Meredith Bell Explains the Advantages of Peer Coaching

Bill Lampton Ph.D. 0:21
Hi there, and welcome to the biz communication Show. I’m your host Bill Lampton the biz communication guy, bringing you communication tips and strategies that will boost your business because my guest and I will discuss winning words and ways. delighted today to welcome to the biz communication show, Meredith Bell coming to us from the Williamsburg, Virginia area. Meredith Bell is the co founder and president of grow strong leaders, our company publishes software tools and books that help people build strong relationships, at work, and at home. Meredith is an expert and leader and team communications, the author of three books, and the host of the Grow strong leaders podcast, I’m very happy to say that I have followed Meredith’s work for a couple of decades. And I know, all of us will benefit from her being with us today. So join me in welcoming Meredith bell to the best communication show. Hello, Meredith. Hi, Bill, it’s great to be here with you today. It’s delighted this is a return engagement, you’ve been with us a time or two before always great information presented in a way that is clear and compelling. So it’s, it’s terrific to host you again, Meredith, I want to start with something which it seems to me is a bit unique in your approach to working with organizations. And that is what you call and you have a book out on this, you call peer coaching. Now, during my 20 years in management, if I were coached by anybody, it would be somebody of higher rank, somebody have more experience. And I’ve even wondered, when I heard this phrase, peer coaching, how would I have felt if someone on my same management level were assigned to me, and I was to learn from them, and they learn from me and some accountability and so on? So explain to us please, what, what is peer coaching all about? Why did you come up with that concept? Of what are the advantages? What are the challenges? And what really can we expect if we get into peer coaching in our organization?

Meredeth Bell 3:07
Well, those are all great questions, Phil. And, you know, one of the key reasons we came up with this whole idea of peer coaching stems from our understanding of what it takes to really develop a skill, especially communication skills, where we already have established habits. And so one of the things that needs to happen when somebody is working on a skill is practice, and getting ongoing feedback. And support is also really helpful, because we don’t do it right the first time. And so the bottom line is everyone could benefit from having a coach. Well, of course, economic constraints, prevent organizations from hiring a coach for every employee in the organization. But the fact is, everyone needs coaching. So where the investments are typically made are for higher levels of leadership, sometimes mid levels, what we wanted to do was introduce a way that everyone can experience coaching and benefit from it. And the nice thing about this is it’s not only economical, it’s fairly simple and easy to set up. Because you don’t have to have people get certified. They don’t need special training. There are some communication skills that they’ll be using as part of doing this peer coaching. So they actually can practice skills that are important in the workplace by working with another person. It’s interesting that you mentioned that, you know, you didn’t know how you would have felt if someone had been assigned to you to be a peer coach. Ideally, people pick each other to be peer coaches together, so that you could

To me, one of the key things to do when you want to set up these peer coaching partnerships, is reduce the amount of potential friction or resistance. And so one of the ways to do that is ask people to select another person they already feel comfortable with. And so together, they’re going to be meeting on whatever basis they determine makes sense for them. And this doesn’t have to require a lot of time. With the purpose of it is to make commitments to each other about actions, they’re going to take related to a specific skill they want to improve. And then periodically, whatever timeframe makes sense, weekly, bi weekly, they’re going to get together and talk about how they applied that skill and how it went, and what they learned from it, and what they’re going to commit to next time. And the reason this is so powerful, is that just like many people hire a trainer when they start going to the gym, because there’s that accountability piece. Peer Coaching provides that to where you if you know, you’re going to be meeting someone to check back in on how you’ve done, then you’re going to be more conscious of applying that skill during that time period between your last meeting and your next meeting. So that accountability is really important. And knowing that there’s someone that cares about your success that has your back, that is also supporting you, as you work on this means a lot to and so what that can do is actually accelerate the learning. And really, when you think about this whole idea of coaching, it’s the idea of learning where we need to improve, and then taking those actions to make improvements and over time, seeing differences in the way we interact with others, our behavior and the results that we get. So peer coaching is an economical, and time efficient way to achieve that be so

Bill Lampton Ph.D. 7:08
I had not thought about the economic aspect of it. But you pointed out very well. The the cost of hiring a professional coach for each one of your employees, or even several dozen of them would be prohibitive. So this brings me to ask, do, do you and your colleagues and grow strong leaders? Do you go into a company and help them set up this peer coaching? Tell them the advantages and and give them the structure that that you’ve just described.

Meredeth Bell 7:47
We’ve written a facilitator guide for doing that. And we call it power partners. And the idea is someone internally, or it could be an external consultant to, and we can help with this. But generally, our role is helping them get the resources they need to do this coaching with our books, and with videos that we’ve created, it really is important that they have someone who serves as facilitator of the process. You can’t just hand people books or hand them videos and say, All right now your peer coaching, there needs to be a process for an orientation helping people understand what this is, and then what it looks like and how to actually implement it. And then the follow through to make sure people are meeting are they experiencing any challenges. So we provide a complete guide for doing that to help people understand what’s involved. It’s like any other initiative that you put in place for development, it is going to be more effective if people know what to expect, and what they need to do and recognize that there is someone who’s going to be checking in with them to make sure things are going well. And they’re actually doing what it is they said they would do.

Bill Lampton Ph.D. 9:12
I want to underscore that very important point you made about the partners, who in peer coaching, get to select each other. I think that’s a remarkable advantage. Because going back to my management days, if somebody just happened to be assigned to me, you and I Meredith know very well what communication styles are all about. Suppose this person assigned to me, is in is accustomed to and innately uses a communication style that clashes with mine, we’ve got possibly a barrier there too big Begin with no, this doesn’t mean that you automatically choose your best friend, that might not be the answer. But you do choose somebody whose credentials, accomplishments you respect, and also who you are compatible with, would that be the case?

Meredeth Bell 10:21
Well, I think so, you know, when you look at what is so important in a relationship for things for people to be honest with each other, because peer coaching is not going to work? Well, if people are holding back, and you know, kind of whitewashing what it is, that’s gone on, because they’re afraid of, of the confidentiality being broken. So there needs to be trust and respect between the two people, for it to really work effectively. And that’s where establishing ground rules upfront about how we’re going to be together, how we’re going to work together, so that there’s mutual understanding and respect for what each person is bringing, the more you have that trust, the easier it will be to discuss things that are sometimes difficult if you didn’t, you know, if a situation didn’t go well, and you don’t feel good about how it went, you want to be able to say that honestly, to the other person, and have them listen, and be empathetic to whatever it was you experienced. And so that compatibility of values also, I think, is important.

Bill Lampton Ph.D. 11:37
Yes, it very definitely is. And one final question on this, what’s the what’s the, and I guess this differs with every organization? But what’s the frequency of the peer coaching? How often ideally, do they get together? And then also, what’s the duration of it? Does it go for a few months, a year or what?

Meredeth Bell 12:02
Well, in our book, connect with your team, where we talk about 10 communication skills, if people were going to work together for a period of time, where they’re working on all 10 Of those, it could easily extend for a year or more. So the length of time can be determined by the two people, they could decide, they’re only focusing on one skill, and they dissolve the peer coaching relationship after a certain period of time, you could also rotate peer coaching partners so that you work with one person for a given period of time, maybe three to six months, and then you move on to another person. That the period of time between coaching sessions really depends on the two individuals, it could be a week, it could be every other week. If you go much longer than that, though, then you run into the problem of people forgetting or you know, not not just forgetting about meeting with each other, but forgetting about applying the skill. And so having that frequency of meetings, even for a short period of time, it could be only a five or 10 minute meeting, just to check in and ask how did you do on this, anything in particular happen that you need help with? Are you going to continue working on this or something else. So I think that’s really important for people to understand this doesn’t have to be a long meeting. It could be longer. If you both agree, you’d like to go deeper into a discussion of certain aspects of what you’ve been practicing. But I would say every other week, at the most probably as far as frequency

Bill Lampton Ph.D. 13:56
as very refreshing that after a while, change partners because that way you get fresh perspective, you get fresh ideas, you get someone who’s not familiar with what has happened so far, and can analyze it quite objectively. one more topic I want to hit before we take a short break, and that is in all of your writing. And then all of your videos that I’ve seen, you encourage managers and executives to take a very positive approach to coaching. not punitive, I think we could say not punitive, but positive. I mean, the old style management which thank goodness has has faded considerably. The old style management would be that all of the coaching would be of a corrective nature. Sure, and they sort of a pointing out the faults, we found that doesn’t work very well, I talk for a second about the more positive approach that you you’ve advocated and write about and speak about.

Meredeth Bell 15:19
Well, to me, Ville, when somebody is taking a directive and punitive approach, that’s not even something I would call coaching. Because it’s, it’s more directive, it’s more criticizing, to me, coaching is where you are asking questions and drawing out from the other person insights that they really have within themselves. And to me, a positive approach means that you are seeing in them potential they may not actually see in themselves yet. And so what that does is it helps them discover within themselves, capabilities, talents, skills that they have, that may, they may never have even recognized, much less giving themselves credit for. And I think when, through our coaching, we help people raise their level of awareness around what it is they’re doing, that may be limiting them or causing them problems for themselves or their relationships with other people, and help them discover ways that they can improve that or be take a different approach. It’s amazing what that does for increasing their confidence, and their belief in their ability to do well. So to me, that kind of approach to coaching gets the results we want. Because when people feel more confident and capable, then they are motivated and inspired to actually give their best efforts.

Bill Lampton Ph.D. 17:05
Thank you for that. And it takes me back to the many years that I played golf, and many times, Meredith, my golf game wouldn’t be where I wanted it to be. And so I would go to a golf coach, a golf pro. Invariably, I ran into two different kinds. One would be the kind who spent the entire 30 minutes telling me all the things I was doing wrong. And you can imagine, I didn’t go back to that one. Because not not because I wanted to be told that I was ready for the ProTour better than that. But I went back to the ones who would say, Bill, here’s what you’re doing. But here’s what you’re you can do. And I know you’re able to accomplish it. And to me, it made all the difference. And what I got from that coaching, there’s no there’s another another topic, I want us to move on to one that you and I know is very important for us both professionally and personally. And that’s the topic of listening. You have talked about it. You’ve written about it. And so, after this word, we’ll be back to talk about that.

Speaker 3 18:25
Do you wish you felt confident about giving speeches? Do you want to deal with difficult people constructively? And what about becoming more persuasive in sales? Then keep listening now to Dr. Bill Lampton, he spent 20 years in management, so he knows the communication skills you need for success. I urge you to call the biz communication guide today for a no call. But very valuable. 30 minute discussion about your communication challenges. Call now. 678-316-4300 Again, that’s 678-316-4300.

Bill Lampton Ph.D. 19:07
Mary, getting to the topic of listening, I think of a video of yours that I watched it that you produced recently where you talked about the annoying and destructive problem that many people fall into and that’s interrupting the other person who’s talking. I put this comment on Facebook not too long ago. Pardon me for keeping on talking after you interrupted me. Interrupting is is abrasive. So give us some some insight onto if we’re talking with somebody, and it could even be our boss. If we’re talking to somebody who won’t let us get our words out. How do we tactfully handle that you gave a couple of good suggestions and that video?

Meredeth Bell 20:02
That’s such a great question. And it’s so true how we all do it, that’s

Bill Lampton Ph.D. 20:09
not going to interrupt you while you’d say it.

Meredeth Bell 20:13
It’s something that we all do, we get enthusiastic about what we have to say. And we don’t want to wait for the other person to finish. And sometimes we’re pressed for time, right, and we just want them to get on with it and finish. And so we think, if I complete their sentence that will make it go faster. Well, if, if that’s happening to you, if someone is doing that to you, one of the best things to do is simply to say, I’m not done yet, please let me finish. And, and repeat that if they continue to interrupt you. But do it in a tone of voice that doesn’t sound exasperated, or sarcastic, because then you start elevating things to a level of conflict, and you don’t, that’s not what you want, you want to be able to finish and make your point. And so repeating that those simple phrases or something similar to it, I wasn’t finished. So I’d like to, I’d like to complete my sentence, please. anything along those lines, helps alert the other person. Because sometimes they don’t even realize they weren’t interrupting. And, you know, I think about interactions that my two business partners and I have Paula and Danny and I, we’ve worked together for over 30 years now. And we still fall into interrupting each other, especially if we’re having a creative brainstorming and what somebody says, you know, it stimulates one of us to think and want to say something else. But we’ve learned to do this with each other and just say, a Please let me finish. And that simply draws the attention to the interrupter. Oh, I’m jumping in. And I didn’t realize because sometimes somebody is just taking a pause, you know, to take a breath, and we’re jumping in too quickly. And so just those few phrases can make such a difference in the in raising the awareness of the other person. And typically, most people will back off and allow you to finish

Bill Lampton Ph.D. 22:20
affect the way you defined the problem to begin with is very essential. And that is we’re so excited about what we want to say next. We’re energetic and, man, if I don’t say it now, I might forget it, however, that that diminishes instantly the rapport, and it, if we’re going to be very candid about it, it shows disrespect. So I’m I’m very much welcome. Your suggestion that I’m not finished are, could you let me finish or something. And as you say, your tone of voice and when you do that, and it cannot be a reprimand it’s just a statement that I have more than a to say, and please let me say it.

Meredeth Bell 23:11
And you know, Bill, you’re bringing up an important point. And that is, we can interpret something as being disrespectful. And it’s much better if we get our ego out of the way. And don’t assume the person is disrespecting us. But instead, they’re just eager to bring up their message. And they may be afraid that they’ll forget it. So to give the person the benefit of the doubt, not assume the worst, that they’re trying to put me down or, you know, or show disrespect for me, it may not be that at all. And so it can keep us on track from our own emotions, from getting our emotions elevated in a negative way, if we stay calm, and simply say this person is eager to say something. I want to finish what I’m saying first.

Bill Lampton Ph.D. 24:05
And of course we have to check ourselves on that. Don’t wait. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, we can fall into that habit quite easily. And anytime I catch myself doing that. I I make it a point to say, Don’t do that. Again. It’s it’s a conversation breaker. While we’re on the topic of listening, Meredith, you and I both had recognize over several decades, that we we teach a lot about sending messages about speaking about leading meetings about directing seminars, and even about coaching, which does involve listening. But we we spent a lot more time teaching people how to send messages and we do, how to listen to them. I know that you’ve written about this and especially in your book mastering the top 10 communication skills. That’s one of them that you give a chapter to give us a couple of quick tips on listening skills.

Meredeth Bell 25:14
You know, I think a key one that most people don’t necessarily think about is preparing yourself, for listening to this person. And so before you ever start the conversation, just think about who this person is to you, what you appreciate and value about them. So that you bring a positive attitude to the situation. And you make a commitment to eliminate distractions. And this is so hard these days with all these different devices, right in front of us. But if we truly want to hear what someone else has to say, we’ve got to be willing to give them our full attention. And so if it’s not a good time, for you to be able to listen, be honest with them about that, and just say, I’m really distracted right now about this in this, could we talk later today or tomorrow or whatever might be a better time. So once you’ve Dysart Turman, this is a good time, then to make that commitment to eliminate all distractions, and that includes your own thoughts. Because if we monitor ourselves, when we get in the mode of listening to someone else, we often find ourselves evaluating, judging, critiquing, getting ready to respond to the other person instead of absorbing the full message that they want to send us. So if we commit ourselves, to pay attention to all the elements, not just the words, they’re saying, but how they look, when they’re saying it, how they sound, what’s their tone of voice, what’s their body language, that’s going to require our full attention if we take in the full entity, of the message the person is sending us. And then once they pause, we can check with them and say things like, Okay, what I’m getting from what you’ve said, so far is this and you put in your own words, what it is, you understand that they are saying, and then you can ask them, do I have that right? Or is that accurate? Or something that’s asking for their input to let you know, if you’re hearing or not, because for one thing, it tells them, I’m paying attention? I’m working hard to get you. And if they feel understood, they’ll affirm that yes, that’s exactly what I meant, or No, what I’m trying to say is this. So through your listening and your questions back and your rephrasing of it, you’re helping them clarify in their own mind, the message they’re trying to send you. So all of that cumulatively does a lot for the relationship, because I think it’s very rare. Unfortunately, for someone to be a truly excellent listener, because of all those things that I mentioned, we need to set aside and do differently.

Bill Lampton Ph.D. 28:20
There’s a phrase I came up with quite a few years back, that I have to explain to people, but the phrase is, listen your way to the top. We think so often, we have to speak our way to the top but many great executives have gotten there because they listened. Well. Meredith listening to you today has been enlightening, helpful, interesting, stimulating, entertaining, as I knew it would be so I know that our biz communication viewers and listeners will want your contact information. So please share that with us now.

Meredeth Bell 28:58
Oh, thank you. Well, they can find me and information about our books and our company at grow strong I’m also on social media on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. And my email is Meredith at grow strong And I would love to connect with any of your listeners who are interested in discussing anything around communication skills or peer coaching.

Bill Lampton Ph.D. 29:28
I encourage all of our listeners and viewers to follow up with Meredith bill and said she’s given her contact information. I’m happy to give mine Bill Lampton PhD is and where you will find me on YouTube. That’s my moniker there. I encourage you to subscribe to my YouTube channel. I have over 400 instructional videos there on communication. And about 75 of them are biz communication show where I have guest expert guests, such as Meredith, who come on to the program, and then certainly invite you to go to my website as the biz communication guy, my website quite logically, is biz B as the biz communication, then certainly give me a phone call, because I’d love to talk to you about your communication problems and challenges, and how I can assist you with them. Again, many thanks to you for joining us. And Meredith bill. One final question quickly. What thoughts what you give that could pull this all together for us?

Meredeth Bell 30:45
Thinking about valuing other people in the way you listen to them, there’s another side of that, which is acknowledging them. In fact, I just posted about this on social media today, where if we take the time to look at and notice, what are things do it people, what things are people doing well, that I can acknowledge them for, give positive feedback about that is another way of improving our relationship with others. So listening well, coupled with giving positive feedback goes a long way to helping another person feel valued and appreciated by you. And that has a ripple effect, not just on you, because you feel good for having done that, but also on how they then see themselves and go out and interact with others.

Bill Lampton Ph.D. 31:40
Great conclusion. Meredith, thank you, again, so much for being with us on the best communication show. I’ll call on you again. Because there’s much more in your area of expertise, communication, which happens to me my bailiwick as well. And as you and I know, success and communication means success in life and success. And your professional career is well thanks once more for those of you who joined us on the biz communication show, on video and on the podcast. Be with us again, soon for another exciting, provocative and informative guest. So you’ll get those tips and strategies that will boost your business I’m Bill Lampton the biz communication guy

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