Supervision is a series of conversations which provide a space for the coach to reflect on the work they are doing with their clients so they can improve the quality of their coaching. Supervision also supporting the continued learning and development of the coach.
Supervision is well established in many ‘people professions’ such as psychology and counselling – and is now becoming well established in the newer discipline of coaching. There are benefits for the coach and the buyers of coaching.
Benefits for the coach:
Benefits for the organisation:
Where the organisation sponsors supervision, supervision minimises the risk of unprofessional practise, ensures that the organisation’s standards are maintained and the boundaries of the coach’s competence aren’t overstepped.
Supervision is also a way to ensure the coaching is aligned with organisational objectives.
By selecting supervised coaches, organisations ensure their coaches operate at the highest possible standards.
Shaun Lincoln, Programme Director, Coaching and Mentoring, at the Centre for Excellence in Leadership says: "I would expect coaches to have supervision as part of their continuous professional development and I wouldn't employ a coach who didn't have supervision
Shaun is not alone. There are many other suppliers and buyers of coaching who agree.
There are a number of supervision models that work well. The below is the 7-eyed model developed by Peter Hawkins which is a useful frame work for supervision conversations. The model explains how the supervisor can focus on supervision from multiple perspectives.
1.Focus on the client and how they present. This mode focuses on what actually happened in the sessions with clients, how they presented themselves, what they chose to discuss and how this relates to previous sessions. The aim of this mode is to help the coach pay attention to their clients, their clients’ choices and the connections between various aspects of their clients’ situation.
Broadly speaking, each session centres around the supervisee’s preferred outcome and agreed contract for the session, or alternatively, it can be expansive and enlightening simply to “allow what needs to arise to arise”.
In the same way, that there is no such thing as a typical coaching session, there is no such thing as a typical supervision session. The below account of part of a supervision session, simply shines a light on the supervision process and the learnings for the supervisee and for myself as the supervisor. This session is based on a session I did with one of my supervisees (with key details changed to preserve confidentiality).
“ My supervisee began by sharing how well everything is going with her clients – and how she coaches them from a place of them already realising their potential (an interesting slant on unconditional positive regard of Carl Rogers).
She shared a client challenge: an unusual situation whereby, unusually for her, she couldn’t see the client’s potential (describing him as autocratic, dysfunctional, shut down – yet she was attracted to him – which we can describe as positive counter-transference)
I have had the experience of finding myself attracted to a client, which I chose to share with my supervisee at the end of the session – which worked as this reassured her, brought the collegiate relationship to the fore. This brought in the sixth eye – my own experience.
Working with the third eye, the relationship between supervisee and her clients was key. We explored what she wanted to do about the attraction. (At this point I feel fortunate that I am naturally neutral as opposed to judgemental about it). She expressed concerns for the man’s family and for her professionalism, but not for her own marriage. We explored how she could let go of the attraction and rekindle her own marriage (by looking at what this client had shown her about what needs of hers needed to be expressed in her marriage – and we draw on the work of Chuck Spezzano)
The session was particularly effective: My supervisee told me that I am a brilliant supervisor, incisive, sensitive, that I cut to the heart and that she loves the way I supervise. On much later reflection, I do wonder if this positive feedback is in part coming from a need to please me: as this need to please is something that has come up with her before. I am reminded of my client’s strong need to please that she has explored with me – in previous sessions. This something for me to bring up either in the next session or alternatively when/if it arises again.
By the next session, the supervisee has cleared her feelings about her client, has reignited her marriage, and has regained her capacity to see the potential in her client…
As coaching grows in numbers and professional status, supervision is likely to be sought after by more and more coaches. We don’t yet know, but there may come a time when it is mandatory, in much the same way that being in supervision is mandatory for most professional counsellors.
I was recently interviewed on the subject of supervision, and on researching this subject further for the interview, I discovered the results of a CIPD survey on supervision. Amongst many interesting findings, there are two that I would like to pull out:
In the interview, I answer the following questions:
You can listen to the full interview on MP3 by clicking here.