It’s heartening to see an increasing number of organisations embracing coaching and embedding it into their culture. If your organisation is one of them, you are highly likely to have all the following in place:

  • Organisational leaders have bought into coaching – tick!
  • Coaching is written into your HR and People strategy – tick!
  • You have run some coaching development programmes – tick!
  • Organisational coaches are regularly coaching employees – tick!
  • Coaching supervision is in place to support your coaches…. Puzzled look

As a practice within counselling and other supportive professions, supervision has been around for many years; in coaching it is a relatively recent area of development. As coaching becomes a more professionalised sector and increasingly established within organisations, focus must now move towards how we support our coaches.

Supervision provides a formal platform of supplementary support for coaches to help them establish their skills and working practices, and to provide opportunities for reflection and review over time. De Haan (2012) says that Supervisors have 3 key relationships with their coaches:

  • Developer – as a coach shares their experiences, the Supervisor ‘shines a light’ on their practice and reflection. They explore themes, providing insight, testing what they have learnt and how they might approach coaching differently in the future. The process looks beyond surface conversations into richer thoughts and feelings around the coaching.
  • Gatekeeper – by listening, the Supervisor helps ensure that the coach is ‘the best version of their coaching selves’. This quality assurance ensures the coach remains aware of their responsibilities to themselves, their coachees and the wider organisation.
  • Nurse – restoratively, the Supervisor encourages the Coach to remain ‘healthy’ in their coaching practice. They create confidential opportunities to share and discuss situations, relationships or moments in their sessions. Exploring the highs and lows of their experience in coaching, and what it may mean for them as people and coaches.

Supervision for trainee coaches and beyond

Supervision is an integral part of coaching qualifications, providing a sounding board as coachees find their ‘coaching feet’. It is a highly valuable part of the process, to help them develop and grow as coaches. As a qualified coach supervisor myself, I see the value that supervision provides, which is why I’m a strong advocate for further supervision, once coaches are qualified.

In reality, once qualifications are achieved, supervision often disappears. Coaches might occasionally share their thoughts and experiences with other coach colleagues, but there isn’t a framework for them to have discussions in a safer, more professional environment. Where organisations run coach development programmes that aren’t mapped against coaching competencies, it is even more critical that coaches have access to supervision.

Frequent supervision will provide valuable organisational qualitative insight and feedback on:

  • The current ‘temperature’ around employee engagement
  • The impact of current organisational initiatives and change
  • The impact of leadership behaviours on employee performance
  • The nature of coaching assignments undertaken and what this might mean in terms of future employee need, development or leadership

Supervision is a proactive intervention to promote higher standards of coaching, and to have checks and balances in place to ensure coaching is aligned with organisational goals, and people development initiatives. Its benefits are far reaching including:

  • Reinforcing coaching standards expected by the profession and organisation, ensuring quality provision
  • Reducing organisational risks, ensuring ethical practice is occurring
  • Promoting coaching as an organisational activity, increasing the numbers interested in becoming coachees, and increasing commitment from existing coaches
  • Encouraging richer line management-team conversations in 121’s and appraisals, leading to wider culture change and people focus
  • Further establishing coaching as a driver for organisational development and improved people performance

Recommended guidelines for coaching supervision

Governing bodies for coaching encourage coaches to undertake CPD and recommend that there is a ratio of coaching hours to supervision conversations. The EMCC suggests for every 35 hours of coaching there should be 1 hour of supervision thus endorsing the practice of coaches having formal access to quality support and development.

As in any professional practice, it’s important to recognise the importance of maintaining quality, and in recognising that coaches too need to grow and develop from their own experiences. Through a programme of regular supervision, we’ll ensure that organisations continue to benefit from the service of coaches who continue to strive to be the best that they can be.

Erik De Haan (2012) – Supervision in Action. A Relational Approach to Coaching and Consulting Supervision. Open University Press. McGraw Hill

About Nick

Nick Howell, Coach SupervisorNick is a qualified coach and training practitioner and a qualified coach supervisor with a real passion for his profession. He believes strongly that coaching has a place in all organisations and is one of the few development tools that can make transformational change at an individual and organisational level.

You can read more about Nick and his personal approach to coaching here.

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