“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.”
The debate on whether coaching and/or supervision is transactional or transformational will likely be unending. I do not intend to answer that question here, but rather to demonstrate that the two approaches can effectively be integrated. This affords clients a meaningful experience that it is sustainable, and not a quick fix for a single challenge. The principles apply to coaching and supervision. I will expand on how it unfolds in supervision, which in may influence an emergent experience for the coach and their coaching client.
Supervision addresses three aspects of the practitioner:
- The individual as a human being.
- The individual as a coach.
- The individual as a professional.
For clarity, I will use non-technical in my description, as some of the original jargon to describe the model may lead to ambiguity. I start with a description each aspect and conclude with how they integrate with each other.
The individual as a human being (SupporT)
When we interact with others, even in a professional capacity, we bring into the relationship many of our personal psychological elements: perceptions of the world, cognitive, emotional, and somatic (bodily) experiences, preferences, biases, prejudices, and more. These impact how we perceive and engage with clients, largely happening implicitly (outside of our conscious awareness). We have some experiences emerging from our engagement with clients which are a direct result of the client’s own psyche, and some experiences which are our own (not related to the client) but have been energised by the engagement.
Supervision brings these implicit experiences into awareness cognitively, emotionally, and physically. This affords both the supervisor and supervisee access to a much wider and deeper scope of information relevant to the topic brought to supervision. Explicitly naming the emerging themes is also a cathartic process, in that new awareness of implicit phenomena may bring relief from suppressed burdens and stress. An example would be a coach experiencing some form of anxiety relating to a client or a client situation, and through supervision recognising this anxiety’s presence in the body. This is the first step to resolution. The mode of engagement is Humanistic, and the function is Supportive. The coach and supervisor explore and integrate Feeling.
The Individual as A Coach (Development)
Elements of a coach’s role are their psychological framework, philosophy, interventions used, coaching knowledge, the contract with the client, etc. The dynamic emerging between the coach and their client’s environment also needs consideration. Examples of this are the coaching client, the wider environment/organisation, the coach’s practice, and other parties to the coaching relationship. Unpacking, conceptualising, and understanding each of these elements and the relationship between them is largely a cognitive exercise. Using a theoretical framework for this purpose equips the coach with tools/concepts which can be applied not only to the case in point, but to other cases in the past, present, and future. The mode in this aspect of supervision is Co-creative, the function is Developmental, with coach and supervisor exploring and developing Thinking.
The Individual as A Professional (management)
This is where the supervisor works with the coach to develop options for the application of their learning emerging from support and development. This might take the form of further learning (e.g. training, research), therapy, a new approach to a situation, different behaviours in relation to a client, re-contracting with a client, or restructuring an aspect of the coach’s practice/business. The mode is Behavioural, the function is Management (coach’s management of self and practice), and the focus is on Doing.
integrating the functions
Each of these three functions will be visited in a supervision session in a cyclical nature. Each cycle affords a deeper exploration and integration of the learning about the whole of the situation (all the parties, dynamics, and experiences). The process and experience as a whole brings about integration of thinking, feeling and behaviour.
The process is not necessarily a framework used explicitly (i.e. like a checklist) by the supervisor, but rather informs and guides the conversation and relationship based on emerging needs. The integration of this experience (transformational) with thinking and action (transactional) make supervision an holistic process in which the coach will recognise how their personal stuff shows up or is energised in relationship with a client/organisation, the mechanisms at play, and options for resolution.
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