CSA Blog

Welcome to the CSA Blog
...thoughts and reflections from CSA Faculty, Accredited Supervisors and the Coaching Supervision Community

  • 30 Apr 2022 11:14 AM | Anonymous

    Julie Johnson

    by Julie Johnson 

    About eight years ago our family went on vacation. One day, we all went ice skating, and my (then) eight-year-old daughter was just starting to learn some of the basics. Soon after she hit the ice, she fell down. She came over to me whimpering “Mom, I fell. I can’t skate!” Struggling to find a response, I finally said, “You fell? That’s fantastic! That means you’re learning! If you don’t fall, you’re not learning so much.” Surprised, she looked at me, and then skated away.

    I eventually turned my attention elsewhere, and after a while she came back ecstatic. “Mom, I FELL AGAIN!” Her face was beaming, and I congratulated her. “Oh, you must be learning a lot!”, I said. She skated eagerly away. A few falls later, she had succeeded in mastering a new manoeuvre on the ice.

    Not long after that, I was working with a group of senior leaders who were practicing their coaching skills. One coaching conversation was going unusually well. The coach very skillfully gave the coachee the space to discuss the challenge, and she encouraged him to weigh the pros and cons of the either/or decision that he was facing. She even got him to reflect on the possible long-term impact of his decision on those involved.

    Our time was limited, so at a certain point I gave the coach a two-minute warning. Suddenly, the conversation shifted gears, as the coach tried to move things forward more quickly, in order to get to a solution before the time was up.

    During the debrief, the coachee said that he thought the conversation had moved from a very creative and enlightening exploration of the current situation, to a sudden rush to the finish line. An uncomfortable silence followed, and I felt the same struggle to respond that I had experienced with my daughter. Then my mind flashed back to the ice rink.

    “I am so glad this happened!”, I said. “Look at what we can learn. Before our very eyes we have witnessed what happens when we rush to solutions instead of making the most of each moment. I am guessing that you all will be much more likely to resist the temptation to advise, because of having witnessed this conversation. Isn’t it better than any ‘words of wisdom’ from me?” They all agreed, and we launched into a rich discussion around how important it was to ‘go slow to go fast’ in a coaching conversation.

    I believe that failure can be celebrated, as long as we learn from it. This is a new perspective for many coachees, and a gift that we can offer to them. Let’s celebrate!

    Julie Johnson


    Julie Johnson

  • 24 Feb 2022 12:40 PM | Anonymous

    by Liz Nottingham and Doug Montgomery Liz Nottingham

    Doug and Liz discuss the variety of topics they have encountered in their Super-Vision groups. They explain how group Super-Vision can benefit leaders, coaches, and HR professionals. Accessing the collective wisdom of the group allows participants to realise the other options available to them.

    We are busy people, and we all get into a professional groove. ThisDoug Montgomery sometimes means using our own personal ‘shortcuts’ to make sense of the world—we delete, distort, and make assumptions about information at great speed in order to process a situation or person in a way that confirms our prior beliefs.

    As we progress from one daily interaction to another, we usually only see one tiny part of the whole picture.

    Our singular view of the world limits our vision, reaffirms our beliefs, and maintains our assumptions. When we are stuck with one perspective for too long, we may feel trapped, limited, frustrated, confused, and angry. Our bias is limiting us and our experience of the world.

    When you feel like this, where can you go to explore another way of seeing and being in your work?


    Photo by Chase Murphy on Unsplash

    Group Super-Vision will help you explore your unconscious biases, illuminate the unseen, and unlock fresh perspectives in order to support and deepen your relationships with others. Whether you are a Leader in your business or institution, an HR Director or HR Business Partner, or Learning and Organisational Development Leader or a Coach—tapping in to Super-Vision can help you and your practice. We help you to see what you have overlooked or not been able to see; that’s why we call it Super-Vision.

    You may have already heard of supervision. Perhaps you’ve wondered what people in a supervision group talk about during a session. The honest answer? Anything to do with their work and how their work affects them.

    Each sessions sees participants bring a topic or question or situation that is important and timely for them. These issues might be based in an organisational challenge; in a relationship with one of their peers, team members or other stakeholders; or it could be something centred on themselves, e.g., a strong emotion, reaction or behaviour that something has evoked in them and that they’d like to explore and understand.

    Working in a group allows everyone to access the collective experiences, knowledge, and wisdom of others

    Examples of some of the topics participants have brought to our Super-Vision groups are shared in the box below.

    As supervisors, we invite each participant to find a question they would like to explore based on the topic that they are bringing and what they want to gain from the session. Together with the group, we build an agenda for the session based on these questions. If you’ve never experienced this kind of group work before, you may be surprised at the things you end up thinking about and working through with the input of your peers.

    Each participant’s question often has a lot in common with the rest of the group’s questions and may help to provide some insight for other participants. There are often parallels between what is happening for the participant in the situation at hand and what is happening in their organisation or other parts of their lives. This ‘parallel process’, as it’s commonly known, often also plays out in the group as we work together. Noticing these parallel processes, especially what is happening in the room with the group, can be a richly informative window into the complexities of your own situation, offering alternative ways of finding new perspectives and forming new approaches.

    Working in a group allows everyone to access the collective experiences, knowledge and wisdom of others. Unconscious patterns of thinking, behaviour, assumptions, and blind spots are brought to the surface, creating greater understanding of the situation and greater self-awareness for the participant. In turn, participants realise that there are far more choices before them then they had previously been able to see.

    Typical Topics Brought to Super-Vision

    • Difficult decisions and problems
    • Questions about what to do next
    • Challenging conversations—about performance, redundancy, change etc.
    • Feelings of being overwhelmed
    • Feeling alone
    • Conflict between personal and organisational needs
    • Leadership style and staying authentic to self
    • Personal versus professional role conflicts
    • Ethical challenges and dilemmas
    • Complexity of multiple relationships
    • Life-work balance
    • Diversity
    • Feelings of inclusion / exclusion
    • Conflicts and difficulty in relationships with e.g., boss, leadership team, peers, stakeholders or the team.
    • Conflicts of organisational culture versus organisational behaviour
    • Complex competing relationships
    • Transitions, endings and beginnings
    • Change management challenges
    • Grief and loss
    • Blame versus learning when things go wrong
    • Managing strong emotions in self and others
    • External situations that impact presence and performance
    • Successes and celebrations

    The group acts as a safe, non-judgemental, confidential sounding board. As supervisors, we offer a variety of creative ways to pause and reflect, all while offering constructive and supportive prompts to gently challenge participants’ thinking and assumptions.

    More Articles, events and insights can be found on CSA Faculty Members Liz Nottingham and Doug Montgomery's web site:


    If you are interested in joining a group with Liz or Doug, fill out the contact form on their profile page or web site. Alternatively, you can find out more about our groups here.

  • 24 Feb 2022 11:58 AM | Anonymous

    by Doug MontgomeryDoug Montgomery

    Doug interviews three experienced coaches about their experiences of supervision, what they value and why they keep coming back for more.

    What is this thing called Super-Vision and why is it so valuable to coaches and potentially other professionals?

    Coaches know what a supportive, reflective, learning experience coaching supervision is, but for leaders and other professionals, the term “supervision” can be misleading. It can evoke the notion of oversight by a superior, the notion of your work being assessed and checked. This is a long way from the non-judgemental space for reflecting on and learning from work experiences that Liz and I mean by “Super-Vision“. In order to convey the importance and value of Super-Vision, we asked three coaches about their experience of coaching supervision, so that other may get a sense of what Liz and I offer to coaches and leaders from any profession.

    Our thanks to executive coach Jo Colville, coach Lesley and coach Lou Cumberland ACC, for sharing their experiences of supervision.*

    Doug: What do you think of when you think of supervision?

    Jo: So, when I think about supervision, I think about my oxygen. My sense check. It gives me energy, because it’s coaching the coach, so that’s essential really to top up of my coaching battery. Also it’s a sense check, so when there’s those little niggles or I maybe get carried away on a flight of fantasy about fixing or rescuing somebody, there’s a sense check and a safe space to be able to explore that. Knowing I’m not going to be judged is really important for me. To learn as well… yes, I think there’s three elements: 1. it’s to top up my battery; 2. it’s a sense check to keep me safe and good for the person I’m coaching; and 3. I learn.

    Lesley: For me, supervision is a safe space where I can explore how I’m approaching different challenges or, in the case of coaching, different clients. It’s somewhere that I can try things without fear of any judgement. It’s also a space where I can, if necessary, get guidance. So, it fulfils a number of things for me.

    Lou: I think supervision is central to good coaching practice. That’s the first thing to say. And the reason it’s central is because coaching is such a privilege. The importance of that service never leaves me. I feel I want to present the best part of me in those coaching sessions. Supervision to me is about thinking reflectively on the coaching journey; on what the client and I have done together. So looking at coaching sessions that I’ve done; sometimes supervision is about the ones that have gone well and learning from these successes. And sometimes the focus is on the ones that leave a sense of unease. I might finish a coaching session and everything seems to have ended nicely and everything seems like it’s been really helpful…yet, there is [sometimes] a feeling that something has been unsettled or has not worked as well as it could do. There is the chance to bring to supervision the questions and thoughts that I’m a bit uncomfortable or uneasy about. The reflection helps me to explore and to unpack what happened and look at it in a different way, from a different perspective.

    Put things into Perspective

    Putting things into perspective.
    (Thanks to Elijah Hiett and Unsplash for this photo.)

    Coaching is a job like anything else. Sometimes I find myself feeling like an impostor; I’m in this situation, calling myself a coach, supporting somebody through a really critical issue, and asking myself, “am I good enough to do that?” I think that when it happens, it’s important to not just let it stay there, because that’s not being the best coach, that’s not being the best version of myself. If I allow myself to wallow in that feeling of not being good enough, then that’s the face that I’m going to present to my coaching clients and that’s the subconscious relationship that will develop. And it’s that subconsciousness that I’m left with that can be the focus for the supervision session.

    Doug: What brought you to supervision to begin with, and what keeps you coming back?

    Jo: I came to supervision as I completed my coaching qualification. There’s something about supervision that keeps me credible. It is not just if a client is saying, “do you have supervision,” “do you have insurance,” all of that. I think it refers to that sense check that I was talking about earlier, asking myself: “am I still useful and safe for the person that’s in front of me?”

    Doug: So supervision provides you with an external sense check on your usefulness to your client and the safety of the relationship you’re creating to do the work in.

    Jo: Yes, and I think there’s something else in there. It helps you to sort through your own personal stuff, because supervision helps you to know what your emotional triggers are and how what your client is bringing is impacting you. It helps you to sort out what’s yours and what’s theirs. It’s that sorting process I think that’s the most important, and so if there is some reaction to the work that’s mine, supervision allows me the space to work on that, so that next time I experience that situation, I’m not as entangled.

    Doug: So supervision enables that separation of your emotional reaction from the client’s experience, and for you to identify that and separate it appropriately and be fully present for your client.

    Jo: Yes, exactly that. Sorting what’s mine, what’s theirs, and being fully present.

    It refers to that sense check … asking myself “am I still useful and safe for the person that’s in front of me?”

    Lesley: I first came into supervision many years ago when I first trained as a coach and the organisation that I was in then provided the opportunity – well, it actually was more than an opportunity – there was an expectation that you would partake in group supervision at least two or three times a year. I just found that whole experience so rewarding: being able to share challenges and learn from other people.

    Even when it was somebody else that was sharing their coaching experiences, I found that I was taking stuff away that I maybe didn’t even realise I was having a challenge with. I would learn so much just from other people in that space. So that’s what I first thought of going to supervision and I’ve kept going ever since: now because I want to be there, not just because there is an expectation that as an accredited coach that you would. For me it’s a very valuable experience.

    It’s one of the few opportunities I have to really explore and maybe push the boundaries of what I’m doing to enable me to grow. It just gives me that time to really focus on me as an individual and on how I’m approaching different elements of my life. That’s what keeps me coming back.

    Lou: I was doing my diploma in coaching, and it’s an integral part of the course – for a very important reason. Coaches that don’t get supervised, I think, are in danger of going off in their own direction and not really learning much about their practice. So, it wasn’t just that I had to as part of the diploma course, it was also because I wanted to; because I know that it’s an important part of a quality coaching practice.

    I keep coming back because I think that quality coaching is dependent on having quality supervision. That, and because coaching is often a tough job. You know, it’s exciting, it’s dynamic, it’s a brilliant thing to be able to practise, but it’s also incredibly important to me to present the best version of myself that I can. In order to do that, I need to have time to reflect on my coaching practice and reflect on what’s worked and what hasn’t, and what I’ve learned.

    I often feel that it’s lovely to have that time for me. When does that happen otherwise? When in life do I get somebody really focusing on me and noticing, supporting, and asking questions that make me think about me – not about anybody else, just about me! And that’s what makes me come back to supervision.

    Doug: What’s the most valuable thing you get from Supervision?

    Jo: Space…in a role like coaching that gives a lot, and in a personal situation where I give a lot… space to be listened to deeply and to be understood.

    Lesley: That’s a great question. Two things spring to mind. The first one is clarity. It helps me find clarity in my thinking, and to figure out what I want to do with that clarity. Second is the challenge; there is sometimes a bit of a challenge in supervision. It might be that I come with something that’s challenging me, or it might be that the supervisor is challenging me to think about things in in a different way. I find both the challenge and the clarity really valuable.

    Lou: The learning, the big gems, the diamonds, that, when you can see them, they shine. The things that you realise… for example, when you are coaching and something isn’t working particularly well, and there’s an unease about it… bringing issues like that into supervision and finding something shiny and noticing that that’s something significant. Usually it’s about a pattern of behaviour that has gone unnoticed—you know, that feeling of “I haven’t realised I do that”, or “I haven’t realised that’s what’s going on”. Noticing it and then being able to do something about it. This kind of learning is the best.

    When does that happen otherwise? When in life do I get somebody really focusing on me, and asking me questions that make me think about me?

    Doug: What would you say to other professionals, not necessarily coaches, who are thinking about whether to enter supervision?

    Jo: It’s like the over-used adage about putting the oxygen mask on to yourself first so that you can help others on the aeroplane. It’s about valuing yourself. Attending to yourself first. That’s what it gives you. That’s the only way that we can be great at whatever it is we do, in a sustainable healthy way—whether we’re a coach or not.

    Doug: So, supervision is a form of self-care, so that you can be available for your clients or organisations or whoever you are working with?

    Jo: Yes, it’s about replenishing energy, topping up the battery. That would be the key things if somebody was looking towards supervision and wondering what it might give them.

    Lou: It’s part of the whole process of learning and growing, and as a coach there are lots of things that one needs to have in place in order to practice and carry on earning and to develop and to carry on working in the best possible way. Supervision is part of the package. It’s there for a reason; because it’s the only way that you can consistently carry on learning and developing good practices as a coach.

    Lesley: I would advise them to give it a go with an open mind, just explore it with no preconceptions and see what they get from it. Because I can guarantee that they will get something useful from it. It might not be what they were expecting to get, but they will certainly walk away with something useful!

    Lou: I think any “people” job—by which I mean, roles where you’re leading or influencing people—even if those relationships are going well, you will benefit from supervision. It can still be stressful, emotional, and challenging trying to work out what’s going on in relationships. We make all sorts of assumptions about what people are thinking and feeling and these assumptions can impact on how we internalise problems. It becomes subjective.

    Supervision helps to deal with that because of the more objective views it offers. Supervision can help you find where you need to get to in order to be more effective and to deal kindly and humanely with what can be very difficult situations.

    Lesley: Yes, I would recommend supervision actually. I’d never really thought about it before I became a coach. I don’t think I was even aware of supervision, as it’s not something that I have in my other life as a pharmacist. I think it would be hugely valuable for anyone that’s working in a place where they’ve got those sorts of relationships. Supervision is great because it helps you to explore how you’re approaching things, challenges some of your thinking, and helps you find different ways and solutions to some of the challenges that you might be having. So, yes, I don’t think it should just be for coaches. It would be invaluable for everybody.

    Doug: What are your experiences with group supervision?

    Lesley: The group supervision tends to be, in my experience, a longer chunk of time, but you get that added dynamic of hearing and listening to other people and understanding what they have brought to supervision. There’s an opportunity to learn from that, but there’s also an opportunity to contribute to other people’s development and learning as well. I think this adds a different dimension.

    Lou: When you bring a problem to supervision and have a think about it there with other people, their perspectives can shine light on the corners that you haven’t particularly thought about. Then you go back to the problem and have a look at it through those different eyes, and very often it doesn’t seem as tangled and difficult and treacly as it did before.

    Jo: I think the group supervision in my experience has always really widened my learning because it is like a smorgasbord of input. You’re experiencing lots and lots of different approaches and ways of being. And so it’s a lovely way to tap into what’s right for you, find out what you like and what you don’t like—and of course, what you don’t like might be exactly what you need right now to give yourself the proverbial kick up the bum to see things in a different way. I think it’s just noticing and sensing into what’s needed and what’s right for you in that moment in time.

    My thanks to Jo, Lesley and Lou for allowing me to interview them and for sharing their supervision experiences with me and allowing me to share this with you.

    *Interviews have been abridged for readability.

    More Articles, events and insights can be found on CSA Faculty Members Liz Nottingham and Doug Montgomery's web site:



  • 19 Jan 2022 10:11 AM | Anonymous

    by Julie Johnson Julie Johnson

    There we were, actively discussing the next career step for my coachee, a seasoned and talented leader. She had decided she wanted to start fresh in a new organization in order to push herself out of her comfort zone.

    That said, she was ‘down in the mouth’, concerned that she would not be an attractive candidate in the open job market.

    Here were some of my coachee’s negative comments, which I noted:

    • “I’m too old at 45 – they are looking for younger people.”
    • “I’m too specialized in one industry – other industries will not consider me.”
    • “I’ve got broad interests and would consider many different opportunities – they will see this as indecisive and will prefer someone with a clear focus.”
    • “I can be very down-to-business which will show during the interview – they will prefer someone more social, with some chit chat up their sleeve.”
    • “I’ve been in the private sector too long –the public sector will not consider me.”

    And on and on. I noted each such statement, saving them up in a ‘pile’.

    Then there was a pause, and I could almost touch the negativity hanging in the room.

    “I’m noticing something,” I said. “Would you like me to share it with you?”

    “Yes, please.”

    “A few minutes ago you said: ‘I’m too old at 45 – they are looking for younger people.’ That’s an assumption. What if you’re wrong!? What if some organizations would actually prefer someone with more experience and gravitas?”

    “Ok.” [long pause] “Fair enough.”

    Then I asked, “Would it be useful to look at several other assumptions you made and challenge them?”

    My coachee replied, “Let’s give it a try.”

    We agreed that I would read her original statement, and she would replace it with a counter statement that would address: “What if you’re wrong?”

    So, “I’m too specialized in one industry – other industries will not consider me.” – became – “Some organizations will be looking for someone from a completely unrelated industry, in order to get fresh insights.”

    And, “I’ve got broad interests and would consider many different opportunities – they will see this as indecisive and will prefer someone with a clear focus.” – became – “Some organizations will prefer people who are curious, with a broad range of interests.”

    And, “I can be very down-to-business which will show during the interview – they will prefer someone more social, with some chit chat up their sleeve.” – became – “Some companies will prefer someone who can ‘cut to the chase’ and get to action quickly.”

    And finally, “I’ve been in the private sector too long – the public sector will not consider me.” – became – “Some public sector organizations will be looking for candidates with a for-profit, business-like mentality.”

    My coachee concluded by stating that she had been harboring sweeping and limiting assumptions that were often incorrect and not doing her any good.

    When we coaches see our coachees getting stuck and making limiting assumptions, we can challenge them with “What if you’re wrong?”, and then get them to rewrite their story!

    Julie Johnson


    Coaching is an Art

  • 26 Nov 2021 10:01 AM | Edna Murdoch

    Edna Murdochby Edna Murdoch

    I read recently that the CSA mantra, ‘Who you are is how you coach’™ is a statement about psychology. My reaction to that was ‘No, that is only the beginning’. When this mantra first rolled off my tongue in a lively conversation with my wonderful colleague Aboodi Shabi, we were trying to bottom out what really made the difference in our work as coaches and supervisors. The mantra recognised that beyond all the models, tools that support the work, our identity as human beings and our capacity to relate to each other, was a key element in coaching's magic.

    Of course, psychological make-up informs coaching and supervision practice and psychological maturity affects relational intelligence in this work. But ‘who are who we are is how we coach’™ can open the door to so much more than that. More than I knew all those years ago. For over 20 years, this mantra has challenged me as it keeps highlighting the different aspects of selfhood that show up in the living field of coaching and supervision.

    ‘Who you are…..’  includes our family experience, culture, training, intellect, our ancestry, our heart/brain connection, the ecological self, professional capacities and much more.  We bring all of that to work. And yet, sometimes, we may not be conscious of all that we are.

    I am glad to see that at this time in history the notion of ‘who we are…’ is changing radically for many people. Traditional assumptions of separateness, disconnection and of our dangerous ‘dominion over the earth’ are being seriously challenged.  Our reciprocity with the living world is being acknowledged as our species takes its appropriate place at last - and there is a long way to go.  I am glad too, that technology ensures that the global brain is growing and that there is an outpouring of new information accessible by millions of people. For example, it is impossible not to notice the many on-line global summits on major human themes, taught by global experts or the avalanche of new writers and associations brimming with desire to bring about profound societal change.  And we now have more access to the traditions of native peoples across the world who have held the vision of connectedness and the sacredness of all that lives.

    “Native American societies have a lived sense of the unity of all living things, as expressed in the Native American phrase ‘all my relations,’ which has been called a prayer and a cosmology in one breath.” Dr Leslie Gray, Native American Psychologist & Shamanic Councillor, founder of Woodfish Institute

    In the last couple of years, we have been forced to look again at our identity – who are we? It seems that collectively we are in an initiatory moment; if we can grasp it, we will move into a much greater sense of kinship with every living thing, we will balance the masculine and feminine energies and will walk together with all peoples and in harmony with the more-than-human world. A necessary journey. Collectively, we will know that there is a sacred purpose infusing all of life and that we are part of that. Key figures in coaching are on board with this new vision; new practices, new associations, new trainings naturally follow.  These are innovative times, as coaching welcomes the zeitgeist and gets creative.

    Many of us can broaden the notion of self, to include Teilhard de Chardin’s words: ‘We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.’ This perspective underlines the growing understanding of who we are at a communal and cosmic level - and of course, it radically challenges conventional professional practice. We must remove the limits we sometimes place on our identity as coach or supervisor – ‘who we are..’ gets bigger as our understanding grows. Teilhard also said:

    “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”

    As supervisor/coach, if I know that I am a ‘spiritual being having a human experience’ and live out of that awareness, and if I experience the ‘energies of love’ and have learned how to harness them in my relationships, my conversations with others will be more imaginative, open and intuitive. Perception will be quicker, clearer and my client and I will experience those marvellous co-incidences, unexpected insights and intuitive knowings that make for powerful, elegant practice.

    This way of experiencing self-as-instrument is a game changer for coaches, mentors, leaders and supervisors. Because of it, ’who we are….’ is understood in a much bigger frame than a merely psychological one. Work with clients becomes more potent because of that. We do not have to struggle to be present or to remain present in conversations with clients. Presence is not ‘ours’ to manufacture; instead, we open to Presence when we align consciously with all that is and are awake, infused and fed from a shared source of intelligence. Tom Alee puts it this way: ’There is more to intelligence than a solitary capacity exercised within the life of one entity.  As it attunes to life, intelligence evokes a fuller, deeper intelligence in and around it.  Resonant intelligence is intelligence that grows stronger or fuller as it resonates with other sources of intelligence.’ (Resonant Intelligence)

    Living the identity of being a ‘spiritual being having a human experience’ means that coaches and supervisors are in touch with a living field of information. Indeed, we can affect our clients before we even speak with them. Or as educator Christopher Bache writes: ‘consciousness is contagious’:

    ‘‘Our personal intelligence participates in a larger collective intelligence….When one person begins to throw off layers of their psychological conditioning, and awakens to clearer, more expansive states of awareness, surrounding people will necessarily be affected….Clarified states of consciousness are contagious. This is an utterly natural phenomenon, an unstoppable effect. Our spiritual ecology simply does not allow private awakening.’

    Working over many years with his students, he notices that:

    ‘Beneath the levels of consciousness where our minds are separate and distinct lie hidden depths where they begin to interpenetrate until they eventually are enfolded within an unbroken, seamless field of consciousness.’

    So we may ask ourselves:

    How conscious am I of who I really am?

    How do I work in that ‘expanded’ awareness, ’free of the constriction of self-reference’?

    How might this affect my professional capacities?

    The answer to these questions will determine the quality of the insights that arise in professional conversations. The ‘contagion’ which Bache points to, ensures that my client and I inhabit a field of information that will provide images, connections, intuitions, breakthroughs that neither of us would have had access to with the intellect only.

    In the best moments of coaching and supervision, client and practitioner experience what it is to move into what Bache calls ‘pre-existing fields of collective consciousness’. He goes further and says that these ‘collective fields become the “working unit” of experience in these sessions. It is in these moments that magic happens, we are in a co-created space of profound learning and the work is easy, unstrained and is fed by the field of information into which we have both entered.

    It is heartening to see that more coaches and supervisors - yes, and leaders, educators, mentors, people professionals everywhere - are experiencing working with this level of consciousness. What you and I bring in our being, matters. Who we imagine we are, must have no limits - especially not the limit of relying on our psychological make-up.

    C Bache ‘The Living Classroom: Teaching and Collective Consciousness’ 2008

    Edna Murdoch

    Edna Murdoch
  • 23 Nov 2021 5:50 PM | Anonymous

    by Julie Johnson Julie Johnson

    Very early in my coaching career – a time when there were no formal coach-training  programs nor ICF* Core Competencies – I was learning from the school of hard knocks.

    *International Coaching Federation

    A fair amount of my work consisted of coaching and debriefing the results of a pile of assessments taken by participants of a leadership program. I partnered with them in making connections between their results and their current situation and desired future.

    I clearly remember one coaching session that taught me a great deal. I had been briefed by the trainer that the participant was particularly ambitious, quite young to be in such a senior position, and a father of two small children. In addition, during the program week, he had alienated a number of his fellow participants by competing and trying to come out ahead (and making a point of doing so).

    I was VERY curious as to how he would be during our 3-hour session.

    As we went through the data, he enthusiastically accepted and elaborated on the positive feedback. However, my every attempt to point out potential areas for development and reflection was brushed away with responses like:

    • “That’s because of our current policies. I can’t do anything about that.”
    • “This is not my fault, it is caused by person A, who …. “
    • “Even though they don’t like the way I do this, I have to be tough. It’s the only style that gets things done.”
    • “I actually do this a lot, but there are some people who are jealous of me, so they would never admit that I’m actually good at it.”
    • “People just won’t listen!”

    This was new for me (yes! this indicates how early it was in my coaching career!), and I let it go on and on, until we had finished going through the entire pile. In retrospect, I should have intervened much earlier, offering to share my observations.

    We were about to part ways, and I felt very frustrated, knowing that the participant probably hadn’t gotten anything useful out of the session. I wanted to make a difference and hadn’t.

    Then a light bulb went on.

    In the 11th hour moment, I said, “So, officially we are finished. Do you have any last questions you would like to ask me?” While he probably didn’t realize it, this was very intentional. I needed permission. You might even call this ‘a set-up’, one that probably caught him off-guard.

    He paused, then sat back in his chair with elbows up and hands behind his head, and one ankle rested comfortably on the knee of the other leg (you know this space-taking position) and said, “Yeah. Could you … sum me up in a few sentences?”

    Permission granted. I took a deep breath and paused while looking out the window to pull my message together. I wanted him to realize that I was preparing something that was less easy for me to say, something that I figured no one had either dared or bothered to say to him before – resulting in a significant blind spot on his part.

    Then I replied: “During our session, I noticed that you either spent your time expanding on your strengths, or rejecting each and every possible suggestion of a development area. You gave situational excuses and blamed others. It has been quite unpleasant for me to spend all of our time in this way.”

    He shifted in the chair, dropping his leg to the floor and lowering his hands to his lap, literally folding in on himself.

    I continued: “If you are doing the same at work, you may be alienating more senior colleagues, which could damage your career.”

    And then I said one more thing: “Finally, you admitted at one point that you hold your work and professional advancement as a higher priority in your life than your family.” [long pause] “I am concerned for you that at around the age of 40, you may find yourself all alone.”

    I don’t remember exactly what happened in the next few moments, but we managed to say goodbye, and he headed toward the training room to close the day with the group. Out of sight, I caught the trainer and asked him to keep an eye on my participant, as I had given him a very tough message at the end of our session.

    The way the program was designed, I never saw that participant again, and my best indication of how the message was received would lie in his evaluation score of the experience. As it turned out, he scored it 5/5.

    Some of my learnings from this are:

    • Tough feedback and messages can be delivered successfully when coming from a well-intended place.
    • Offering the message without ‘permission’ would probably have seriously backfired.
    • Expressing concern (when sincere) can contribute significantly to getting your coachee to realize the potential impact of their current behavior.

    Without any ICF Core Compentencies to guide me on how to deliver tough feedback, I had to rely on my gut. In those hours before I received the participant evaluation score, I was agonizing: Was I going to receive yet another ‘hard knock’? Not this time!

    The evaluation score of 5/5 proved that coachees realize the value of receiving tough feedback from a coach and confirmed my suspicion that asking permission was key.

    And as it turns out, what I learned that day almost 30 years ago ended up aligning with several of today’s ICF Core Competencies.

    Julie Johnson


    Julie Johnson Consulting

  • 4 Nov 2021 12:06 PM | Anonymous

    Keri Phillipsby Keri Phillips

    Introductory Story

    I was visiting Manchester and, whilst walking along King Street, took a spur-of-the-moment decision to visit the recently opened George Thornton Art Gallery. I should also add that calling into art galleries is a rare event for me. However, on this occasion, because I had been getting lost in the early drafting of this paper I thought I would go somewhere a bit different, but without any particular hopes or expectations.

    I had a really interesting conversation with the person responsible for greeting visitors, Desiree Estrada Pinero. She is a jewellery designer who also works at the Manchester Craft Centre. We discussed creativity and she said that during the lockdown she had found it very difficult to produce anything. She profoundly missed her routine of getting out, catching up with friends over a cup of coffee. She also said that this was in contrast to some of her other artistic colleagues who had thrived during that time, being highly productive, some even more so than before.

    I then went downstairs to the rest of the gallery. I was particularly struck by this picture, entitled Thou Art in Heaven:

    Thou Art in Heaven

    It seemed to capture one of the key themes which, for me, had been evident in response to the pandemic; namely the reassessing of what had previously been fundamental truths. When I went back upstairs I began again talking to the jewellery designer, including my reaction to the picture. At the back of my mind the idea of including the picture in this paper began to form, along with wondering how to get permission from the artist, Matthew Leak. At that moment, the artist himself walked into the gallery and the three of us spoke briefly together about the impact of the pandemic. As I was preparing to leave I asked for his permission regarding including the picture in this paper and he happily agreed.

    In reflecting on my visit, it seemed to embody some of the points which I had been planning to convey in the paper. First, as already mentioned, this is a time which has for many triggered a reassessment of some important and on occasion fundamental truths. I am also aware that there may well be many others who would see the picture in a totally different light. Recalling the moment I first saw it, it was almost with a sense of relief that I felt that the meaning had leapt out at me. Desperation for meaning might be another sign of these times. Also Philip Stokoe suggests that in times of massive anxiety we are particularly vulnerable to false meaning (Stokoe, 2021). It may become more important than the truth, however defined.

    Certainly the search for meaning can be fundamental when grieving the loss of a loved one. ‘In the aftermath of life-altering loss, the bereaved are commonly precipitated into a search for meaning at all levels that range from the practical (How did my loved one die?) through to the relational (Who am I now that I am no longer a spouse?) to the spiritual and existential (Why did God allow this to happen?). How - and whether - we engage these questions and resolve or simply stop asking them shapes how we accommodate the loss and who we become in the light of it’ (Neimeyer and Sands, 2022: 11). Similar questions, though with less intensity may be raised regarding other losses which do not involve bereavement but are nevertheless intimate. ‘…….we ‘hold’ beliefs, and letting go of a belief is painful, it is a loss’ (Stokoe, 2021: 50).

    Also my conversation with the jewellery designer regarding the highly variable impact of the pandemic on people’s creativity was a powerful reminder that there has been some ‘good news’ as well as profound challenges and pain. I have therefore sought to bring such balance to the points I later make.

    My concluding reflection at this stage on my spontaneous visit to the gallery is that it was entirely a ‘gift from the universe’. As mentioned, I had already started the early drafting of the paper, but I then went into limbo. I was not sure when, whether or how to proceed. My chance visit to the gallery helped me move forward.

    Click here to read the full paper by Keri 

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