Coach Supervision Won’t Teach You Anything


“What a pity the word ‘supervision’ is used to name our practice!” I’ve heard it said in so many conversations on the subject. Supervisors seem to have the common challenges of inviting (some reluctant) coaches to the process. If that is successful, then concertedly working with the relational dynamic resulting from coach expectations of being scrutinised, criticised or taught how to coach and run their practice.

Supervise | verb | 

observe and direct the execution of a task or activity 

(from the Oxford Dictionary of English)

Perhaps these inaccurate expectations are hand-downs from a belief-association with supervision’s roots in clinical supervision, or our societal experiences of supervision. My own guess is that some coaches who have not yet had supervision subconsciously associate it with their experiences at school of being taught (sometimes harshly) technical skills and theoretical knowledge, largely in the cognitive domain. Those au fait with the practice thus contend from the outset with some erroneous perceptions of their process. Coaches in fact are likely to encounter this with their own clients, depending on the nature of the envisaged outcomes and the modality they employ in reaching these. It is a familiar dynamic. It can take some time to get into the groove before effective work is happening.

I am not daring enough to suggest an alternative name for supervision here, in fact I doubt whether it is worth doing that in any case, it is probably too late to call supervision by any other name. What I do suggest however is a collective intention to provide relevant information and more significantly the experience of supervision, in a strategy to make it attractive, efficient, valuable and part-and-parcel of wholesome coaching (and supervision!) practice.

I love the word ‘wholesome’ because it encompasses the multidimensional impact supervision has. Arguably, supervision’s most important role is in protecting the end client, the person who comes to coaching. In addition to this crucial aspect, supervision enhances the client’s experience by inviting the coach to explore their practice in a safe and learning-focused environment.

“How does my personal stuff impact my professional practice? How do I deal with stuckness in the coaching relationship? How do I deal with this ethical dilemma? How do I respond to having messed up? How might I be keeping my client stuck? How do I respond to the challenges which my client’s environment brings to our coaching? What do the patterns in my coaching-client relationships mean?”

In practice, supervisees use a snapshot of their coaching experience to explore some of these questions. As you will know from coaching, that which the client consciously brings to the work, often has its unseen underlying causes.

Supervisors are attuned to listen to the story and note in parallel what the relational dynamic is between themselves and their supervision client, thus gaining insight into what that client is not yet seeing for themselves. Using these observations then, both parties are equipped with more information upon which to create options for resolution of the supervision client’s challenge. This is no doubt not the length and breadth of supervision but it is one of the most profound processes I have experienced with my own supervisor and which I practice with my own supervision clients.

You will have gathered now, that the supervisor employs and shares their own experience of the relationship with their client in the session, in order for both to become aware of the as-yet-unseen factors currently impacting the coaching practice.

The relationship is equal and shared; the supervisor acting as a lightning rod for that which is implicitly asking to be learned from and metamorphosed, the client also serving as a responsive and growing conduit of information from their psyche and their own client’s environment.

Supervision is a relationship in which both parties transform and are transformed. The engagement employs and nurtures self-reflection, growth, learning and realisation.

Coach supervision will not teach you anything, but in it you will learn everything; about yourself, your practice and your client relationships.

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