I am often asked what coaches can really gain from supervision. Those who haven’t experienced it may have heard that it’s important for “good coaching practice”, yet are unsure about what they will personally get from supervision.
The outcomes vary of course according to what the coach wants and brings and what we agree to work on in each session or over a period of time. However there are 5 themes that I have noticed in my years as a coaching supervisor.
Most gain confidence from deepening their understanding of coaching and from realising that their dilemmas are in fact quite normal. Most coaches have moments of self doubt – as a result of supervision the less experienced ones tend to be more forgiving of themselves and the more experienced ones are reminded that they do know what they are doing! Several have reported beginning to think of themselves as “proper” coaches rather than “imposters”, as a result of supervision.
2. Greater psychological mindedness
They all gain a much greater understanding of the psychological makeup of organisations and groups. Of the anxieties, the dynamics, the “politics”. Perhaps some coaches have chosen this career because it offers them a way out of being fully part of an organisation. (I include myself in that!) They can work with the organisation rather than for or in it. This can make it too easy to lose touch with how very tricky it can be to fully experience being immersed in an organisation – power struggles, hierarchies, turf wars, difficult relationships, and more – on a daily basis. They don’t get to feel it themselves so their coaching can be quite intellectual. Through supervision we can explore their clients’ emotional worlds in relation to their organisation so that the coach can be much more emotionally aware and empathetic.
My supervision is integrative, significantly informed by the Time to Think approach (see http://coachingforleaders.co.uk/time-to-think/) and psychodynamic thinking. Some coaches have not encountered psychodynamics before and are profoundly and positively impacted on a professional and often personal level when we consider ideas such as “defence processes”. Recently a supervisee wanted to prepare for giving a talk to a group of senior managers about the benefits coaching could bring to their organisation. He was very nervous. So I asked if what knew about defence processes and he said very little, and asked for some input from me. We talked about projection and projective identification and it helped him to understand his and their (potential) fears and also to prepare himself for containing others’ anxieties in groups. He reported back that he was calmer, more grounded, and, he felt, more credible than he’d been in similar situations before. He won a wonderful piece of team coaching work from this session.
3. Dynamic learning
Often they will, having experienced “generative attention” (a component of the Thinking Environment ™), become significantly better as listeners with their clients, frequently their biggest struggle – “how do I know when to intervene and when to be quiet?” Most of us experience being interrupted – when you’re not it’s quite astonishing how much you can achieve in your thinking because of the positive dynamic of the coach / supervisor relationship.
Some coaches work in a kind of “semi-internal” way, for example, working in business schools as self-employed retained coaches on a number of programmes. Through supervision they learn to think much more about parallel processes such as how their own experience of the business school is similar to that of their coaching clients in their employing organisations. This leads to both greater empathy and greater skill in staying with their clients’ worlds.
4. Liberation from untrue, limiting assumptions that are holding them back
Coaches in supervision with me learn to consider the impact of their own and their clients’ assumptions (which play a fairly starring role in most of our lives). When we explore these in detail, they realise that many of their assumptions are limiting them yet simply aren’t true – so they learn how to replace them with true, liberating assumptions. For example, one coach wanted to coach leaders in digital hi-growth companies as they fascinated her, but assumed that she should already have experience if she was going to be useful. When we explored that assumption, she recalled that she’d often coached in settings that she’d never encountered before, and yet the clients had said the coaching was transformational. So her assumption was untrue and when we replaced it with one that in her own words said “I can be of real use even when I don’t know the sector” she was liberated. And she then decided she’d start networking in places where digital hi-growth company leaders hang out.
All of these nourish courage. When coaches feel confident, are more psychologically minded, have experienced real learning for themselves, and when their untrue limiting assumptions have been liberated they start to widen the scope of their work into new and sometimes quite challenging or formerly “scary” areas. For example, working with senior leaders when their experience so far had been with middle managers, or with teams when they used to be terrified at the idea. Working with vastly different cultures and being able to not know it all, and to ask the coaching clients in that culture what works for them – without losing credibility.
Many of them feel more able to challenge the status quo, hold fast to their values, and walk away from work that doesn’t resonate with them. and instead seek out work that does. Many report feeling significantly more able to actually ask organisational clients for the sort of the work they would like to do, rather than accepting only what is offered. And many feel more confident and courageous in charging professional rates for a professional job.
These are just some of the gains that coaches can get from supervision.
Would these be the sorts of things that you’d find useful? If so, and you’d like to explore some more, just contact me, Linda Aspey, for an initial conversation.
The Thinking Environment – visit http://coachingforleaders.co.uk/time-to-think/
Coaching Supervision with Linda Aspey: http://tinyurl.com/p7b22qh
Image from Creative Commons by KaMa Photography : Gemeinsam/Together