Coaching the Coach
Simply put, and shorn of clichés, Coaching supervision is about coaching a coach.
Coaching Supervision is not about enhancing skills of a coach by mentoring competencies and adding to their repertoire of tools and techniques. Instead, the skills are enhanced by clearing internal barriers and beliefs that may impede the coach’s progress to mastery.
The 7 Eyed model of Peter Hawkins is the simplest way to understand the coaching supervision process. Here, the coach is the ‘supervised coach-client’, and the supervisor is the ‘supervising coach’. The context is the coaching experience of the supervised coach-client with one of their clients.
The first four eyes are about the interaction between the supervised coach-client and his/her client, as viewed through lenses of
- Background of the client being coached and the current situation
- What the coach-client has engaged in as processes, tools, techniques, etc with her/his coached client
- What is the relationship between the supervised coach client and her/his coached client?
- What is the awareness evoked in the supervised coach as sensing, feeling and thinking upon reflection when interacting with the supervisor?
These four lenses establish the current reality of the supervised coach in the supervision journey. During this process, a contracted agreement on the desired outcome, its measure of success, its importance, and what may need to be addressed to reach the desired outcome, as in any coaching interaction.
The next three lenses are about deeper exploration into the supervised coach’s mind both individually, with the supervisory interaction and a systemic viewpoint.
- The supervisor explores the psychological aspects of how the supervised coach is interacting with the supervisor to understand whether there are any parallel processes with the supervised coach’s interaction with her/his coached client, or even in other interactions that are being brought in as transference.
- The supervisor shares what she/he senses, feels and thinks while exploring and listening to the supervised coach. To my mind, this is probably the most critical part of supervision and one that is often most difficult for a coach to graduate into supervision.
- Finally, the last and seventh lens is the systemic one that explores the larger context of the supervised coach with the stakeholders and the organizational system.
In my experience of supervising coaches I have trained, there are some insights.
- Supervisors and coaches tend to reduce the process to one of ethics, competencies, and logistics. The coach’s issues arise from demands on sharing information on client conversation, coach not getting paid, coach unable to establish a meaningful contract with the client in an executive coaching context, etc. While these may be transactionally meaningful to the supervised coach, these are issues that belong to the realm of good coach training and mentoring with a focus on business issues of a coach.
- Some of these may, at a deeper level, reveal biases and limiting beliefs of the supervised coach. For instance, a supervised coach having difficulty in refusing to share confidential information or asking for compensation when client cancels an appointment at the last minute may have issues in saying “no” and in establishing a clear unambiguous contract. A supervised coach not able to establish a session or journey outcome goal with the client may reflect the absence or inability to engage in a multilevel conversation with client and client stakeholders to establish a mutually valuable outcome for the coaching journey. Supervision needs to raise these underlying issues for resolution.
- Many coaches moving into supervision carry the belief that sharing their insights and intuition may be judgmental and leading. This is possible. However, coaching competencies, especially in the 2019 updated ICF competencies, there is far more emphasis on self-awareness and self-reflection in the coach’s mindset, and the need to share these in a disengaged fashion with the client. A superficial and wrong understanding of coaching competencies may limit the ability of a coach in addressing the 6th Eye while supervising.
- Some degree of understanding of psychological processes such as parallel processing, transference, countertransference and such others are needed to explore with the 5th Eye. Coaches need to educate themselves on these to be good supervisors.