Watching me watching you! Peer observation

We are all used to the notion that managers observe and supervise their staff.  They tell them what to do, or even tell them off!  But an open approach that involves the whole team in peer-observing and positively feeding-back can be a powerful force for team development, individual continuous professional development, and safety.

That said, peer-observation can be a cause of professional anxiety – if not handled properly, especially when the comfort of established and entrenched structures are challenged in the workplace.  Personally, I have often initiated 360 degree appraisals to offer me valuable challenge and support to inform my continuous development.  This is when the people I supervise complete a formal process that offers me their observations on how I work and what I could work on.

In the workplace, we receive such information constantly from our users, customers, colleagues and supervisors, quality inspectors, auditors and others. Sometimes this is obvious and clear, at other times one has to have sufficient awareness to notice. In peer observation training, we look at the need for it, the process, developing observation and interpretation skills, and practice how to feedback to support improvement in future practice.

Peer observation is a recognised assessment process, in context it should look at the quality of interactions between workers and service users.  Its aim is to work towards the best outcomes and service standards, and should have the sharing of skills and knowledge at its core.  True learning whilst you work.

We all have so much to share, yet often we can feel held back by hierarchy, permissions or power struggles, and the different levels and lengths of each other’s experiences.   In teams that are dysfunctional this leads to serious scenarios, where junior or new staff feel unable to ‘blow the whistle’ on dangerous and concerning behaviours. We need open lines of communication.

On the positive side, peer observation supports team work, and should be part of the evaluation and continuous improvement process – therefore feeding into leadership and management, practice and good inspection outcomes.  It needs some time invested, yet with practice it can become an integral part of your day-to-day work.

Giving good feedback is key and is such an amazing skill to have in your toolbox.  It should be given at a convenient time to meet, allow the observee to reflect and describe their experiences, use reflections to structure the feedback, and state all the positives, as well as agreeing an action plan together for future actions.

Those businesses that have been on training, tell me they have seen benefits in identifying and developing new skills, personal development across their teams, renewed thirsts for training and gaining qualifications, a boosting of reflective practice skills, deeper team respect and dialogues about achieving best practice, and an increase in confidence brought about by receiving regular positive feedback.  We’ve also seen team members who thought they would never manage teams stepping up into new roles and using their new found confidence. I say, give it some serious thought!

anonymous person with binoculars looking through stacked books
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on





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