CSA Consiousness, Supervision, Artistry

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

  • 21 Oct 2022 1:00 PM | Anonymous

    by CSA Supervisor Biba BinottiGlobal Warriors


    “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there”.

    Central to our work at Global Warriors is the creation of courageous cultures. We know deep in our bones that when we show up without fear of negative consequence, magic happens. It is in this place that we innovate, challenge, support and grow.

    Why then is it so hard for many organisations to create workplaces that encourage people to show up, be seen and have a voice?

    As warriors, we knew that we needed to continue doing our own work around this. Integrity and congruence matter to us and, like the businesses we serve, we too have our own edges around creating a courageous culture.

    We’ve been doing a deep dive into psychological safety. We began our journey by looking at the research and we chose to lean into Amy Edmondson’s definition of psychological safety:

    “A belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.”

    The definition helps identify the root of psychological safety – our individual belief systems. Our belief systems are shaped by many factors including our families, communities, institutions, social norms, historical forces and spirit. Don Miguel Ruiz states that our beliefs become like books of the law in our heads, and we judge ourselves and others according to these.

    How our beliefs shape our lives

    Take this example. If I hold a belief that it’s not safe to speak truth to power, I may see that as fact. Imagine that I grew up in a household where I was encouraged to respect my elders and those in authority. It’s possible I would have then gone out into the world with a subservience or deference threshold. This may have been reinforced through the education system that I experienced and if so, it is likely that over time, I will have gathered evidence to affirm that belief as true, and it will have become a fixed viewpoint.

    If I experienced instances where authority figures used their power to silence me, I may have developed even stronger neural pathways that guide me when I feel the urge to speak or express my intuition, i.e., that it is actually safer to remain silent.

    If the organisation I work in wants to encourage me to speak up and share my truth, I would need to be motivated to rewire my belief, and the organisation would need to demonstrate that it truly valued truth-telling for me to decide that the transformation was worthwhile.

    All part of being human

    As human beings we share fundamental needs: to be seen and heard, to be loved and belong, and to be validated. We assume that we know how to get our needs met in healthy ways. But unless it was modelled for us, we can find ourselves caught in defensive, dysfunctional patterns of behaviour. These defensive behaviours are often unconscious and can be overt (control, power, competitive, perfection) or covert: (conformance, appeasing, avoidance, dependence). They become our modus operandi; the way we believe we need to operate in order to succeed.

    If we want to practise – and experience – psychological safety we need to dig in and do the work at different levels: individually, in teams and organisationally.

    As individuals

    Being open to the possibility that there may be a better way to work and be together, calls us to do our own inner work. It’s about making the unconscious conscious. This involves deeply examining how we show up and understanding what drives our reactive tendencies and behaviours. It requires us to be open to healing the wounds or ‘shaping’ that have created our unconscious defensiveness in our leadership.

    As teams

    When Google conducted their “Project Aristotle” in 2015, they found that successful teams had 5 common elements: psychological safety, dependability, structure and clarity, meaning and impact of work. Psychological safety was found to be the most critical factor and enabled the other four factors. However, Ipsos, 2012 found that 47% of employees worldwide described their workplaces as psychological safe and healthy.

    Team psychological safety (TPS) is a shared belief that people feel safe about the interpersonal risks that arise concerning their behaviours in a team context (Edmondson, 2018). We believe that talking openly about the type of culture we want to create together, and how we will do that together, is just as important as focusing on the tasks and outcomes we desire.

    If we want to create teams where it is safe to dissent, be embarrassed and make a mistake, it matters that we can also discuss and agree how we are going to be together when we feel ‘triggered’ and our defences are up. And it really matters that we develop our ability to be open and willing to practise these agreements around positivity and productivity together.

    Let’s face it, it’s easy to go through the motions of defining agreements without having the tenacity and courage to hold ourselves accountable. If we say we want to be honest and speak our truth and we sense that we are not doing this, we need to call it out in a way that invites curiosity and learning – not judgment or blame.

    As organisations

    When we adopt a systemic lens, we can explore how the broader collective works together to achieve its mission. One of the questions we can invite is whether the organisational levers that we pull, successfully support psychological safety.

    For example, there may be many different feedback loops, but is it really okay to say that we are not okay without fear of retribution? Can we point out biases and privilege without it being career limiting? Do our pay and reward systems encourage and reinforce the behaviours and values we espouse? Competency frameworks and job evaluations help prevent bias and reinforce safety, but have we honestly looked at them through the lived experience of our people? Do they really deliver?

    Can we really call upon our courage to do something that frightens us? Whether that’s

    • individually, to be honest and ask how we get in our own way of speaking up,

    • Within the team, to name the elephants with love and compassion, and to innovate and have healthy conflict that moves the dial forward

    • Or organisationally, to consider the whole system and whether it encourages the heartbeat of the organisation to play out loud to the rhythm of its mission?

    In Global Warriors we are committed to doing our work. We are willing to begin again. We sense intuitively when things aren’t working, and we convene conversations that rumble in the darkness and discover the light. One thing we know is that psychological safety means different things for each of us, so there needs to be respect for wherever people may be at on the continuum. It is not easy, and we don’t always get it right. And yet we are committed to stay in the learning zone.

    Building that capacity to stay involves standing in the fire and leaning fully into the tools and practices that we teach. This is what gives us the courage to talk about love and leadership simultaneously in the workplace. We know that a new way is possible, and we see the green shoots.

    If you, your team or organisation sense that there’s a better, bolder, more real way to do your work together and you want to be better together, here is our invitation:

    Ask yourself:

    1. What risks am I, and are we taking?

    2. Where are we stuck going through the motions?

    3. Where is my / our energy being wasted in our attempts to defend ourselves?

    4. What (beliefs, attitudes, behaviours) do I / we need to liberate to free myself and others up to not be afraid of each other and have voice?

    We would love to meet you, your team and organisation in the field out there. We live for helping people and organisations, who care deeply about their work and their impact, to be courageous individually and collectively.

    If this speaks to your heart, call us. We’d love to hear your story.

    This post has be reproduced with kind permission from CSA Acredited Supervisor Biba Binotti and the team at Global Warriors

  • 2 Oct 2022 11:53 AM | Anonymous

    by Julie Johnson Julie Johnson

    Years ago, I unintentionally fell asleep on my colleague while he was driving both of us home from our very first coaching assignment ever. We both laugh about it now, but I am grateful that HE was driving! I think this experience illustrates that we consume a lot of energy when we listen deeply during a coaching conversation.

    In fact, coaching conversations are very different from our typical day-to-day ones, in large part because of how deeply we listen to the other person. Deep listening can take many forms, and this post is about what you can do when you find yourself NOT able to listen deeply.

    Fast forwarding from that first experience to about 10 years later, when I was coaching a manager who was telling a long story. I found myself trying hard to listen, yet repeatedly ‘drifting off’. Over and over again.

    My stomach was going into knots because I was angry and frustrated with myself. No matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t doing what I needed to be doing.

    Then a light bulb went on, and I was suddenly fascinated by the fact that I was working this hard to stay engaged. Why was this happening?

    I started to explore what exactly was going on, and my attention turned toward the way in which my coachee was relating her story (true confession: I was still not listening to the content). A visual image started emerging in my mind of a branch with leaves on both sides. Her story seemed to have a goal, heading from the base to the tip of the branch, but it kept taking significant detours to walk around the edges of each leaf along the way. It seemed to take way too long to get from base to tip. Every time another detour occurred, I felt annoyance, followed by inattention. I wanted her to finish the point she had started straight away, and not be obligated to weather the asides. I wondered whether others experienced her narrations in the same way.

    At a certain point, I asked for a time out and permission to share what was going on inside of me. Taken by surprise, she was curious about what I might say. I related the above, and even shared a couple of specific detour examples that I had jotted down while [not] listening. Then I drew the branch.

    She immediately took the conversation in a completely new direction, making links between what I had shared and what she struggled with when communicating with key stakeholders. This created a shortcut that accelerated our progress significantly.

    When you are coaching someone and working (too) hard to listen, start exploring why you are feeling that way. Whatever the cause, it can be very useful to step back, try to understand what is really going on, and share that with your coachee. It may end up to be useful for you, and for your coachee!

    Silence, offered as a gift, can create the space our coachees need for real progress.

    Julie Johnson


  • 15 Sep 2022 1:11 PM | Anonymous

    RoseCreativity as a Radical Act of Hope
    by Elaine Patterson

    I am a historian at heart. At school I loved playing with the quote which was attributed to Talleyrand. Talleyrand said that the restored Bonaparte dynasty - after the abdication of Napoleon - “They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.”

    When I surveyed our world as I returned from my August retreat up in the Lake District this quote came flooding back to me. And then I thankfully remembered Mother Theresa’s quote ‘“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” which stopped me from becoming disheartened or discombobulated.

    For me, my creativity has always come to my rescue when I feel my energy surge as well as when I feel stuck or overwhelmed. Our creativity comes in many shapes and guises for each of us but connecting to what is already innate in us is actually an act of deep honouring and of profound remembering (and re-membering) – bringing us back to who we are and to wholeheartedly own (or reclaim) our innate vitality, power and agency.

    For me, my creativity – and creative expression – can be found in the quiet whisperings of my soul which finds its voice in a myriad of ways across by life and work, but which ( I am also very aware) needs my love to breathe in spaces of beauty, inspiration, and community. And I see my creativity as a radical act of hope empowering me to find – or reclaim – my own agency to create anew, make different or stop what is not working.

    This is why - with my inspiratrice Karyn Prentice - we designed our flagship EMCC Global EQA programme called ‘Cultivating and Choreographing the Rich Tapestry of your Wholehearted Creativity’.

    The purpose of the programme is threefold - to weave together an celebration and sculpting of your own creative nature, to realistically honour and resource the warp and weft (and the ebbs and the flows) of the creative process, and to offer the opportunity to pour your learning into a creative project of your choice.

    If any of speaks to your soul, then please do join us for our next programme which starts again in November 2023. Full details are here

    Your soul will forever thank you for taking the time to nurture yourself as you also nurture others!


  • 11 Jul 2022 11:30 AM | Anonymous

    by Will MeddDr Will Medd

    I caught myself out this last week and wanted to share briefly - it's about pausing - the need to take small pauses through your working day.

    We recently moved house and there is a huge amount of DIY to do. I quite enjoy it, yet there is lots and it's easy to get tired. I've worked out you can move it on in small chunks, and I've also noticed my tendency to then be constantly doing 'small chunks'. Because, of course, I will feel so much better when it's done so I tell myself. Which soon becomes, I won't feel better until it's done. Becomes I won't feel good for a long time because there is so much, it's never ending.

    DIY Will Medd

    So, I caught myself. The first bit is true, small chunks make a difference, they progress things, they are manageable. And the next bit isn't! I can feel good now. I can feel good even though there is a lot more to do. And, when I feel good, I enjoy it more. I get more done in the chunks and I rest more. Yes, there is still more to do. And there still will be even when I've squeezed out another moment to 'finish' something instead of pause, relax and tap into that something else that feeds us.

    This all relates to a quote by Thomas Merton in 1966 - on the violence of our times - I read is as about the significance of tapping into pausing in order to be more aligned, more attuned within ourselves, to others, to the bigger picture, and that place being a much better place to act than from here.

    “There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”  Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

    Since 'Who we are is how we supervise?' is it possible to say how we live is how we supervise? Could it be that how we organise ourselves, work, rest and play is informing our supervision in ways that might need some reflection?

    I don't think I'm alone in sometimes feeling some disconnect between the space I want to hold as a supervisor and the 'busy' space I sometimes find myself in around that. Indeed, I notice that I'm at my best as a supervisor when I'm also holding awareness of how I'm living my life and with that awareness I tend to be more spacious. And strangely often get much more done! If being busy is a habit, moving from one thing to the next, If we are in the habit of being busy, getting lots done, does that make it more challenging when we supervise to hold a spacious place? And what else becomes part of that habit - what assumptions, believes, patterns move with us and into the space of supervision. So I'm all for pausing, with purpose! Indeed, that for me is what supervision is about - a place to pause with purpose.

    I host a series of 'Pause with purpose: bringing meditation into the midst of life' days

    A unique experience of bringing meditation right into the heart of what you do, into the midst of your normal everyday life.

    The next pause day ... Tuesday 26th July - full details available here 


  • 5 Jul 2022 11:56 AM | Anonymous

    by Doug MontgomeryDoug Montgomery

    As a coachee or supervisee we can think we are ready to take a metaphorical plunge into a professional or personal issue with our coach or supervisor. We may even arrive in the session with great intention. And then find the water is just too cold and painfully uncomfortable to take the next step. Remembering a cold morning swim, Doug explores how we can create the right conditions for us to ‘take the plunge’.

    A while ago I found myself standing waist deep in a beautiful fresh water swimming pond – it was very cold, in fact it was bitterly cold, and I had volunteered to go for a morning swim before our retreat day started.

    What seemed like a great idea the evening before over a glass of red, now seemed deeply uncomfortable and even dangerous. My fellow swimmer, Rachel, was already in and swimming, and the rest of our small band of intrepid volunteers were getting into the water.

    Taking the plungeTo swim or not to swim?

    My ego was screaming… “don’t wimp out now!” “A real man would be swimming by now!” “What will others think if you get out without getting under the water?”

    However, what I did was to tell Rachel and the others that I’d had enough for today and got out, dried off and walked back to my room with a sense of achievement. I’d gone into the water, I’d not been able to get my breathing settled in the cold water, I’d decided that I was not ready to go further, and I’d found the courage to get out of the water. It was still an exhilarating feeling and my skin tingled from the cold.

    Why am I sharing this with you? As a coach or a coach supervisor it is easy to get ahead of our clients, to have great ideas of how we can create a great experience and make a marvellous difference for them. We can have lots of great plans and ideas.

    As a coachee or supervisee we can think we are ready to take a metaphorical plunge into a professional or personal issue with our coach or supervisor. We may even arrive in the session with great intention… And then find the water is just too cold and painfully uncomfortable to take the next step.

    It is so important to create the conditions in which our clients can pause and, in the moment, decide whether to proceed and which path to go down. And we need to be alongside them, non-judgemental, encouraging their autonomy and supporting their choices.

    Co-creating the safe, trusting, non-judgemental container for coaching and supervision clients is the foundation for our Coach Supervision, HR Super-Vision groups and Leaders’ Pause and Reflection Super-Vision groups. Contact us to learn more.

    To complete the story… the next day we went to the pond again and I got in again and this time swam in its fresh clear and still cold water. The safety of my group of friends holding no judgement of me the previous day, the new familiarity of being in the water and on the brink of swimming, and knowing it was my choice all allowed me to get my breathing under control and take the plunge.

    Wow, it was exhilarating!

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


  • 27 May 2022 2:26 PM | Anonymous

    by Julie Johnson Julie Johnson

    We’ve all experienced it – that pause that appears after we’ve asked our coachee a particularly challenging question. I am talking about the sort of question that requires soul searching or an honest look at one’s own (often limiting) assumptions.

    Our coachee’s first reaction to such a question can be an unusual amount of silence. Depending on culture and other factors, that silence can make our coachee feel socially uncomfortable, because they are not quickly doing what they’ve been asked to do: answer the question. They may want to say something trivial to fill the space and buy some time to come up with an answer. Yet doing that can distract them from fully focusing on the question and its emerging answer.

    Quite recently, I asked a coachee for feedback at the end of a coaching session (which I frequently do). She answered, “You made me feel comfortable.” Curious, I asked which of the myriad of things I had done had made her feel comfortable. She answered without hesitation, “You said, ‘Take your time.’”

    I probably use that phrase several times per week. When I do, I see shoulders relax downward, gazes shift upward or out the window, or notes being furiously written.

    Here’s how it often goes:

    • Question
    • Silence (tense)
    • “Take your time.”
    • Silence (relaxed)
    • Important discoveries

    Silence, offered as a gift, can create the space our coachees need for real progress.

    Julie Johnson


  • 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

The leading international provider of supervision training for Executive Coaches, HR, Leaders, OD, People Professionals and their teams


Coaching Supervision Academy

Phone:  (+44) 7891 513 929
Email: mike@csa.uk.net

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