Co-coaching takes the fundamental skills of coaching - active listening, creating a supportive relationship, nurturing insight, and focusing on solutions and action - and uses them in a less formal setting. The basic idea is that two people who have some experience as coaches can quickly and easily set aside time to help each other think through specific challenges. There may be no need for some of the more detailed scene-setting of a formal coaching relationship.
The most common format is that two colleagues agree to spend a couple of hours with the first hour spent with A as the coach and B as the coachee, and the second with the roles reversed. Confidentiality should be discussed beforehand, and appropriate boundaries agreed, and basically the two individuals actively help each other to think through challenges and develop empowered responses.
The strength of the co-coaching process lies in the strict definition of coach and coachee roles. This is not two colleagues or friends just having a conversation. For each hour it is important that:
- The coach sticks to the fundamental coach role of helping the coachee reflect on their interpretation of events and people, reflect on how much they might be projecting into the situation and move the towards possible solutions. If he or she thinks it may help the coachee move forward, the coach may well suggest challenges to the coachee's interpretations in a way that might be more difficult for two colleagues to do. This is possible because boundaries to the coaching conversation have been explicitly agreed - "This is a coach - coachee conversation". The fundamental ethic of a coach - coachee conversation is that the coach constantly has the coachee's wellbeing and empowerment uppermost in their mind - marks it out as potentially different from a conversation between two colleagues.
- The coachee should be as open as possible about their own role in the situation being discussed in order to assist the coach in offering potential interpretations and actions to explore. They should also feel in control of the conversation and able to tell the coach when particular topics might be relevant to pursue and when topics are 'off-limits'.
The strength of the co-coaching process lies in the ability to ask a knowledgeable colleague to help you think something through, but boundaries of confidentiality and personal disclosure need to be agreed. Trust between the parties is essential for the relationship to work, and the coachee should constantly feel in control of the conversation.