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1) Why Supervision and Why Now?

Over the last two decades the use of coaching as a means of enhancing performance and development for individuals, and in organizations, has increased substantially. This trend shows no sign of slowing down. Rather, the use of external and internal coaches is set to grow significantly.
While professional supervision has long been a necessity in professions such as psychotherapy, it has only recently begun to find a place in the field of coaching. However, this is changing and changing fast.

Coaching supervision is a growing international trend that is seen as a key differentiator in the market place. It is recognized as an essential component of both internal and external coaching – a necessity not an optional extra. Increasingly, corporate clients are requiring supervision as part of their hiring criteria and quality assurance process.

A number of coaching bodies, including the Association of Coaching, the European Mentoring & Coaching Council and the World Association of Business Coaches require it as part of their accreditation process.

While the International Coach Federation does not require it “ICF 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”.

 2) What is Coaching Supervision?

Supervision is the formal opportunity for coaches working with clients to share, in confidence, their case load activity to gain insight, support and direction for themselves and thereby enabling them to better work in the service of their clients.

 Association of Coaching Supervisors

Coaching Supervision is a formal process of professional support, which ensures continuing development of the coach and effectiveness of his/her coaching practice though interactive reflection, interpretative evaluation and the sharing of expertise.

 Bachkirova, Stevens and Willis 2005

Coaching Supervision focuses on the development of the coach’s capacity through offering a richer and broader opportunity for support and development. Coaching supervision creates a safe environment for the coach to share their successes and failures in becoming masterful in the way they work with their clients.

International Coach Federation

Drawing on a number of definitions, we describe coaching supervision as a formal, confidential process where a coach brings his or her coaching experiences to a coaching supervisor or supervision group in order to engage in reflective dialogue and collaborative learning.

Supervision provides an opportunity for coaches to work with other professionals in order to review their specific cases from a personal, professional and systemic perspective – allowing a coach to step back from their work and take a broader view.

It provides insight, reflection, direction, support and the sharing of expertise. The focus is on helping a coach improve the quality of their coaching, grow their coaching capacity and supporting themselves and their practice. When done well, supervision may also be a source of organizational learning.

3) What are the functions of Coaching Supervision?

While models of supervision vary, supervision typically has three major functions:

    • Professional development of the coach;
    • Practical and psychological support for the coach in carrying out their role; and
    • Promotion and maintenance of acceptable standards of work and good practice.

Most definitions emphasize multiple functions, including the quality and focus on transforming practice.

4) Benefits of Supervision

“Quality supervision is a key link in helping practitioners link what they learn in theory with what they learn and do in practice and it is therefore the core of all continuous personal and professional development. At its best it serves and benefits the professional being supervised, their clients, the organization in which they work (and work for) and the development of the profession”

 Hawkins & Shohet (2011)

 While there are many benefits of supervision, some of the benefits include:

      • Allows coaches to reflect on their work patterns and gain insight into improving the way they work with clients
      • Coaches develop greater self-awareness and develop better tools and techniques to meet coaching objectives
      • Results in more skillful coaches with greater capacity to help their clients achieve their personal and organizational aims
      • Coaches learn from their peers and keep up to date with professional developments
      • Supports a coach in working through ethical dilemmas and conflicts of interest
      • Helps a coach determine when and in what circumstances they may need to refer the client on for more specialized help
      • Enables the coach to develop their own internal supervisor and become a better reflective practitioner
      • Helps coaches identify the boundaries of their competence and better judge the limitations they should set with respect to the types of work they undertake
      • Client organizations benefit from the supervision of both their external and internal coaches - particularly when there are issues surrounding expertise, experience and confidentiality
      • Contributes to Return on Investment by enabling an organization to monitor coaching, develop coaching capability and increase coaching’s organizational impact
      • Helpful in generating learning and capturing the patterns and dynamics within the organization that can be more widely applied
      • Develops best practice communities that make an important contribution to the professional development and quality assurance of coaches
      • Overall it contributes to the standard of coaching and helps maintain the integrity of the coaching industry

5) Different Types of Supervision

The three main types of coaching supervision are one-on-one (individual), peer and group supervision. Each serves a unique and valuable purpose. Leading thinkers in the field believe that supervision needs to happen regularly to allow coaches to attend adequately to the breadth and depth of their coaching work. Using both individual and group sessions optimizes the benefits.

One-on-One Supervision

In one-on-one supervision, a coach works with a supervisor, whose role is to assist the coach in reflecting on their practice. This reflection is designed to:

  1. Develop insight into beneficial and problematic patterns in the coach’s approach to coaching.
  2. Understand difficult issues in the coaching engagement.
  3. Formulate effective responses to those issues.
  4. Assist the coach in developing and maintaining professional practice, so that the interests of the client, coach and the coaching industry are served.

One-on-one supervision gives coaches uninterrupted time to reflect on their coaching and explore their developmental needs. This personalized approach lets the coach explore the dynamics of the coach client relationship and the way they are working with the client.

The focused nature is also useful for developing and working on insights that emerge over time. The supervision relationship developed here is often able to support significant personal reflection at a deep level, is suited to dealing with patterns of meaning making, and increasing a coach’s perspective taking capacity.

Peer Supervision

In peer supervision, two or more coaches seek to assist each other in reflecting on their practice. Similar to one-on-one supervision this includes both case specific and coach specific reflection.

The broad aims of peer supervision are similar to those found in one-on-one supervision. However, peer supervision is most effective when coaches are able to bring a variety of perspectives to the supervision. Hence it is more suited to very experienced coaches than coaches starting out in their careers, those transitioning from other roles, or those who do not have several years direct coaching experience. It is also important that they are well versed in the practice of supervision.

Even when experienced and qualified coaches are involved, peer supervision needs to be well structured and disciplined to be effective. External input or involvement from those educated or trained in different areas or at different schools helps avoid collusion and brings an essential diversity of perspective. Undertaking one-on-one supervision simultaneously is recommended in order to maximize outcomes.

Group Supervision

Group supervision offers a more formal approach to peer supervision using an experienced supervisor to act as a guide and resource to the group. Group supervision typically involves a mix of peer-to-peer dialogue and supervisor guided reflection.

The value of this form of supervision compared to one-on-one supervision is the opportunity it provides for multiple perspectives on the issue under discussion. The value over peer supervision is the expert guidance from a qualified supervisor.

The opportunities afforded by a qualified supervisor enhance learning through direct observation and expert instruction coupled with peer dialogue. It is important that the qualified supervisor is trained in systems dynamics to ensure the smooth running of group sessions and to maximize outcomes for all group members. Again, external input or involvement from those educated or trained in different areas or at different schools helps avoid collusion and brings an essential diversity of perspective. For internal supervision groups, it also provides a shared knowledge base, enhancing the development of all coaches, and in turn, an organization’s coaching capability. Similar to peer supervision, undertaking one-on-one supervision simultaneously is recommended. 

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