Leadership Coaching Circles

A generative approach to help leaders grow future leaders

Peer-based Leadership Coaching Circles help leaders to incorporate coaching as an important part of how they lead, thus magnifying the value of leadership development.

Leadership Coaching Circles bring together small groups of five to eight peers to develop coaching capability. They collaborate on shared challenges, focus on real issues, practice together and learn from each other. The members collaboratively coach each other. The conversation structure promotes inquiry and exploration.

Organisations need leaders who can make change happen as quickly as possible, with maximum uptake and minimum fallout. Are you ready to find out how?

Karen Morley on black sofa holding a red ipad

Case Study

Client: A large infrastructure organisation.

Goal #1: To increase peer-based collaboration.

Leaders were siloed. There were power struggles. Important projects with key stakeholders were mired in petty politicking. Work tasks were more dispersed than ever before, across functions, departments and geographies. To increase their impact, leaders needed to interact more broadly and more openly.

Goal #2: To reduce the reliance on external coaches by increasing the coaching capabilities of senior leaders.

Our tailor-made solution: Implement and establish coaching circles program.

The program began with a workshop to set up peer groups that would collaborate in coaching circles.

This workshop provided coaching tools and resources, integrating those that the organisation was promoting, and adding from my toolkit.

Then a series of coaching circles took place over a six-month timeframe.

Leaders came together in their coaching circles to help their colleagues meet their leadership challenges. Peers identified with their colleagues’ challenges, and offered support and suggestions through the coaching process. I coached the circles so that individuals developed greater capability. As participants coached each other, they identified closely with the issues and challenges they were facing and created more of that ‘connective tissue’ the organisation sought.

How our Leadership Coaching Circles program benefitted the organisation:

Leadership Coaching Circles magnified the value of leadership development by operating at 5 levels, enabling leaders to:

  • learn coaching, while
  • being coached, while
  • coaching others, while
  • building a coaching culture.

And this generative approach empowered the organisation’s leaders to grow future leaders from within the organisation.

Did you know?

Peer collaboration affects 36% of the top drivers of organisational culture – that’s more than line managers do!

Team members interact with about half of their coworkers on a regular basis and with that reach, they have greater potential to impact engagement than line managers do.

Yet, few organisations realise the benefits.

In too many organisations, peers don’t collaborate. They compete, they reinforce silos and protect their turf. Eventually, they end up feeling frustrated and unproductive.

Two women and one man in a coaching session at a large table in a meeting room

When leaders coach, they create a culture that is empowering and energising.

When coached, people develop. Their motivation elevates, and they engage more deeply.

Organisations with excellent cultural support for coaching and where senior leaders coach frequently, experience:

  • stronger engagement 39% 39%
  • better business results 21% 21%

Coaching facilitates the change process so leaders can make change happen quickly and effectively.

Coaching shifts the power dynamic between leader and team. Through coaching, power is granted; it is given generously and it empowers. Leaders willingly share their power. Leaders see power as more like a see-saw – balanced between themselves and others, rather than a jungle gym where the aim is to hold the highest ground.

Leaders who coach convey benevolence. This signals genuine caring and support. When people experience their leader as supportive, trust deepens.

There are compelling reasons for leaders to coach. Yet, unless they are very experienced at it, they rarely do. They are captured by everyday pressures to produce results. They don’t have confidence in their coaching capability. The connection between coaching and strong engagement is not clear.

Diagram of coaching circle process, starting with diagnosis, then preparation,  skills workshop, practice and review, then independent practice

Leadership Coaching Circles bring together small groups of 5 to 8 peers to develop coaching capability. They collaborate on shared challenges, focus on real issues, practice together and learn from each other. The members collaboratively coach each other. The conversation structure promotes inquiry and exploration.

KarenMorley-What is Collaboration and How it Improves Engagement

Download Karen’s Whitepaper Here

Whitepaper #3 describes how to create advantage through peer collaboration. It will help you to take practical steps to improve collaboration.

Workshop Presenter

Dr Karen Morley

Dr Karen Morley helps leaders to realise their full potential. Besides being an Executive Coach and leadership facilitator, she’s held executive roles in government and higher education; her approach is informed by these experiences.  Her doctorate examined the leadership capabilities of public sector executives.

The best leaders use everyone’s talents to the full, and her programs promote inclusive leadership strategies and practices. She is an authority on the benefits of gender-balanced leadership and how to help women to succeed in senior organisational roles. She has published Gender Balanced Leadership: An Executive Guide and written numerous other working and white papers.

Karen is an Honorary Fellow of the University of Melbourne and a Director at ANZSOG. She’s a Psychologist with a desire to align what leaders do with the available evidence for what works.

Karen Morley leaning against a coloured glass wall in front of whiteboard smiling

Some of Karen’s clients and what they have to say


I had the pleasure of having Karen as a coach and she taught me the importance of coaching in building and leading an effective team. At the time, I had just started a new role in a field which I was not familiar with, leading a new team with people from different backgrounds, a wide range of experiences, capabilities and varying degrees of ambition. Karen helped me to use coaching as a way to build trust in the team. I realised that the more I used a coaching approach, my team also started to coach each other. We started engaging and communicating a lot more and ultimately worked a lot more effectively as a team.


Karen gave me a number of very useful techniques that enabled me to maintain my objectivity and my equilibrium at a very challenging time. Central to the process was a focus on clarifying my values: the process she led me through was beneficial in understanding my core values that would continue to guide me, and the new and changing values that were driving a re-orientation.


Overall leadership coaching was tremendously positive. I have made significant progress as a leader, a view supported by feedback from my key stakeholders. From the first session, the chemistry was right and Karen very quickly became familiar with me and my role. Meetings with Karen have provided the guidance and solid structure around which to reflect and formulate development plans with clear actions and outcomes. Karen has also assisted me in navigating through a period of uncertainty.

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