It is crucial to differentiate between supervising managers and supervising coaches within the context of supervision. A manager supervisor is responsible for overseeing employees, ensuring they meet goals and stay on track. In contrast, a coach supervisor focuses on guiding and supporting coaches, helping them refine their skills, maximize their potential, and enhance their coaching practice. As a management coach or mentor, you may find yourself in multiple roles, including a coach supervisor working with fellow coaches instead of employees. In such situations, you’ll be dealing with various coaching professionals, addressing complex issues, and managing relationships among coaches. This is where coaching supervision using Clean Language can be highly beneficial for clarifying issues and enhancing understanding.
What is Coaching Supervision?
Supervision for coaches typically involves providing a safe and supportive space for coaches to reflect on their practice, explore challenges, and gain insights into their coaching styles and techniques. It also encourages continuous professional development, ensuring coaches maintain high standards and stay updated with the latest trends and best practices in the coaching field.
Coaching supervision is a requirement of most organizations employing internal coaches and by the major coaching and mentoring institutions such as ICF, AC, ILM, and EMCC. As many executives and leaders are required to ‘coach’ or ‘mentor’ their staff, the need for effective and skilled supervision has never been greater.
The Ethics of Coaching Supervision
Coaching supervision for internal coaches is guided by a set of ethical principles that ensure the coaching process remains professional, effective, and focused on the well-being of both coaches and clients. The ethics of coaching supervision for internal coaches involve the following key areas:
Supervisors must protect the confidential information shared by the coaches they supervise. This includes not disclosing specific client details, discussions, or coaching strategies without consent. Confidentiality promotes trust, openness, and a safe space for reflection.
Clear boundaries must be established and maintained between the supervisor, the internal coach, and their clients. These boundaries should define the scope of the coaching relationship, the roles and responsibilities of each party, and any potential conflicts of interest.
Supervisors should have the necessary qualifications, skills, and experience to guide and support internal coaches. They should also engage in continuous professional development to stay updated with the latest coaching techniques, trends, and best practices.
Supervisors must act with integrity, honesty, and transparency in all their interactions with internal coaches. This involves being consistent in their actions, adhering to the agreed-upon ethical guidelines, and avoiding any behaviour that might undermine the coaching relationship.
Supervisors should respect the autonomy, dignity, and diversity of internal coaches, acknowledging their individual perspectives and experiences. This respect extends to creating a non-judgmental and supportive environment for coaches to grow and develop.
Supervisors should promote a culture of accountability, where both they and the internal coaches take responsibility for their actions and decisions. This includes monitoring progress, providing constructive feedback, and addressing any ethical concerns that may arise.
7. Ethical Framework
Supervisors should encourage internal coaches to explore overarching standards, codes of conduct, company culture, and issues like diversity and equality. Providing a clear ethical framework helps internal coaches to make well-informed decisions when facing challenges.
By adhering to these ethical principles, coaching supervision for internal coaches ensures that the coaching process remains professional, client-centred, and focused on promoting personal and organizational growth. These ethics also contribute to the development of a safe, supportive, and effective coaching environment for all parties involved.
Using The Clean Language Tool
Clean Language, a tool developed by David Grove, is highly effective in coaching supervision. This method minimizes assumptions in interactions and allows supervisors to work closely with coaches’ perspectives. Grove devised and refined 7 questions to support coaching supervisors.
- Transform “What are you thinking?” to “Is there anything else about xx (their words)?”, avoiding presuppositions.
- Remove confusing pronouns (I, you, me, etc.), changing “Tell me more about her/him” to “Is there anything else about her/him?”
- Introduce the word ‘that’ in many questions for specificity: “What kind of x is that x?”
- Frame all questions in the present tense, as experiences happen in the present moment (even if recalling a memory).
- Use Clean Questions and stay with the supervisee’s language to better manage boundaries, contain confidential content, and avoid conflicts of interest.
- Encourage exploration of overarching standards, codes of conduct, company culture, and issues like diversity and equality. Provide a clear ethical framework for the manager as a coach to refer to when facing challenges.
- Set up one-to-one supervision with clear agreements involving all stakeholders. Supervision records should be confidential and compliant with data protection regulations. Record sessions using initials or nicknames, noting only themes, not specific content, and inform the supervisee of this process.
Applying the Clean Language Questions
These solutions allow supervisors to work closely with coaches’ perspectives, minimizing assumptions in interactions. Clean Language is highly respectful and particularly powerful in cross-cultural coaching and supervision, as it helps supervisors set aside unconscious bias, assumptions, and preconceived ideas (solution 5).
To further manage boundaries and share insights without compromising confidentiality, clean supervision is essential. Supervision should be a safe, reflective space for individuals acting as managers, support workers, coaches, or mentors to explore their work with a skilled professional. This approach promotes stakeholder safety, enhances ethical awareness, and encourages growth and learning.
Asking ‘clean’ questions related to solution 5, such as:
- “And when you have clear boundaries, what kind of boundaries are those?”
- “And is there anything else about those boundaries?”
- “What needs to happen for those boundaries to remain strong and not be compromised?”
For solutions 6 and 7, encourage coaches to explore the overarching standards, codes of conduct, company culture, and issues like diversity and equality. Provide a clear ethical framework for the manager as a coach to refer to when facing challenges. Set up one-to-one supervision with clear agreements involving all stakeholders. Supervision records should be confidential and compliant with data protection regulations. Record sessions using initials or nicknames, noting only themes, not specific content, and inform the supervisee of this process.
A Trusting Environment For Coaching Supervision
It is now recognized that sensitive and /or challenging situations require a more trusting and collaborative form of supervision. A safe place for exploration into hidden areas where working with clean language and an individual’s metaphors can be of immense value. A place where the head of department, executive, or team leader as supervisor, is holding a professional space for the individual in supervision to better understand what is going on in the system.
This is the kind of environment that allows the coach/mentor/supervisee to reflect on their patterns of behaviour. It’s a space to nurture those interventions which best serve their own growth and that of their staff and or teams.
Coaching supervision (as clearly demonstrated in my book ‘Coaching Supervision at its BEST’ ) differs from coaching sessions in that it is broader, deeper, and less defined. It is usually longer term and supports the reflective practice and development of the coach in service of their client. The focus is more on the coach/client dynamics and the complex relationships across the organization.
Experienced Professional ICF Executive Coach & CSA Dip Supervisor
Specialising in Cross-Cultural Understanding, Advanced Communication and Working with International teams
‘Coaching Skills for Leaders’ and ‘Coaching Supervision at its BEST’ Both ILM validated
Full Spectrum Supervision – Edna Murdoch & Jackie Arnold 2013
AWARDS: Executive Coaching
ECI & Exelerate