Friday 23 July 2021

The Temptation to Complacency

I had a supervision session booked with my excellent supervisor, Ann Bowen-Jones.  I use Ann specifically to supervise my work as a supervisor, and have other supervisory arrangements for my coaching. That is very deliberate, to make sure that my supervision is subject to regular oversight and reflection, and doesn't take second place, as it were, to my coaching in supervisory conversations.   So, as I say, I had a session booked; and as we talk regularly, and due to the way the diary fell, I had only conducted one supervision since our previous meeting. Moreover, that supervision had gone well: I had helped the coach I was working with to think more perceptively about the issue under discussion, to gain some insights, decide what to do, and generate some useful actions.  All in all, I was feeling pretty complacent about it.

But that raised the question of what to discuss at supervision with Ann. We could have looked more broadly at my supervision practice framework, but we have spent some time on that recently, and somehow that didn't feel the most productive thing to do. So I mentioned that I had only supervised once since we last spoke, that it had gone well, and that might be worth reviewing.

For my coaching clients, I rarely think that reviewing successes is a waste of time or self-indulgent (unless that is all that they want to do, ever...). But for myself, it felt different.

And yet this proved to be a very rich session indeed. And it wasn't because it is valuable to affirm strengths and build on them (though there was an element of that) but simply because there was so much more to think about than I had realised. Ann's skillful listening and questioning helped me to identify that there was something I was uneasy about, regarding my client's practice, and then to identify what that was and what I wanted to do about it. 

In turn, that led to consideration of my reflective practice after the session: why had I not identified that unease until now?

We also identified two or three other lines of enquiry, as it were, to explore with my client, none of which I had arrived at in my post-session review with myself. 

And I think that in least in part, that was a result of a certain complacency after the session. It had gone well; the client had made significant progress, and had been very appreciative of my supervision. And in that context, it was just too easy to engage in my private review of the session from a rather self-satisfied stance.   

I think I am not alone in this: that I learn well from my disasters; but my triumphs?... I should pay more heed to wisdom of Kipling, and treat those two imposters just the same.

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