Is it really that important to my development as a coach?
By Christina Bachini
This article is an experiential enquiry into supervision and its place in the coaching profession. In it I have used my own conversations with coaches to highlight some of the many important questions that coaches need to ask themselves when considering if and how to have any form of coaching supervision. It is important to appreciate the differences between coaching and supervision, so I have also offered a brief description of Peter Hawkins’ thought-provoking “Seven-eyed model” of supervision.
What is Supervision?
According to Hawkins (unpublished materials from “Certificate in Supervision of Coaches and Mentors and Consultants”) supervision is “a reflective and interactive process in which a qualified and/or experienced supervisor provides a dedicated opportunity for regularly monitoring the coach/client relationship, ensuring best practice”. As such, supervision provides a structured and collaborative relationship for developing awareness and dealing with issues that arise within coaching sessions.
What coaches say about their experience of informal supervision.
Since Nov. 2005, I have been speaking with coaches about supervision, and what follows is my findings based on informal discussions with small sample groups across the coaching community.
Many coaches I spoke to engage in informal supervision and see it as a positive and rewarding experience. They have gained personal benefits from the opportunity to discuss their experiences with another coach. For them, it is an opportunity to think about new coaching strategies and approaches and find new perspectives. Many coaches who already engage in informal supervision see no reason to have a formal arrangement as they receive the level of support they both need and want. However they may have made this decision without ever having experienced formal supervision. Is this informal arrangement rigorous enough to qualify as supervision?
Why formalise the supervision relationship?
In my experience, the overt intention of any supervision relationship with a dedicated supervisor, provides the opportunity for coaches to:
- reflect on what in happening in reality and gain self awareness
- look at the relationship that develops between coach and client
- pay attention to how that relationship either hinders or helps the results achieved
- reflect on the unconscious material that emerges between coach and client
- focus on how coach engages with their client to co-create success
- develop integrity about time to let go
- get straightforward feedback
- keep clear boundaries, avoiding entanglement between friends and colleagues
Coaching is often a short but intense relationship, and developing understanding of the dynamics as they arise between the coach and client greatly enhances the work being undertaken.
Another aspect of supervision is the opportunity to develop a relationship with someone whose purpose is to continue helping you develop as a coach. Supervision helps uncover blind spots, as the supervisor gets to know you well enough to pinpoint them. Your blind spots will definitely impact on client’s ability to get their results.
How is this different from co-coaching?
Co-coaching forums offer an opportunity for informal supervision, when experiences can be shared and support gained. Informal supervision typically occurs when coaches feel they are not moving a client forward sufficiently or when client’s goals are not being achieved. More unusually when a coach feels lacking in experience to deal with an issue being raised and wanted thoughts and ideas to help gain further experience.
The disadvantage of informal supervision is the quality of what takes place. Is it really supervision or is it an opportunity to just give possible solutions to the problem being raised?
I would argue that the main focus of co-coaching is to practice coaching and to get feedback on coaching skills and that this is an essentially different outcome from supervision. One of my clients expressed it neatly:
‘Supervision is different from coaching, because coaching is just about me as a person; supervision is about the nature of my relationship with the people I coach and my developing Practice‘
– Voula Grand – Grand Shearman Services.
It is encouraging that there is widespread agreement that talking to someone who is outside the coaching relationship is valuable, enabling change and movement to occur. But is it enough?
What is enough?
To become fully accredited by organisations like the Association for Coaching, coaches are required to practice 250 hours of coaching and participate in some form of supervision. However, understandings of the appropriate ratio of supervision hours to coaching practise, or indeed if supervision is even a necessary part of the coaching contract are varied.
As the coaching industry develops there is understandable debate about the relevance of supervision and what form it should take. A resolution is needed so as to retain standards and to show the wider community that we are a self-monitoring, self-regulating group of professionals. Other professions such as counsellors, doctors, and solicitors already have very stringent rules for supervision, in order to protect the client and ensure professionalism.
A formal supervision arrangement ensures that there is a regular and dedicated opportunity to discuss clients’ progress, and gain insights to how the coaching process is evolving.
Formal supervision arrangements cost money, and if finance is an issue for coaches not making a full time living from coaching, then there are several ways to overcome the cost implication. In my experience, building the cost of supervision explicitly into my coaching fees makes it a win/win for everyone. My clients feel that they are getting the benefit of levels of expertise and experience. For example, if an hour of supervision costs £100.00 and I have 25 client hours to pay for supervision, the cost to each client is only £4.00 per hour. It is also worth remembering that supervision is a tax-deductible expense.
Being creative and finding other coaches to share the cost of supervision is another possibility. Many supervisors will work with pairs and groups sharing the fees equally, making formal supervision affordable.
The fact that supervision ensures quality can also be a selling point to your clients, who will benefit both from your development and new ways of getting results.
As shown, supervision in many forms takes place for coaches who offer their services and charge fees. This is confirmation that coaches both value and seek supervision, to aid their professional development. However, there is some discrepancy on the form and payment of that supervision.
Coaching supervision is incredibly beneficial in helping coaches achieve shifts in their own perception and creates growth both for the coach and their client and inevitably their coaching Practice will also benefit.
Coaching supervision enables a coach to see him or herself in operation from a different perspective. It enables them to share experiences and develop increased flexibility. All of these add value not just to the coach but also to their clients on an ongoing basis.
Supervision is not just coaching with another name, the agenda, goals and focus are different, as well as the process undertaken. By making supervision an integral part of coaching, professionalism will be developed and maintained.
Christina Bachini Biography:
B.Ed. Counsellor, Humanistic Psychologist, N.L.P. Trainer. Hypnotherapist. Clean Language and Symbolic Modelling Practitioner.
To find out more about or sign up for one of the Supervision Groups that Christina facilitates please call on 0118 979 0677 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For Further reading on Supervision
P. Hawkins and R. Shohet. Supervision in the Helping Professions
P. Hawkins and N. Smith. Coaching, Mentoring and Organisational Consultancy – Their Supervision and Development.
The process of Supervision
The model briefly outlined below demonstrates one supervision process and the complexity of supervision, illustrating the difference between coaching and supervision.
The Seven-Eyed Model
This model is intended to uncover some of the unconscious dynamics that develop between the supervisor and coach, the coach and their client, and the system in which they operate. It enables the supervisor to review the coach and their work from seven different modes:
Mode 1: Client System:
Reviewing what actually takes place in the session, by examining the assumptions and interpretations the coach internalised without checking them out with the client.
Mode 2: Coach’s interventions:
What is the relationship between the client’s apparent lack of movement towards their specified goals and the coach’s feelings about being unable to get results.
Mode 3: The relationship between the Coach and the Client System:
Reviewing the relationship that the coach and their client have developed together.
Mode 4: The Coach:
When a coach’s own material becomes present during the coaching session, it clouds the coach’s ability to be completely present for their client.
Mode 5: The Parallel Process:
The relationship that exists between the supervisor and the coach may be a mirror for what is happening between the coach and their client.
Mode 6: The Supervisor Self Reflection:
Feelings can be transferred from the client to the coach, who takes those feelings into a supervision session and then in turn picked up internally by the supervisor who will be experiencing feelings which are not fully understandable.
Mode 7: The Wider Context:
Clients do not live in isolation they are part of a system and this is an opportunity for the Supervisor to look at the stakeholders, within the wider organisation or network of the client.
The skill of supervision is the ability to move freely through all seven modes appropriately and in a timely fashion, to bring about a high degree of development of competency for everyone involved in coaching relationships.