To avoid any upcoming confusions, beer coaching is not about coaching people to drink beer. It’s more coaching a larger organization by putting a crate of beer in the middle in the evening, and have chats with people. I didn’t invent this one. A few weeks ago, a colleague, Christian Dähn told me that he was bringing a crate of beer to a client to have an opportunity to talk to some folks, and reach a deeper relationship with the ones attending.

I wasn’t convinced.

Up until a colleague, Anna Lorenz, convinced me to try that out at a client we are both working right now. She actually had to push me. Here is what I think now about it.

Beer coaching is a style of organizational coaching that emphasizes the personal freedom and responsibility of the individual coachee to continually optimize the quality of his/her work be treating private chat, being-coached, and drinking beer as mutually supportive activities that run in parallel throughout the coaching.

On face value, the mechanics appear easy, but it may take years to apply it skillfully. Here are the ingredients: water, yeast, malt, and hops. Use these as a baseline. Fill the result in bottles, and put 20 of them somewhere, and let everyone in the organization know.

You will have chats with people that you usually won’t meet. You will have chats with people that show up, and don’t drink beer – and that’s ok. The purpose of the meeting lies in getting connected with folks in the larger organization, and to nurture the culture change.

A survey on several successful projects show that one key ingredient is repeating all over the place. 15 out of 10 people pointed out that getting seriously drunk with their colleagues was the most important factor to team building. As a coach you can find connections with folks in this manner, and connect people with each other in the organization that usually won’t talk to each other – since they might have forgotten about that chat the next day.

Some apply that coaching skill in an unstructured manner. Having studied beer drinking groups over the past 20 years, I must say that this is not always so. For example, Lean Beer is a structured conversation that you can have while drinking beer. I have ran several Lean Beer sessions, and formats, and the combination of Lean Coffee facilitation style with beer always ends up in something fruitful. If the energy goes low, you can of course always pull “Beer” as the next topic. But be alert that usually Lean Beer will end at that point.

The same goes with organizational coaching. We faced some challenges getting deeper connected with some employees at one organization. So, as a final experiment, we tried out Beer Coaching. We had 20 attendees that evening, each one of them drank a beer with us, and we had a chat about their situation. Thereby we could find out about particular need when it comes to (sober) coaching in their team.

Since we put beer in the middle, we also had a couple of by-passers that joined us for a beer. We talked about stuff, and found out about the great experiences they already had with the thing we were coaching on. We could then connect different beer drinkers with each others, so that a culture of exchange (words) was nurtured.

Depending on your particular company, you should find a suitable spot in the building. Outside the building might be good to catch people while they are heading home, but usually a terrible idea in the winter. Inside the building right at the door out could be a better place if there are no customers in the house. We found some coffee kitchen somewhere in the basement where not too many people would run into, since one larger customer was in the building. Experiment with different locations.

Oh, and afterwards, you may find some folks willing to go to dinner as well. Of course, you can continue discussions there.

So, I can only encourage you to try beer coaching once. I certainly will.

A final word of caution: maybe this practice is better suited for certain markets. We especially tried it in Bavaria and Cologne, Germany. Sweden, Belgium, and UK might work too. I don’t know about the US culture when it comes to combining beer with work. I don’t have too many experiences with other places.

Don’t treat this blog entry too serious as you might have read it while sober.

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