Coaching Supervision and Continuous Professional Development

1 on 1.jpg

Coaching supervision is a professional collaboration between a supervisor and coach (or coaches), which allows the coach to reflect objectively about their coaching practice, through a dialogue which reveals both conscious and unconscious patterns in their client relationships.

The purpose of supervision in this context is to maximise the coach’s value to their client by raising the coach’s level of awareness and competence.

With a coaching supervisor the supervisee can:

  • Share their work in confidence
  • Receive guidance and feedback
  • Develop skills and identify further development needs
  • Let off steam
  • Acknowledge and understand feelings of disturbance/pleasure/failure etc
  • Feel valued and appreciated for their work
  • Ensure they are doing their best work for both the player and the client
  • Explore the balance of support and challenge that’s needed in the coach’s work, particularly in view of the organisational context

The Functions of Supervision

Inskipp and Proctor (1988) highlight three main processes in supervision in the helping professions. These are the Formative, Normative and Restorativeaspects, and apply equally to coaching as to traditional helping professions such as counselling and psychotherapy.

The Formative (Educative) aspect is about developing the supervisee’s skills and helping the supervisee to understand and appreciate their abilities. This aspect is usually a non-directive conversation to raise the supervisee’s awareness around their relationship with the player, their responses and interventions with the player and the interpersonal dynamics in the relationship, in order to explore further ways of working with the player to add more value.

The Normative (Managerial) aspect provides quality control, ensuring boundaries are being maintained and that the supervisee is undertaking their work to the highest ethical standards within the contract agreed with the player and client. This aspect is often more directive and can include feedback, advice, and direction from the supervisor.

The Restorative (Supportive) aspect allows the supervisee to take ‘pit-head’ time, as coal miners used to do, in which to figuratively ‘wash off the grime of working at the coal face’. This then creates a space for the supervisee to become aware of and to discuss any emotional baggage they may be carrying either consciously or unconsciously from player/client interventions, and preventing over-identification with the player/client system and understand any anxiety they have absorbed form the system. This aspect is generally more relevant in counselling and therapy, but should not be overlooked when supervising professional coaches.

Forms of supervision

Supervision can be:

  • 1:1 expert supervisor to coach

In this model the supervisor is usually an experienced business coach who has received additional training in the supervision of coaches (although some coaching supervisors are therapists who may have less experience in business coaching). Typically a coaching supervisor will have at least 5-7 years’ experience as a business coach and some form of formal supervision qualification

  • 1:1 peer coach to coach (co-supervision)

In this model, two coaches would supervise each other using a co-supervision model in which they had received some basic training from a more experienced coach or supervisor

  • Group (expert supervisor to group’s of coaches)

In this model, an expert coaching supervisor would run small group supervision sessions with 4-6 coaches attending. This approach lends itself to development as the supervision session can be run workshop-style to encourage group learning with a number of alternative ways of structuring the session

Duration and Frequency

Typically a 1:1 supervision session will last about an hour, while a group supervision session may last between two and three hours. The frequency of supervision will largely depend on the amount of coaching the coach is engaged with, or whether they have particular issues with specific clients or players. As a rule of thumb, every coach should have a minimum of four supervisions per year and this will increase to possibly 8-10 supervisions per year if the coach is undertaking significant coaching work. In organisations, group supervisions typically occur every 6-8 weeks, but again this can vary considerably according to the volume of coaching work being undertaken, the level and intensity of the coaching, and the organisational context.

Continuous Professional Development

It goes without saying that CPD, of which supervision is a part, is essential for the professional coach and anyone coaching regularly in organisations. Whilst supervision will have a focus on specific players and client systems, broader CPD will inform the coach of developments in their professional field, give them a wider perspective of their practice, help them keep abreast of emerging new themes and thinking in coaching, and encourage them to contribute to debate and discussion through conferences, seminars and coaching networks, both real and virtual. Many clients who are considering employing a coach will expect clear evidence that the coach is in regular supervision for their practice and that they have a recent track record of attending CPD events, so it makes sense at both a professional and a personal level to keep your CPD up to scratch.