As a coach and coach supervisor, I sell neither my knowledge, expertise, technical skill nor my opinion directly. When I am most potent as a practitioner, I am employing and selling the integration of all my learning, I am the instrument of the service I provide. Therefore, as an instrument of personal and organisational change, I feel that my integrity and professional efficacy is most valuably measured by the degree to which I take ownership of the principles and philosophies I trust will bring about transformation for my clients. In other words, do I talk the talk and walk the walk? Are my professional and personal conduct in tune?
An illustrative scenario is one in which a coach deals with conflict. Does the coach employ their experience, wisdom, theoretical knowledge and personal integration of these spontaneously in dealing with conflict? If not, how can the coach ensure that they are coaching healthily regarding issues around conflict with their clients?
How we work is who we are…and who we are is how we work
Diana Shmukler, 2010
When we notice that our personal thinking, feeling and behaviour stands in contrast to the principles of our professional/coaching self, we can be sure that the not-so-helpful personal aspects will filter into the work we do with our clients, probably without our being consciously aware of it. Noticing that we have personal points for growth which affect our professional conduct is liberating and empowering! Awareness is the gateway to change.
Another measure of our personal ‘stuff’ getting in the way of our coaching effectiveness with clients, is a ‘stuckness’ in the relationship with our clients or a lack of significant movement towards the client’s goals. Simply put, if we are not empowering our clients’ progress, we may be hindering it by lack of action or lack of appropriate action.
A concept and solution to this which I resonate with is called Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Various professional coaching bodies each have their own structure for CPD and what qualifies for it. I appreciate that there are CPD activities appealing to people’s varied learning preferences and professional spheres and that the structure of CPD encourages a healthy balance of each type. For instance amongst others, one may gain recognition for having conducted research, attended certain events or courses.
I would like to draw attention to the use of coaching supervision as a channel for CPD and the reasons why I believe it to be one of, if not the most powerful one.
In a nutshell, supervision equips us with new theoretical knowledge as well as new experiential knowledge. Take a look at David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle below to see how this happens.
When we bring something we have experienced (Concrete Experience) in our practice to supervision, we are able to make sense of it from both within and outside of a subjective frame of reference. This is helpful in that we can learn to recognise (Reflective Observation) those bits of ourselves which get entangled with our clients’ ‘stuff’, as well as understand (Abstract Conceptualisation) the why and how of that happening. This learning gives us the power to make difference choices (Active Experimentation) in how we approach and respond in the moment to our clients. A supervisor can be trusted to walk this journey with us, providing structure, support, challenge, protection and growth. When we get stuck with our own ‘stuff’, the supervisor’s role becomes crucial in that they encourage us to think in the present, relying on facts relevant to the situation now rather than outdated thinking which may hold us and our clients back.
In addition to providing this platform and process for growth, skilled supervisors will engage in ‘double loop learning’ with coaches which inherently models that which will nurture growth within the coach and the coach’s client.
Supervision is a growth process, not a critical process. The safe space it provides can be used to manage, support and develop both coaches and their clients. Ultimately supervision enhances our effectiveness by providing a process of growth towards integrity and healthy practice.
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