Three days before I embarked on a five-day, 50-hour training in coaching supervision, a friend and fellow coach questioned my plans, stating that to him, the value proposition seemed dubious. Having paid in advance, I attended the training anyway, and discovered that coaching supervision is so valuable that every coach who is serious about their work will seek it.
Coaching Supervision Defined
Not to be confused with coaching (partnering with clients to develop awareness toward achieving a desired outcome) or mentor coaching (observing a coach’s work and providing feedback to help develop that coach’s practice of the ICF Core Competencies), coaching supervision (CS), according to the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC), involves supporting a coach “to engage in reflective dialogue and collaborative learning for the development and benefit of the coach, their clients and their organizations.” CS involves developing a coach’s competence, providing a supportive space for coaches to process experiences with clients, and enhancing the quality, standards and ethics of a coach’s professional practice. As positive as this sounds, many coaches still do not understand CS or feel active resistance to using it. Why?
If you are a clinical social worker, marriage and family therapist, clinical psychologist, educational psychologist, or professional counselor, then I share in your joy—and also feel your pain. For all the satisfaction and fulfillment we experience as clinical professionals, we also face the following:
The clinical professions are not built for longevity
Despite their rewards, they carry an expiration date that can be hazardous to ignore. Although the ability to manage professional pressures may increase with experience, training, and self-care, the stress in this field is undeniably cumulative. I have seen this progression lead to some sobering outcomes, such as stroke, heart attack, disability, mental illness, addiction, and perhaps most tragic of all, leaving the profession to become a realtor. Even those I have seen work a long career and retire at a reasonable age seem to have sacrificed some of their longevity. Must we all head toward this fate of stress accumulation, declining career satisfaction, and erosion of our health and quality of life? Is real estate the only lifeline?
If you believe in the ICF approach to coaching, then you probably also agree that client empowerment is a top priority. Coaches may empower clients in many ways, including using a style of speech that is inviting rather than persuasive or directive. Invitation is inherently empowering because it makes no attempt to think or act for another person, and instead projects trust in another’s competence. Coaches who use invitation are consistently sending their clients the message, “You are in charge, and I trust you to find your own best awareness and answers.”
Persuasion, by contrast, is disempowering because it involves leading others to a belief, decision or action that is not of their design. If a coach persuades a client to take a course of action, even a helpful one, it’s hard to imagine that client feeling a greater sense of personal power as a result of that experience.
Some time ago during basic ICF coaching training, I volunteered for a turn as the coachee in a practice session. The problem was, I had no goal. I was on a hot streak of personal and professional success, and could not think of anything worthwhile to explore or develop. At the moment the session began, it came to me: I would create a plan for arranging care for my dog during my upcoming vacation in Hawaii!
Thanks to a text autocorrect fail, a colleague of mine affectionately calls me “Hamsta.” I hate this nickname, because it’s too close to hamster, a creature with three highly undesirable habits:
1. running endlessly on treadmills, burning energy and getting nowhere
2. constantly seeking food, and when not eating, believing it’s starving
3. scanning for threats every waking moment, making it a nervous wreck
They have a fourth undesirable habit that cannot be described in words, but must be seen (click here).
Hamsters have evolved these traits to stay alive, but humans do not require such behaviors for survival, and if we mimic hamsters, we lose. We need anti-hamster qualities to thrive.
In a coaching social media group, a member recently posted the following:
“If you have the perfect expertise for your client’s challenges and see an easy solution, do you share that solution with your client?”
Nice trap, I thought. She’s baiting the consultants—masquerading in coach’s clothing—to reveal themselves, and reveal they did.
“It would be okay to discuss a solution, as long as it was effective.”
“In the spirit of direct communication, it can be done.”
“Yes, a coach can definitely share resources if they are helpful.”
Doesn’t taking this direction make you a consultant, not a coach? Consultants share expert knowledge. They are paid to provide answers, whereas coaches challenge clients to find their own solutions, using artful facilitation and empowerment. Coaching is founded on the belief that clients have the answers they need and the ability to find them without having them handed over on a silver platter. Discovering solutions is empowering. Hand-delivered solutions are efficient, and often desired, but not empowering.
I have a love-hate relationship with Costco. I love the high quality and low prices of goods, especially the fresh sockeye salmon. Unfortunately, its nightmarish parking, dense crowds, and high concentration of carefree customers can drive me to the brink of insanity. Not everyone has this negative relationship with Costco, and perhaps the level of frustration it creates is unique to me—but that frustration is intense. Why I continue to patronize Costco is not the point. Assuming I will inevitably return, how can I preserve my sanity and avoid shortening my lifespan?
Doubt has one purpose: to weaken belief in yourself. Unlike an inner voice that keeps you safe or an analytical mindset that weighs options and looks for improvements, doubt offers no advantages and destroys confidence. So yes, flushing away doubt will preserve your happiness and belief in yourself. Read on for three ideas to accomplish this.
We spend too much time worrying about loss, anticipating it, and sometimes taking active steps to prevent it. This costs substantial energy, or worse, may lead to suffering and diminished health, all related to an event that has not actually happened. Even if a dreaded loss did occur, how could you be certain that, over time, it would turn out for the worse?