Peer Coaching: What kind do YOU want?

What IS Peer Coaching
and how can it help YOU?

It depends on who you ask

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC


Peer Coaching vs. Professional Coaching

The most obvious difference is the fee: Peer Coaching doesn’t have one.  It is also about the only difference with which everybody agrees – besides the importance of confidentiality.

Before I tell you about the brain-based, life-basics type — the kind that helps most of us struggling with Executive Functioning keep our lives in balance, juggling all of the pieces that have to stay in place (but rarely DO) — let’s take a quick look at some other types of “Peer Coaching.”

What other types?

There are probably as great a number of different interpretations of Peer Coaching and the benefits of working with a Peer Coach as there are types of coaching.

  • Businesses and Business Coaches tend to see Peer Coaching more on the order of mentoring.
  • Educational Institutes see it closer to tutoring when students are involved, and teaching skills mentoring and curriculum development when two educators work with each other.
  • Many Coach Training institutes pair the students, but a great part of their time together is spent discussing their curriculum.

A quick search on Google brought up the following definition from the ASD site:

Peer coaching is a confidential process through which two or more professional colleagues work together to reflect on current practices; expand, refine, and build new skills; share ideas; teach one another; conduct classroom research; or solve problems in the workplace.

I Beg to Differ!

Jumpin’ on the Bandwagonfound HERE

As new disciplines become popular, people tend to jump on the bandwagon.

As a result, identical terms become bandied about in a variety of other situations, to take advantage of the marketing advantage of piggy-backing on the popularity of certain terms.

The meanings of those terms change with each new application – just like that old “whisper a word in the next person’s ear” game of Telephone that children used to play.

That first happened with coaching itself.

  • 25 years ago, those of us who were the pioneers of the Personal and Professional Coaching field spent hour upon non-billable hour coming up with a clear definition of the emerging field of Coaching that distinguished it from any other discipline, along with a set of core competencies, a professional code of ethics and standards, and a certification body.
  • Despite that fact, once Coaching received a certain level of awareness in the mind of the public, all sorts of environments began to boast that they offered “coaching” – skilled or unskilled – and no matter what they meant by the term.
  • Within a decade, the term Peer Coaching was similarly co-opted, as each different environment came up with their own particular idea of the meaning of the term.

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How I think of Peer Coaching

To my mind, Peer Coaching implies more than uni-directional coaching where one individual “coaches” another – or a confidential agreement between professionals.

That sounds to me more like a quasi-professional unpaid coaching arrangement – only, for the most part, without coach training or mandated hours of coaching practice!

I believe it is more useful to focus on the meaning of the first word in the pairing:  PEER Coaching – each, in turn, helping the other.  I see no reason to confine it an agreement between professionals either.

I strongly believe that Peer Coaching is best done one-to-one, however. Otherwise it becomes far too similar to a support group, quality circle, or mastermind think-tank calling itself Peer Coaching.

I second the notion that Peer support needs to focus on essential skills that each partner identifies as areas for improvement.  I also agree with the folks who insist that the peer client, not the peer coach, sets the agenda, or it becomes mentoring or tutoring.

The meaning of the term “essential” skills is where I differ most.

The Optimal Functioning Institute™ Definition

In the materials from my classes, I describe Peer Coaching in a fundamentally different, brain-based manner.

It is similar to the way in which I work with ADD/EFD clients who are struggling with focus, follow-through and other assorted items on the intentional attending plate.

My definition of Peer Coaching focuses on personal coaching techniques designed to sharpen personal skills — and on little that is designed to hone educational or business skills, double business revenue or advance a career.

The personal skills that most need refinement and assistance in Alphabet City are those that fall under the banner of Executive Functioning, barely recognized or mentioned by other forms of peer coaching.

Related Post: Executive Functioning Disorders –
NOT just kid stuff

After all, when “EFD-flavored” lives lack success with foundational elements that people with “vanilla-flavored” brains can take for granted, it’s difficult to succeed in other arenas.

Regardless, the type of Peer Coaching I advocate has become a “catch-all” term for an arrangement where two individuals come to an agreement to coach one another — without the exchange of payment of any kind.

I further divide this type of Peer Coaching into three main types of “peers” that fall into the “without payment” dynamic, which I refer to as:

  1. Peer Coaching
  2. Partner Coaching and
  3. Co-coaching

What’s the Difference?

Peer Coaching

In OFI’s trainings, “pure” Peer Coaching is a term I use to refer to a “no fee” coaching relationship where neither of the individuals in the coaching partnership is a trained coach or in training to become a coach.

I also use the term to refer to a confidential relationship between two individuals focused on the pragmatics of living, rather than developing a coaching business, regardless of whether either is a professional coach or in training to become one.

Partner Coaching
(sometimes referred to as Buddy Coaching)

I use the term Partner Coaching to distinguish the type of Peer Coaching arrangement where two individuals coach one another as colleagues, on an equal footing, when the individuals are engaged in a coach training program.

The primary goals of partner coaching are generally directed, rather than the client-led agenda that characterizes a professional coach/client relationship where the client hires the coach. By “directed” I mean that the primary goals tend to revolve around assigned training homework designed to provide practice that will support skills acquisition.


Co-coaching is a term used to distinguish the type of Peer Coaching that is a professional courtesy arrangement where two professional coaches fashion a confidential coaching relationship with one another as colleagues — on an equal footing and without payment — but structured in a hybrid fashion which usually includes elements of Professional Coaching as well as “pure” Peer Coaching techniques.

Each uses the same Peer Coaching skillset

The Peer Coaching Skills remain the same in each of the three varieties.  Similar to – but not the same as – Professional Coaching Skills: less extensive and learned in a shorter amount of time.

Once you learn how to work effectively with any type of peer coach, never again will a tight budget keep you from systems development coaching when you need it!!

I will be covering a few of the basics in articles to come, so stay tuned. 

Meanwhile . . .

Peer Coaching Basic Training will be coming soon. Open enrollment for the next group will be announced shortly, but I want to give my readers an enrollment advantage.

In order to be effective, class size must remain really-I’m-not-kidding limited, and the kick-off tuition will have to be increased for subsequent groups.

Current and past clients, along with those who have expressed interest here on, will get first dibs on seats. So let me know if you are interested in being part of this inaugural class while tuition is as low as I can make it.

Be sure to leave me your name and email address so that I can contact you before I announce open enrollment (I will delete your email address BEFORE I approve the comment, so it will NOT be visible online. I can also keep your entire comment private, if you prefer).

You can also indicate interest by filling out the E-me! (contact) form always found on the top menu above each article, and checking the **PEER COACHING BASIC TRAINING** box — also found HERE.

Otherwise, stay tuned for the announcement here on and be ready to jump in quickly.

Further information about what’s involved will be coming soon, but “official” registration will not be available for a few weeks yet. If this is something you believe you might like to do, in addition to leaving a comment below, start rounding up a practice partner who is interested in joining you for the training.

Click and HOLD on the top menu above every page for a drop-down menu with more information about Peer Coaching Basic Training.

© 2016, all rights reserved

Tuition for this training has already increased since the beta class, and the session after this one must be priced higher still. Tuition is unusually low ONLY because it is my policy to price early sections of new classes as low as possible while classes build momentum and I train new TeleClass Leaders.  This also makes it possible for ADD/EFDers who are struggling with finances to attend. HOWEVER, all classes must ultimately be priced to include trainer payment as well as administration costs, or I won’t be able to pay MY bills!

So, if cost is a factor for YOU, be sure to let me know
that you want to sign up while tuition is as low as I can make it!

Don’t Forget: click and HOLD on the top menu above every page for a drop-down menu with more information about Peer Coaching Basic Training.

© 2016, all rights reserved
Check bottom of Home/New to find out the “sharing rules”

As always, if you want notification of new articles in the Peer Coaching Series – or any new posts on this blog – give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy

IN ANY CASE, do stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work privately with me? If you’d like some private coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this Series (one-on-one couples or group), I have a few openings in my practice. Click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end (or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page). Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

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For links in context: run your cursor over the article above and the dark grey links will turn dark red;
(subtle, so they don’t pull focus while you read, but you can find them to click when you’re ready for them)
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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

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  13. noelleg44 says:

    Interesting article, Madelyn. I did a lot of coaching when I was an academic – but it was not peer to peer. I met a lot of young women academics who needed help! My peer to peer coaching now goes on in my writers’ critique groups, and I couldn’t do without it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think Peer Coaching is incredibly useful in ALL of it’s forms. I’m pleased to hear that you agree and are personally familiar with two of them.

      The kind I’m most interested in, however, is in short supply in the Executive Functioning Disorders community — where so many need coaching yet have extremely tight budgets (if not more than a few money problems) as a result of struggles with attentional issues – from birth or as the result of brain injuries of one sort or another [TBI/ABI].

      I’m hoping to make a difference by teaching people in that situation how to work with a Peer for planning, feedback and follow through.

      I truly believe that some basic training and the observation of a few “ground rules” can really help them set up and take best advantage of a “barter” arrangement where each helps the other.

      If I won the lottery 🙂 or somebody would offer to pay my bills I’d do it at no charge, but I’m trying to set things up so that the training will be within reach of a enough of them that I can hold Basic Training and develop other supports.

      Thanks for ringing in – cross your fingers that things go as I envision.


      • noelleg44 says:

        Wishing you every piece of good luck with this venture. What you are proposing to do is SO needed. I would never have thought Patrick had ADHD if a friend of mine from the UNC autism program hadn’t given me a book about it, I read it and thought, “THIS is my kid.” I wish I had had a peer coach to help me deal with it. I learned some things from the teachers at Hill Center, where he went to school for a half day, but the day to day things at home were hit or miss. Prayers for your success!

        Liked by 1 person

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