In the recently launched book “Coaching in Asia, The First Decade” professional coaches working in Asia tell many personal stories of how they are actively engaged by companies and governments in the region to help grow and develop their most senior leaders. The tremendous growth of professional coaching has been spurred by two key factors; the entry of a number of reputable coach training organisations into the region and the increasing evidence that good quality coaching has a positive effect on bottom line performance. There are now more than 500 trained coaches in Singapore alone. Some are part-time life coaches, some are trainers who offer coaching as a side line to their training business and others are executive coaches who earn their income purely from coaching.
There are many niches in which coaches operate; life, teen, career, parental, executive and others. In this article we focus on the professional executive coach and what coaching supervision means to them, their clients and the coaching profession as a whole.
One of the problems facing corporate buyers of coaching services is the fact that there is no overriding benchmark of what constitutes competent coaching. Different coaching schools teach differing methodologies, although the concept of helping a client find their own answers, rather than answers prescribed by the coach, is a common thread through all reputable coach training courses. Once trained, coaches often go for further training in disciplines such as Solution Focused Coaching, Counselling, NLP, Meta Coaching and even hypnosis. Hence ten different coaches may have ten different tool kits with which to approach their coaching assignments. This presents a puzzle for HR and learning and development professionals charged with hiring a coach for senior leaders in their organisation.
Compounding the hesitation in choosing a coach is the fact that, unlike counselling and psychotherapy from which coaching borrows some techniques, coaching is unregulated. Not only do most professional bodies in the UK such as the British Association for Counselling and psychotherapy require supervision, but it is also seen by many as an ethical imperative. A UK client who encounters a therapist working without supervision would probably consider carefully whether they wish to work with that person at all.
Whilst not currently mandated by any coaching professional body, supervision is seen by many as vital to the continued growth and reputation of coaching. The International Coach Federation prescribes a certain minimum number of hours of mentoring to move from one accreditation level to another. Supervision is a little different and I dare to suggest deeper than straightforward mentoring. Coaching supervision, is defined by Peter Hawkins and Nick Smith, two recognised thought leaders in the field, thus; “The process by which a coach/mentor/consultant with the help of a supervisor, who is not working directly with the client, can attend to understanding better both the client system and themselves as part of the client-coach/mentor system, and transform their work.”
In essence the difference between mentoring and supervision is the depth of exploration of the relationship between the coach, coachee, the hiring organisation and the world outside that system. Mentoring tends to focus on the substance of the coaching engagement, providing the mentee with food for thought on new interventions they might try with a coachee to achieve a desired outcome. Supervision does this too but with much more of a systemic view of what is going on with the coach and his relationship with all parts of the client, coachee, organisation and outside world system. In this sense it can be thought of as “mentoring plus”.
Supervision also shines a spotlight on what the coach is bringing into the room when they sit down with their coachee. What past experiences does the coach bring that parallel the experience of the coachee, what prejudices, assumptions and judgements is the coach making subconsciously? In many respects supervision aims to bring what is unconscious into the coach’s vision, so they become aware of their own state of mind and how it is affecting their ability to coach impartially and effectively.