Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Coaching Supervision for Corporate Coaches


coaching supervision

The Next Big Trend

Recently, I received an urgent call from an executive coach who needed to hire a coach supervisor for himself in order to be qualified to put his name forward for a potential cadre of coaches for a major global corporate client’s request for proposal (RFP).

Corporate buyers of executive and leadership coaching have become savvy to the value of coaches receiving coaching supervision from professionally trained coach supervisors. In Europe, coaching supervision has become a standard process and is quickly becoming an expectation of coaches serious about continuing professional development.

A recent global study online survey of 1,280 participants completed by Kimcee McAnally, Lilian Abrams, Mary Jo Asmus, and Terry Hildebrandt, found that 57 percent of coaches in EMEA reported that they currently work with a coach supervisor, while 38 percent of APAC coaches and only 20 percent of the coaches in the Americas currently work with a coach supervisor. However, coaching supervision is beginning to take hold in the Americas, as evidenced by more coach supervisor certification training programs being offered and an annual Coaching Supervision Conference (

“By hiring a coach supervisor coaches show their commitment to ongoing professional development.”


The International Coach Federation (ICF) on their website describes coaching supervision as “a collaborative learning practice to continually build the capacity of the coach through reflective dialogue and to benefit his or her clients and the overall system” (ICF, 2017).

Coaching supervision is not “supervision” in the traditional sense of a boss/subordinate relationship. Rather, the coach supervisor is a peer coach who has been specifically trained to create a safe, confidential environment for a coach to reflect on their client engagements in order to receive support, discuss possible coaching strategies, deal with ethical issues, and maintain their own continuing professional development.

Coaching supervision differs from mentor coaching and coaching itself. Mentor coaching is focused primarily on developing skills, including the 11 ICF Coaching Core Competencies (ICF, 2019), and most often involves listening to client recordings and providing feedback to the coach on their skills.

Coaching is more focused on helping clients achieve greater self-awareness, setting goals, and managing progress to achieve goals. Coach supervision is intended to be an ongoing process, even for very experienced coaches, for continuing professional development.


Coaching supervision has become a requirement to maintain a coaching credential for several Europe-based professional accreditation bodies including the European Mentoring & Coaching Council (EMCC), the Association for Coaching (AC), and the Association for Professional Executive Coaching and Supervision (APECS).

The EMCC recommends one hour of coach supervision for every 35 hours of coaching. While the ICF has not yet required supervision, they do encourage it is one form of continuing professional development for coaches and allow 10 hours of coach supervision to count toward recertification at the core competency level every three years. The number of trained supervisors also continues to grow globally and specifically in the Americas. Coach training programs are also including coaching supervision as part of their requirements (Fielding Graduate University, 2019).


Coach supervision is a powerful process to support executive and leadership coaches and maintaining the quality and effectiveness of their coaching. Since coaching is very personal and confidential process, a coach supervisor can serve as a welcome partner in helping both external and internal coaches working in corporations and other organizations to reflect on client cases, examine their own reactions to clients, and to receive professional and emotional support from a trusted other.

Certified coach supervisors learn the necessary skills to recognize common challenges that come up in supervision and can provide necessary support to expose coaches’ blind spots and help them be more effective in their work.

Buyers of coaching services in global corporations are recognizing the power of coaching supervision to elevate the quality and consistency of executive and leadership coaching within organizations.


The Americas Coaching Supervision Network ( provides a networking forum for coach supervisors to learn from each other and for client referrals. The EMCC has an accreditation process for coaching supervision training programs and lists credentialed training providers on its website (EMCC, 2017). Experienced supervisors can also apply for individual accreditation as a coaching supervisor from the EMCC, the Association for Coaching (AC), and the Association for Professional Executive Coaching and Supervision (APECS).


One important question for a corporation is, “should coaching supervision be provided by an external or internal coach supervisor?” Again, coach supervision is not really supervision in the traditional sense of a hierarchy.

Due to the confidential nature of coaching conversations, I strongly advocate that coach supervisors need to be external to the organization in order to create a level of safety and confidentiality for the coach to bring out issues. This is the same argument that many HR leaders use to hire external executive coaches for senior leaders.

Also, for internal coaches, we strongly recommend that their direct manager not serve the role of “coach supervisor,” because coaches need to be able to be vulnerable with their coach supervisor regarding their limitations and challenges.

Unlike a direct manager, external professional coach supervisors do not evaluate coaches for performance, ranking and pay. Internal coaches are more likely to be transparent with an external supervisor who is committed to confidentiality.


Over the last 10 years, the coaching supervision training programs and scholarly community have developed best practices and standards for supervision. Coach supervision emerged from the supervision processes common in the helping professions such as psychology and psychotherapy. However, coach supervision scholars have developed their own books, methods, and processes specifically designed for coaches (Bachkirova, Jackson, & Clutterbuck, 2011).

One such popular method is the Seven-Eyed Model created by Hawkins and Shohet (1989). This process examines the client-coach supervisor system from seven different perspectives. These include:

  • the client
  • the interventions of the coach
  • the coach-client relationship
  • the self-awareness of the coach
  • coach-supervisor relations and parallel processes
  • the supervisor’s reactions and reflections
  • the overall system

The Seven-Eyed Model enables examination and reflection from multiple perspectives, which can elicit deep insights to improve the quality and effectiveness of the coaching engagement.

Coaching supervision can be delivered in one-on-one settings or in group supervision. Group supervision has the advantages of hearing about similar situations that other coaches are dealing with an organization.

One challenge may be to maintain the confidentiality of coachees if the coaches in the coach supervision group all work in the same organization. A better practice may be to assign coaches to supervision groups with members from different divisions or organizations within the company in order to reduce the likelihood of confidentiality issues.


Coaching supervision is becoming a required best practice for corporate buyers of executive and leadership coaching in order to ensure the quality and consistency of coaching delivery. It is already well-established in Europe and will continue to grow in popularity in the Americas over the next few years.

Coaching supervision creates a safe, confidential space for coaches to discuss client issues and strategies. By hiring a coach supervisor, coaches show their commitment to ongoing professional development. If you have never experienced formal coach supervision, I encourage you to try it yourself and see the benefits firsthand that a supervisor relationship can provide.

Let’s engage. Share this article with colleagues. Comment on this article to share your thoughts. What other big trends do you see coming our way?


Bachkirova, T., Jackson, P., & Clutterbuck, D. (2011). Coaching and Mentoring Supervision: Theory and practice. New York: NY: Open University Press. EMCC. (2017). About the European Supervision Quality Award, from en/accreditation/esqa Fielding Graduate University. (2019). Comprehensive evidence-based coaching certificate, from php?catoid=6&poid=243&returnto=331 Hawkins, P., & Shohet, R. (1989). Supervision in the helping professions. Maidenhead: Open University Press. ICF. (2017). Coaching supervision, from

The original article was written by Terry H. Hildebrandt, Ph.D., MCC, MCEC and originally appeared in choice, the magazine of professional coaching.

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