How supervision helped me establish as a coach

“I wonder what happened during this session, I feel a bit awkward…” ; “I wonder if the trust with this coachee is strong enough”; “every time a coachee mentions X, I feel angry” ; “I feel so lonely after coaching sessions, I need to talk with someone, but what about confidentiality?”

Do you sometimes have a weird feeling after a coaching session, like something was unfinished and something in you was touched, but you wonder what and why? Does it happen you’re asking yourself how to approach the next session with this same coachee? Well… I think we’ve all been there!

Today I’d like to share on my experience being supervised as a coach, and how it greatly contributed to building who I am today, and what I do as a coach.

I’ve been supervised since I finished my coach training in 2014, and it actually happened naturally. I was seeing a mentor coach to prepare for my ACC credential. Luckily, she was also a trained supervisor, and I decided to go on seeing her on a monthly basis, for coaching supervision. We recontracted for this, and I was all shaped for this new chapter in my professional development. We started to work on specific issues that we arising when I was coaching, or on patterns I was noticing in my practice as a coach.

Let me quickly share how I became a coach. I’m originally from France and have lived in Hong Kong with my family since 2010. My background is in Learning and Development in big corporates, especially in roles to design talent development programs, e.g for high-potential executives. I trained as a coach in Hong Kong, thanks to my leader at this time, who agreed gaining coaching skills would be a key learning for me as a talent development professional. The thing is: I loved coaching so much, I decided to do only coaching! So I’ve been a free-lance coach since 2014.

Why invest in supervision right after being accredited as a coach?

I received a solid coach training, which allowed me to shape my coaching approach and my posture as a coach, and to run well-crafted coaching sessions. And besides this, I was still starting to establish myself as an independent executive coach, I didn’t feel I could manage easily coaching engagement with tripartite contracts including the client and the coachee; I was basically grabbing any opportunity to practice coaching, while not being so clear on what I was focusing on (as a niche) and what was I exactly working on with my coaching. I was coaching quite a lot as I reached +200 hours of coaching in 2,5 years from starting my coach training. I have now at 650 hours logged, and am still supervised, in a group setting this time.

Some of you may want to stop me at this state, to ask: “But what exactly is supervision?” Well, thanks for asking, it’s always good to clarify!

I see supervision as a key relationship, a safe space for the coach to reflect and review their practice, in order to do it better. It allows the coach to step back and look at situations from a systemic lens, always ultimately at the service of the coaching client.

It happens regularly, every 4 to 6 weeks, or every 15-20 coaching hours, with a professionally trained supervisor. It may be worth checking how your supervisor was accredited; there are a few schools offering this, like CSA or IECL. You would get CCE credits from your supervision only if your supervisor is an ICF credentialed coach, by simply getting a letter from her/ him certifying the number of supervision hours you’ve done.

So, concretely, how does it work, will you ask me?

First, you meet the supervisor to check chemistry and agree on the approach, and you contract on boundaries, fees, confidentiality, just as for coaching.  Before a session, you reflect on your recent experience as a coach, and ask yourself how you’re feeling in your presence/ posture. You want to identify any particular moment with a coachee during a session where you felt something unusual was going on. Or to bring any specific pattern you’re noticing in your coaching, that is causing you discomfort, any specific reaction a lower self-confidence or leave you with questions.

When you meet, the supervisor will help you explore the experience (What happened?), reflect on it (What’s it’s like?), analise (What does it mean?), then plan and act (What next?). Typical questions they may ask you are: “What did you notice about yourself?”; “What’s your dilemna now?” ; “What patterns did you see in the session; are these familiar?” ; “How do you define your role in this situation; how does the coachee understand your role?”; What would be a successful outcome for the next session from your perspective; from the coachee’s perspective?”; “how well equipped do you feel now to undertake this?”…

I feel so grateful to have had such a useful and supportive framework to grow! After a few years practicing as a coach and growing through supervision, I was feeling I received a lot, and thought it would be the right time for me to give back to Hong Kong, and to the coaching community here. I became a board member at the HK ICF chapter, in charge of development and events, and I’ve enjoyed this role a lot. Earlier this year, I also trained as a coach supervisor with IECL in Sydney, so that I could be one more trained supervisor in HK, and offer back what I had received.

What we did with my supervisors helped me:

  • to understand what kind of coaching I want to do (i.e. for me: a coaching to explore the roots of one’s leadership, with executives and entrepreneurs)
  • to reflect on how I shape my presence: how I feel at the right place, am strict on what I do and what I don’t do, have the courage to refer people sometimes when needed, set up a clear contract and boundaries, especially for tripartite contracts involving a corporate client and the coachee…
  • to unknot a number of situations where I was unsure how to understand what had happened during a coaching session, how to prepare for the next one…

Today as a more experienced coach and a newly accredited supervisor, getting supervision is a key element of my balance and my growth as a coach. I am able to debrief coaching sessions with myself at a deeper level, and I come to supervision well prepared, but trust me, I still learn a lot every time, and I’m sure it will go on for years! Examples of learnings could be: I understand what triggered this emotion I had last time with this client, and I manage to let go the stress of it coming back; I take a new look at that relationship with this client and make a decision to strengthen the trust between us by giving him feedback of what I’m noticing; I realise I tend to make decisions based on my “savior” tendency, and I craft another way to support people without saving them, with a much compassion and less attachment… The list would be infinite!

Supervising other coaches is a great way for me to continue to develop personally as a coach; and of course to help other coaches to develop themselves. This way I feel I can contribute to offering Hong Kong a range of coaches who commit to offer high-quality coaching, who learn continuously and are well balanced.

So, why would you want to be supervised? Because our world is changing and we need to bear it, and help others bear it. Because it provides continuous improvement with deep learning that shapes you as a professional coach, (deeper learning than when we acquire new techniques or knowledge.)

Today, I feel I have more courage to face situations where I need it, more clarity on what I do as a coach, and this is mostly thanks to what I learned through supervision! When will you try it?

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