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.


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.


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, at 425-787-0846 or through his website:

Strengthen Your Team with Coaching

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Leadership teams are often confronted with changing membership, circumstances, and challenges that do not fit existing leadership patterns and practices. Coaching can assist the team in recognizing existing patterns, assessing their appropriateness for the new situation, and generating methods and relationships to move forward. As an outside agent, the coach can ask questions and encourage consideration of issues that are presently unheard or overlooked. Accountability for change can be developed jointly by the team and the coach.

What a team coaching engagement looks like:

  • A preliminary meeting, at no obligation, to identify the issues and see if we want to work together.
  • Interviews with team members to further define issues.
  • Coach reports findings to the whole team.
  • Depending on requirements, meet weekly, monthly, or quarterly.
  • Include check-back meetings to sustain change.
  • Alternatives include:
    • Leadership retreats for one or more days.
    • Coach participation in regular leadership meetings held in the course of work. (The coach’s job is to listen for the unasked questions that might make major shifts in thinking or progress.).
    • Intergroup conflict facilitation involving senior executives from two or more organizations.

If you are interested in my team building, group coaching and meeting facilitation, please click through to my Getting Started with Team/Group coaching page.

“Coaching Supervision nurtures the coach from the inside out by creating an intentional space to explore deeply how I am showing up as a coach.  My work with Sam and Coaching Supervision has allowed me to deepen my inquiry of how I am holding my clients in their uniqueness and, how to best support them while attending to the many complexities of life and humanness. Coaching Supervision is as elemental and necessary as healthy eating habits!” – Miryam Ch-R.

This wonderful internal coach has described the essential experience of coaching supervision. But how does it work and what is discussed during supervision?

Coaches who work with organizations, whether they are internal or external, are embedded in a wide array of unconscious interactions and conscious challenges. Regardless of how many years of experience a coach has, these factors can skew the focus and process of coaching. When the coach and client overlook certain everyday issues, the return on investment in coaching goes down.

One of the most common issues involves unconscious collusion and unconscious deference. This is not collusion in the legal sense or even in the extreme case of violating ethical codes. It is the unconscious nature of it that causes problems.

There are three easily identifiable forms.

Scenario One:  The coach and client collude against the organization. Here, the two have taken sides in some sort of opposition to the company. The coach allows the client to project fault and blame on the organization. The coach, in effect, becomes a subtle rescuer for the client and avoids, for example, challenging the client to see his or her part in problems.

Coach and Client against OrgScenario Two:  The client and organization collude against the coach. If things are not going well in the coaching; if no progress is seen by either of these, it is very easy to blame the coach. More than one coach has become the scape goat for issues rooted in the system. If the coach becomes conscious of this phenomenon, he or she can bring the dynamic into the open, re-establish roles and responsibilities and aide in establishing functional relationships in the system.

Org and Client against CoachScenario Three:  The coach and organization collude against the client.  Most coaches have been hired by a manager or Human Resources to “fix” a “problem” employee. Unless the coach is fully alert to this possibility, he or she can be swept into a role that cannot be successfully fulfilled.

Coach and Org against ClientAll three of these problems exist for both internal and external coaches.  The role of the coach supervisor is to bring the dynamics to light through a variety of means which are not usually part of coach training. Especially with experienced coaches, once the issues are brought to light, no more work is needed in supervision……until next time. In the United Kingdom, there are placed in which one hour of supervision is required for every ten hours of coaching. This stuff happens!

Join me next time as we explore “Resourcing the Coach”.


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, at 425-787-0846 or through his website:

Getting Started with Coaching Supervision

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Are you curious about coaching supervision?  Wondering if it’s the right fit for you, and you for it?  Here is a quick set of guidelines to help the pondering process along:

Indicators you might be a good candidate for supervision:

  • You are a great coach and you hold yourself to high standards.
  • Your professional association requires coaching supervision after receiving your professional credentials.
  • You love learning about coaching and want to learn more.
  • Coaching isn’t as much fun as it used to be.
  • Contracting seems a bit harder.
  • You or your clients are not satisfied with results.
  • Your approaches are becoming routine or mechanical.
  • You have a challenging client.

If you are interested in giving coaching supervision a try, please contact Sam via email at or by phoning 425-787-0846.

The Play at Rendezvous Hut

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For your holiday reading pleasure, I present to you one of the poems I have written, entitled “The Play at Rendezvous Hut”. It reads a little like the holiday favorite, “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. Enjoy!

Je suis content.

The gas lantern hushes,
shhhhh, like an usher
waiting for the play to begin.

The stage is set with candle glow,
warm food settling in
now that we have eaten.

the dark cold world rests,
comforted in its snowy down.

Peace and quiet surround the hut as
all of nature waits for life to stir.

It is much more quiet out than in
where my chattery mind
keeps interrupting both the player
and those who witness
Winter’s quiet silent drama.

The usher keeps at me,
until, thought by city thought
I let the world slip away
content to be on this stage
where only the silence
speaks its lines.

If you like this poem, my entire collection is available on my website.

Happy Holidays!


Small Group Supervision

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Small group supervision offers coaches and leaders the opportunity to reflect on specific clients and on who they are in the presence of those clients.

What is Coaching Supervision all about?

While Coaching Supervision is well known in Europe, it is just emerging in North America. Fundamentally, supervision for coaches provides increased self-awareness of the coach-in-practice. Three very practical aspects of coaching are addressed:

  • Continuing professional development through disciplined reflection and feedback.
  • Reinforcing professional standards and best practice through attention to ethics, boundaries, methods.
  • Restorative support by stepping into a safe space away from the stresses of coaching.

As part of the practice of coaching supervision, three key areas are emphasized.

Equilibrium: As a coach, you are in a helping profession and you must relate to your clients and build an environment of trust, openness, safety, and curiosity. At times, this can be challenging and, if you have a substantial client portfolio, tiring. Ever had a client with whom you struggled—where you anticipated some meetings with a hint of reluctance? My assessment? You are human. In supervision, we work together to help surface these issues so you can navigate through your feelings and distinguish them from those of your clients. How is your energy for coaching these days? Being in good personal equilibrium is essential for good coaching.

Ethics: Coaches often get caught between conflicting roles and expectations, especially when they work in organizational settings. Sometimes we over- or under-identify with clients; and sometimes the limits of your responsibilities as a coach are challenged. It is not unusual, for example, for a coach—even an experienced one—to slide into confusing her/his objectives and standards for the client’s. Are you aware of when that happens? Political situations and relationships impact the coach and the coaching relationship. How do you manage it all? Ethics is more than appropriate physical and financial boundaries; it has to do with on-going distinctions about our roles, our responsibilities, and our emotional boundaries.

Effectiveness: Are you succeeding as a coach? Are your clients getting the results they desire? There are many ways of assessing overall effectiveness; all of them depend on the quality and clarity of your contract. Another consideration is effectiveness in the moment. What do you do when something doesn’t go well? When you don’t know what to do? Supervision offers the opportunity to reflect on coaching sessions in a disciplined, learning-oriented way to address these and other issues. You might ask yourself who is working harder, you or your client? If it’s you, it might be time for a tune up.

Coaching supervision can look like:

  • Individual sessions by telephone or in person. Contracts are generally for six months, one session per month. After building a partnership, supervision-on-call can be arranged in which we address recent or upcoming coaching that presents a challenge.
  • Group supervision in person. Groups of up to eight coaches meet on a regular basis to review cases and explore coaching challenges. The supervisor guides the conversations, but, as the group develops, more and more support is obtained from colleagues.
  • In house supervision for organizations with internal coaches. Contracts for supervision can be arranged for scheduled work much like group supervision and on a retainer basis to support the overall coaching effort in the organization.

I love to help coaches achieve their own greatness in service of their clients. While I won’t promise to know what is best for you, I do promise to be your partner in helping you be the most effective coach you can be. My role is to help re-generate your own internal supervisor and your own self-reflection capability. Experienced coaches who undertake supervision tell me their understanding of self and of coaching is greatly increased.


Groups meet for 3 hours once per month for six months. The cost is $1500 each with a possible reduction if fees are entirely paid before the group begins.

Dates: Registration for the first session is open until December 20th. Please email me at to register or visit my website for additional details.