Friday 31 January 2020

Coaching Supervision (revisited)

Yesterday, I finished the last assignment for my ILM 7 qualification in Coaching Supervision. I have blogged previously about a question that arose early in the programme about the difference between supervision and coaching a coach.  That difference has become ever clearer as we progressed through our joint exploration, and in particular through the experience of practicing supervising.

But one of the things that most clarified it, was reading the excellent book Reflective Practice in Supervision (about which I have also blogged previously, here and here). Along the way, and almost in passing, Hewson and Carroll remark that one of the key purposes of supervision is to help the practitioner to review and revise their practice framework.  A practice framework, they further explain (and this is from memory - the book is upstairs - so don't assume this is verbatim...), is a set of values, skills, habits, behaviours and attitudes that inform our practice. More often than not (like the engine of a car) it is under the bonnet, as it were, and we don't attend to it. We merely drive (to push the analogy about as far as it will go) and it all works.  

But to become better coaches, we need to look under the bonnet; to tune it up, replace components that no longer work etc. So the supervisor's job (inter alia) is to help the coach to make explicit all those implicit aspects of the work, to examine them, improve or replace them, and so on. This is the formative, or developmental, aspect of supervision.

That's not the only role, of course.  The supervisor has two other key functions. One is the normative function, which is about ethical and professional standards. This is actually an area to which I think I need to pay more attention in my supervision. The ethical aspect is one I am interested in and typically attend to: I love that kind of discussion.  But professional standards, including things like checking a coach has appropriate insurance, discussing membership of appropriate professional bodies etc, is something I can easily forget to raise.  The third function is restorative, which is about helping the coach to process and deal with the emotional weight of his or her coaching client relationships and the issues discussed. I am better at that one.  Attentive readers will have made the links between these and the coaching rooms described in the Hewson and Carroll book, which I blogged about a mere three months ago.

So plenty to think about as I move ahead (and there's a lot more, of course) but for the moment , I think it's time to sit back and put my feet up, and enjoy the feeling of having smashed the (self-imposed) deadline of finishing my work on this qualification before the end of January.

Sunday 12 January 2020


In my last blog post, before Christmas, I wrote about the importance of place, one of the ten components of Nancy Kline's Thinking Environment.  

In this post, quite by coincidence, I am writing about another component, Feelings. (This may turn into a series: having found I have something new [I think] to say about these two components may lead me to consider what I have to say about the others - but I digress).

The coincidence that leads me to write about Feelings is that I came across a powerful passage in Kathryn Mannix's book, With the End in Mind.  I was given this powerful book, which seeks to encourage people to talk about death more, and more openly, for Christmas; and I have already written about it on the Shifting Stories blog. Kathryn Mannix writes on this topic based on her many years of experience as a medic doing pioneering work in palliative care with the dying. But what made me think about the Feelings component of the Thinking Environment?

In a chapter called Beauty and the Beast, Mannix tells the story of a young mother who is dying of cancer. After sitting with her patient through an extremely emotional outpouring (the first this young woman has allowed herself) Mannix says:

Kathryn Mannix

She gulps and takes a deep breath, but she is now so busy thinking about her thoughts that she is no longer awash with emotion. Here is an important truth in action: by being able to sit with the deepest anguish and not shut it down, it is possible to enable people to explore their most distressing thoughts, process them, and even find more helpful ways to deal with them.’

That is precisely the reason that Nancy has included Feelings as one of the components of the Thinking Environment: unexpressed feelings inhibit good thinking; and by enabling and allowing someone to express their strong emotions, and for that to be all right, we can help them to move on to do more excellent thinking. I was already fairly sure that this was accurate,  both from Nancy's reasoning and from my own experience, so it was fascinating to have that confirmed by someone highly experienced in working with people at times of intense emotion in a very different field.

Incidentally, Mannix's book is well worth reading for many other reasons, which are, perhaps, best summed up by the sub-title Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial. There is a link to her BBC talk about 'Dying is not a bad as you think' on the Shifting Stories blog.