My answer as supervisor: very little; freedom to express our thoughts and feelings without judgement within the negotiated partnering space is what I’m expecting to be modelled in supervision just as in coaching.

My answer as supervisee; yes, I have felt the desire for this at times. Also, some supervisors have felt more controlling to me than others. I feel I’ve developed my confidence in trusting coaching philosophy and that negotiation of the conversation space will work. Yes, I recognise that meeting a new supervisor, or even anyone in life, can feel like stepping into the unknown so some risk involved in whether partnership can happen.

What is your view? What concerns or needs do you sense in yourself in getting the ideal supervision for yourself?

I’ve been thinking a lot about control recently because of a comment from someone with a coaching qualification that we are all “controlled in this world in one way or another”. I see that perspective even though I believe there is a shift in our increasingly complex world towards principled ways of being, to support many people to live together in harmony.

OK, our national laws are a way to attempt to control us and the status quo can feel imposed. I personally notice computers and apps prevent me from desired personal interactions with organisations and individuals; often a blocker to my freedom of choice. For us all to live happily together negotiable principles may be ideal. With freedom comes responsibility in our interactions.

I believe coaching philosophy releases me from control and shifts me to asserting personal responsibility in others, as well as myself.

Yes, I must conform to ICF ethics as a credentialled coach, so there are boundaries to be aware of and have conversations about. Some professional organisations set expectations of supervisors too. Just as a code of ethics is a set of guidelines with individuals responsible for any decision made in a particular situation, coaching philosophy supports creative conversation. Even if societal laws, professional ethics or culture can feel like control, coaching and supervision spaces can explore possibility; in a social world there is rarely black and white rather a sea of negotiable grey.

I’m constantly reminded of the need to challenge black/white thinking while mentoring students of coaching. I meet many new coaches looking for the ‘right’ way to do things. This is even though every client is a complex and unique human being who is doing their current ‘best’ and we are meant to hold the client in positive regard. I may be able to tap into my own wisdom of what I would do in the new coach’s situation but it is far better I think to notice the black/white thinking and ask the coach for their thoughts. My intent to challenge may seem like leading, influencing, possibly controlling but my intention in noticing is in my view not giving answers, so encouraging learning. My job, whether as mentor, coach, or supervisor I think is to reiterate and use the coaching ethos as much as possible.

How do you view the control in my noticing?

Being a coach supervisor and considering how I run my coach supervision groups is always a reflection point because my dream/hope/intention has for a long time been to support, possibly ultimately supervise project managers’ coaching skills. An organisational environment is traditionally run top-down with control aimed towards achieving the espoused mission, vision and values of the organization, as in many traditional social structures. However, coaching philosophy is focused on personal responsibility and dialogic conversations between equal partners. This underlying situation of competing philosophies encourages my questioning of perspectives and challenging any belief of right/wrong.

My long-term ambition suggested using action learning format or peer supervision. My supervision groups currently tend to attract more experienced coaches who are looking for support where they feel uncomfortable in coaching situations, want to get clearer of who they are as a coach or need supervision for a credential. Inviting coaches to take on the mantle of supervision I believe naturally invites them towards curiosity in other coaches’ perspectives and styles. Supporting them using a coaching philosophy I feel helps coaches understand where their own comfort boundaries are, to consider if they want to stretch these. It has become profoundly clear to me that coaches have very different boundaries and I have facilitated groups with coaches who will go ‘further’ that I would feel comfortable with. My boundaries are not something I can impose on others.

In what ways to you want your supervisor to control? I think I probably do control for fairness within the group aiming for equal airtime and contribution; even in the setup of any coaching/supervision, it is a negotiated partnership. I would offer advice of course if there is some concern about harm to someone and talk to individuals about group work if there was a hint of a problem in that.

Shirley Thompson straddles coach supervision, project management and Agile interests aiming to support those who use coaching skills in a variety of circumstances.

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