Peer Coaching for Executives

By Peters, Helen | Training & Development, March 1996 | Go to article overview

Peer Coaching for Executives

Peters, Helen, Training & Development

Here's how a program at National Semiconductor helps employees pair off and create performance partnerships.

In 1988, Bob Noakes, a technical manager reporting to one of my peers, asked me to be his coach. He'd just completed an in-depth executive-development process that included 360-degree feedback. Though technically brilliant, Bob was often in conflict with others. This problem diminished both his professional contribution to the organization and his personal satisfaction with his work. Bob asked me to help him analyze his behavior and change it.

Specifically, he wanted to identify ways that he was contributing to his own and the organization's problems. I was flattered, and I wanted Bob to succeed. But I felt totally inadequate for the task. I had no idea where or how to begin. And I sensed that Bob was just as unsure. However, Bob's determination to change overcame my trepidation about my skills.

For six months, we worked together to develop a "context" for the coaching I would provide. We would, in a structured way, define, support, and accomplish Bob's personal goals. In fact, we more or less reinvented the traditional role of coach - a boss-subordinate model in which coaching is a tool for performance management and in which the manager defines the problem and "owns" the process. In such cases, employees are told what changes to make and, if they're lucky, advised how to make them. It's implied that a failure to change will negatively affect their rewards, promotions, and perhaps even employment. In effect, the boss becomes the sole arbiter of success or failure.

Because I wasn't Bob's boss, our relationship would be different. He decided what he wanted to accomplish, not me. He also defined what success would look like and how it would be measured. Bob was motivated to become a better manager and leader, not to score points with his boss. I felt as if my role was the same as an Olympic athlete's coach, who works for the athlete and empowers him or her to exceed previous levels of performance. As the athlete progresses, he or she may change coaches in order to gain new ideas for performing better. In the athletic arena, coaches can be hired or fired based on their ability to support the aspirations of the people they coach. The coach and athlete are peers, with different roles.

From this humble beginning, we developed a peer-coaching model.

Since my experience with Bob, I've had other opportunities to use and refine the peer-coaching model we developed. At my current employer, National Semiconductor, a computer-chip manufacturer headquartered in California's Silicon Valley, the model is being used along with a leadership model in an integrated development-planning and peer-coaching program on leadership behaviors.

With 22,000 employees worldwide and annual sales of more than $2 billion, National Semiconductor began as one of the fastest-growing stocks on Wall Street. But the slump in the chip industry in the eighties took its toll. By 1991, after five years of losses, the company was on the brink of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Then a new CEO, Gil Amelio, instituted a two-phase corporate transformation. The goal of phase 1 was to become viable. Within two years, downsizing, manufacturing consolidation, and product pruning brought the company back into the black.

360-degree feedback

Then phase 2 began. The theme: greatness. The goal: to attain $10 billion in sales by the year 2000. But the management and leadership skills that had brought the company through phase 1 were not the skills that would accomplish greatness. So, senior executives and the top 400 managers embraced a leadership model that reflected the goals and aspirations of phase 2. They also agreed to be assessed against the model using 360-degree feedback, though past experiences with 360-degree instruments told them that feedback wasn't enough.

Real change requires not only accurate feedback but also constant self-reflection, mentoring, and coaching. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Peer Coaching for Executives


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.