Like coaching, supervision can come in a variety of forms. These days I try to be clear about my qualifications and humble enough to express that I’m just one individual, feeling inspired to help other individuals in their development journey in using coaching skills. I believe it’s important to start talking early in a coach’s career about the challenges of acting as a coach, since there’s complexity and depth to who we’re aiming to be and we’re often on our own in our role.

Acting like a Mirror

As a coach I believe that I do not have to understand the coachee’s content, because my role is to facilitate a process that raises a coachee’s awareness, and improves a coachee’s understanding or learning. In a sense I’m a tool to be used by the coachee: for example some might say I act like a mirror in giving feedback on what I notice or a probe for asking deep questions. Why would it be any different for coach supervision?

Thinking about the parent-child relationship in comparison, a coaching relationship intends to be adult-adult. Yet the principle that I’m a tool to be used has some resonance with parenting: like in the example of learning to ride a bike: children expect support from parent(s) to be there  but help is not overtly desired, especially when they’ve got some skill already.

Expectation of Care

The sense of care as well as being a tool has perhaps an even stronger expectation in coach supervision, especially for new coaches. How well does this resonate with you?  How much are you currently discussing your expectations of an ideal engagement with your supervisor? Do you have a supervisor? Are you aware of an expectation of care as well as reflecting on the sort of tool you’re needing?

The traditional expectations of ‘restorative/normative/formative’ support from therapeutic supervision may suffice and were certainly part of my training, but maybe you are looking for a supervisor who knows your coaching model or philosophy inside out and can give specific guidance?  In my practical experience of group supervision, I have often felt the desire to highlight potential ‘parallel process’ to coaches but they don’t necessarily ‘get it’ because that is not what they’re currently looking for. I can sow seeds of care but recognise it’s just a seed for thought. Equally,  group facilitation can bring different perspectives quite naturally because coaches are unique human beings with different coaching experiences.

Highlighting Potential Blindspots

In a way supervision itself is a tool to be used, so how can you get used to negotiating for what you need? I like to encourage that. As a supervisor I’m a tool too, but in group work I want to facilitate in a fair and just manner, as well as challenge the meaning of professional, so I have my own boundaries to consider and assert. After a while, a group can get so used to working with one another, they get better at negotiating for what they want, but perhaps my role as supervisor then becomes more important to highlight potential blindspots.

Tools still have to be utilised. Do you want opinions from others? Or take more of a coaching approach? Do you want to discuss or debate? What more would you like from your coach supervision? Let’s have responsible conversation about supervision so we experience the relationship we want. On day one, a process probably prevails  but over time our negotiation will become more useful. We will naturally realise the strengths of others and the trust builds as we negotiate. Increasingly we want to take care  that we make the process work for us all.

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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