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A Systemic Approach to Supervision

A Systemic Perspective To Knowledge Building And Increased Effectiveness For Coaches Through Coaching Supervision

This is a framework within which any approach to coaching may be supervised. The various players in the in the social system may be addressed at any one moment, while the whole system is held in the awareness of the coach and coach supervisor. It combines attention to the minutiae of the work, to the beliefs, feelings, thoughts, and energetic experience of the coach and coach supervisor, to their interactions in the process, as well as to the supervisory relationship itself, and the wider context of the work.

Whichever part of the system we look at we will see a different facet of the whole.

As a beginning, and following the contracting, the coach and coach supervisor may focus on:

The situation or event, and the issue that the coach wishes to explore.

The supervision tasks are as follows:

  1. To listen to the presentation at several levels; the content, and the process. This is a co-operative enquiry in the spirit of curiosity and discovery for both parties about the work. Allow space and time for this. Bring presence and contemplative attention to this stage, and indeed each step through the whole process.
  2. To discover together the concerns of the coach about the work, perhaps the history of the work, what has gone on before, what kinds of intervention have been made and their rationale, what else might have been thought about but not acted upon. Here you may use whatever conceptual frameworks or model the coach is familiar with in terms of making sense of the situation at issue, and how to work with it. You may also offer something of your own if appropriate. You might also use one of a number of tools of exploration here, e.g. the body, mind, feelings exercise; image or metaphor to describe or draw; magic box; Karpman Drama Triangle etc
  3. To focus on the coach/client relationship, on the dynamic between them or what is going on at both a conscious and an unconscious level. This about exploring the psychological climate of the work.

The Coach, the Supervisor, and their working relationship, and the context of the work

This stage requires agreement to go more deeply into the psychological climate of the work, to allow what may lie just outside awareness to come into focus

  1. You are exploring what may be reflected about the coach/client relationship in the current supervision conversation. Here you will be paying attention to the energy shifts, images, memories, bodily sensations that are evoked by what is being talked about in the moment.
  2. As supervisor you may wish to tune into your own responses to the coach as coach, to notice if there are any thoughts and feelings about your relationship with the coach that may give further data about the way the work is going. The psychology of relationships where there is learning about the self-in-action, tells us that there are many possibilities for projection, transference and counter-transference. There is often the phenomenon of parallel process to explore. This is when the current relationship between coach and supervisor may mirror the dynamic between coach and client. Willingness to explore all these phenomena will allow more free-flowing learning to happen without the overlay of old patterns of response some of which may belong to another time.
  3. If it has not been attended to already and has a bearing on the work, explore the wider organisational context the coach and client are a part of. Here you are looking out for pressures as well as opportunities for change that may be available in the coach/client/organisational system.

The final stage in the supervision conversation

What has been learned? What are the action points? There may also be a professional or personal development issue to be addressed as a result of the session with the coach.


© Fiona Adamson CSA team November, 2005

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