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Break down silos and inspire collaboration through peer-to-peer coaching, says expert

Keynote speaker Jennifer Gervès-Keen will explain how to build a better business by embracing a coaching mindset at The ONE National Conference this year

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portrait of Jennifer Gerves-KeenCorporate executive coach Jennifer Gervès-Keen says getting employees from different departments collaborating can bring about new ideas and innovation for your business. (Photo provided)

Want to spark new ideas in your organization? 

Shake up the silos by getting people from different areas to talk to each other—preferably in groups of three, says corporate executive coach Jennifer Gervès-Keen, keynote speaker at CPA Canada’s The ONE national conference this year. 

This year, the conference, which takes place Sept. 23-24 in Montreal, will revolve around the theme of “innovation for sustainability.” In her address, Gervès-Keen, founder of JGK Consulting, will embrace this by explaining how to build a peer coaching network in your organization that not only drives innovation but also includes structures and processes for sustainability. 

The idea of peer-to-peer coaching, or what Gervès-Keen calls pod coaching, is based on cross-functional collaboration; in other words, people from different departments come together on a regular basis to talk about what’s going on in the organization. “This really drives innovation because when you bring people from different backgrounds and experiences together, a lot of them come up with some really cool ideas,” she says. 

Currently, says Gervès-Keen, many organizations are not set up to work off a peer-to-peer model. “They are very vertical and very siloed, based on their revenue stream. The point is to mix things up a bit and make sure the left hand is talking to the right hand,” she says. “This is something most organizations assume is going to happen naturally. But these days…people don’t have time to intentionally think outside the box.”

At the conference, Gervès-Keen will look at some of the key conceptual building blocks she uses to set up coaching pods. For example, she’ll explain why it’s best to put people in groups of three and why it’s often a good idea to associate the groups with a learning program. She’ll also walk participants through the process of setting up the pods. “I think it will be a great way for them to find out how they can use this idea,” she says. 

Here are the general steps.

1. Define your purpose. What are the groups meant to achieve? What metrics will you use to measure success? “With some organizations, the groups could turn into peer rant sessions,” says Gervès-Keen. “You need to make sure there is an intentionality behind the program.”

2. Organize your pods. Never let people choose their own groups, because they tend to opt for people they like. “It’s very normal for people not to want to put themselves in uncomfortable situations,” says Gervès-Keen. “You need to be looking at the organization’s needs and where you can make an impact.” 

3. Provide a timetable. Let the groups know what your expectations are and how often you expect them to meet, and let them take it from there.

What about deliverables? While Gervès-Keen says the groups might occasionally come out with a report, this is not necessarily the goal. “Sometimes we form the groups just to give people a safe space to talk to each other,” she says. “We’ll check in to make sure the meetings are happening and if everyone says they love their pod, we’ll say, ‘That’s wonderful -- all the more power to you.’ Then we’ll shift people around and start over.”

REGISTER FOR THE ONE

Jennifer Gervès-Keen will be at The ONE National Conference, which takes place in Montreal from Sept. 23-24. Click here to register.