As a member of the 2020 cohort on the Barefoot run PG Cert in Coaching Supervision, we started in typical fashion by analysing what we all understood by the term supervision. Easy you might say… it’s where a coach takes ‘stuff’ they’re finding challenging & the supervisor helps them think it through… isn’t it? But what sort of ‘stuff’ is appropriate? How exactly does the supervisor help? Is it only challenges the coach can take? What if the coach doesn’t feel they can admit to finding things tricky? How is coaching supervision different to therapeutic supervision? How can people new to coaching be assured that the investment will be worth it? And last of all the biggy – at least for a number of our cohort… how is supervision different to coaching a coach? All of these types of questions rattled around our heads & popped up in conversations.
Now here is my confession – I didn’t actually go to supervision in the first 18 months post qualifying because I didn’t think I had anything worthy of taking and I was a bit scared. OK… a lot scared! For many reasons which I won’t go into here, I felt that supervision was for ‘real’ professionals and that I still didn’t have enough 1:1 clients to warrant it. I also felt a little too wobbly to, in my mind, air my dirty washing in a public setting. I felt that I would be exposed as a sub-standard coach somehow or that my coaching was going to be scrutinised. Thinking back, I had very little understanding of what supervision was & how it would be of benefit. So, what would I have needed to hear then that would have given me the insight into the extraordinary benefit I now find from supervision?
What exactly is Coaching Supervision?
When asked this question initially I leapt to the ICF definition however I’m not convinced that would have helped me back when I was newly qualified. Firstly, I think I would have needed to hear a layman’s terms definition, something like: ‘Coaching Supervision helps you become a better coach and a better reflector!!’ Then I’d probably need a bit more detail… maybe: ‘Coaching Supervision provides a space for reflection alongside helping to develop your reflective capability leaving you better able to develop as a coach. It provides you with a mixture of support, education and a place to sense check ethical and boundary questions.’ Ah now we’re getting somewhere! How about ‘It’s an extension of your learning, an integral part of your continual professional development designed to support your growth as a coach.’ Yup I think that would have convinced me!
Fast forward to when I obviously did feel confident enough (I’m not sure what the turning point was) and I started to realise that supervision wasn’t about having your coaching analysed or picked apart, it was far more of a supportive & empowering process. Coaching can be a lonely profession and therefore working with a supervisor or in a supervision group gives you not only a sounding board but also ensures that you are accompanied on your journey. It can feel a bit like a safety net at times and yet there are still periods when the net gets bouncy & mildly uncomfortable… that’s inevitably where the magic of learning is happening! Being accompanied also gives you an opportunity to see things from a different perspective. Peter Hawkins defines supervision as;
“The process by which a Coach with the help of a Supervisor, can attend to understanding better both the Client system and themselves as part of the Client / Coach system, and by so doing transform their work and develop their craft” (Hawkins and Smithe 2006).
This leads to an often coined term of Coaching Supervision being known as Super-Vision – in other words the process itself is enabling the client to have a wider perspective – a meta picture of what is going on in the coaching relationship. What are YOU bringing to the role of coach, what is the client bringing & what is happening within the relationship? These questions have led to my biggest learning from the PG Cert so far… that of the importance of reflection.
Despite my assessing others on their reflective capability as part of my role as a Barefoot tutor my own reflective practice had fallen by the wayside. I had a habit of capturing what had happened – the ‘data’ as our tutor Diane Hana would say - and not going into any sort of depth on paper. I tended to do most of my deeper reflecting in my head but never went through a structured process & certainly didn’t consider what I noticed about me, my client, our relationship and the wider system. The PGCert has highlighted just how much we can gain from deepening our reflective practice – even in the way the course is run – WAY more discussion and WAY less slides than my original course. This has led to a whole new practice for me and, with the help of a fabulous illustrator friend, we created a template for my reflections.
This practice not only helps with my unreliable memory but more importantly helps me deepen my understanding of the client and also myself as a coach ensuring that my clients get the best of me in every session. I now diarise time to reflect on my reflections too…. I know, I know there’s an awful lot of reflecting going on but THIS is where the magic happens. It helps me see patterns & helps me figure out what would be of real benefit to take to supervision. So not only am I learning to be a supervisor, I am also learning to be a better coach in the process.
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