Improving Your Coaching in Organisations

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When you coach a client in the context of organisational work, you are coaching more than just the individual. What the client brings to the sessions and more importantly how they bring it, is both the voice of the client as well as that of the organisation as an entity, its strategies, processes, challenges, culture, relationships and more.

These various elements of the organisational system can be identified and responded to through coach supervision.

You might assume there is too much background noise to figure out what is playing out. We can however make use of the 7-Eyed Model of Supervision, developed by Dr Peter Hawkins (1985), to map out the elements present in the coaching, and their relationship to the organisation as a system.

The elements we can identify are

  1. The client system is about what the client brings to coaching, how they present and respond to this scenario.
  2. The coach’s interventions are the strategies and approaches the coach has used with the client. This is also about other options that could have been practiced.
  3. The relationship between coach and client is a focus on the dynamics between parties, how it relates to the wider context and scenarios, and perspectives of each on the other.
  4. The coach’s experience is how the coach is unconsciously impacted by the client and their system. What measures is the coach using, what more they might need.
  5. The supervision relationship focuses on the quality and nature of the relationship between coach and supervisor. Dynamics from the client’s environment and coaching relationship can be identified here through parallel process.
  6. The supervisor reflects on and expresses the changes experienced within themselves in relation to the work. These experiences may give insight into the coach’s relationship with the client.
  7. Within executive coaching, the wider context includes organisational or ethical issues, conflicts of interest, the impact of circumstances and strategies.

Books are written about the levels of depth these 7 “eyes’ afford insight into. The focus of this article instead reveals that the information is not always visible through thinking or cognitive awareness. Let us use an analogy to illustrate.

When we listen to a song, we know cognitively that it is a song, as opposed to a poem. We may know the artist, album, musical instruments, lyrics and genre. All these things we could determine cognitively. However what we don’t initially know cognitively is the inspiration for the song. The song may make us bounce around energetically, feel saddened, or amplify our love for someone. These responses are stimulated by more than the words the artist uses. They are implicit messages existing on the psychological level, as opposed to the cognitive level. Transactional analysis psychology calls these the psychological and social levels respectively. Reflecting on how we think, behave or feel in relation to the song will give us insight into what the artist experienced in their lives and has related to us. If we hummed the song to a friend, they would be pretty certain of the artists experience, even without the lyrics.

In a similar way, while we can determine some information from the 7 eyes cognitively, much of it manifests in the thinking, feeling and behaviour between and within the coach and supervisor in a session. Supervisors are trained to notice when these arise in the supervision relationship, introducing it into the conversation for reflection.

In addition to working with key personal issues relating to the coach, supervision provides a focused space within which to identify phenomena related to the organisation, team, and individual client. With this new awareness, the coach can strategise on responses at the individual and group level, enhancing the work holistically.

Check out the links above for more information, or try out my supervision tool to self-assess your proficiency in coaching in organisations.

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