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Peer to Peer Coaching: A Model

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Envisioning the future

Lawyers train in the art of asking questions that limit uncertainty (i.e. asking yes and no questions). On becoming a judge, they don’t know what they don’t know. The role requires different skills as they enter distinctive legal and ethical environments.

The same uncertainty can be assumed for most professional roles in a justice system – e.g. probation officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, pretrial services, and court administrators. We are no longer lone cowboys, as Atul Gawande suggests. Rather, the new paradigm is working with pit crews.

What is needed for the foreseeable future is the growing effort to support judges from those newly appointed to those nearing the end of their judicial career. Peer-to- peer support is one powerful and successfully demonstrated way to achieve support from someone who truly has “walked in his or her shoes.” Traditionally, many of us entered the workforce following pedagogical models that left us responsible for our ongoing learning and development: we were complete at graduation.  In today’s world, we have reached a level of complexity where our knowledge and skills are beyond individual capabilities. Dr. Gawande notes that many professionals think they can “self-coach.” Marshall Goldsmith suggests that as we advance in our careers, behavioral changes are often the only significant changes we can make. How many professionals can you think of that have successfully stopped or started behaviors through self-will?

As Atul Gawande notes in Personal Best, coaching done well may be the most effective intervention designed for human performance. Judge Town states that judges find strength in their communities, their faith, their colleagues, and their families. Judicial systems must be mindful of the toll, emotional and physical, inherent upon judges and the judicial system professional. With this in mind, the peer-to-peer coaching model can profoundly affect individuals and system performance.
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