Peer Coaching Circles For Inclusive Leadership

Peer Coaching Circles For Inclusive Leadership

by Felicity Menzies

Tapping the Wisdom in the Room

Peer Coaching Circles, pioneered by Charles Brassard, are based on the premise that ‘the wisdom is in the room’, meaning that we can gain as much from the wisdom and experience of our peers as from traditional learning strategies.

Understanding Inclusion

An inclusive culture is an environment where all employees;

  • feel respected
  • experience a sense of belonging
  • are empowered
  • are able to achieve their full potential

Research indicates that firms with inclusive cultures are better able to attract and engage top talent; expand into new markets and grow market share in existing markets; innovate; engage in creative problem-solving and optimal decision-making.

Learn more

Inclusive Leadership Traits

As with any culture change, success relies on leaders that model and promote desired behaviours.

A study of inclusive leaders from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada, and the U.S., conducted by Deloitte, Australia, shows that such leaders possess six fundamental traits that foster diversity and inclusion on their teams.

Learn more about inclusive leadership traits

Woman headshot looking at camera.


Inclusive leaders are not afraid to challenge attitudes and practices that yield homogeneity.

20784978 - group of business executives standing in a row

Cognizance of Bias

Inclusive leaders exert effort to identify and overcome their biases and seek to implement practices to prevent organisational bias.

10091529 - small business team in the office in front of a whiteboard discussing a project very energetically


Open-mindedness, a passion for learning, desire for exposure to different ideas.

63172196 - meeting between four unique individuals, both male and female, racially diverse and well dressed taking place, with a comedic spirit and feel as everyone is happy and smiling together.

Ability to Foster Collaboration

Inclusive leaders create environments where all individuals feel empowered to express themselves freely.

Mature man posing with his wife and daughters

Cultural Intelligence

An understanding of one’s own and others’ culturally conditioned world-views and responses.

Portrait of a diverse group of businesspeople in the officehttp://


Cultivating a diverse and inclusive workforce takes time, energy and investment.

Understanding Peer Coaching Circles

59971519 - businesspeople seated in circle at company seminar

How Peer Coaching Circles Work

Peer Coaching Circles adapt the principles and methods of individual executive coaching and apply them to small intentional groups of leaders.
Supported by Include-Empower.Com inclusive leadership experts and experienced coaching circle facilitators, participants develop peer coaching skills in addition to benefiting from professional coaching.
Include-Empower.Com subject matter experts gradually introduce new inclusive leadership concepts and themes every time the circle meets to enhance the learning process of members.
The outcome from a Peer Coaching Circle that each participant leader will leave with feedback, advice, and action ideas from their peer group.
Portrait Of Multi-Cultural Business Team In Office


Peer Coaching Circles offer a powerful, cost-effective mechanism for developing new competencies, establishing peer support, providing a mechanism for collaborative and continuous learning and establishing accountability for change.
Coaching circle members gain greater insight and awareness of their own impact, learn from the experiences and knowledge of others, and give and receive peer support as they work towards meaningful behavioural change in line with organisational goals.

Develop Desired Behaviour Change

Peer coaching circles support the development of a shared language and mindset as well as empathy and understanding while promoting and encouraging accountability for behavioural change by circle members. In this way, peer coaching circles are a powerful mechanism for developing the leadership behaviours required for organisational culture change.

Drive Cultural Change Throughout the Organisation

Peer Coaching Circles help to create greater capacity for listening, questioning, dialogue and feedback in the workplace and create a commitment to action and learning well beyond the boundaries of the formal program.

Members of Peer Coaching Circles build their own coaching capacity more quickly and become adept at translating their insights and skills back on the job.

By developing an internal coaching capacity, Peer Coaching Circles extend beyond their immediate peer group as leaders apply their coaching conversation skills back in their workplace with direct reports and colleagues.

Because Peer Coaching Circles established as part of the program are transferred back to the workplace and extend beyond the program duration, the program builds strong collaborative peer support networks for addressing ongoing challenges and issues related to diversity and inclusion issues as they arrive.

In this way, Peer Coaching Circles become a powerful mechanism for embedding and sustaining cultural change throughout the organisation.


Initially, an experienced coaching circle facilitator works with the group for a predetermined period until members are confident, willing and capable to continue, without the help of an external facilitator.

Over the duration of the program, the group learns to effectively function on its own.

Blended Learning Minimises Classroom Time

Include-Empower.Com facilitated peer coaching circles minimise classroom time and maximise peer learning by incorporating pre-course e-learning modules. By shifting the delivery of course content outside of the classroom, this blended learning intervention frees up classroom time for greater peer sharing, group discourse and collaborative learning.

Peer Coaching Circles play a powerful role in the development of inclusive leadership competencies and organisational cultural change.

Coaching Circles & Inclusive Leadership

While traditional classroom training is useful for transferring technical skills, inclusive leadership issues are concerned with complex interpersonal relations, cognitive blindspots and biases, belief systems and mindsets, and unconscious behavioural patterns and habitual mental responses.

Coaching circles support inclusive leadership development through:

Critical reflection

An objective analysis of one’s assumptions and beliefs

Rational Discourse

Discussing your assumptions and beliefs with other people in a way that highlights inconsistencies, biases, or blind spots

Those two activities encourage participants to consider how their existing worldview limits the way they perceive, understand, feel about and respond to their social world. That awareness helps participants to overcome habitual ways of thinking. Singular, rigid world-views and prejudgments are replaced with more inclusive, expansive, flexible, and integrating outlooks.

Businesswoman discussing with colleagues. Entrepreneurs are planning in board room. They are sitting at table in office.

Program Outline

Include-Empower.Com Peer Coaching Circles involve five steps:
46017658 - serious businesswoman working on her computer at her desk inside the office.

1. Pre-Course Work

Each participant leader will be required to engage in some reflective activities online prior to the group coaching session. Alternatively, each circle member may choose to attend a full-day Inclusive Leadership Workshop.

Read More

Pre-course learning is designed to encourage participants to consider the issues, opportunities, challenges and problems associated with inclusive leadership and will prepare participants for exploring those ideas with their peer group during the coaching circle.

Content includes:

  • Diversity of Thought vs. Representational Diversity
  • Challenges Eliciting Diversity of Thought
  • Understanding Inclusion
  • Understanding Bias
  • The Six Signature Traits of Inclusive Leaders
  • Your Cultural Values Orientation
  • Techniques for Mitigating Bias in Self and Others

31047539 - businesswoman making presentation to office colleagues

2. Group Coaching Instruction

Program participants are trained in group coaching skills by experts.

Read More

  • Define coaching and the link between managing and coaching
  • Describe the differences between coaching and other communication modes
  • Identify effective coaching behaviors and situations in which it is inappropriate to coach an individual
  • Identify your coaching style and adapt your coaching style to different individuals
  • Establish a solid presence with individuals who you coach
  • Ask probing questions to help an individual explore a situation, and reframe what individuals say to help them gain new perspectives about a situation
  • Describe a six-step coaching process model
  • Explain how to apply the coaching process model when working with geographically dispersed individuals
  • Apply coaching skills during peer coaching practice sessions

31047574 - businesswoman addressing multi-cultural office staff meeting

3. Facilitated Peer Coaching Circle Program

Participants form groups of 6-8 people who meet every 4-6 weeks over a period of 6-12 months for 3-4 hours each session.

Read More

The flow of a peer coaching circle involves five phases:

  • Presentation of issue — Each coaching circle peer receives equal time to present their dilemma, challenge, or opportunity to the circle.
  • Collaborative inquiry — Participants can expect questions from peers that are constructive and aimed at challenging their perspectives, attitudes, assumptions, beliefs, commitment and accountability. With peer coaching, individuals come to their own insights and are more empowered to take full accountability for their behaviour. As required, the Include-Empower.Com inclusive leadership expert will guide the group to consider the coaching issue from the perspective of the six inclusive leadership traits. For example, how does considering the issue through “cognizance of bias” or through “courage” help leaders better understand the issue and prompt a consideration of new ways of thinking that can drive more inclusive solutions?
  • Quiet reflection – Circle peers quietly ponder how what they have learned from the process of collaborative inquiry resonates with their own situation and experiences. Participants often realize that they are struggling with the same challenges as their peers and that they can apply learnings from collaborative inquiry to generate new insights and solutions.
  • Coaching – Circle peers share their insights and observations with the group.
  • Exploration and generation of appropriate actions – The participant being coached highlights to the group what has shifted in their own perceptive from the coaching circle discussion and what actions they commit to taking to address their issue or dilemma.

59971520 - business team applauding at a meeting

4. Ongoing Peer Coaching Circles

The formal program ends and the peer coaching circles continue within the organisation.

Read More

Over time, Peer Coaching Circles become a powerful community of practice driven by a curiosity, a love of inquiry and a concern for the success of others.

Shot of a group of business colleagues meeting in an office

5. Action Learning

Between coaching, circle participants engage in reflective practice.

Read More

Coaching circles are a proven technique for energising, engaging and empowering individuals to change behaviours. Insights are shared at the next peer coaching circle.


  • Increased confidence in handling complex and ambigious diversity and inclusion issues
  • Peer support and accountability to follow through on goals and actions
  • Sharing of experience, ideas, issues, and solutions across the organisation
  • Opportunities to gain insight and understanding from dialogue through a deeper exploration of issues and more varied perspectives that disrupt cognitive biases and blindspots
  • Breakthrough ways to manage issues and solve problems
  • Greater self-awareness from reflection and feedback
  • Development of coaching skills
  • Greater clarity of diversity and inclusion goals
  • Improved individual effectiveness and positive ROI for the organisation
  • A strong results orientation by encouraging individuals to take personal accountability for change
  • Breaking down organisational barriers and building bridges  for cross-organisational and cross-functional collaboration


The optimal coaching circle is made up of a diverse group of leaders and people managers from varied backgrounds, departments, location, functional expertise. It is advisable that participants for each circle hold approximately the same leadership or managerial rank in the organisation and that there are no direct reporting relationships among the circle participants.

It is recommended that 4-6 coaching circles are facilitated by an expert facilitator over a period of 6-12 months. After that time, circles are likely to have reached a stage of independence from our facilitator and may continue indefinitely.

The recommended length of the initial group coaching instruction workshop is one-day.

Pre-course e-learning is estimated at 2-3 hours. Alternatively, participants may choose to attend a full-day Inclusive Leadership Workshop in place of pre-course online learning.

Recommended circle size is 6-8 participants.

Leader participants would complete the Cultural Values Questionnaire as important input into the program.

Learn more

Please contact us for details of our fee structure.

For larger organisations seeking an efficient implementation of peer coaching circles across the organisation, Include-Empower.Com experts can train diversity council members or other staff with diversity and inclusion expertise in coaching skills. Those individuals may then act as coaching circle facilitators during the stage 3 of the program before moving on to work with a new circle.