Do coaches need supervision?

Coaches are there to help you as a business leader to clarify your goals and encourage and challenge you to achieve those goals. So why would a coach need supervision? Surely if they are coaching you they have the knowledge and experience without needing someone else to provide supervision for them?

In a previous article, I discussed the differences between coaches, mentors and advisors. So let’s begin with what coaching supervision is. The Association for Coaching identifies supervision as “A collaborative solution-focused, results-orientated and systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of work performance, life experience, self-directed learning and personal growth of the coachee.”

Coaching supervision helps the coach to uncover blind spots, discover patterns of behaviour and ways of being and doing which impacts on the success of a coach’s work. And this means clients are ultimately benefiting from the deep reflective work required in good supervision.

In other words, it is about making sure that the coach is on the right track with the coachee and is guiding, supporting and challenging appropriately. Sometimes when we are working with a client we can get stuck in the detail and the current issues which can result in the bigger picture, and other potential systemic issues being left behind which could cause future problems.

Alongside my coaching practice, I am also a qualified career development professional with a team supporting adults and school/college students. In March this year I worked with a colleague to produce a paper “CDI Guidance on the Benefits and Delivery of Supervision in the Career Development Sector” for the Career Development Institute. The experience of considering the importance of supervision to career development professionals was instructive for my work as a Coach and a reminder of the importance of supervision in my personal coaching practice.

For many of us, whether we are running businesses that deliver coaching or working on our own in this capacity, access to an experienced or qualified supervisor can really support our own professional development and ensure that we are expanding our thinking. It should be constructive, supportive and, as appropriate, challenging. It encourages self-reflection and putting the work into ensuring that our coaching is productive for our clients.

So why should we look for supervision? I’ve found that the benefits can be numerous and often quite personalized, depending on our personal and work circumstances, but here are some very good reasons to consider it:

  • Understanding ourselves. Reflective practice and seeking to understand the wider themes of our personal coaching approach can be transformational in terms of our ability to meet the needs of our clients. Supervision is not about being coached by someone – it is a robust process that looks more deeply at our assumptions and helps to bring a fresh approach to our work.
  • Exploration of challenges and ethical issues. A good supervisor will be able to reframe, reflect back and bring perspective to a situation you are facing. These insights or options can be helpful for us to know how to move forward and develop strategies for facing potential blocks or blind spots in our thinking in the future.
  • Accountability. In my experience we know and understand as coaches when we could have asked better questions, not followed through with something or not challenged when we should have done. Supervision gives a framework for keeping us on track: we are accountable to our clients and to ourselves as professionals to the highest standards but there is nothing quite like the constructive sounding board of a good supervisor!
  • Coach wellbeing. Alongside holding ourselves to high standards, coaches need encouragement, celebration and appreciation too! A supervisor will have your emotional wellbeing and good health in mind. If you are a coach reading this, you will understand just how important this is.

Coaching supervision can help bridge the gap between theory and practice. My supervisor is someone who is quite literally searching for meaning from what I am bringing to the sessions. I find that invaluable and liberating and would recommend it.

Rachel Mallows MBE
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Rachel Mallows MBE

Rachel Mallows MBE is a Northamptonshire businesswoman with over 30 years' experience in delivering training, coaching, mentoring and business support. Rachel is the founder and Managing Director of The Mallows Company Limited, a Bozeat based business with a regional remit, providing careers guidance to adults and in schools; training, mentoring, project management and consultancy to SMEs and larger businesses of all sectors. Rachel was awarded the MBE for her services to Business and Entrepreneurship in the Queen's 90th Birthday Honours List in 2016 and was made a Deputy Lieutenant for Northamptonshire in the same year.