive Director can be challenging and lonely in the best of times, and with today’s environment even more so.  Peer coaching cohort participants bring actual real-life challenges to process in a safe, inclusive, and non-judgmental setting learning from themselves and their peers.  Cohorts are limited to 8 participants to maximize learning and engaging conversations.

The Harvard Business Review published an article on Peer Coaching and summarized it as “The benefits of small-group coaching come from powerful learning interactions among leaders who aren’t on the same team but are roughly equal in experience and position, and the process can generate leadership development impacts that exceed what’s possible in one-on-one coaching…By asking for support from others and creating a safe place for exploration, you’ll build foundational skills for all future personal and organizational growth.”

Please visit to learn more about Peer Coaching and fill out the “Peer Coaching Interest Form” to be considered for the next cohort class coming up in late Summer 2023. 

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