Is coaching supervision new to you? If you pay any attention to the buzz about how to level up your coaching practice, you are likely aware of this reflective support for coaches. While the EMCC has encouraged coaching supervision as a best practice for years, the ICF now recommends supervision to all team coaches. It is also required when applying for the Advanced Certification in Team Coaching (ACTC).

As a coaching supervisor, I know there’s confusion about how and why these sessions are such an important resource for professional development. Perhaps you’ve heard coaches using different metaphors to describe what it does. The process itself might seem a bit mysterious and abstract, but it is solidly based on adult learning and the reflective cycle. While coaches need to develop their own internal supervisor, just as they do in coaching, it helps to have a trained professional alongside you on this journey. They can lend support and shine a light on areas you might not otherwise explore.

Why is it worth your time to try coaching supervision? Buckle up and get ready for a journey that’s part enlightening and (hopefully) somewhat entertaining.

 

What is coaching supervision and why do coaches need it?

Picture this, if you will: coaches sipping on cups of introspection and nibbling on bites of reflection, all the while enhancing their skills, refining their techniques and staying current and fit-for-purpose practitioners.

Supervision provides a structured framework, and dedicated time and space for coaches to engage in reflective dialogue. With vulnerability and a beginner’s mind, coaches can partner with other colleagues and a professionally trained supervisor to truly get curious, take a balcony view and critically evaluate their practice in a safe and expansive way.

Understanding the role of a coach supervisor

The EMCC defines coaching supervision as “a form of facilitated reflective practice; it is a reflective dialogue that is designed to ensure we are all delivering our best work in the service of our clients.”

The ICF believes this practice increases confidence, self-awareness, objectivity, resourcefulness and belonging.

I am fortunate to have the extraordinarily gifted professor-coach-supervisor Tatiana Bachkirova as my PhD supervisor, and appreciate her definition for its simplicity: helping coaches to see more than they currently see in their work. This resource supports you in developing SuperVision. It is less about someone else judging or policing you or your coaching, and much more about discovering how to lean into your strengths. Coaching supervision can include elements of mentoring, guiding you in experimenting with and polishing the technical skills of coaching. More than guiding your way, supervisors fly alongside you as copilots, as you gain altitude and perspective in examining who you are as a coach. They explore and stretch with you to see where the personal may be impacting the professional in your practice.

Exploring the benefits of supervision for coaching practice

As a supervisee, you’ll cross edges to grow and develop as a professional in parallel with the clients you serve. Think of it as a rejuvenating spa experience. You may feel a bit of pressure in the form of a respectful challenge, but this is all part of working the kinks out of how you are practicing. The reward is more ease and flow in your interactions with clients.

Coaching supervision can enhance professional development

Through supervision, coaches have the opportunity to explore personal biases, limitations, and blind spots. (Yes, even as coaches we all have them!). This leads to enhanced self-awareness, personal growth, and self-development – the very things we are so skilled at facilitating and championing in our work with clients. If it’s good for the goose, might it not also benefit the gander? Supervision also provides a mechanism for coaches to hold themselves accountable for their actions, decisions, and professional conduct, promoting accountability and integrity in our discipline. You might even say that supervision moves the needle in recognizing coaching as a profession.

reflective practice: crystal ball of coaching supervision

How does coaching supervision enhance the quality of coaching?

As coaches, we encourage our clients to adjust the lens on their usual way of operating, stepping out of their habitual perspective. Coaches need the same nudge to keep growing and developing. Especially when working with the complexity of team coaching, it’s easy to feel a bit wobbly when a client doesn’t seem to be progressing, or progressing at the rate we’d hoped to achieve.  Supervision helps coaches to (re)build confidence in our abilities, validate our skills and move over the self-doubt or imposter syndrome hurdles we all inevitably face from time to time. Those who support coaching supervision say that these rejuvenating rendezvous with a supervisor, either one-on-one or in a group, can breathe new life into their coaching practices.

Ensuring ethical practice through supervision

Ah, the thrill of the coaching frontier! Supervision provides coaches with the ultimate treasure map for continuous learning. It’s a never-ending quest for new techniques, daring escapades into client conundrums, and epic battles against the monsters of mediocrity – and in these wild jungles of coaching, and especially team coaching, ethical dilemmas lurk around every corner. Coaching supervision can serve as a trusty compass through the ethical maze.

Supervision sessions offer a confidential space for coaches to discuss ethical dilemmas, seek the perspective of an experienced supervisor and perhaps also colleagues in group supervision. Supervision groups facilitate peer support, collaboration and knowledge sharing among coaches, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie. Coaches can navigate the murky waters of morality with grace, exploring their own relationship and north star with sticky situations and ethical considerations while ensuring adherence to professional ethical standards as well.

Are there reasons not to try coaching supervision?

My personal belief, while admittedly biased, is that coaches who engage in coaching supervision demonstrate a commitment to quality assurance and continuous improvement. By engaging in this practice, they signal their focus on high standards of practice and client satisfaction.

That being said, some excellent coaches prefer to roam the untamed wilderness of coaching solo, armed only with their wits and their trusty coaching toolkit. They don’t see a need to affiliate with a professional credentialling body, and might believe that true coaching prowess comes from forging their own path, free from the shackles of external supervision.

Some feel that intuition and empathy are all that they need to connect with clients on a deep level. I too have a very deep intuition that allows me to quickly connect at a very deep level with most of my clients. I value my autonomy immensely, and often prefer to work independently without external oversight or guidance, believing it fosters my creativity, flexibility and authenticity in my coaching practice. So I totally get this perspective. That being said, I also know my clients and I both benefit from my collaborations with other coaching professionals, whether that be a co-coach, a coach mentor or a coach supervisor or any other helping professional (such as a therapist or physical trainer). Different perspectives and external support are invaluable.

With the abundance of online resources, professional networks and self-directed learning opportunities available, some coaches may question the need for formal coaching supervision. Who needs a supervisor when you’ve got a treasure trove of alternative sources for professional development and support? With a plethora of resources just a click away, some coaches feel like they have everything they need to conquer the coaching world all on their own. Perhaps they do, or perhaps they perceive supervision as indicative of incompetence.

The importance of accreditation in supervision

It’s also possible for coaches to have had a negative experience with supervision in the past. Maybe they received mentoring misnamed as supervision, and/or felt judged, criticized or unsupported. I empathize with these coaches and understand the hesitancy to engage again, preferring to avoid potential sources of discomfort or distress. If I lacked trust in the competence, credibility or confidentiality of potential supervisors, I too would be apprehensive about sharing sensitive information or receiving guidance from them.

Asking a few questions about the training and background of your supervisor can help you to avoid a bad experience. Ask what training and experience in coaching supervision they have, and whether the accreditation is recognized by professional coaching bodies such as the EMCC. (Psst … Novalda’s Diploma in Team Coaching Supervision is!)

You might also find out how long they have provided this service, what other qualifications they hold, who their own supervisor is and whether they can provide client testimonials.

 

How many hours of coaching supervision do coaches need?

As mentioned, EMCC Global has recommended coaching supervision for years. To meet their standards, experienced coaches need at least four hours of one-on-one supervision each year, spread evenly across twelve months. Experienced coaches should have one hour of supervision for every 35 hours of coaching practice.

Awareness of the benefits of this coaching resource is spreading. The ICF now accepts up to 10 hours of coaching supervision for credentialing or renewal. Five hours of supervision are required to obtain the ACTC.

 

How does supervision support the coaching ecosystem?

Continuing professional development through supervision

Ultimately, coaching supervision can and should benefit our clients by ensuring we are all working at our best; being competent, ethical, and effective in our practice and leading to better outcomes and experiences for clients. Engaging in coaching supervision is a personal decision influenced by individual preferences, values, and circumstances. Some coaches may simply prefer to pursue alternative paths for professional development or support that better align with their needs and preferences.

Whether you choose to embark on the thrilling quest for renewal, professional development, and ethical guidance, or prefer to chart your own course through the rich seas of autonomy and intuition, remember this: the coaching world is vast and diverse, with room for every type of adventurer. So go forth, brave souls, and may your coaching journeys be as wild and wonderful as you are!

Larissa Thurlow, PCC, ACTC, ITCA, ESIA, is a member of Novalda’s coaching supervision team, and one of three powerful, pioneering co-creators who developed a Diploma in Team Coaching Supervision program delivered through Novalda. Larissa is currently pursuing a doctorate in team coaching supervision at Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom.

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