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Peer to Peer Coaching: A Model

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Although different judicial cultures, these two models share some important commonalities:
⦁ They recognized that informality in mentoring was not providing the level of support they hoped
⦁ Institutional infrastructure is vital for long term sustainability
⦁ Leadership is key to successful implementation of the program
⦁ Policies and practices must be articulated and supported administratively
⦁ Coaching can lift up individuals and organizations and bring renewed energy to the profession

The Evolution of a Title

What’s in a name? In the Massachusetts J2J Program, the initial role was “focused mentor.” The role has evolved through time and experience to “mentor coach.” This important and ongoing discussion about the name led to the Massachusett’s Trial Courts to expanding the J2J Program for all judges. The name is sensitive to their culture. The District of Columbia Superior Court opted to use the title “judicial coach” from the onset of the program. Whatever the title of the role (and that is very much culturally driven), learning when and how to distinguish the various system roles of supervisor, mentor, or coach is vital.

For example, a chief judge may have to deny a vacation request due to the overall court calendar coverage: This is an act of supervision. A mentoring role may be called for when a minor suggestion would improve a judge’s overall courtroom management. That suggestion is a “telling” role. Coaching is practical where a judge may be consistently late in rendering decisions: the symptom is obvious – the underlying challenge/s are not.  Coaching helps bring clarity, generation of options, and selection of choices that, with support, hold the coaching colleague accountable. What is important to this discussion is that the role of a coach is not to make someone change, but help them to get better at what they choose to change (Goldsmith, p.24). Effective coaching principles and practices are irrespective of title.

Infrastructure and Policy Considerations

Historically, many mentoring/coaching programs have existed informally and casually. Key to the success of a program that is committed to providing a continuum of support for judges and other professionals is the infrastructure and guiding principles and policies.

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