As coaching supervisors, we continually strive to evolve our practices to meet the changing needs and growing complexities of our dynamic profession.
The world around us is in a state of flux and the needs and expectations of coaches, and their clients, change with this. As a result, it’s crucial for coaching supervisors to understand and adapt to emerging trends in the profession.
In this article, I will share what I see as ten key trends that may shape the future of coaching supervision.
1. Integration of Technology
The rapid advancement of technology is revolutionising many aspects of our lives, and coaching supervision is no exception.
Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR) are just a few of the technological advancements transforming our profession.
AI can provide supervisors with valuable insights into coaches’ behavioural patterns, allowing them to develop new skills, tackle blind-spots and tailor their approaches more effectively.
Applications such as Ovida are emerging that can rapidly analyse and highlight critical moments in video recordings of coaching sessions allowing the coach and supervisor to explore potential learning moments and to extract even greater value from supervision sessions.
These same applications can also enhance intrapersonal reflective practice, enabling coaches to deepen their self-awareness, spot ineffective habits and amplify their strengths.
Likewise, VR and AR will facilitate immersive learning experiences that enable coaches and supervisors to engage in ever more innovative and connected ways without the need for co-location.
2. Virtual and Remote Supervision
Related to the first trend, technology will continue to increase the use of virtual and remote supervision.
Whilst the enabling factor here is technology, the implication is one of relationship, scope of practice and geographic reach.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift towards virtual and remote practices throughout the coaching profession. This shift not only allowed coaches and coaching supervisors to continue their work amidst restrictions, but it also opened up new opportunities for supervisors and coaches alike.
With the advent of various online communication tools, coaching supervision can now be delivered to coaches across the globe, thereby increasing access to supervision.
With the virtual turn, however, it is likely, if not inevitable, that the nature of the supervisory relationship will shift in subtle and less-subtle ways.
Learning how to use these tools as effectively as possible will be vital in enhancing the supervisory relationship and ensuring the experience is a profound and enjoyable one for both the coach and supervisor.
3. Cross-Cultural Awareness in Supervision
The geographic expansion enabled by virtual supervision is also bringing more coaches and supervisors together from different cultures.
Cross-cultural supervision, and supervision of cross-cultural coaching, is becoming increasingly important as globalisation continues to blur national boundaries.
As coaches and their clients become more culturally diverse, the need for understanding and working with cultural differences in coaching contexts is paramount.
We see this at ICCS where coaches from around the world join our coaching supervision programme and are often surprised by the significant differences in assumptions held by fellow coaches.
Whilst there is always a risk, when discussing cross-cultural issues within coaching, that we fall into stereotypes, it is clear from conversations within our own cohorts that there are often broad tendencies for specific cultures to have distinctly different assumptions about coaching, supervision and the supervisory relationship.
Some cultures have a more hierarchical and authoritative philosophy in which the supervisor would be expected to be the expert and would be perceived as failing if they were to show too much vulnerability.
Others have a more direct communication style which can be jolting to a culture in which the coach and supervisor engage in a more subtle dance.
These differences, if not explored, can be detrimental to a supervisory relationship, juxtaposing very different assumptions without directly recognising the differences.
Conversely, when these differences are explored, they allow for a deepening of the relationship and, just as importantly, a better understanding of the ways of thinking and being that inform a coach’s work.
Beyond the nature of the supervision, of courses, lies even bigger issues: assumptions about cultures and people in general.
Cross-cultural supervision will call upon supervisors to explore their cultural biases and assumptions, and will require a commitment to understanding and respecting the cultural context, values, and communication styles of clients from diverse backgrounds.
Cross-cultural coaching supervision brings enriching perspectives to coaching conversations, enhancing the ability to foster meaningful relationships and produce successful outcomes with a diverse clientele.
To be effective, it demands cultural humility and the capacity to navigate and mediate between different cultural norms and expectations, thereby promoting inclusion, fairness, and mutual understanding.
4. Diversity and Inclusion
Similar to the previous trend, the focus on diversity and inclusion will continue to grow and require that supervisors engage in an ongoing exploration of their unconscious assumptions and biases.
However, where cross-cultural supervision is generally clear to identify, themes within diversity and inclusion can be far more amorphous and hidden.
Diversity and inclusion may take in race, gender, disability, sexuality, faith and much more besides.
As always, this impacts the supervisor two-fold since they will need to navigate this for themselves but also help coaches become more aware of their own biases and operate in new ways.
Diversity and inclusion does not only present supervisors and coaches with an ethical challenge but also an operational one. Increasingly, they will need to navigate the social and organisational mandates, policies and directives of the DEIJ agenda that require new ways of being and new conventions of working.
In our own supervision of supervision sessions, we have come across frequent examples of this in which coaching clients have said or done something which the coach feels is either inappropriate or reveals something about the organisation in which the coaching is taking place. The coach can be left wondering how best to respond to this and brings it to supervision.
It is likely that this will become a more common theme within supervision and supervisors will need to develop their stance and approach to it.
5. Profession-Wide Adoption
Although coaching supervision has long been recognised as an important part of a coach’s development, it has not always been seen as a critical part, nor has it been universally adopted by the profession.
Indeed, for many years, the International Coaching Federation prioritised mentor coaching over coaching supervision.
Whilst the Association for Coaching and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council both have competency frameworks for supervision, the ICF has not yet recognised supervision as a standalone set of skills, or, at least, they have not considered it part of their remit to produce these.
With the inclusion of supervision as a mandatory element of team coaching accreditation, and signs that the ICF is researching coaching supervision in more depth, it looks likely that all three professional coaching associations will coalesce around the vital importance of supervision.
6. Mental Health Awareness
Now, more than ever, both organisationally and individually, there is an awareness of, and focus on, the importance of mental health issues.
As more high-profile individuals raise the topic, opening up about their own struggles, and discussing the topic in terms of solutions, so the theme is becoming more common in coaching and supervision.
Whilst coaching is often a space to provide emotional support, it is likely that coaches will need to be more conscious of mental health issues specifically, for instance through Mental Health First Aid Training.
Coaching supervisors have a pivotal role in supporting coaches to work with mental health whether that’s in, navigating the blurred line between coaching and therapy, supporting coaches in how to refer clients to therapy, where appropriate, and ensuring that coaches know how to carry out their duty of care when coaching is no longer sufficient.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising rates of mental health issues, the role of coaching supervisors in understanding mental health is more critical than ever.
7. Neurodiversity-Informed Practice
Like mental health, neurodiversity too is more firmly on the radr of coaches and is becoming a more common topic of coaching and supervision.
Coaching supervisors will need to be able to understand and work with neurodiversity, recognising that coaches, and their clients, have different cognitive styles, strengths, and weaknesses.
This may involve coaches and supervisors adapting their practices to cater to the unique needs of their clients.
But equally, more coaches will specialise in working with neurodiverse clients, sometimes developing new ways of working.
Supervisors will need to have some understanding of the area to stay relevant and useful to this growing group of individuals.
8. Macro-Level Pressures and Crises
Macro-level pressure and crises will continue to impact coaching at all levels, from the individual client, through to coaches, and coaching supervisors.
Some of the significant societal crises that are likely to shape our profession in the coming years include:
1. Climate Change and Environmental Crisis
As the world grapples with the realities of climate change and environmental destruction, clients may bring related fears and anxieties into coaching. Coaches and supervisors may also need to explore their own responses to these crises, as well as the ethical implications of their practice.
2. Social and Political Unrest
Rising social and political tensions can affect mental wellbeing, work environments, and relationships. The need for coaching to support individuals navigating these challenges and conflicts is likely to increase.
3. Technological Disruption
We’ve already mentioned the impact of technology on supervision but, of course, it goes far beyond this.
The rapid technological advancements will almost certainly lead to job insecurity, workplace stress, and the need for continuous upskilling.
Coaches will likely face an increasing demand to support clients in adapting to these changes and the anxieties, fears and uncertainties that this evokes will find their way into the supervision space.
4. Mental Health Crisis
We have also discussed mental health above but it is worth restating that, at a wider cultural and societal level, the increasing awareness and prevalence of mental health issues, magnified by other societal crises, will continue to impact coaching.
Supervisors will need to guide coaches in supporting their clients without overstepping the boundaries of their role.
5. Income Inequality and Job Insecurity
Economic instability and growing wealth gaps may exacerbate stress and anxiety in clients.
Coaches may find themselves working more with issues of career uncertainty, financial stress, and work-life balance.
6. Migration and Displacement
With political instability, economic hardships, and climate change, global migration is likely to increase.
Coaches and supervisors may find themselves working with clients who are navigating cultural integration, loss of home and homeland, and related stressors.
7. Pandemics and Health Crises
COVID-19 has shown us how health crises can swiftly upend lives and livelihoods. The psychological, social, and economic impacts of such crises will continue to feature prominently in coaching agendas.
The increased focus on these issues will require coaching supervisors to ensure that coaches are adequately prepared to navigate these complex societal crises with sensitivity, empathy, and an understanding of the broader context in which these issues exist.
9. Group and Team Supervision
Although not new, group supervision seems likely to become ever more popular given its relative affordability combined with its effectiveness at creating emergent group learning.
Group supervision sessions can provide a supportive environment in which coaches learn from their peers, exchange ideas, and develop their skills collectively.
In turn, group supervision also allows supervisors to reach more coaches in a cost-effective and efficient manner.
Related to this (though somewhat different) is team coaching supervision.
This, too, is likely to become more popular given the recent formalisation of team coaching accreditation by both the ICF and Association for Coaching.
The systemic lens has been a dominant one for many years in coaching supervision and both groups and teams benefit from this systems perspective.
10. Internal Supervision
Our tenth and final trend had yet to reveal itself in a significant way. However, there are signs that it is happening.
Organisations recognise the value of coaching supervision, and as a result, there is likely to be a trend towards internal supervision.
Internal supervision involves the provision of coaching supervision services by in-house coaching supervisors, who have a deep understanding of the organisational context and culture.
This may lead to more effective coaching outcomes, as it allows for greater alignment between coaching practices and organisational goals.
Of course, the risk is that the supervisor, being internal, simply recapitulates the system within the supervision relationship. But that’s a question for another article!
At ICCS, we have already been involved in training teams of internal coaching supervisors for large organisations.
A challenge, though, is scale – very few organisations have enough coaches to warrant an internal supervisor. Nonetheless, it is likely that supervisory skills and models will be introduced, even if only for peer supervision.
The ten trends identified here are, of course, simply my personal sense-making and I don’t present them as hard and fast certainties.
What is certain, however, is that coaching supervision is a dynamic and evolving profession that requires us to continually adapt to the changing needs of our coaches and the world around us.
By keeping abreast of these trends, we can ensure that our coaching practices remain relevant, effective, and impactful, allowing us to better support coaches and contribute to the growth and development of our profession.