Coaching supervision has many benefits for coaches, including:

  • Talking through coaching issues and being listened to
  • Providing new insights and learnings that you can apply in your coaching practice
  • Increasing self-awareness and developing your Self as the main instrument of coaching
  • Developing multiple perspectives on your coaching practice, relationship dynamics and understanding of the wider system
  • Building confidence
  • Motivating and inspiring coaches to engage in further professional development
  • Creating a positive impact on the coach, coachee and client organization

In this short article we focus on some of the ways in which coaching supervision can help address needs that are particular to the practice of independent external coaches:

  1. The need to connect with others to counter feelings of isolation that can arise from the nature of coaching work.
  2. The desire to get alternative perspectives on your coaching practice or on a particular situation, to escape the echo chamber of solo reflection.
  3. The need to exercise your professional conscience with regard to ethical dilemmas, to get additional eyes on complex issues.
  4. The need to restore and maintain the emotional energy that can result from coaching work.

Need to connect

As an independent practitioner, the nature of coaching can leave coaches feeling isolated, especially in moments of self-doubt or when feeling “stuck” with a challenging case or issue.  Supervision offers the coach the opportunity to connect to their professional community in a meaningful personal way, both in one-to-one and group supervision settings. Supervision can build close bonds between the supervisor and coach or among a supervisory group.  As participants in our study of coaching supervision put it:

I loved being able to connect with another coach in a supportive way.  I miss that in my environment.

It makes me feel more connected to the broader coaching community as well, and helps to keep me up on the latest thinking and approaches in my supervisor’s coaching community – as it relates to my work with my coachee.

Desire for alternative perspectives

Supervision also provided me with a place to examine my views with a coach rather than staying with my own thoughts.

Research with coaches who engage in supervision suggests that they value the way supervision challenges them to look at their practice or a particular coaching situation from multiple perspectives. Group supervision in particular facilitates learning and developing in dialogue with multiple others who may have been trained in other theoretical paradigms and approaches.

Coaches describe supervision as a process that helps them see the bigger picture and different perspectives that aids them in both expanding their practice and in getting ‘unstuck’. Supervision can help coaches realize the assumptions and limitations on their own thinking and can help them grow outside of the box that has defined coaching for them up to now.

Facing dilemmas and complex issues

Questions, issues, and dilemmas arise frequently in coaching: should I do this or that?  could I have done something else, something better? is this issue the client’s or my own? how do I manage the needs of all the stakeholders in this engagement? am I here in service of the coachee or their organization? I’m not comfortable with their request but I’m not sure how to handle it…..

Working alone, the external coach might reflect on these dilemmas, perhaps using writing to help process their thoughts. They might consult with a close colleague or peer coach.  They might share it with a wider community of practice.  In supervision, external coaches get the opportunity to step back from their work, explore issues with a supervisor as part of a co-created dialogue, which aims to help coaches to see more than they can currently see in themselves and in the wider system.  For example, ethical issues might be identified that the coach may not have been aware of; the coach might explore other points of view on what they perceive as a “mistake”; self-deception might be surfaced and explored; blind spots might be uncovered. A supervisor may help broaden coaches’ thinking and knowledge about related areas that impinge on many tricky issues they face, but that are often not covered in coach training, CPD, or competency frameworks, such as an understanding of the legal context and their duty of care.

Restoring emotional energy

Over the past 12 months, we have seen an increase in coaches volunteering to support those on the frontline of Covid-19 in addition to their existing client base.  As everyone – coaches and clients alike – have been affected by the pandemic in some way, it is noticeable how important it has been for coaches to be able to process difficult feelings, replenish their energy and motivation, and figure out how to set and hold boundaries. The restorative function of supervision aids this by creating a haven for a coach to express concerns, to be vulnerable, to open up about challenges and frustrations, to process personal issues or feelings that impact the way they show up for their clients.

An invitation….

We’ve highlighted four areas where external coaches have found particular value in coaching supervision.  We’d love to hear from you:- what are the particular challenges you face in being an independent practitioner?  How do you support yourself with these? If you already engage in supervision, why?

Find out more

To learn more about what coaching supervision is as well as its value and benefits, read our longer article that goes deeper.

If you’re interested in finding out more about training as a coach supervisor, visit our website.






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