in     by Mary Britton 31-08-2016

Leaving your Supervision session well-resourced/Ready to Coach…

“To realize that you do not understand is a virtue; Not to realise that you do not understand is a defect.”
Lao Tzu

As coaches we are accustomed to operating from a powerful place where it is the coachee who has the answers. We may also find ourselves sometimes bored, frustrated, irritated or in sympathy with our coachees. If we do not enquire into the source of these feelings we may make assumptions about what is going on. Here’s a case which may help us understand ourselves a little better. (This case is real and the coach’s name has been changed.)

Harry’s Case:
Harry is an experienced coach, with a high coaching credential and many years of experience. Harry has 10 1:1 clients and he is working with two senior teams. Harry wants to be known as a transformational coach. He wishes to feel ‘curiosity, joy and commitment’ to his clients. Harry believes that the coachees who choose him are preventing him from achieving that outcome.  
Harry is feeling stressed. His clients irritate him, almost all the time. He ascribes it to “their inability to commit to the changes needed to make them better leaders.” He tries to set his irritations aside but he is getting more irritated. Harry, as you can tell, perceives this irritation as coming from outside himself – from the behaviours of his clients.

Harry now feels that his stress and his irritation are stopping him from being fully present in his 1:1 coaching sessions. And he believes that this stress is now spilling into his team coaching sessions where he is starting to see the same pattern – amongst the team members in those teams. Let’s consider what a coaching supervisor might offer to support and challenge Harry in moving towards a more resourced state as a coach; allowing him to rediscover some curiosity, joy and commitment to his work.

First step, referring again to Lao Tzu’s quote above, is to realise that there is something here that Harry does not know. Something he is not understanding. Harry has placed the focus of the problem outside himself. His supervisor offered the following approaches/places to start:

1.    Using the 7 eyed model (Hawkins and Shohet) to allow other perspectives into Harry’s thinking.
2.    Inviting Harry to consider that the stress he feels could be connected to the emotional response which he is reporting. And then, with Harry’s permission, exploring that emotional response.
3.    Remembering Harry is bringing this matter to supervision and asking some ‘what’s happening now’ questions – such as how long has he been feeling this way? How stressed is he out of ten? What are the impacts of that stress? And visioning questions such as when this is solved and everything in your coaching landscape is working well – what will that look like? Or supposing we have solved this and you are feeling differently how will you be feeling in your coaching practice?
4.     In group supervision the supervisor also invited, with Harry’s permission, other coaching group members to ask questions to stimulate his thinking. (Hot seat supervision.)

As you can tell transforming reality for Harry had him identify, own and get into action to change something. Harry chose to adopt one of his desired coaching qualities and practice it at every coaching session – his plan was to change his behaviour and see what happened. Harry chose curiosity. (PS Restoring his curiosity about his coachees transformed Harry – and Harry was delighted to discover that when he changed so did his coaches!)

Coaching supervisor’s often have to be bold – as it is part of our role to ensure that coaches leave supervision sessions feeling restored and resourced and able to practice as effective coaches.
In choosing your supervisor it’s important to choose someone who you will allow to challenge you, who you recognise as a partner in your coaching development who you trust is ‘on your side’.
More on choosing a supervisor coming soon at the ICF Auckland Conference 2016 which offers one more place to consider this a little more for yourself. Hope to see you there.

Mary Britton
ontact me on with your feedback or thoughts.