Sacred Space: What is Coaching Super-vision?

There are times when, as a coach, I wonder what I could have done better in a session that did not go so well. Perhaps I was triggered by the client, or I became directive. And, there are other times when I want to reflect on a very successful coaching session to discover what I did well that I want to pay attention to going forward. And, sometimes, I just need to process something out loud, in a safe place, where there are no judgements. Such is the space of coaching super-vision.

Super-vision is an emerging field. I have learned that in Europe, there are a growing number of organizations who require coaches they hire to be working with a supervisor. Super-vision is quality assurance for these organizations. 

As I go through my journey to become a certified coach supervisor, I ponder what sets a supervisor apart from a coach, or a therapist, or a mentor coach. The terms and roles seem to, at times, be interchangeable. So far, the terms seem to sit on an overlapping continuum. Coach to mentor coach, to coach supervisor. To me, a therapist is not a part of the continuum; however, knowing some of the psychodynamic theories and models helps a supervisor recognize patterns that we have, as coaches. And, when awareness is raised, we can better choose what to do about them.

Super-vision is about working in partnership to clear the field of anything getting in the way of me bringing my best to my coaching. Some of the topics that Michele and I have taken to super-vision and/or had supervisees bring to us include:

  • Perceived breaches of confidentiality
  • The feeling of having plateaued in skillset and ability as a coach
  • Concerns around ethics as an internal coach who knows many people in the system and maintaining confidentiality under pressures to disclose
  • Wanting to be more challenging as a coach
  • Contracting with sponsors
  • Understanding the coach’s  self development within the context of leadership coaching
  • Practice innovative use of skills with the supervisor to expand coaching proficiencies
  • Fine tune one’s intuitive capacity to positively affect the coaching conversation/relationship
  • Identifying one’s blind spots and patterns of communications
  • Increasing and expanding perspectives when feeling stuck with the client
  • Exploring the role and contribution that coaching can make in the system 
  • Expanding one’s understanding of the importance  of relationship in creating success in coaching
  • Wanting to still the mind of “gremlins”
  • Having a difficult time coaching one gender in particular
  • Boundaries between being a coach and having direct influence/authority over the coach’s work
  • The struggle of defining the line between coaching and therapy
  • Insecurities around “not being enough” 
  • Wondering whether coaching is the right profession 
  • Feeling the need to protect a client from the organization or from another person
  • Feeling ashamed of being “hooked” or drawn into the client’s story

The role of the supervisor is to create the space for this important work to occur because even for me to admit any of these scenarios feels vulnerable. It feels like a very sacred space that needs to be co-created. A space where I can speak freely and feel no judgement; just empathy and curiosity from someone who is fully present and who will work as my thinking partner to help me figure out what is going on. So, what would be the elements that I need in order to open myself to being vulnerable? To me, the most important is relationship. I need to be able to trust my supervisor to hold my confidences and work with me; to probe gently and make observations and to also show his/her vulnerabilities.  And, I need space for quiet reflection. It almost feels like slowing things down so that I am able to take the time to reflect as needed.  It’s like someone holding up a mirror and being in slow motion.

While there are tools to learn, super-vision is not a prescribed process, nor does it work from a template. It feels like Tai Chi, a slow motion exercise between two people, bending and yielding, and stepping forward and back in synchronicity. There is an energy field that feels different and yet oddly familiar. And, there is total trust in my partner to bend and yield together with me. And, sometimes, it feels like the Cha-Cha, and, at other times, ballet in motion.

What is getting in your way as a coach? And are you willing to risk being vulnerable in order to increase your effectiveness as a coach? How do you clear your own field?

Lily and Michele

Sacred Space: The Journey Begins

As accomplished coaches, who do we process our “stuff” with? Who can we trust enough to bare our souls; our deepest, darkest vulnerabilities and fears to? Do we even need to, and are we even willing to? Is it enough to have reached a level of designation from a credentialing organization? 

This is the intersect into coaching supervision. 

The term “coaching supervision” carries a great deception - it leaves one with visions of being evaluated by someone holding a clipboard checking off little boxes in judgement of your demonstrated skills. The concept of supervision is just that - a concept, a social construct. 

We, Lily and Michele, are two coaches on a journey into the heart of coaching supervision, the space created where a new truth can emerge. When two or more people come together in a connected relationship, accompanied by presence and curiosity, magic can happen.

We are learners participating in the first North American cohort of the Coaching Supervision Academy Diploma Course (http://coachingsupervisionacademy.com/). We welcome you to join us on our journey, as we blog about our experiences as supervisors and our learnings from the course.

Lily’s journey

About a year ago, I recognized that I had plateaued in my coaching practice. In searching for how to deepen my own coaching practice, and to add value to the internal coach development work that I am responsible for, I stumbled upon supervision. I quickly realized the value of working with someone who could create a sacred place with me to work on what was getting in my way of moving from a good coach to a better coach. I have come to appreciate the sacred space that can be created for the deep work that happens between the supervisor and the supervisee. The freedom to process whatever I need to process and to say whatever needs to be said without being judged is a very unique and special space. It's where I can grow and deepen my ability to be fully present with my clients, dancing in the moment. I'm looking forward to blogging about my journey to become a CSA coach supervisor.

Michele’s journey

After 15 years of practice I stepped onto the path of coaching supervision seeking to reveal a deeper understanding of “Who” I am and “How” I want to be as a coach. I wanted to reignite the intimacy with the sacred space that lies within; rekindle the joy of coaching that comes in the beginning when we sit for the first time, in front of the client, with a beginner’s mind. 

About a year ago while coaching a client, I suddenly witnessed myself feeling a great deal of doubt about the value I was adding. Later that day, I felt discouraged because I realized I had not challenged the client’s thinking and perspective on the topic at hand. In that moment, I had relinquished my coaching skills and fallen into collusion with the client. It may have been triggered by what the client was saying, or could be that my attention was being pulled away because I was overriding an emerging feeling, possibly being triggered by the client’s story.

I wanted to discover what was at play when coaching this client. I asked myself what stopped me from challenging him. What pulled me off course and caused me to lose my way in that moment? I needed a space where I could partner in reflection and be held by deep acceptance and allowing. Now having experienced supervision, I know it would have enabled me to inquire into my experience of angst and doubt. It would have revealed a hidden reality that wanted to be seen and would have informed, more fully, my coaching relationship with this client. 

Lily and I would like to invite you to join us on our journey. We will share our stories of learning; the joys and challenges that will reveal themselves to us as we walk this path together and find our way back to the sacred space within.

Michele Roy can be reached at CoachRoy@telus.net

Lily Seto can be reached at lilyseto@telus.net