If you are a coach, you might be wondering how having a coach supervisor or coaching supervision can help you. So in this article we’ll explore reasons why (as a practising coach) you need a coach supervisor, and how you and your clients will benefit.
Coaching is a wonderful profession. You as the coach get to help your clients make positive changes in their life. For most coaches, it’s one of the main reasons why we become a coach.
But coaching is also challenging, not least because of the difficulty many of our clients have in making that change. And as your clients work on seeing and doing things differently, and achieving things they may not have without coaching, you take a big role in supporting and challenging your clients.
Yet who is supporting and challenging you, so you are the best coach you can be for your clients?
This is where having a coach supervisor can make a big difference.
This article is written from my perspective both as a coach supervisor, who supports the work of coaches, and as a coach who has benefitted from receiving supervision myself.
What is a coach supervisor?
Put simply, a coach supervisor is an experienced coach who supports you in your own coaching work with your clients.
Supervision is a type of work which occurs across many of the helping professions, including coaching. Although the title coach supervisor might make you picture a manager or more senior individual, supervision in this context isn’t that. It is a supportive role, to facilitate the development and effectiveness of the coach (or supervisee) they work with. Hawkins and McMahon (2020) define supervision as:
"… A joint endeavour in which a practitioner, with the help of a supervisor, attends to their clients… and by so doing improves the quality of their work, transforms their client relationships, continuously develops themselves, their practice and the wider profession."
Why coaches need a coach supervisor
Having a coach supervisor can benefit you in many ways, including:
- Improving your coaching skills and knowledge
- Enhancing your self-awareness in the coaching space
- Increased confidence and feelings of competence as a coach
- Helping you create greater impact and better outcomes with clients
- Addressing your coaching blind spots
- Helping you to work with difficult clients
- Maintaining ethical and professional practice
- Providing a safe space for you to reflect during challenging and difficult times in your coaching work
Having a coach supervisor is essential for your personal and professional growth, maintaining ethical standards, and improving the effectiveness of your coaching. The role of a coach can be challenging, as it requires a deep understanding of human behaviour, communication, and motivation. Having a coach supervisor can provide many benefits, including support, guidance, and feedback on your coaching practice.
Personal and professional growth
One of the main reasons why coaches need a coach supervisor is to support your ongoing personal and professional growth. Coaching can be a demanding and emotionally taxing profession, and as a coach you can benefit from having a safe and confidential space to reflect on your work, discuss challenges, and explore new approaches to coaching.
Guidance and feedback
A coach supervisor can provide guidance and feedback on your performance, helping you to identify areas for growth and improvement. For example, if you are struggling to build rapport with a difficult client. Or if you are finding it difficult to come up with an effective coaching intervention with a client. A supervisor can provide a reflective space to think, facilitate ideas, offer advice and support to help you develop new strategies to address these challenges.
Noticing blind spots and biases
Coaching supervision can help you identify and address your own blind spots or biases that may be affecting your coaching practice. So by exploring different perspectives and receiving feedback from a coach supervisor, you can gain a more well-rounded understanding of your coaching approach.
Working with difficult clients
Coaching supervision can provide support and guidance for coaches who are working with difficult clients or challenging coaching situations. In this context, a coach supervisor can help you explore different strategies for managing challenging clients, resolving conflicts and maintaining appropriate boundaries.
Maintaining ethical and professional standards
Another key benefit of having a coach supervisor is that it helps to maintain ethical and professional standards. Coaches must adhere to ethical guidelines and good practices in order to ensure that your clients receive high-quality coaching. A coach supervisor can help you to reflect on ethical dilemmas which come up in coaching, or keep within ethical practice, such as a HR manager (the coaching sponsor) insisting on seeing full notes on coaching sessions you have with employees of that company. Or a client bringing challenges to coaching which you believe would be better supported by counselling or some other therapy. A supervisor can help you to identify the ethical boundaries of your role and provide guidance on how to refer the client to appropriate resources.
Improving coaching effectiveness
Another benefit of having a supervisor is that it can improve coaching effectiveness. Through regular reflection, feedback, and support, coaching supervision can help you to enhance your skills and techniques, leading to improved client outcomes and satisfaction. For example, if you were struggling to help a client make progress on their goals. A supervisor can help you consider alternative interventions and ways of working, to help the client achieve their desired outcomes.
Supporting the coach during challenging and difficult times
Finally, having a coach supervisor can also help you to address personal and professional challenges that may arise in the course of your work. Coaching can be a demanding and stressful profession, and coaches may experience burnout or stress-related issues. For example, if you were experiencing burnout due to a heavy workload or were struggling to balance your personal and professional commitments. Considered in this light, coaching supervision can help you recognise signs of burnout and develop strategies for self-care. A coach supervisor can provide support and guidance to help you maintain your own wellbeing while supporting your clients.
Get Coaching Supervision
Are you a coach looking for supervision and support with your coaching work? Find out more about my coach supervision services and how we could work together, via the link below.
How does having a coach supervisor work?
Coaching supervision typically works as follows. You meet with your coach supervisor, with a face-to-face, Zoom or some other medium, and raise whatever topics you would like to discuss in relation to your coaching work.
My own supervisor on supervision previously shared a metaphor with me which I find helps explain the supervision relationship. It can be like driving a car with dual controls (as you would when learning to drive) – you as the coach are the driver, however your coach supervisor has access to the controls too, so in supervision can take an active role in the direction and focus of a session, if and where this is appropriate.
Examples of topics discussed in coaching supervision
As the coach you may wish to discuss current or recent clients in supervision. You need share only those details about your clients which are necessary and relevant, to maintain as much confidentiality as possible, however it should be noted that supervision is a confidential space, in the same way that coaching is.
These are a few examples of the topics my coach supervisees have brought into supervision, and which you might also have experienced:
- Challenges the client is facing, where both client and coach might feel ‘stuck’
- Uncertainty over the right strategies and interventions for this client
- Difficulties in the working dynamic between client and coach
- Managing situations where the coach is facing challenges of their own, which may impact on their work
- Working with wider systemic issues which are impacting on the work of the coach and the client
It can also be used to reflect on patterns which you have noticed emerging in your coaching, for example:
- Responding to certain situations in a way which you would like to change
- Difficulties working with particular types of client
- Awareness of your own ‘inner game’ and how this might affect your work with clients
Much like in coaching, at the end of a session your coach supervisor may ask what you are taking from the session. There may be actions you wish to take, different ways of working that you will adopt or experiment with, insights you have gained. It will be for you to take these forward.
The supervision process is ongoing, typically taking place regularly, for example monthly or quarterly depending on the level of supervision you need, and the amount coaching you are doing.
The 3 main purposes of coaching supervision
The formative, normative, and restorative functions of coaching supervision (Proctor, 1988) are three key ways in which coach supervisors support coaches.
The formative function of coaching supervision focuses on supporting your ongoing learning and development as a coach. This includes providing feedback and guidance on coaching skills, techniques, and strategies, as well as exploring new approaches and perspectives. The formative function is future-oriented, helping you to set goals and develop action plans to improve your coaching practice.
The normative function of coaching supervision focuses on ensuring that as a coach you adhere to ethical and professional standards. This includes reviewing client case work and identifying any ethical issues or challenges, as well as exploring ways to resolve these challenges while maintaining the best interests of the client. The normative function is compliance-oriented, ensuring that coaches maintain high standards of professional conduct.
The restorative function of coaching supervision focuses on providing support and care for the your personal and professional wellbeing as a coach. This includes addressing issues mentioned earlier such as burnout, stress, or personal challenges that may be impacting the coach's performance. The restorative function is support-oriented, helping coaches to build resilience and maintain their overall wellbeing.
Do coaching professional bodies require coaches to have a coach supervisor?
Having a coach supervisor is an important safeguard both for you and for the clients you work with. As a result, coach supervision is recommended by coaching professional bodies, and may be in a number of cases a strict requirement. This is to ensure that coaches are following professional and ethical standards, and to support their ongoing personal and professional development.
Where supervision is a requirement (for example where coaches are seeking accreditation), some common elements include:
- A minimum number of supervision hours per year
- A requirement that supervision be provided by a qualified and experienced coach supervisor
- That coaches maintain confidentiality and client anonymity in supervision
- Evidence of participation in supervision, such as supervisor reports or certificates of attendance
What kind of theoretical models do coach supervisors use?
There are many different models and approaches that can be used in by coach supervisors in coach supervision.
A good example, and one I use extensively is the Seven-Eyed Model of Supervision. This helps coaches and coach supervisors explore various aspects of the coaching relationship and the coaching process.
Devised by Peter Hawkins 1985 and further developed by Robin Shohet, the model is based on the idea that effective supervision requires a holistic approach that considers the relationship between the coach, the client, and the wider context in which coaching takes place. The seven "eyes" of the model represent different perspectives that coaches and supervisors can use to explore the coaching relationship and the coaching process. These eyes are as follows:
The Seven Eyed Model of Supervision
The client's system
This perspective focuses on the client's environment and the systems in which they operate, including their organization, family, and community.
The coach's interventions
This perspective considers the coach's techniques and strategies, including the use of questions, feedback, and reflection.
The coaching relationship
This perspective explores the dynamics of the relationship between the coach and the client, including issues related to rapport, trust, and communication.
The coach's internal process
This perspective looks at the coach's own internal process, including their thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the coaching process.
The supervisor's interventions
This perspective considers the supervisor's role in supporting the coach, including the use of feedback, advice, and guidance.
The coach supervisor - coach relationship
This perspective explores the relationship between the supervisor and the coach, including issues related to rapport, trust, communication, and the possible presence of ‘parallel process’, where challenges from the clients situation and relationship with the coach are unconsciously carried through to the supervision space.
The wider context
This perspective considers the wider context in which coaching takes place, including cultural, social, and political factors that may influence the coaching process.
By exploring these different perspectives, the Seven-Eyed Model of Supervision helps you your coach supervisor to take a comprehensive approach to coaching supervision, focusing not only on the individual coach and client, but also on the wider context in which coaching takes place. This holistic approach can lead to deeper insights and a more effective coaching practice.
I hope this article has helped you understand more about coaching supervision and the work of a coach supervisor.
If you are looking for coaching supervision, I would be happy to explore how I can help. I support coaches across the UK and internationally via Zoom, and my Coaching Supervision page provides further information about my coach supervision services. You can also arrange an initial conversation to discuss your supervision needs.
About Scott Foley Coaching and Supervision
I'm Scott Foley. I'm a qualified coach and coach supervisor, and for over 15 years I’ve been helping clients face challenges in their work, finding happiness and satisfaction in new careers, finding opportunities for career progression, developing their leadership skills, or making a greater impact in their organisation.
I also provide coaching supervision to coaches and career practitioners, and help support their work with clients.
I'm a member of the Association for Coaching and the Association of Coaching Supervisors. you can find out more about me on my about page.