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Reflections on Group Supervision

Martin Hill, Senior Tutor BSC

The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you” BB King.

This blog was inspired by the group supervision session following one of our regular British School of Coaching network events. I thought it might be an interesting blog to share my reflections on how the group supervision session worked and the powerful learning that it can generate for the coaches attending, as well as for myself as the supervisor.

Supervision is an essential element for an ethical and professional coaching practice- but what factors should supervisees consider in seeking supervision and deciding what form that supervision should take?

In “Coaching Supervision: A Practical Guide for Supervisees” – David Clutterbuck, Carol Whittaker & Michelle Lucas (2016) Routledge-ISBN 978-1-138-92042-2 the authors provide their observations “of some common pitfalls in supervision:

  • Engaging for supervision for accreditation purposes and then stopping once accreditation is achieved.
  • Not preparing for supervision sessions, expecting the supervisor to do “all the work” rather than bringing content that has already been subjected to your own independent reflections.
  • Choosing a supervisor based on who might give you coaching work.
  • Assuming that attending supervision is sufficient and not making time to “reflect on your reflection.”

I think that it is worth using this as a quick pre-supervision check to ensure that you avoid these traps and are ready to maximise the benefits of supervision.

The advantages of group supervision sessions are that they provide access to the combined knowledge of the group itself and the knowledge and skills of an experienced supervisor who facilitates the session. It also provides an opportunity to compare your approach and experiences with others, helping you benchmark your skills and behaviours. A good group also brings a diversity of views and opinions for you to draw on for your practice – for example internal coaches; public sector; private sector; varieties of experience levels and also coaching with different genders, cultures and environments.

Good supervision should cover some or all of the following elements:

  • NORMATIVE- ensuring that you are working in a competent and ethical way as a coach- the quality assurance that you can provide for your marketing strategy for your practice.
  • FORMATIVE- helping to refresh and develop your skills, theoretical knowledge, personal attributes, self-awareness etc. so that you become increasingly competent as a coach.
  • RESTORATIVE/SUPPORTIVE- There can be sessions that have an emotional impact on you as the coach – sometimes this presents as a conscious effect, sometimes as an unconscious impact. This is where the concept of transference comes into play. Supervision provides a health check and provides a check and challenge mechanism to ensure that the coach and coaching practice are kept healthy.

We started off the session by agreeing the contracting for the session and the following matters were agreed by everyone in the group:

  • Confidentiality
  • Mutual Respect
  • Active Listening
  • Support
  • Constructive Feedback

We then started by asking everyone to consider the following points:

  • Are there any pressing or immediate issues you need to talk about?
  • What interactions have you been pleased with in your practice?
  • What have you been uncertain about?
  • Are there any themes emerging for you from your practice?
  • What thoughts/feelings/doubts/anxieties would you rather NOT talk about?

Respecting the confidentiality of the session, the topics that emerged fell into the broad themes of boundary management; contracting and financial considerations. We then agreed which order we would deal with the issues. I was really pleased that we had a range of “practice” issues (matters that had arisen in coaching sessions) and “hypothetical” issues (thoughts/queries/checking out some thoughts and ideas not yet encountered). Both of these areas broadened the depth and range of knowledge and experience for the group participants to discuss and then reflect upon.

This made me reflect on the skills and behaviours of a “great” supervisee: –

  • Courage – the strength of character to ask for help or to ask the “stupid” question.
  • Courteous to the group members
  • Generous with knowledge, feedback and constructive or positive feedback
  • Active Listener
  • Challenging
  • Mutually Respectful
  • Candid and Honest
  • Attentive to confidentiality
  • Committed to self-development and continuous improvement
  • Focused

The learning from the session that was generated covered (again respecting confidentiality):

  • The connection of group supervision with reflective practice and learning in relation to each individual’s own coaching practice.
  • Boundary management – anticipating potential issues and using that intuition to prepare for the session and also to plan for the contracting
  • Contracting – flexibility of approach and including what is covered and what is not covered (as mutually agreed between coach and coachee).
  • Feelings re dealing with these issues- recognising when these have been noticed and analysing the impact on self, coachee and the coaching relationship.
  • Financial implications for internal and external coaching engagements.
  • Ensuring commitment/engagement of coachee- planning for next session.
  • Dealing with extra-curricular requests
  • Knowing how to evaluate and pitch that evaluation to maximise the influence on the target audience.

All of that was achieved in a little under 2 hours!!

How do you capture the learning from group supervision? In “Coaching Supervision: A Practical Guide for Supervisees” the authors suggest the SOAP reflective learning model, and this could be used for group supervision sessions but also any other activity you undertake including your own coaching practice. The SOAP model is “: –

  • Write about your SUBJECTIVE feelings- i.e. how you felt about it.
  • Write about the OBJECTIVE facts -i.e. what happened?
  • Reflect on what you learned from the incident-i.e. ANALYSIS
  • How has it affected your PERSONAL LEARNING – i.e. what will you do differently next time?

Find what works best for you. I would suggest capturing the key learning points and reflections and consider how they may impact on your practice or what you may do differently. For example, learning could be direct, e.g. your query answered; or it could be indirect e.g. having listened to others perspectives and experiences you may feel more confident etc. about own practice.

I hope that this provides a useful insight into our group supervision session approach – why not take the plunge and attend a group session at the next network events – one thing is certain – you will feel welcome and also will learn from the experience. For more details of forthcoming network events both in the UK and Middle East please see http://www.britishschoolofcoaching.com/cdp-courses/bsc-coaching-network/

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