Super-Vision: An Introduction and Invitation

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Several years ago, when I was starting to ramp up my coaching practice, a colleague asked if I would be interested in being supervised by her. She was completing a program in Coaching Supervision and needed volunteers for her practicum hours. Not one to turn down anything that will support my development, I said “sure.” I had no idea what to expect. What was this thing called Supervision? How would it compare to the Mentor programs I’d participated in to become an accredited coach?

What I didn’t know is that Supervision is an established practice in Europe–a requirement for Coaches in the UK who wish to maintain their accreditation. I also did not know that it’s not what it initially sounds like–that Super-Vision is a better way to think of the practice than the “sterner” sounding Supervision.

Michelle Bastock and I met–and I was able to experience a type of support that I had not known existed. Unlike mentoring, where I would dig into the skills demonstrated (or not) in a specific coaching conversation, with a clear focus on building mastery of those core coaching competencies, this was a different experience. Michelle created a space for powerful reflection that helped me access new ways of being as a coach. I was able to speak openly about where I was struggling and celebrate the ways in which I was thriving. I was able to identify what was happening under the surface of a coaching conversation and zoom out to the larger picture of me, my client and my client’s world.

Michelle partnered with me in reflection, artfully asking just the right question to help me see more clearly. I was immensely grateful. Our sessions were critical to my ability to believe in myself as a coach at a moment when that was particularly important.

Fast-forward about two years. My practice was picking up steam. I was feeling overwhelmed by the number of clients I was meeting with (and I wasn’t yet at full capacity!) and concerned that I wasn’t making the space for deeper reflection, which, intuitively, I knew was exactly what I needed most. I also knew that I couldn’t do it alone. Despite my good intentions, I was not making the time to think deeply about my work–and, even when I did, I knew I was limited without a skilled partner. So, I called Michelle. We now meet about once a month–and our calls enable me to take time and step above the day-to-day–to reflect on my coaching. We often start with a client situation that was challenging–perhaps a situation in which I didn’t feel I showed up fully, couldn’t stay fully present, or was challenged by an ethical dilemma that arose out of the complexity of the client situation. I can be open, vulnerable, say what is most true. Invariably our conversation leads to insights about the specific situation and ones that apply more broadly to my work as a coach.

Knowing that Michelle is a part of my system allows me to feel more comfortable when I am challenged in my coaching. I can take on new clients with greater ease, trust in myself as a coach, and know that when I hit challenges or hard situations, I have support. I intend to always have a Supervisor–I can’t imagine being a Coach without that support.

Peter Hawkins, one of the pioneers in the field of Coaching Supervision, and one of the people I most admire in the coaching field, speaks of three primary aspects of Supervision

  • Qualitative—ensuring that you are able to maintain the quality of your coaching
  • Developmental—getting even better through new insights and realizations
  • Resourcing—retaining one’s capacity to be fully present as a coach

Hawkins describes the following functions of supervision–each of which I’ve fully experienced:

  • Supervision helps keep the coach honest and courageous, attending to what they are not seeing, not hearing, not allowing themselves to feel, or not saying
  • Supervision helps the coach to develop their internal supervisor and become a better reflective practitioner
  • Supervision is a key part of continuous professional development and action learning of the coach
  • Supervision provides a supportive space for the coach to process what  they have absorbed from their clients and their clients’  system

Soon after I began to meet with Michelle, I learned about a Coach Supervision Training program run by Damian Goldvarg. I decided to go for it. I didn’t quite realize what I was signing on for! It was a wonderful year of deep learning and reflection and tons of practice. In addition to Michelle, I had the opportunity to work with Nancy Tylim*, and see a differently and equally powerful way of supervising. The program was a mix of theory, models, practice and watching some of the best in the field conduct demonstrations. The more I learned, the more I recognized what Supervision could offer.

I felt proud of the work I’d done when I graduated in June–and fully ready to add Supervision to the portfolio of services I offer. Which brings me to the Invitation. If what I’ve shared here is intriguing and speaks to your experience and needs as a coach, consider Supervision. I’d love to work with you! I offer both one-on-one and group options*. I would love to have an initial conversation/trial session and work with you to craft a package of sessions that would best meet your needs. (As an added benefit, supervision is recognized by the ICF for core competency Continuing Coach Education hours.)

To schedule a time to talk, you can access my calendar here. I look forward to speaking with you soon!

*Nancy Tylim and I are offering a group supervision series. Learn more about that here.