It comes as a surprise to many coaches, as they move from coach to coaching supervisor, the differences between the two professions.
As an experienced coach, you’re well-versed in the nuances of facilitating client growth and development and with the level of experience you have, you may wonder why you would even need to train in coaching supervision in order to supervise other coaches.
Yet, coaching supervision is a distinct field, with its own set of roles and responsibilities.
It’s not only about using your existing coaching skills; it requires you to expand your professional repertoire in ways that may surprise you.
In this article, we’ll lay out the key differences to allow you to see how coaching and coaching supervision are distinct and where you would need to develop new skills and new ways of being to fully inhabit the supervision space.
Focus and Responsibility
As a coach, your primary role is to support your clients’ personal and professional development.
In contrast, a supervisor’s role is more encompassing. It involves guiding other coaches, ensuring they adhere to best practices, and providing feedback on their coaching strategies.
This role demands a broader perspective, overseeing not just individual sessions, but the overall effectiveness of multiple coaches.
In addition, whilst as a coach your attention is primarily, even exclusively, on your client, as a coaching supervisor your responsibility and focus is on the wider system of coach, client, and the coaching system.
For instance, you might sense that your supervisee, the coach, is behaving unethically in some way, perhaps against the organisation or with the client, and, as a supervisor, it becomes incumbent upon you to address this in some way.
While core coaching skills like active listening and questioning remain crucial in coaching supervision, it also requires additional competencies.
These include the ability to assess coaching techniques, provide constructive feedback, and guide coaches in their professional journey.
Supervisors need to be adept at identifying and nurturing the potential in other coaches, a skill that goes beyond the direct client-coach interaction.
At ICCS, we use John Heron’s model of the six categories of intervention and whilst coaches tend to focus on catalytic, challenging and supportive interventions, supervisors will also add in prescriptive, informative and cathartic, as required in the moment.
Thus as you move from coach to coaching supervisor you will find you expand on your core coaching skills in order to provide a lens of experience and authority.
Ethical and Professional Standards
A key aspect of supervision is upholding and mediating ethical standards.
Supervisors must ensure that the coaches they supervise adhere to the established guidelines of the profession.
This involves a keen understanding of ethical dilemmas and the ability to navigate these complexities – a responsibility that extends beyond the typical coach-client confidentiality and ethical considerations.
The supervisor might also need to support the coach to navigate and bridge the gap between theoretical professional competencies as described by a coaching association and the individual coach’s styles and application of these competencies.
As a supervisor, you play a critical role in ensuring that coaches not only adhere to these standards but also apply them effectively and ethically in their unique contexts.
Deeper Understanding of Coaching Dynamics
Understanding the dynamics of the coach-client relationship is crucial.
As a supervisor, you need to be aware of the nuances of these relationships, including the potential for transference and countertransference.
We use the 7-Eyed Model of coaching supervision to help supervisors explore all aspects of the supervisory relationship including client to coach, coach to supervisor and supervisor to coaching system, drawing out potential parallel processes or displacements.
Your role includes helping coaches navigate these dynamics effectively, ensuring that their practice remains client-centred and effective.
Advanced Communication Skills
Effective communication is the cornerstone of coaching, but supervision demands a higher level of skill.
It involves not just listening and responding, but also delivering feedback that is both insightful and developmental. This can be challenging for coaches to hear and the ability to be plain and clear without being judgemental or harsh can be a fine line to tread.
Supervisors must be able to articulate their observations in a way that is constructive and empowering for the coach but without shying away from addressing those aspects that need to be addressed.
Facilitative vs. Multifaceted Approach
In coaching, the facilitative approach is key – it’s about guiding clients to their own solutions.
Supervision, however, is multifaceted. While it includes facilitation, it also requires you to advise, mentor, and at times, even direct.
This multi-dimensional approach is necessary to address the varied needs of professional coaches.
Probably the biggest journey we see from coach to coaching supervisor is in moving beyond “coaching the coach” to “supervising the coach” or, as our founder Nick Bolton say, “spreading your wings to encompass all of supervision”.
Breaking out of the comfort zone of only asking questions and avoiding giving input is vital to the growth of a coaching supervisor.
Handling Complex Cases and Challenges
Supervisors often deal with more complex cases than typical coaches.
They need to be prepared to tackle challenging coaching scenarios and guide coaches through these.
This requires a deep understanding of advanced coaching methodologies and the ability to think critically about their application.
A knowledge of systemic thinking is vital within supervision in order to understand the context of complex cases and an ability to navigate dilemmas is crucial.
Supporting Professional Growth
A significant part of the supervisory role is dedicated to the professional growth of coaches.
This includes identifying areas for development, providing career guidance, and helping coaches refine their practice.
Again, this will often call upon the coaching supervisor to use their knowledge, experience and expertise in a way they do not directly do as a coach.
Impact on Personal and Professional Identity
Transitioning from coach to coaching supervisor can significantly impact your professional identity.
It requires a shift in how you view your role in the coaching field, moving from a practitioner to a supervisor, mentor and leader.
This shift can be both challenging and rewarding, marking a significant milestone in your professional journey.
Supervision is a fulfilling but complex transition from coaching.
It demands a broader skill set, a deeper understanding of professional dynamics, and a readiness to step into a more authoritative and elder role and to guide other coaches.
As you consider this transition from coach to coaching supervisor, reflect on how these expanded roles and responsibilities align with your professional aspirations and your vision for your career in the coaching field.
If the journey, from coach to coaching supervisor, is one you would like to take, why not find out more about the course here.