Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Coaching Supervision in Organizations

We recently published an article entitled “Coaching Supervision in Organizations ~ A game-changer to improve the impact of coaching written by Jeff Nally & Kimcee McAnally.

The thought of working with an experienced coach to support leaders is a well-accepted practice across corporations and industries around the world. Leaders readily engage with coaches during leadership transitions, challenging situations, and to enhance their own skills as leaders in their organizations.

But who takes care of and develops the coach? Often times, coaches are independent and run their own business, fending for themselves when it comes to their own self-care and personal development. Coaching supervision is a well-established practice in many parts of the world to support the coaches themselves as they coach organizational leaders.

The purpose of coaching supervision is to enable coaches to introspectively look at themselves, how they coach, and about their professional health as a coach. As a result, coaches are better able to develop and enhance their own skills so they can better support the leaders and organizations. According to a 2021 publication, “The role of the supervisor is that of a supporter… in the professional development journey and not that of an assessor” (Hemmer et al.)

This article is intended for organizations and coaches who are curious about supervision – how it works, the benefits, and how to incorporate coaching supervision for yourself as a coach, or in an organization.

Coach practice leaders in organizations have a variety of responsibilities to meet internal operational requirements. For example, organizations are increasingly requiring external coaching services to be vetted and contracted through internal procurement or supplier management requirements. Such requirements include a measure of continuous improvement or quality assurance for coaching services. Coaching supervision is highly regarded as a continuous improvement or quality assurance practice that increases credibility for the coaches and the coaching program.

Organizational settings provide additional layers of context, stakeholders, relationships and ecosystems that impact the coach, the coachee and their coaching experience. Coaching supervision is one effective way to help the coach unpack their reflections on the impact of the organizational context and systems, acknowledge complexity without having it detract from the coaching experience, and reflect on the similarities and differences between coaching in a variety of organizations.

Coaching supervision for internal coaches provides a unique way to reflect, develop and grow. While many internal coaches create coaching circles or peer groups, these are often focused on knowledge gathering and sharing rather than a professionally guided reflective space. The advantage of coaching supervision led by a trained and certified supervisor for internal coaches is an intentional way that cases and coaching situations can be brought forward without identifying people or departments. This helps preserve strict confidentiality while maintaining the primary focus of reflection.

Group supervision can create even deeper layers of reflection as the wisdom of the group and their collective reflections may contribute to coaches presenting a variety of coaching cases or client situations. When the group is composed of coaches who coach in the same organization or industry, there can be additional shared insights, observations and learning about the overall context in which coaching occurs. This helps each coach understand the organization or industry beyond their own coaching engagements.

Supervision is one of the best practices for coaches’ continual professional development. It enables the coach to step back – look at themselves and consider who they are being as a coach – and bring real-world or hypothetical, practical or ambiguous issues and challenges to supervision. The supervision experience supports the coach to maintain a healthy outlook, disposition, and ability to handle the challenges of being a coach (McAnally et al., 2020a).

As a seasoned coach who has only recently started supervision, Debra Kopelman described her experience after three group supervision sessions: “It can be helpful… to show coaches what they’re not seeing themselves; their blind spots. There were at least one or two things that really either shifted my perspective or gave me something tangible to do.”

The types of topics a coach may bring to supervision are vast and unlimited. Common examples are reflecting on the effectiveness of a recent coaching session; difficulties with a leader who is resistant to coaching; patterns the coach has noticed lately about how the coach is behaving during sessions (e.g., interrupting or being impatient); or recognizing one’s own assumptions, biases, or triggers as a coach.

One global research study found that the vast majority of coaches in Europe consistently partner with a coach supervisor. While supervision is less prominent for coaches in Asia and North America, it is gaining popularity with the realization of its benefits (McAnally et al. 2020b). According to the authors of a 2017 research study, “Supervision of coaches… is now considered a normal way to ensure the professionalism and the quality of their work for the benefit of their clients” (Moral et al. 2018).

Realistic questions for a coach are – “what happens if I don’t have supervision? I’ve been coaching for a long time– why would I need supervision now – what’s in it for me?” While it is true that many successful coaches have never had supervision – the adage “you don’t know what you are missing” is perhaps applicable here. It is our perspective that all coaches can benefit from coaching supervision, no matter how experienced or successful the coach may be. To not do so is to deprive yourself as a coach and your clients of an effective means to stay at the top of your game.

The authors propose that coaching supervision benefits all coaches – whether they are just getting started as a coach – or already have a thriving practice.

So how can you begin supervision? As a coach, it starts with finding a trained, certified Coach Supervisor who will guide you through the process. As you reflect together, you will quickly see how supervision benefits you, and the positive impact it has on your practice, and well-being as a coach.

As an organization, it is oftentimes better to contract with outside resources for coaching supervision, to preserve confidentiality and objectivity. Coaching supervision is very useful as a means of ensuring the quality of the coaches’ work and giving coaches an outlet for challenges, surprises, and curiosities – all in order to support the coaching engagements with your leaders.

Supervision will be essential as organizations seek ways to ensure higher-quality coaching and develop coaches to create greater impact with leaders, teams and the organization.

Tell us what you think about this issue and this Feature article.

How does it apply to you and the women in your life?
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