We've launched a monthly Mastery Series to offer you top tips from our accomplished team and trainers. In this week's blog, confidence coach and trainer Pam Lidford shares the importance of supervision, it's benefits and how it helps your professional coaching development.

Having recently been accepted into the Project5 programme offering to work as a volunteer coach to support hardworking NHS staff, it was interesting to see how the coaching requirements evolved as the amazing Project5 team put their offer together. 

They asked for qualified coaches to contact them and thousands of good-hearted coaches who wanted to make a difference responded to that call.

But being part of the team requires more than having a qualification as two of my coach clients discovered. 

Often coaches aren’t aware that supervision is an important part of their personal and professional development.  Every large contract (bar one) that I have been part of as an associate as well as an independent coach provider, has required me to evidence that I am in supervision. 

Organisations invest huge sums of money in coaching often without an immediate return or evidence of effectiveness on that investment and as the coaching trend grows, coaches are expected to be qualified/accredited, insured and be able to provide evidence of supervision as this gives some reassurance of their professional and ethical effectiveness.

If you are a life coach, private clients may never ask if you are in supervision but that doesn’t mean it’s less important. 

Individuals invest large amounts of their personal money in the coaching process and you owe it to them (and yourself) to be the best version of yourself when you turn up to sessions.

Some Benefits of Supervision:

  • More reliable outcomes for service users (ROI)
  • Increased professional relationships
  • Opportunities to reflect in a safe space so you can grow, develop and learn
  • Become aware of any transference or bad habits before they become a problem
  • Gain more knowledge around how you are practising and how to improve it
  • Increased confidence in your professional performance
  • Skill development and  improvement
  • Greater awareness and understanding of how you are coaching
  • Reduced anxiety and stress
  • Working within the boundaries of the code of ethics you are affiliated with
  • Ability to explore challenging or difficult cases in a safe space
  • Keep attracting clients with your goals or challenges? The impact on being present.
  • Easy coaching sessions? How well are you doing your job? Are you providing enough challenge?

So What is Supervision?

Supervision is 100% about you and how you work as a coach. In each session, you have the opportunity to stop and think about what you are doing and how you are operating when in a session with your client. There is time for you to reflect in a safe, non-judgmental and nurturing space. 

In supervision, you are able to bring your clients, in the form of case studies, into the room (full confidentiality is practised) in order to discover more about who you are when you are coaching and what personal and professional work needs to be considered so you can be the best version of yourself when working with your clients.

  • Maybe you found a session challenging. - What might that be about? 
  • Perhaps you didn’t know how to handle a difficult situation that the client brought to the session. -  What is that offering you in terms of personal or professional learning?
  • Perhaps you found yourself feeling emotional about a topic they talked about. - Are you going through something similar or do you have unresolved thoughts about the topic that need to be addressed?
  • Perhaps you didn’t know what questions to ask or whether you were slipping into counselling mode. - Where was your listening level at? How well had you contracted prior to the session?
  • Or perhaps you realised you were feeling judgemental, rescuing, wanting to give a bit of advice or making the session about you rather than 100% about your client.

I hope the above-limited examples demonstrate to you that just because we have reached a level of competency and have a qualification, it doesn’t mean the learning is over.  In fact, it’s just begun.

All the above and more can be brought to your supervisor in order to gently explore what was happening, why you struggled, what could have been done differently as well as what went well in your coaching session. 

Supervision helps unblock more of your blind spot, something that is very difficult for us to do by ourselves.

Coaching challenges you may bring to supervision

Today I want to share some challenges that could arise for a coach when they are working professionals that can cause stress and anxiety.  An excellent coach training provider does it’s best to prepare trainee coaches for some of the pitfalls that may occur when they are working as a professional but it’s not until you experience them that the reality kicks in and the theory, though useful, goes out the window.  With supervision in place, you can relax knowing you have a support system in place that will guide you through the opportunity to learn.

Over the years I have thousands of coaching hours (it’s worth logging them as you go along), which compromise of personal 1-1 coaching, business and corporate 1-1 coaching and small group coaching.  

In that time I have experienced challenges that sometimes left me worried, concerned and thinking about the client or situation outside of the coaching session. Some of the situations caused me to (temporarily) lose my confidence as a coach, doubt my ability to coach, worry I was rescuing, tempted me to offer just a little bit of advice (I struggled with not doing this in the beginning but quickly learnt how to allow the client to come up with their own advice), be fearful or scared of some clients and not want to continue working with one or two over the years but did anyway. As stressful as this was at the time, it was all part of my development and learning and having someone to (confidentially) share the struggle with was a godsend.

Those of you who have been trained by me may recall how important I feel the initial contracting stage is.  Some coaches think it doesn’t matter and don’t give it enough attention, others make it too (unnecessarily) big and detailed, some do it verbally and trust it will all be ok.  However you do yours is your decision, most of the time there are no problems, but when there are, it’s often because assumptions were made and you now find yourself in a very difficult position with no backup.

Here are a few situations I’ve found myself in over the years, some happened at the beginning of my coaching journey, some are more recent:

  • The client has agreed their work is around performance goals and possible future promotion, the L & D team have advised their (client’s) role is insecure
  • The client comes to a session and tells the coach they are being bullied by their line manager
  • The client is looking to use the coaching offered to prepare for an industrial tribunal
  • The client hasn’t moved forward with their actions after a number of sessions
  • The client is returning to work after being off ‘sick’ due to burnout and returning to the same workload
  • The client has called the day before, more than once, to cancel a session though the cancellation clause says it needs to be 48 hours
  • The client wants to use the sessions for personal goals but the organisation is paying for performance-related goals
  • The coach dreads the upcoming coaching session with the client 
  • The client wants to be coached to exit the company want the client to prepare for promotion
  • The coach spends personal time thinking about the coaching session and how it wasn’t good enough because this time the client didn’t have an orgasmic experience where they had insight after insight and said how the session had changed their life like last time
  • The coach got caught up in the client’s story and found themselves thinking about it rather than being fully present for the client

I wonder if any of those resonate with you. 

The examples are not exhaustive, perhaps you could share some more.  

The question is, what do you do when these happen to you?  How do you manage and move through them?  How do you prevent them from happening again or at all?  Supervision supports you in becoming aware of why they occurred, what to do to rectify or move on from them and how to put practises in place to prevent them from happening again in the future.

This article was first published as part of a 5 piece email series on Supervision by Pam Lidford in the Pam Lidford newsletter.

Whilst in training and developing in the skills of coaching, The Coaching Academy students receive mentoring to support their development, in the form of scheduled mentorship opportunities and periodical coaching assessments. 

Newly qualified graduates tend to find that their early experiences of supervision are very similar to mentoring with lots of guidance and support from an experienced coach being offered, and as the coach develops in experience their supervisor will step more fully into the role of supervisor (as described on what supervision is). 

In other words, coaches are starting their supervision journey with us during their qualification, supporting their development as a coach which transitions as they progress further within their coaching career.

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