Coaching supervision, when a coach steps back to reflect on their client work with the help of a trained supervisor, is increasingly being seen as a powerful way to maximise the effectiveness of the coaching engagement.
So why should you be thinking about coaching supervison?
Simply because it makes good business sense, whether you’re a coach, a coaching sponsor, or whether you’re a coaching organisation.
In mature coaching markets such as the UK, which I am familiar with, coaching supervision is increasingly being seen as one of the key differentiating factors between coaches. Increasingly coaching sponsors are making it a pre-requisite for hiring coaches.
Coaching supervision has three areas of focus:
What skills does the coach need to develop; what psychological or business models would be helpful? Where does the coach’s development lie?
Is this person acting according to the ethical and professional standards that the sponsor and the industry would expect?
Is the coach in the right shape (both physically and mentally) to do their very best for their client? Can they manage their case-load? Is there anything in the client material that they are having difficulty with?
So, as a coach, what’s in it for you?
I have supervised senior business coaches for the last 9 years. Over that time what has become increasingly clear to me is that my job is quite simply to help the coach to do an even better job.
I’ve come to see my role as that of a performance coach, and my supervisees come to me to up their game. After all, executive coaching is first and foremost about improving performance, so it makes sense that supervision for executive coaches should reflect that focus.
And, if I have done my job properly, the coach has thought more deeply about their client work, expanded their practice and learnt about themselves. And hopefully, as a result, they do their job even better. Because that is the ultimate aim of supervision–to provide the end client with the best the coach can offer.
And, if the coach does their job even better and the client is better served, maybe, just maybe, the coach will get more work.
This is the value proposition that supervision represents.
As a buyer of coaching services, knowing that your coaches are in regular supervision with a trained coaching supervisor provides you with a degree of quality assurance that the coaches you are hiring are not working in isolation, are working to the standards of the profession, are open to learning and committed to excellence.
As a coaching organization, providing your coaches with regular supervision, or making it a condition of employment that your coaches are in regular supervision, is a strong selling point and will differentiate you from the other coaching organisations out there. And my experience is that, when supervision is made regular and mandatory in coaching organisations, it builds up a culture of reflexive practice and ongoing professional development.
Mary Beth O’Neill in her wonderful book Executive Coaching with Backbone and Heart talks tellingly about her use of a coach to help her with her client work: “I no longer see using a coach as a sign of incompetence but as a smart investment. Thank goodness, since that is what I tell my clients!” (O’Neill, 2008).
So why not get ahead of the pack and put performance improvement unashamedly at the centre of your practice. Who knows, like Mary Beth O’Neill, you might discover that it is a savvy investment!