Co-Coaching: "I'll Coach You if You Coach Me" Redux

Friends coaching each other can be quite helpful...if they follow a few rules.

Posted Jan 07, 2016

Aiden Jones, CC 2.0
Source: Aiden Jones, CC 2.0

UPDATE: I just gave a workshop on co-coaching. Here's the link to the 1st part, in which I describe the model in more detail than I do in this article.

And HERE, I do a demo co-coaching session. (4 minutes long.)

HERE, I do a 20-minute demo, which integrates co-coaching and more directive career advising.


In co-coaching, you coach a friend for a half-hour and then your friend coaches you for a half hour.

I've been co-coaching with a friend by phone every two to three weeks for more than a decade now. It works well for both of us. And that makes sense:

  • You and your friend, by definition, like each other, so there’s less risk of incompatibility than between a coach and a paying client.
  • Your friend has a head start over a professional because, when the first session starts, he already knows you well.
  • Getting coached can feel disempowering, but if, half the time, you’re coaching the coach, it evens out.
  • Because you know each other well, you each can insightfully suggest problems worth addressing and perhaps solutions that might work.
  • You needn't worry that the coach is pandering to you rather than being candid because s/he wants to keep you paying for more sessions.
  • There's never a question as to whether the coach is recommending more sessions so s/he can make more money.
  • It's free.

Co-coaching, step-by-step. Of course, every situation is different but the following steps may give you a sense of how a co-coaching session might work.

1. Agree that everything said in the session is strictly confidential: “What goes on here, stays here.”

2. Say something like, “Tell me the problem you’d like to work on.”

3. Listen carefully.

4.Often you'll want to ask, “What have you already tried or considered? Any other options you'd like to consider?" If you have an idea you'd like to share, ask,  “Would you mind if I added one?”

5. “What do you see as the pros and cons of each option?"

6. “So, what do you think you want to do?”

7. “Do you feel we’ve adequately addressed your problem for now?”

8. “Next session, would you like me to ask you about your progress on this problem?"

9. If the half hour isn’t up yet, ask, “Is there another problem you’d like to tackle?"

At the half-hour mark, trade roles.

Finding a co-coach. Typically your co-coach will come from among your friends. Don't forget about friends you haven't seen for a while. If you can't come up with one, perhaps you need to make more friends. Recent research finds that the strongest prejudice is not race or gender, but political affiliation. So a possible source of future friends might be to attend an event or volunteer at an organization sharing your political viewpoint. For example, if you lean left, you might want to attend a Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders event. Lean right, perhaps Marco Rubio. Hold a minority-party view, for example, libertarian, go to a meeting of a libertarian group.

Group co-coaching. A variant on co-coaching is the Board of Advisors. in which three to six people meet regularly. I started one a couple of years ago and it's going strong. The session starts with any one person taking the floor, describing his or her problem and asking the group for help. The group members co-coach as above. When the person feels s/he's received enough input, s/he cedes the floor by thanking the group and asking, "Who would like to go next?"

It's not for everyone. Of course, co-coaching won’t make you anywhere near as skilled as a professional coach but combine the above advantages of co-coaching with safe and helpful questions like those above and you may find that you and your friend can get the help you need. Of course, if it doesn't work well enough, you always can always pay a professional.

Marty Nemko's bio is in Wikipedia. His new book, his 8th, is The Best of Marty Nemko.