I recently qualified as a Coaching Supervisor, having spent eight months completing a Diploma in Coaching Supervision with the International Centre for Coaching Supervision (course accredited by the EMCC and ICF). As a result, I am now looking to work with a select number of coaches who don't currently have a Supervisor (or have one and would like a mixture of input on their coaching).
However, when I was looking for coaches to practice my supervision with whilst training, it became apparent that there are mixed opinions on what coaching supervision actually is. I therefore wanted to take this opportunity to outline what I see it as, in the hope that it might add some clarity to this question, and, in turn, inspire coaches to start working with a Supervisor.
What is Coaching Supervision?
The majority of the more established coaching bodies recommend that every coach has a Supervisor. It’s considered so important that the EMCC for example make it a prerequisite for becoming an accredited coach. Any coach adhering to the Global Code of Ethics is also required to be “engaging in supervision with a level of frequency appropriate to their coaching”. So, what is coaching supervision, exactly?
Whilst coaches do offer different forms of coaching supervision, the purpose and function of supervision is commonly referred to as threefold:
Formative - Sessions are there to discuss and share coaching tools, reflect on and hone your coaching skills, and identify patterns in your coaching behaviour. Supervision aims to help you develop your coaching skills to the best of your ability. Working with a highly experienced coach can really help your growth as a coach in that they can impart knowledge, share models and theory, of which you may not be aware. They can also help raise your awareness of patterns in your practice that you may not be conscious of, helping you to adapt and grow as a coach over time.
Normative - The coaching industry, whilst unregulated, is party to a Global Code of Ethics, which most credible and well-trained coaches adhere to. Supervision sessions create room to discuss ethical dilemmas that arise in your coaching, as well as a safe, non-judgemental space to discuss how you are managing your boundaries as a coach, and to explore best practice when working with clients.
Restorative - Despite what you might glean from Instagram, coaching is hard work. It's not all motivational quotes and easy outcomes. It is a professional skill that has to be learnt, and that requires continuous professional development to stay fresh and effective. Supervision is there to check in on your resourcefulness as a coach, how you are feeling as a coach, what feelings and emotions are coming up before, in, and after your sessions. Coaching can be an isolating profession so it’s important to reflect on how you are now and again. The emotional load can build up over time - Supervision is a cathartic, catalytic, and supportive place to reflect, process, and work through some of those feelings so you can be of best service to yourself and your clients.
And how do we do all of the above?
The usual format is that, in-between Supervision sessions, the coach keeps a log of successes and challenges that arise in their coaching, which they might want to discuss with their Supervisor. For example:
- A session that doesn’t go according to plan, and you’re not sure why or what happened.
- A client that you’re struggling with - perhaps the coaching doesn’t seem to be ‘working’ and you’re not sure why, or what to do about it.
- A client frustrates you or triggers you in some way (which you feel guilty about), and you want to discuss it with someone confidentially.
- You’re facing an ethical dilemma and you want to discuss it with another coach and hear their thoughts on how to handle it.
- You have a really great session with a client and you want to reflect on what was working well, and how to replicate some of that going forward.
- You want to spend time reflecting on what’s going well in your practice to build your confidence and self-belief as a coach (to balance out the negativity bias we all have!)
- You want to reflect on your current coaching approach, the skills and models you currently use, and discuss where you could improve or widen your knowledge of additional coaching theories and approaches.
At the start of the session, I would then ask you what you want to discuss today, what’s motivating you to bring that, and what outcome you would want from the discussion. This means that the Supervision remains flexible to what is coming up for you as coach, but with an agenda to keep us on-track and focused. At times, I would also ask about topics that you’re not thinking to bring to Supervision - what topics are you avoiding, which clients are going so well you’re not discussing them in Supervision, etc. This means that the coach is encouraged to bring into Supervision areas they might not immediately think to, or even want to discuss.
The aim? 'Super' vision
The main aim of Supervision is in the name really, ‘super’ vision. Sessions are there to offer you a wider perspective on what’s going on in you and your coaching. Using a well known Supervision model (the Seven Eyed Model), you’re encouraged to examine the challenges you bring through a variety of lenses. This helps provide a more objective take on the contributing factors to the situation - what’s going on for you, the client, and both your wider systems. It’s so easy to get drawn into the relationship with a client that we forget to step back, reflect, process, and learn from what’s going on between us. Supervision provides just that, ensuring that the coach continues to remain self-aware, present, mindful and conscious of the intricate factors at play within and surrounding their coaching relationships and general practice.
Only by regularly reflecting on these areas can a coach continue to hone their coaching craft and grow into the best coach that they can be for themselves, and for their clients.
If you’d like to discuss Supervision, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone/text/WhatsApp 07545592909. We can arrange a complimentary 30 minute call to discuss working together in more detail, and then go from there.
Marketing Manager, Magazine Publishing
I liked that Alice asked quite probing questions which really made me think about what it is I want and that even in an ideal world this could still be an option. I’ve come away with good advice and practical steps to follow.