Mark Probert
Written by
Mark Probert

Half of 2021 is already behind us, and the pace of change is accelerating. With so much going on, it’s easy for people to lose sight of the personal development goals set at the beginning of the year. Read this guest blog for 5 ways peer reinforcement can help you stay on track with your personal development goals.

This guest blog is the second in a 2 part series, click here to read the first blog on Goal Setting: Motivating Your People to Keep Developing.


In this second post about goal setting for personal development, I’m concentrating on the importance of colleagues in achieving personal development goals.

In the first blog I mentioned Robert Cialdini’s law of commitment and consistency. The principle states that making a public and visible commitment makes feeling the need to be consistent much stronger. And that got me thinking, how can you use peer reinforcement to stay on track with learning and development?

  • Make Sure Teams Have Full Visibility of Each Other’s Development Goals: Aristotle said: ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.’  Michal Jordan said: ‘Talent wins games. Teamwork and intelligence win championships.’ So, learning something new can only convert into a strong skill though practice. Great teams practice together, and by doing so enhance the capabilities of the team as well as the individual. But most organisations treat personal development as a personal thing that’s only shared between the individual and the line manager. This approach misses out on the benefits of the combined wisdom of Aristotle and Jordan. So, I think it makes sense for organisations to make personal development a team activity by providing visibility on how each member of the team is trying to improve their skills. If peers, and not just line managers, can see what everyone is trying to achieve, they can help each other stay on track and turn new knowledge into a powerful habit.
  • Set Up a Peer-to-Peer Learning Programme: Studies suggest that more than 50% of employees turn to their peers first when they want to learn a new skill. Yet, this study by McKinsey revealed that less than half of organisations have implemented any kind of formal peer-to-peer learning. Formal peer-to-peer learning programs can take many forms. You could pair participants in one-to-one sessions, create cohorts working together on real work problems over a few months, or involve weekly sessions in which individuals share the latest knowledge with their peers. Whichever route you go, I’m certain peer-to-peer learning will build a collective commitment to mastering new skills.
  • Build a Safe Environment to Give Regular Feedback: Peer learning only works when participants feel safe enough to share their thoughts, experiences, questions, and accept constructive feedback. They also need to feel comfortable giving honest feedback. This means setting clear rules that each team has input on. These rules will vary depending on company culture and natural preferences amongst other things, but some ‘rules’ you may want to consider, are: everything shared is confidential to the peer group aka what’s shared in the team stays in the team; feedback should be perceived as a positive gesture from peers; active listening needs to be used at all times; participants should never be mocked or embarrassed for expressing themselves in front of their peers.

You can read the article in full online: Goal Setting: The Role of Peer Reinforcement in Learning and Development.

Make sure to explore Inspiring Workplaces for other content and insights about Productivity and Performance.

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