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Karyn Prentice

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Coaching supervision revealed


Coaches can help us, but who helps the coaches? Karyn Prentice tells us about coaching supervision.

I’d like to take the title of this article and turn it around and call it 'coaching supervision is a revelation'. The reason for this is to shift the energy towards what supervision can really be like: the spirit of co-created inquiry and discovery. With that in mind let’s look at coaching supervision through these three questions.

  1. What is actually covered in a coaching supervision session?
  2. The purpose of coaching supervision?
  3. The impact of coaching supervision beyond the session?

What is actually covered in a coaching supervision session?

I am going use the metaphor of two people walking together side-by-side in a garden to describe the experience of supervision. Imagine a garden that is lush and verdant with a variety of interesting places to visit. At the centre of the walk is the relationship of the coach and the coach supervisor as they walk and stop to reflect together. The coach’s client is kept in mind they progress. The walk may take them to a number of places in the garden albeit at a slower pace than one might use when going straight from A to B or it may be that they linger for some time in only one place in the garden to really see what is there. If we think of this virtual garden as the whole sphere of the coach’s work then this is the 'terrain' of coaching supervision and the walk.

The walk provides a number of ways to see and experience both the garden and being in it. Each visit to the garden will seem new and different on some way. Both people are open to learning that arises in that moment. Relationships - and that includes the working alliance of coach and coach supervisor- are at the heart of this kind of work.

The conversation that arises may be about any aspect of the coach’s work whether about their own development or the case work they bring. It could be about the contracting that will have been set up between all parties. It may use different frameworks like the seven-eyed model to guide that reflective dialogue. Insight may emerge at many different levels in and around this conversation in the garden. It might look at questions of ethical boundaries or critical moments in a particular case. What choices were you aware of in the moment? What else might have been happening in you? What are you most curious about? Teaching moments might present themselves. Different tools, theories, and ways of working might be explored.

"To take one’s coaching practice to a deeper and wider level of discovery and wisdom is a way to really raise the bar on the quality of our work."

Almost certainly as the two people walk in the garden fresh awareness and new perspectives may arise. Really good coaching supervision works beyond tools and techniques to arrive at a deeper understanding and insight in how we are being as coaches. The coach supervisor is fully present to the whole of the person s/he is walking alongside of, holding differences with awareness and care, whilst being highly flexible with a range of skills, language and ability.

Because both coach and coach supervisor are co-sensing and co-creating in this supervision ‘walk’ in the garden an emergent dialogue happens. As coach supervisors, we are servants of the dialogue, so we too will get surprises and possibly be changed as well.

Sometimes being in the garden will mean attending to the resilience and robustness of the inner state of the coach. Conversely, a vigorous exploration involving an ethical dilemma may occupy the conversation. All this and much more is possible [1].

What is the purpose of supervision?

Coaching supervision is a relational learning space aimed at supporting coaches (or in fact anyone who works intensely with others, e.g. consultants, HR, CEOs) to be as resourced, skilled and as insightful as possible each and every time they go back out to their clients, boardroom, or meeting.

In addition coaching supervision also acts as a guardian of ethical, safe, best practice in coaching. As more and more demands are made by organisations of their people so coaches are asked to hold so much more. Clients are bringing bigger questions with them to the coaching.

Exploring how to 'do' coaching is important. Where the real revelation comes is when we also give time in this space for who we are as coaches. Who we are as people will be how we coach. To take one’s coaching practice to a deeper and wider level of discovery and wisdom is a way to really raise the bar on the quality of our work. Coaching supervision can offer a space of acceptance, compassion and kindliness yet appropriately and positively challenging is refreshing and nourishing for head and heart.

What is the impact of doing this?

Because this walk in the garden holds the client, the supervisor and the coach at the heart of this exercise, it provides the conditions for the coach to take their increased awareness, greater presence, skills, and insights back into their coaching work. It informs the quality of the interventions they make and the relationships they grow with their clients and with the organisation. It often means the coach can hold that difficult - but not unfamiliar to many coaches - place of uncertainty and not-knowing, confusion, ambivalence, and emotion that can arise in the session and in the system much more effectively. In doing so, they model and support the client to find their own way to do the same thing in the spirit of discovery, compassion and non-judgment. That is often itself quite a revelation.

Karyn Prentice is an assistant director at Coaching Supervision Academy. She is also the co-author of ‘Full Spectrum Supervision’ (£14.99 Panoma Press)

[1] This whole terrain (the garden) is presented in a unique way called The Full Spectrum Model ( which illustrates the rich field of what can be covered in coaching supervision


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