In our previous article, we shared an overview of what coaching supervision is.  In this article, we aim to answer some frequently asked questions about the value and benefits of coaching supervision. This article is intended to be of interest to:

  • Coaches, consultants, talent and HR professionals who are curious to know more about the growing field of coaching supervision.
  • Coaches and others who are considering engaging in supervision.
  • Talent, HR, and Internal Coaches who coach inside organizations who may be considering whether supervision could benefit their coaching practice.

Why engage in supervision?

Since 2006, a number of studies have investigated the reasons why coaches engage with supervision and what they perceive the value and benefits to be. These reasons include:

  • commitment to ongoing personal and professional development
  • develop greater self-awareness, capacity, and capability as a coach
  • provides a sounding board
  • helps ensure the quality of coaching
  • required by the organization where the coach works or by a professional body for membership, CPD, or accreditation

While the requirements of a professional body may initially be a motivator for coaches to engage with supervision, there is evidence that suggests that once a coach has experienced supervision they see its value and are likely to continue with it for other, more intrinsically motivating, reasons.  Our own research, conducted with coaches mostly from the USA, explored coaches views on the impact, value, and benefits of supervision and identified seven themes:

  1.   Coaches valued talking through their coaching issues and being listened to
  2.   Supervision had a positive impact on the coach, coachee and client organization
  3.   Coaches gained new insights and learnings (research, frameworks, resources, tools & techniques)
  4.   New, bigger systemic perspectives emerged
  5.   Increased self-awareness, understanding of themselves as coaches and the relationship dynamic helped them to reframe the coaches’ perspectives on challenges and issues
  6.   An understanding of inner self and experience built their confidence as a coach
  7.   Supervision motivated and inspired coaches to learn and grow and engage in further professional development

Proponents of coaching supervision argue that it is necessary over and above personal reflection and continuing professional development for coaches.  At CEC, we view supervision as a part of ongoing coach reflexivity and development that helps coaches become, and remain, fit for purpose to coach in complex organizational settings.

When coaching in organizations, the coach has more than one client and therefore needs to navigate a complex set of relationships and multiple stakeholder perspectives.  Coach training programs often do not include training on how to recognize mental health issues and how to consider and manage the way that those issues may impact on the suitability or boundaries of the coaching. Given that coaches are not required to undertake compulsory counseling or other professional development work before coaching others, they may be less prepared to identify the effects of their own personal processes on their work.  These three arguments were put forward by Professor Tatiana Bachkirova to suggest that supervision maybe even more important for coaches than for therapists.

In terms of its developmental function, supervision is seen by some as a way of connecting the competencies learned during coach training with practice and reflection from real client experience.  The cycle of action-reflection supports the processes of unlearning and relearning that keeps coaches ever-evolving.

The dialogue involved in supervision adds alternative perspectives, challenges, and richness to the coach’s own way of thinking about their practice.  In a study by Dr. Alison Hodge (2016), coaches reported that “this dialogue often proved more relevant and powerful than other forms of reflection such as journaling or personal note making as it enabled them to gain understanding, self-awareness and identify new ways to proceed with a client”.

Supervision can help coaches tackle topics that emerge in practice and are critical to keeping fit-for-purpose.  For example, in a forthcoming book chapter, CEC Partner Angela Wright and Dr. Sean O’Connor consider the role that supervision may play in developing the legal thinking of coaches.  The legal context in which coaches and supervisors operate is often unseen and rarely discussed. In the chapter, they identify ways in which supervisors may support coaches to develop greater legal awareness, knowledge, sensitivity, and judgement.

How does supervision impact a coach’s client(s)?

Supervision can directly affect every aspect of a coach’s practice, which in turn can benefit clients by:

  • Bringing new ways of thinking as a coach, different coaching approaches or interventions to your client
  • Helping your client to see more in the situations they are facing, mirroring the way supervision helps coaches to “see more”.
  • Surfacing and exploring issues in the coach’s Self, in the relationship between the coach and client, or in the organizational system that may be unwittingly getting in the way of coaching outcomes.
  • Helping the coach more effectively manage the end-to-end coaching process from contracting to evaluation thus better serving not only the coachee, but also engaging and supporting the wider stakeholder system in the organization.

Why might an organization invest in supervision?

Research by Lawrence and Whyte (2009) conducted with clients in Australia who purchased coaching reported that the primary purpose of supervision was quality control.  In this respect, the view of these organizations aligns with the normative function of supervision – ensuring quality and professional standards.

A case study of supervision at Deloitte in the UK (Champion, 2011) reported that the introduction of coaching supervision was seen as a way to build the credibility and expertise of the internal coaches and to enhance their quality, competence and professionalism. This suggests that for some organizations the developmental function of supervision may be more important.

At CEC, our experience with U.S-based organizations who have chosen to invest in supervision suggests that quality assurance and the desire to adopt best practices in coaching are influential factors.

Why don’t all coaches participate in coaching supervision?

Some of the reasons why coaches do not participate in supervision have been reported as:

  • Coaches feel that they get sufficient support and development from their own personal reflective practice, their own coach, or peer networks
  • Cost
  • Difficulty in finding a suitable supervisor
  • It is not required by client organizations

In one study from 2012, the coaches’ negative experiences of coaching supervision were linked to the skill of the supervisor which may not be surprising given that over 79% of those providing supervision in this study had not received any formal training to be a coach supervisor.  Since then, there has been a rise in coaching supervisor training programs and the number of qualified, trained supervisors practicing in the field. In our own study, coaches were clear about the importance of the expertise and experience of the supervisor to ensure effective supervision. This was mentioned in the context of considering how they might engage with supervision in the future and as a result of the new insights and perspectives they gained from the supervision experience.

In our previous article, we mentioned that coaches may find it difficult to differentiate between supervision and other forms of CPD such as coach-mentoring, co-coaching, or ongoing accreditation.  Our own research aligned with the findings from Dr. Alison Hodge’s (2016) study that coaches only really appreciated the true value of supervision after they had engaged with it. In our study, a number of participants indicated they did not have an idea of what to expect at the start of the process and felt that, after experiencing supervision, they were better able to explain to others what supervision is and what its benefits are. Others reported that they had started with certain preconceptions but had evolved to a better understanding of the benefits of supervision. This suggests that coaches may find it useful to seek out opportunities to experience supervision so that they can make an informed choice about their supervision needs and how best to meet those.

Find out more….

This article is the second in a series in which we aim to share information with the coaching community in service of raising awareness and understanding of supervision.  In our next article, we’ll go deeper on how supervision can help coaches and coaching keep fit for purpose.

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To find out more about our approach to coaching supervision visit our website.





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