The high performance car

I would love a Porsche 911.  I have driven one a couple of times around a track and been able to compare it to other high performance cars.  I can only begin to appreciate the value I might derive from owning such a car because, although I know how to drive, the track environment provides the space and safety for me to push myself and the car.  I am given a pre-drive safety briefing. I wear a crash helmet and I’m strapped in with a full safety harness to ensure I come to no harm.  Yet, I’m pushed by an instructor, to brake later, to change gear later, to corner faster. On track I pass some other drivers, but more skilled drivers pass me.  I can watch a video, get feedback, reflect on the drive afterwards.  I like to think my driving improves from pushing a high performance car to my own personal limits in a safe, learning environment. I can also compare the car to the others I drive and so judge what works for me; be the driver I sense I can be.

Coaching as a Porsche 911

A fast car of course doesn’t make for a good driver necessarily. As a coach I don’t seek to be the fastest.  I do however want to be highly tuned.  Working at my best.  Sure I want the engine, brakes and all the electronic gizmos engineered to a high degree, working for me, assisting me.  But I want to know how to get the best out of the driver I am, so that I make a step towards the driver I aspire to be.  As a coach, I would like to be a Porsche 911.

How much time do you devote to thinking about your coaching practice?

I don’t mean gaining new clients, upping your income, or doing that newsletter you keep meaning to start.  Nor do I mean changing your website, blogging more or diving deep into the social media pond.  I’m thinking about you.  You, the coach.  Your primary instrument.  Forget all the tools, tricks, certifications and studies in your toolkit for a moment, when was the last time you considered you; who you are as a coach and who you are becoming?  You are after all the driver.

What happens after training?

A bit like learning to drive, when we train as a coach, we are bombarded with feedback.  We cringe at the mistakes, we get a kick from the successes.  We study the theory and we learn our craft from practice.  We qualify and we venture out into the world as a coach. We have in all likelihood invested thousands of pounds. And then what?  Well for many of us that’s the end of our feedback loop.  We’ve trained and passed, now it’s all about racking up those hours and trying to make a living.  Sure, we continue to top up our toolkit with bits and bobs, but what about us?

It’s the same with driving.  We learn, we pass, we drive.  But what then?

Supervision as a test track

Most of my day to day car driving is done around the local roads or on a long motorway journey.  My average speed since I owned the current car I have is about 34 mph.  My car is comfortable, familiar, functional.  I haven’t learned more about driving since I passed my test 30 years ago – well apart from that one speed awareness course (shhh) and of course the thousands of miles and thousands of hours I have spent doing it.

Driving high performance cars on a track is like supervision.

I can look at my driving. I can push myself in a safe environment. I can develop my driving skills.  I can get feedback about how I am holding the steering wheel or about my foot position.  I can be encouraged to push myself, try something different.  I can look at myself as the driver and notice when I’m cornering too fast, or taking the wrong line.  I can learn in a safe environment how to become a better driver.  One step towards being a Porsche 911.

Coaching = income.  Supervision = expenditure.

A supervisee of mine recently mailed me, “Can we move our next session out a few months?” she said. “Any available time that I have at the moment needs to be spent on billable work.”

I understand that, from a purely business perspective.  Coaching = income.  Supervision = expenditure.  Times are hard, even without the Covid-19 pandemic.

It’s harder to understand this from the perspective of developing your coaching.  Spending time at the test track.

It’s like coaching has become the 50m freestyle sprint for work.  Head down, arms flailing, don’t breathe … or you’ll lose.  If that’s the swimmer you’ve become as a coach, why not take that to supervision?

Many coaches are still not in regular supervision

Why is that?  Well, the simple monetary cost might be one reason.  Or the opportunity cost; time spent reflecting eclipsing an earning opportunity might be another, but I don’t think these are the only reasons.

Do we know how to show up?  What to bring?  Do we know how to choose a supervisor?  Do we know whether we want group or 1-2-1 supervision? Do we know who we are as a coach?  Do we know our potential?  Do we know how to use supervision to develop our practice?  Or indeed, can I bring my business to supervision? What metaphor describes the coach I have become?

Lifting the lid on coaching supervision

These questions and more are explored in a new podcast – “Lifting the lid on coaching supervision”.

As a supervisor I have long championed the idea that supervision is an essential part of coaching.  Clare Norman, a supervisor too, agrees with this notion.  Clare and I began to discuss this and felt that maybe it would be useful for new coaches and coaches who aren’t sure about the value of  supervision, to hear us ‘lift the lid’ on these questions and many more.

So we have recorded a podcast.  It’s essentially two coach supervisors chatting.  Using their experience as supervisors and as supervisees to explore these questions and to offer knowledge, wisdom and insight.

We hope you like it.  No crash helmet required.

We’d love your feedback, or a question you may like us to explore in a future episode perhaps?

You can subscribe to the podcast by searching for “Lifting the lid on coaching supervision” with your favourite podcast provider, be that Apple, Google, Spotify, Castbox…

Or you can find it here or alternatively here

The podcasters

TCD Coach Supervisors: Steve Ridgley and Clare Norman.

Steve Ridgley works with individuals as a coach and as a supervisor. He also works with business leaders exploring how the hidden dynamics of the organisational system can work to support their aims alongside the personal growth of individuals and teams within the organisation.