Coaching SuperVISION: A Reflective Practice
When I signed up for coaching supervision over two year ago, it was to conform to the engagement requirements of a coaching organization. At the time, I was not appreciative of this term in their contract that required all coaches to have regular supervision as part of their continuing professional development (CPD).
After the first few sessions, I started to experience a clearer head and lighter heart during professional engagements, especially in my coaching sessions. In supervision, I got to reflect on my coaching work, address my assumptions/intrusions and start to witness a higher self-awareness of my thought patterns. Being supervised by a trained supervisor helped keep me true to the coaching profession by allowing me to reflect on my clients, my relationship with them and how I was showing up as a coach. Since then, I’ve used coaching supervision on a regular basis and am currently enrolled in a coaching supervision certification program.
The topic of coaching supervision is often met with a bit of skepticism since it’s not well known and is not explored by all coach training programs. Thus, coaches are unaware and uninformed and may even have a negative reaction to the word “supervision,” especially if they are in the corporate world.
Clarifying Coaching superVISION
Coaching superVISION is the practice where coaches get to reflect on their coaching work. It is an interaction between a trained supervisor and a coach for the purpose of the coach to expand their “vision” in order to observe their work and explore the potential for blind spots and/or unconscious bias. Unlike coaching sessions, where the focus is the client and their frame of reference, coaching supervision it’s the expanded view of inter-related elements which have a bearing on coach’s work.
Many coaches reflect on their coaching sessions, but the practice of reflection with a partner can help us see what we cannot see. A coach supervisor is trained to support coaches in illuminating the corners and rooms that we are not paying attention to.
What makes supervision powerful is the multitude of tools available for this expanded view such as the supervisor, the relationship between the coach and the supervisor, the relationship between the coach and the client; the coach themselves, and the broader system that all are part of. It empowers the coach to consider the following:
On the Coach’s Side
- How is the coach showing up during coaching work? Is the coach overprotective, too caring, acting as a savior, playing the a victim or being an advisor?
- Who is the coach “being” with the client?
- What is being triggered within the coach while interacting with the client? How’s that impacting the coach’s presence? Is there a potential of transference or countertransference?
- What relationship dynamics exist between the coach and the client? How do these dynamics play out in coaching sessions?
- What is the coach picking up from the client? Consider what the subtle and even unaware
- What is the coach carrying that actually belongs to the client? Think about feelings, thought patterns and behaviors
- How is the coach’s view/perspective—present or interfering with the coaching work? Is the coach leading or directing the conversation or projecting their own stuff?
- What role is the coach performing that need to be given to the client?
On the Supervisor’s Side
- What’s being triggered in the supervisor, and what’s the potential parallel in the coach-client and the coach-supervisor relationship? What information can be useful?
- What intuitive guidance is available to the supervisor that when shared with the coach, could be useful?
- What is the supervisor observing in the coach that actually belongs to the client?
- What is the supervisor observing as a blind spot for the coach? For example, a blind spot could be the coach’s closeness to a sponsor of the coaching work, the client’s closeness with the coach, the client’s closeness with the sponsor, or a power position that the coach holds
Coaching supervision contributes towards enhancing the capacity of the coach to work with a greater range of challenges, at greater depth and with increased impact. It serves all stakeholders, including the current clients and their stakeholders/sponsors (the companies these clients work for) as well as the coach and the coach’s future clients. A well-resourced coach is likely to add far more coaching value as compared to the one without it.
To realize the passion of helping others realize their dream, a coach’s journey generally commences by joining a coach training program, followed by practicing the coaching models and tools to build greater confidence before starting to coach clients. From then on, it can be an isolated journey, especially with our commitment to confidentiality. It may feel like you have to figure your challenges out by yourself, but that’s not true.
Regular coaching supervision is a required practice by European and Australian coaching bodies, while the largest coaching body, International Coach Federation (ICF) recognizes it as part of a coach’s CPD and has recently announced that up to 10 hours of coaching supervision (delivering and/or receiving) will be counted toward Continuing Coach Education requirements.
This is a welcomed change that encourages coaches to reflect on their craft with a supervisor in order to expand their view of their coaching work. Coaching supervision empowers you to transform your practice and expand your awareness of how you’re showing up as a coach. It also creates benefits for all coaching stakeholders.