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Coaches need to be coached – Oh and supervised!

Judith Barton Director of Coaching and Mentoring British School of Coaching
Judith Barton
Director of Coaching and Mentoring
British School of Coaching

To me, running a coaching practice is similar to being in a legal or medical practice.  As a professional coach I am going on a journey with my clients enabling them to delve into their own resources so that they can develop a sense of their own potential and are supported to realise that potential through listening, questioning and challenging.  But in the end it is their own decision – as a coach it is not my place to provide guidance or advice but to draw out from clients their own understanding and enable them to make choices to develop their own careers and futures.

Professional coaches are also practicing – practicing our skills, reviewing and reflecting on how each coaching session progressed and the interactions which took place.  Finally, a coach must create an accurate an accurate baseline. This sets out their strengths and areas for improvement and leads to a personal development plan to be actioned.  Once implemented, this plan is subject to review, reflection and further planning for improvement.  As part of this process, the coach must also recognise and celebrate their strengths and achievements. This leads me to four central tenets of running a coaching practice – which are: self-review supported by supervision, maintaining their skills base; keeping up to date with research and thinking about coaching practice; and ensuring that purchasers of coaching understand the concept of ‘coaching practice’.

1: Self review supported by supervision is critical.  To be effective, review of practice should be carried out soon after each session is completed.  You will need to find your own balance between being to close to the interaction to be objective; and too far to be able to remember key points.  Self-review on its own however carries risks – that you will become overly self-critical or insufficiently self-aware.  In order to ensure some degree of distance and to avoid getting too drawn into feeling that you have to sort everything out on your own, the input of a supportive, challenging and knowledgeable coaching supervisor is an equally critical element of self-development.  You should choose a supervisor who understands your approach to coaching who is willing and able to be both supportive and challenging to question your assumptions and self-evaluation and provide a platform for continuous improvement of your practice.

2: Coaches need to Coach – this may sound obvious but coaching is not something you can do once or twice a year whilst maintaining professional standards of competence. I feel that I need to be practicing my coaching skills at least twice per month. Coaching a number of people who have different issues to resolve, different learning styles and different interpersonal skills ensures that I can maintain a variety of coaching skills and the ability to deploy these skills in working with a range in types of client

3: Keeping up with new thinking in coaching.   As a professional coach I can only provide a ‘state of the art’ coaching experience for clients if I spend time on a regular basis reading, evaluating and, where appropriate, working out how to use new techniques in my coaching practice.  I regularly read a number of journals – Coaching At Work, Edge, Management Today, Harvard Business Review – which keeping me up-to-date with not only coaching theory and practice but also management thinking.  As well as providing some coaching articles, the latter keep me up to date with the issues which may be facing my clients in their professional roles. In addition, I attend relevant conferences and CPD events.  For example, Association for Coaching conferences, Institute of Leadership and Management events and coaching network‘s can provide useful insights into developing my coaching practice and ensuring that my practice is evidence-based and leading edge.

4: Purchasers of Coaching need to understand the concept of practice.  For those who purchase coaching, for themselves or members of their leadership or management teams, it is critical that they appreciate and seek out coaches who undertake regular supervision; who maintain their coaching practice, at the appropriate level of seniority, and who can demonstrate that they are up-to-date with the latest thinking and practical skills.  Purchasers have an in-depth understanding of what they are purchasing and what they hope to achieve for both individuals and the organisation.  I will be further sharing my thoughts on ‘Selecting the Right Coach’ in future blogs.

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