Coaching Supervision – a relational practice

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Coaching Supervision understands that while the observable business of coaching is going on – meetings, contracting, outlining coaching programs, coaching sessions – it is people who do the talking and thus, who and how we are in the conversation, affects outcomes. This ‘who and how we are’ piece is mostly unobservable from the outside, but can have significant impact on effectiveness.

How does Coaching Supervision help?

A process of reflection with a Coach Supervisor helps the coach to become aware of relevant strengths and weaknesses and to become stronger and more confident across a range of conversations. CS explores and clarifies what goes on in these relationships and conversations and enables coaches to be intelligent about creating effective conversation in every ‘coaching moment’.

The CSA team bring huge experience and dedication to all their enterprises and I have personally benefited from their work.
-Marianne Craig, MCC

Coaches in supervision often refer to the relief of having time and space to think about particular aspects of their work and especially to think/reflect with a trusted colleague who will microscopically explore practice with them and contribute to their understanding. This support enables the coach to contain and resolve some of the more challenging parts of their work:

  • their frustrations with coachees
  • their concern that they are not doing enough
  • the difficulty of keeping to a coaching contract when the coaching ‘flow’ is going off piste the undue influence of the organisation (often implicit) or of key stakeholders which might reduce coach effectiveness (power/disempowerment)
  • unexpected emotional material either within the coach or in the coachee
  • ‘ruptures’ in the coaching relationship

If coaching supervision sounds like something that would interest you, please contact me for more details.  Opportunities are available in both individual and group sessions.

My Approach to Coaching

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Executive Leadership Coaching

Half of leadership is observation. Half is doing something about what you observe. All of it is about being human. Leaders face challenges that often cannot be discussed with people in their organization. An external coach can help explore challenging and sensitive issues in a neutral environment. Coaching can assist with transition to new leadership roles, completion of roles, recovery from mistakes, working with difficult staff members, planning major changes, dealing with the stress of changes, pacing leadership work at a rate the organization can absorb, and managing personal life balance.

Supervising and Mentoring Other Professional Coaches

There is always room for improvement. As coaches, we are regularly immersed in the world of our clients. We are called to be fully present and connected in profound ways so that we can evoke questions in ourselves and in our clients that have previously crouched beneath the surface activities of their/our lives. Yet this essential relational space makes us vulnerable. Whether we are new to coaching or have been at it for a very long time, it is utterly natural to, in a sense, fall asleep to the effects of these connections, to the intentional practice of being present. In the process, we become less aware of our own practice and, while acting instinctively is very often a good thing, over time we develop unconscious patterns that may or may not be right for our current client. As a professionally-trained coaching supervisor, I work with experienced certified coaches to renew their skills, adjust relationships, and help them be the very best they can be for their clients.

Organization Change Management

What do you do if a whole company, organization, or department needs to change? Maybe it’s reorganization, merger, or simply facing a situation that isn’t working anymore. I’ve teamed with management to move large or small organizations forward slowly and surely by using proven coaching techniques and meeting designs to improve communication and buy-in.

Team Building, Group Coaching, Facilitation

We all depend on others to get work done. In every work setting there is some chain or network of relationships that supports or impedes progress. I am regarded as an expert in helping clients understand these connections and in fostering growth among the people involved. This isn’t touchy feely stuff that can be easily dismissed; in fact, it can be the most important and rewarding work of all.

Resourcing the Coach

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Another important part of coaching supervision is resourcing/restoring the coach. Real coaching is demanding on the emotional and sometimes physical energy of the coach and client. If the work is productive and useful, energy and well-being for both tends to increase. (See research on Positive Psychology.) But when the coach becomes anxious or exhausted from the work, supervision can be a vital means of renewal.

This issue is especially true for internal coaches or externals with long term engagements. The research into brain neurobiology in recent years has revealed a physical part of the brain called Mirror Neurons. These are nerve cells which actively track the presence and actions of other people. A simple example can be found in any meeting where coffee or water is served. One person lifts his cup, and the action ripples around the room.

More importantly, humans become entrained into the patterns of action and of thinking within the organizations where they reside. As soon as a coach becomes unconscious of this entrainment, their usefulness is diminished. This occurs simply because we are human and humans adapt to their surroundings, even when they are harsh or undesirable.

Once again, coaching supervision provides an opportunity for the coach to step out of their surroundings and check in on their current response to the organizational environment.

And:

Resourcing the coach and dealing with unconscious processes are core aspects of coaching supervision. But let’s not forget, that sometimes coaching engagements are simply complex and benefit from time spent sorting out how best to proceed. This is often what brings coaches to supervision: “I’m stuck.” Good coaches know to get help. Good buyers of coaching know coaches and the ROI of their work benefit from regular supervision with a qualified supervisor.

How is coaching supervision provided?

  1. Individual supervision with one hour sessions in person or by phone. Research suggests that regular interactions at specified times produce the best results.
  2. Small group supervision outside the organization with coaches who are not in the same system. These sessions are provided to groups of 4 to 6 on a monthly basis over six or more months.
  3. Small group supervision within and organization. The convenience of this approach and the ability to notice cross organization patterns make this convenient. Extra care must be taken to assure complete confidentiality for all concerned and their clients.

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About the author:
Sam Magill is a Master Certified Coach in the International Coach Federation and has practiced since 1990. He studied coaching supervision with the Coaching Supervision Academy, United Kingdom, in 2009 and 2010. He is now Co-Director of CSA – USA and, with colleagues, has recently begun offering the first accredited supervision training in North America. Sam has presented workshops and spoken in the UK, France, Canada, Lithuania and Australia. His clients reside in countries around the world. He can be reached at sam@sammagill.com, at 425-787-0846 or through his website: www.sammagill.com.