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Coaching Supervision – what is it?
Written by TCD Executive Coach and Coach Supervisor Marie Quigley

What is Coaching Supervision?

By Marie Quigley


Coaching supervision – which enables coaches to gain Super-Vision on our work – is a powerful way to bring reflection, recognition and resourcefulness.

Coaching supervision, as part of Continuous Professional Development (CPD),  is a way to navigate our ‘world’ and support ourselves as coaches to be the best we can be – particularly in these times of uncertainty and great challenge for ourselves as coaches, our coaching clients and all the systems and stakeholders involved.

“Supervision is an opportunity to bring someone back to their own mind, to show them how good they can be.” — Nancy Kline


Whether as an external or internal coach, it is an essential practice to partner with a supervisor or a number of supervisors on a regular basis in order to develop professional capability and capacity.

For those coaches who have not experienced Supervision, it differs from coaching and mentoring in the following ways:

  • Coaching is designed to help clients achieve their objectives through self-awareness, goal setting, and action planning.
  • Mentor Coaching is typically provided for coach credentialing purposes, focused on developing the core competencies and skills required for coaching.
  • Coaching supervision is the psychologically safe container created between the coach and coach supervisor which holds space for the reflection of the professional aspects of the coaching work and the personal wellness of the coach.


Coaching supervision supports the coach to uncover blind spots, discover patterns of behaviour and ways of being and doing which impacts on the success of a coach’s work. And this means clients and other systems involved in the coach’s work are ultimately benefiting from the deep reflective work of the coach.

Supervision offers coaches a psychologically safe place to professionally reflect  on their work and practices in a normative, restorative and formative way[1].

  • Normative – exploring the professional standards,  quality and ethical practices of the coach.
  • Restorative – exploration of the ‘person’ as the coach and their emotional well-being; creating space to process the relational aspects of partnering with their clients.
  • Formative – supporting the development of the coach’s abilities, skills and knowledge.

These three areas of focus support the coach to put on the ‘oxygen mask,’ reset and take time in reflection to explore their work, so we are in a great place to serve not only ourselves, but also our clients and the profession of coaching. Many of the models and processes used in coaching supervision derive from the world of psychotherapy and counselling supervision; such as  organization development, human development, systems theory, adult learning, transactional analysis, humanistic psychology, psychodynamic theory, psychological type, social psychology, and other concepts. These have been adapted in order to  view the work  through a coaching lens.


What are the benefits?

Professional coaching is a skills based practice and in addition to achieving globally recognised standards, quality and qualifications, coaches also need to do their own work and foster high levels of self-awareness, integrity, self-belief and developmental growth. Coaching supervision provides the space to do just this.

Benefits include:

  • Increased self-awareness
  • Greater confidence
  • Increased objectivity
  • Heightened sense of belonging
  • Reduced feelings of isolation
  • Increased resourcefulness


What do some of the coaching bodies have to say about supervision?

The International Coach Federation (ICF) recognises coaching supervision as an important element of a coach’s professional development, learning and growth and recommends coaching supervision for full-time professional coach practitioners as part of their portfolio of continuing professional development (CPD) activities designed to keep them ‘fit for purpose’. Up to 10  hours  of CEU’s can be used for renewal purposes.

The European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC)  describes the purpose of supervision is to enhance the wellbeing, and develop the practice of coaches and/or mentors of all levels of experience.  Supervision is considered a powerful vehicle for deep learning: its benefits extend beyond the supervisee and include their clients and sponsoring organisations. EMCC recommend coaches/mentors undertake no less than 1 hour of supervision per 35 hours of practice, ensuring a minimum of 4 hours per year.


How do Supervisors work?

Accredited coach supervisors go through rigorous training and development and comply to industry standards in order to offer coaches the opportunity to explore their professional cases to gain insight, support and direction.

Supervision can be experienced in either a one-to-one or group practice. The process encourages a coming together of professionals in safe, encouraging, reflective practice for the purpose of getting clear about “who we are being” in our work  and ensuring clients get the best out of their coaching experience.

Supervisors support supervisees to reflect using multiple layers and different systems at play. With a focus on the client situation, the interventions used, the coach and client relationship,  who the coach is being, the supervisor and supervisee relationship (parallel process), the supervisor, and the wider system[2].

The principles of the reflective space are; Safety, Process Awareness, Curiosity, Embrace “SPACE”[3].  As supervisors our role is to hold ‘SPACE’ in order to be with another human being, in a professional capacity, trusting the process  of reflection  and allowing the learning to unfold as it is meant to.

As the supervisor and supervisee(s) partner together in this reflective space it is vital  to create a place of psychological safety and acknowledge and present the courage and vulnerability required, not only to look deep within but also to ‘share out loud’ with another human being.


What to look for in a Supervisor?

In addition to ensuring your supervisor  has completed a certified coach supervision training programme and are qualified to do this work. The EMCC have a register of supervisors holding the European Individual Supervision Award (EISA). It is also recommend coaches do their due diligence in researching supervisor’s and ask the following when making selections.

  • What is their experience as a coach?
  • What is their experience as a coach mentor?
  • Are they currently having supervision? how often?
  • What is the theoretical framework for their own coaching work?
  • What is their theoretical framework for their supervision work?
  • What additional training do they undertake to unsure their continuing professional development ?
  • What Code of Ethics do they abide by?

And just as we recommend when clients searching for a coach, it is recommended to experience the work of the supervisor to ensure you are a good fit.


Case studies

As the supervisee you agree to bring “cases” to your supervision sessions and in the co-created partnership with your supervisor you will explore  and reflect on these cases to enable you to create new awareness and offer even more masterful ways of working being and doing in your professional capacity.

The following are some examples of cases you could bring to your reflective practice:

  • You may have contracting questions
  • You may want to uncover how ‘who you are being’ is impacting the success / failure of your work
  • You may be struggling to support a client to move towards their desired goals
  • You may ‘feel’ something is not working in the coaching, but are unsure what that is
  • Your client may be stuck and not able to move forward
  • You may feel your client is pleasing you, being a good client, rather than really talking about things that matter to them
  • You may experience feeling disappointed by your coaching work
  • You may be facing ethical issues and need a safe, confidential professional space to discuss and process
  • You may want to understand the other systems at play in your client work, such as managing the stakeholder/HR/ line manager relationships with your coaching client
  • You may feel something is holding you back from being the best coach you can be
  • You may struggle  with creating effective boundaries with clients
  • You may be feeling strong emotions arising from the work you do and may want to process these emotions
  • You may want to celebrate your successes and understand how you can bring more of this success into your client work

Through the process of reflection  you will explore what is going on underneath the cases and how ‘who you are being’ is impacting your coaching relationships (and potentially other relationships in your life).


How supervisees can prepare?

Preparation supports the supervisee to begin the process of reflection and it is recommended to take time before (and after) each session to determine the ‘case’ you would like to bring and get clear about the outcomes you would like to have regarding this ‘case’ in relation to your coaching practice.

Below are some questions to support this reflective practice:

  • What is currently taking you out of your comfort zone with your coaching work? How is this impacting you and your work?
  • How are you getting ‘hooked’ into your client stories, emotions, situations?
  • Which client/ team are you struggling most with? What is the struggle for you? Who are you being when you coach them?
  • Where are  you stuck with your work?
  • Which client/ team are you at your best with? Who are you being? What practices are you engaging in? What are your beliefs?
  • Which piece of feedback has most significantly changed the way you work?
  • What has been the most challenging ethical issues you’ve experienced as a coach?
  • When do you feel the most fulfilled in your work? What do you notice?
  • When do you feel less fulfilled? What do you notice?
  • What impact does this have on your coaching session?
  • When does your energy drop in a coaching session?
  • When do you feel challenged in a session?
  • How do you “turn up” when you feel challenged?
  • What impact does client feedback have on you?
  • What else?

“The best teachers are not outside us – they are inside us; in the experience we have in our practice” – Michael Carroll


Key References

  • Inskipp, F., & Proctor, B. (2001). Group supervision.Supervision in the mental health professions: A practitioner’s guide, 99-121.
  • Hawkins, P., & Schwenk, N. (2011). The seven-eyed model of coaching supervision. Coaching and mentoring supervision theory and practice, 28-40.
  • Hewson, D., & Carroll, M. (2016). Reflective supervision toolkit. NSW, Australia: MoshPit Publishing.


Author – Marie Quigley is a Master Certified Coach, Coach Supervisor, Trainer and Facilitator. She partners with senior leaders and high potentials in multi-national organisations supporting them as they lead through change, transition into higher roles and manage complex cultural business opportunities.

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