As a coach gains experience and maturity in the coaching profession, there is often an almost inevitable journey towards becoming a coaching “elder” of sorts.
This has nothing to do with age but rather with their ability to draw upon this maturity and experience to help other coaches learn, develop and practise.
For some experienced coaches, the role they gravitate towards is one of mentoring. This is particularly common in the business side of coaching and growing a practice, but also in helping other coaches achieve professional credentials.
For many other coaches, however, the journey is one of becoming a coaching supervisor.
Whilst I won’t go into what supervision is in this article since we have covered that extensively elsewhere, I will just be clear that what I mean by coaching supervision is supporting other coaches with their client work, their sense of self as a coach and their wellbeing in that role.
Learn More: What is Coaching Supervision?
The pathway to becoming a coach supervisor is increasingly popular for many reasons – it is professionally rewarding, creates an additional fee-generating service, contributes to the profession, and enhances the supervisor’s own coaching.
However, the pathway to becoming a supervisor is not clearly mapped out. Unlike some professions in which progression is unambiguous and formal, the journey to becoming a supervisor is one which each coach must figure out and navigate themselves.
In this article, I hope to set this right by offering a road map for what it takes to become a coaching supervisor as well as offering some key resources that will make planning your journey easier.
There are essentially 7 major stages to consider, each of a different scale and complexity.
- Deciding if you’re ready to become a coach supervisor.
- Finding and choosing the right coaching supervision course.
- Preparing for the training.
- Completing the training.
- Secure supervisees outside of training.
- Gaining individual supervision credentials.
- Building your practice and business over the long term.
Let’s take a look at these one at a time.
1. Deciding if you’re ready to become a coach supervisor
How do you know when you’re ready to become a coach supervisor?
Is it when you hit an arbitrary number of coaching hours? If so, how many? 100? 250? 500?
Is it after a certain number of years in the coaching profession? Or after a certain amount of training?
It’s pretty clear even just by asking that question that this is not an easy question to answer.
And, there is no clear guidance within the coaching professional bodies either.
There are clearly extremes that would seem ludicrous if we used them. For instance, demanding a Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours of experience would be as extreme as allowing a newly qualified coach to become a supervisor. But surely, a case could be made for many levels of experience in between.
The truth is that it is a subjective decision.
As a school, we suggest a coach has around 250 hours of coaching under their belt but this is not a hard and fast rule.
A “less-experienced” coach who has spent 20 years in social work or counselling has a very different history to draw upon than a coach who came from a more technical role and is now pursuing coaching as a career.
Ultimately, you will need to ask yourself some key questions about your own readiness:
- Do I feel ready and confident to support other coaches?
- Do I feel I have a wide range of experiences in the field to draw on?
- Do I have a clear sense of my own style of coaching whilst being open to others?
- How well do I have a grasp of the wider coaching profession?
- What is my level of maturity as a coach?
These are all subjective and to some degree even ambiguous, but they offer a starting point of self-assessment.
We have certainly seen some less obviously experienced coaches become exceptionally good coach supervisors and other more experienced coaches who have struggled with the differences between coaching and supervision.
So, there is no clear measure of readiness.
But certainly, it is a question that must be asked of yourself and answered to your own satisfaction.
A useful model to use in exploring yourself as a coach is David Clutterbucks Coaching Maturity Model. Again, this is not to say that you must assess yourself as in the top category, but it is useful to ask yourself where you are and where you’re heading.
2. Finding and choosing the right coaching supervision course
If you decide that you’re ready to become a coach supervisor, then the next step is to find the right training provider.
A search on Google for “coaching supervision training” will reveal nearly 55 million results. Thankfully, there aren’t 55 million supervision schools and, actually, the choice is relatively limited when compared with initial coach training.
Some of the main coaching supervision schools include:
- International Centre for Coaching Supervision
- Coaching Supervision Academy
- Barefoot Coaching
- Henley Business School
- Goldvarg Consultancy
Each, of course, has its own unique style, delivery approach, philosophy and “vibe”.
Whilst I wouldn’t want to comment on other schools since they can surely best describe what makes them different, what I can share are the key things to look out for.
I have written an extensive article on accreditation in coaching supervision, but in a nutshell, the gold standard of coaching supervision accreditation is the European Supervision Quality Award (ESQA) by the EMCC.
A list of providers of this credential can be found here.
There are currently 10 providers in the world of which the International Centre for Coaching Supervision is one. This makes the choice somewhat easier than 55 million!
If you are an ICF credentialed coach you will almost certainly look to gain Continuing Coach Education hours from your training and a fewer number of these same 10 schools provide both. We are one but we are not alone.
In our case, our Diploma in Coaching Supervision provides 164 hours of CCE of which 76 are Core Competencies. This can be a crucial factor for choosing the right course.
As I write this, probably all coaching supervision training remains online due to the global pandemic. However, if and when this abates, you will want to decide whether to train in-person or online.
There are pros and cons to both, of course, which I won’t rehearse here since I think we all now have a sense of this.
The one area I’d like to point out, however, that can be easily forgotten in the talk of convenience versus connection, is the way in which virtual environments have internationalised training.
This was something that we wanted to achieve from day one and so, for us, virtual was never just a solution to the pandemic. It was a conscious choice to build virtually and stay virtual to enable coaches from across the world to access our course.
In the last year, we have had people join us from the UK, of course, but also Kenya, Turkey, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, the USA and even Reunion Island. This makes for a very unique flavour which our participants value.
This is something to consider – who are your fellow learners going to be and how will they expand your experience and understanding?
The cost of training is always a consideration of course. From my experience, the cost differentials in the coaching supervision training world are not significant.
Most schools are in the same ballpark, so unless even the slightest difference matters, then this is unlikely to be a major factor in your decision.
That said, depending on your circumstances and country of origin, you might be able to gain access to a bursary such as the one we offer which covers 25% of the course fee for individuals from countries with a lower-than-average income.
Whilst most coaching supervision courses will cover similar foundational content (3 functions, 7 Eyed Model, etc), the tone and vibe can often be significantly different.
Some schools have emerged from a counselling/psychotherapy background, others from an organisational background, and others again from a coaching background. I would categorise ICCS in the latter.
Some schools are more spiritual in nature, others more managerial, and others psychological. Again, ICCS would be the latter of these.
There will also be differences of emphasis. The International Centre for Coaching Supervision focuses on an integrative, psychological approach as the key differentiator.
It is worth looking at each school to explore what makes them different.
There are many other considerations when choosing a school and some will be more important than others to you.
These might include:
- The faculty
- Support during the course
- Ongoing community and development
- Qualification requirements
We try to make it as easy as possible to understand our course and we include everything on our website and prospectus.
3. Preparing for the training
Once you’ve chosen your coaching supervision training and you’re enrolled to begin, there is likely to be some time delay between this and the start of the training.
This is an important time and a great opportunity to be as prepared for the training as possible.
One of the things we notice is that participants who prepare ahead of the training have an even more rewarding experience.
Here are just a few things you can do as you wait for your course to start:
Start to source supervisees.
Let people in your network know that you’re about to undertake the training and that you’ll be looking to gain practice hours as part of your course.
Even if you have just one or two people lined up as supervisees, this can make a big difference to the ease of being able to apply what you learn on the course.
Read a couple of foundational books
It’s never too soon to read Peter Hawkins’ “Supervision in the Helping Professions” – one of the seminal texts in this field. But there are many more that are worth diving into as a way to get your mind absorbing the ideas and models.
Engage with your school’s community
If your chosen supervision school has a community, get active. Introduce yourself, join events even before you start the training and jump in on conversations. Don’t be shy! Being part of a community is extra gas in the tank of your learning and it’s usually free!
Plan your diary
Finally, make sure you block out time for your training, supervision and practice.
It is all too easy to find until the training is suddenly upon you and you already have a task list of other activities that get in your way! Prioritise your learning and practice to get the best from the training.
4. Undertake and complete the training
Undertaking and completing are of course two different things.
I always remember meeting someone on a course, in which I was also a student, who had been studying what should have been a 9-month programme for over 8 years!
There’s nothing wrong with that if it’s what you want but often it’s simply that the people procrastinate for any number of reasons.
Whilst I can’t comment here on the training as it will depend on which course you choose, I can share some best practices that I have seen to help people complete their training.
In no particular order, these are:
- Be prepared (see the previous section)
- Stick to deadlines set by the course and don’t let missed deadlines become a snowball that rolls ever-faster
- Set your own target date for completion and plan in what you need to do by when to make this happen
- Attend all the training. It’s so easy to let other parts of your life take you away from something but this can have an insidious effect on your commitment to the journey
- Start the practise supervision as soon as you can. There’s no perfect time to start supervising
- Don’t overcomplicate things. Do what’s needed to pass but don’t make the hurdles higher than they need to be
- Be a pragmatist, not a perfectionist. Completing your training is the end of the beginning and you have a lifetime of improvement ahead of you. You’re not perfect and you never will be so enjoy being you at the level of skills you currently have not that you wish you had!
5. Secure supervisees outside of training
As you go through your coaching supervision training, you will almost certainly have practical supervision to complete as part of your course work.
But just like the moment you take the steering wheel of a car without an instructor next to you, there’s something uniquely rewarding about supervising someone purely for yourself and the coach. Whether that is a paid contract, pro bono or part of a wider project matters less, I believe, than that the supervision is no longer part of your training.
You are a coaching supervisor.
And coaching supervisors supervise! They have supervisees.
The critical step is to ensure you continue to develop your supervision skills through application.
Seek out opportunities to build your supervision muscles – volunteer for projects that need supervision, ask for referrals, supervise in your workplace, network, advertise, build a website, do whatever it takes.
6. Gaining individual supervision credentials
Once you have a particular level of experience in delivering supervision, it’s time to become credentialed as a supervisor with one of the professional bodies.
This is not mandatory or essential but many coach supervisors find it an important part of cementing their place in their new professional role and building their credibility.
The International Coach Federation (ICF) does not currently recognise coaching supervision as a discreet profession and so have no process for credentialing.
The three key bodies to consider are:
- EMCC in which you could seek the European Supervision Individual Award (ESIA)
- The Association for Coaching in which you could aim for the Accredited Coaching Supervisor
- Association of Professional Executive Coaches and Supervisors (APECS) in which you could achieve varying levels of accreditation depending on your experience.
It is common in supervision that someone has been supervising long before they formally train as a coach supervisor. The professional bodies are flexible in their approach to this and so depending on your experience, it may be possible to achieve individual supervision credentials immediately after training.
Each of the organisations above has its own unique criteria and process and so you will want to check which of these suits you best and which matters to you.
7. Building your practice and business over the long term
The final stage is the one that never ends! The ongoing development of your business and your coaching practice skills.
Just as with coaching, there are many areas to consider here and given that you are likely reading this before you have even trained, I won’t go into too much detail.
But in this stage you will focus on:
- Engaging in professional spaces – conferences, networking and events
- Continuing professional development – training, supervision, reading
- Personal branding and positioning
- Research and exploration
- Business building and marketing
- Writing and communicating about supervision
- Training the next generation of supervisors
This is the stage in which you flourish into the full supervisor you can be, uniquely qualified and experienced to do the work you love.
This stage is the work that is what it was all about: making an impact, shaping the next generation of coaches, influencing the profession.
This is being a coaching supervisor.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful in considering the journey ahead of you. Depending on where you are in this path, there is plenty for you to explore in our blog and website. Many articles develop these ideas further and will help you consider them more deeply.
However, if you’re right at the start wondering whether you’re ready to become a coach supervisor, why not book a call with us and have a chat.
We offer a free Let’s Talk Supervision session and we’d be delighted to hear from you.