The following article is based on content from the forum of EMCC supervisors, and was compiled by Michael Carroll.
A key question asked by all stakeholders in coaching is: What benefits does supervision offer the various players in the coaching field?
Benefits of coaching supervision are categorised according to the stakeholder groups involved. There are six of these subgroups:
- Benefits to the coach (the supervisee)
- Benefits to the coachee (the individuals receiving coaching)
- Benefits to the coaching organisation (which sells coaching provision and employs coaches)
- Benefits to the organisation (whose individuals are receiving coaching and who pay for it, ROI)
- Benefits to the Coaching Profession (professional bodies to which coaches belong, ongoing training, developing standards, ethical practice etc)
- Benefits to the wider system (quality of coaching, quality control issues, use of talent and potential)
The overall benefit of coaching supervision is to maximise the potential of coaching by enhancing all that is good about coaching and working to diminish what is poor about coaching. These benefits can be applied to the following six areas:
1. Benefits to the coach
- Continuous improvement – of the coach.
- Coach has the opportunity to walk the talk – the coach is working on their own learning which both feeds their level of feeling in integrity and also teaches coaches ways of helping their clients to learn better.
- To provide reflective space for coaches (reflective practitioners) to learn from the coaching work they do. To learn how to reflect in an honest and transparent way.
- To help practitioners identify their strengths and areas for development. Part of supervision is sharing strengths and celebrating successes and good work.
- To keep up to date with professional developments in coaching. Supervision, while not primarily training, is a 2 forum of sharing contemporary issues that affect the coaching work.
- To sensitise coaches (supervisees) to ethical areas of their work and to ensure that they.
- To be aware of the impact of professional coaching on one’s personal life (dealing with the stresses of the job).
- To offer a “third-person” perspective of feedback for learning. If the coachee is the first person, the coach is the second person, then supervisors offer a perspective from outside the coach/coachee relationship.
- To understand blind, deaf and dumb spots (in practice): supervisors help coaches notice what they cannot see, what they cannot hear and what they cannot speak.
- In small groups to learn from peers: the richness of small group supervision adds at times to individual supervision.
- To monitor and find ways through impasses and critical moments in coaching.
- To be open to the distinction between intention and action in our work – and how we judge ourselves differently than we judge others.
- To continue to learn from practice (experiential learning)
- To understand the mental models (maps) from which we work as coaches and be able to critically evaluate them when necessary.
- A concentrated form of CPD tailored specifically for the development individual coach or group of coaches. Collaboratively generated insight in supervisory conversation.
- Access to processing subtle levels of coaching process. Strong support from supervisor – not collusion – sometimes practical, insightful or didactic.
- Opportunity to work with/through blind spots to release skills.
- Learning to read organisations – their culture – and its effect on coaching programmes and on the individual coach.
- Stepping back from the ‘heat’ of practice, slowing down in order to think/see/explore more effectively.
- Refreshing skills and extending range of interventions.
- Sustaining best practice over time – ensuring that staleness and burnout are avoided.
2. Benefits to the coachee
- To offer protection to coachees and ensure, insofar as is possible, that no harm comes to them through coaching.
- Positively, to ensure that coachees get the best service possible from their coaching relationship with their coach (the supervisee).
3. Benefits to the coaching organisation
- That coaches are working to the standards their coaching organisation would expect and maintaining suitable boundaries.
- A forum of accountability whereby they can ensure Quality Control for employers of coaches.
- To acknowledge the place of quality control exercised by coaching companies who frequently both encourage coaches to have supervisors and also provide the different kind of supervision which talent management entails.
4. Benefits to the organisation
- Applying coaching more profoundly – supporting organisations and individuals to make a deeper, more profoundly beneficial difference with their coaching.
- Maximising the potential of coaching investment – by diminishing risk and enhancing attention to goals and organisational drivers.
- Maximising the potential of coaching within the organisation – the questions the supervisor asks of the context and goals can really support a deeper level of thinking about what is possible for the organisation
- Return on Investment (ROI): to ensure that money spent on coaching is used well to the advantage of organisational goals.
5. Benefits to the Coaching Profession
- To monitor ethical and boundary issues in coaching (e.g., that coaches subscribe to a Code of Ethics, have Indemnity Insurance for their work, maintain professional boundaries etc) 4
- For better quality service for clients – supervisors take on the role of gate-keeper of the quality of the coaching provision.
6. Benefits to the wider system
- To raise the level of delivery to the wider system – a deeper level of challenge may support coaches in thinking more expansively about their work and it’s potential.
- To provide a forum to hold tensions that emerge from the needs of various stakeholders in the coaching arrangement.
- To provide a forum of accountability for those who need it – whether that stakeholder is the client, the organisation, the profession, the training course, the coaching organisation or in some instances, the taxpayer.
- To help coaches understand better the coachee, the coachee’s system and themselves as part of the overall system.
Additional ideas to consider
- The providers and recipients of this activity (or service) therefore do not need the direct and immediate involvement or the language of other professional services from the Mental Health community although we might borrow and adapt some of their ideas and practices.
- Outside the Mental Health community the term ‘supervision’ often implies a degree of management and control which is a block to the acceptance of the benefits that can flow to providers and recipients alike from the activities that can take place under the heading of a form of ‘coaching and mentoring supervision’.
- That we try to describe the different activities and benefits as they relate to specific user groups e.g. internal and external professionals, managers and organisations of both categories, the professional accrediting bodies etc,
- That supervision be delivered or facilitated by an experienced coach and mentor from a similar context to those receiving the ‘supervision’ and who is qualified to the standards we agree and who is committed to the recently agreed statement of common values;
- That there be a post basic training or qualification requirement in coaching supervision which focuses on ensuring continuing professional standards and competence to practice in ways that are similar to other professions;
- That coaching supervision include a responsibility to provide quality assurance reports to all stakeholders in the coaching and mentoring relationship and the professional accrediting body whilst respecting an appropriate degree of confidential.
What problems is Coaching Supervision here to solve?
The following insights come from buyers of coaching:
- Failure to challenge sufficiently – feedback from clients is frequently that the coach doesn’t challenge them enough. From mentoring and supervision I know that coaches are frequently scared to challenge deeply for various reasons. Most of those reasons are not real and in fact would be solved by deeper challenge in my experience!
- Confusion around and lack of adherence to ethics – as a buyer of coaching it can be very difficult to know what one should expect from coaches, whether they are delivering it and what to do if they appear not to be doing so.
- Avoid poor coaching – supervision could pick up and deal with poor coaching rather than let it go unchecked. To have a mirror held up to the individual coach gives them space to identify for themselves where they can grow and develop.
- Coaches failing to develop – many organizations and individual coaches make an investment in a coach training programme and then fail to invest in CPD. Often the individual coach has invested a lot in a programme that may really only be an introduction to coaching but cannot afford to train further. Likewise, the organization may feel they have invested £xx amount and that should be enough. Ongoing supervision both supports the CPD of 6 the coach and shows up areas where the individual coach needs to develop further.
- We have a very limited (non-existent!) budget for coaches’ CPD – It will also show where an organization is best to spend any CPD budget.
- Loss of organizational learning from coaching programmes – supervision can be a way of drawing together organizational learning which can be harder to do in coaching programmes.
- Avoiding damage from coaches not recognising their limits – the supervisor supports the coach in identifying and referring on problems. I need to know that we are not moving towards a court case because a coach is going beyond their training and remit.
- Coaching failing to deliver on its potential – supervision can support coaches to deliver more deeply on the set objectives; to lean up their approach and make sure that the investment has a better return. This potential can be enhanced at the different levels of potential – from the individual coachee to the organisation to mankind! The potential of coaching may be maximised by supervision at its best.
- Coaches working in a sense of isolation – supervision may help to build community and also to lend support and connection to coaches. Internal coaches in particular can end up under a lot of pressure as they aim to mix coaching responsibilities with the “day job”. Issues such as coaching more senior people or people they lend lots of weight to an internal coaches’ load.
- Coaches feeling unappreciated – internal coaches lacking support and CPD will often decide to move on or to go independent. Supervision may well be part of retaining coaching talent as well as developing it.
- Coaches on their high horses – some coaches are determined to be life coaches focusing only on the individual and seem to claim some sort of moral high ground about that. I need to know that the individual AND the business are being looked after.
- Lack of information – we are asked to trust coach and coachee to be on track with the coaching whilst we are told not to ask anything about it and to respect confidentiality – we like to know that a supervisor is there to challenge the coach within that cloud of confidentiality.