Tales From The Supervisor’s Chair : The ‘No-show’ Client

When the Coach looks for reassurance that they are Doing It Right

Recently, one of my supervisees was exploring how she had challenged a coachee who had repeatedly cancelled, postponed and rearranged coaching sessions. How could she make him commit?

She also wanted to explore her own “uncomfortable-ness” – sometimes with being more challenging with coachees. From her description, she sounded like she had a done a really good job with him by “holding up the mirror” to his behaviour within the coaching relationship. He responded (after initial shock) by committing more fully to the coaching and unusually for him, requesting the next date for another session there and then – result!

So what else might she have done?

Reassurance for the anxious supervisee

My feeling was that she could have helped her client to draw a deeper level of learning from this. On the surface, he had just learnt to turn up to sessions with her! This is great but does his behaviour with my supervisee suggest this is typical of his behaviour elsewhere?

The coach could have asked that if he did this with her, where else was he doing it? At work? At home?

Holding the mirror up to something the coaching client maybe unconsciously acting out with the coach will often create a greater shift than just a surface level commitment to show up for coaching sessions.

My supervisee’s concern was focussed on herself and about doing the right thing with the client. As she was still in training to be a coach, this was understandable. This is the first level of development in supervision where most coaches are looking for reassurance that they are doing it right.

In Coaching, Mentoring & Organisational Consultancy – Supervision and Development, Peter Hawkins and Nick Smith describe the four levels that coaches go through to develop themselves via supervision:

Level I Self-Centred:

  • Supervisee dependent on supervisor.
  • Supervisee may be anxious, insecure about role as coach.
  • May lack insight but highly motivated.
  • Apprehension about being evaluated or assessed by supervisor
  • Anxiety about focussing on one self.
  • Tend to focus on specific aspects of clients history, current situation or personality assessments.
  • May be impatient and fearful about never being able to move on from ‘stuckness’.
  • Prone to premature judgement of client and self.
  • Supervisor needs to balance support and uncertainty for supervisee.

Level II Client-Centred:

  • Fluctuations between dependence and autonomy for supervisee and between over-confidence and being overwhelmed.
  • Less simplistic and single focussed.
  • Realisation on emotional level that becoming a coach is long and arduous.
  • Loss of confidence and simplicity may lead to supervisee anger at supervisor, holding their supervisor responsible for disillusionment. Can lead to supervisor being seen as incompetent by supervisee for “failing them”.
  • Supervisor needs to be less structured/didactic but provide emotional support for feelings oscillating between excitement and disappointment.

Level III Process-Centred:

  • Supervision becomes more collegial (sharing and examples alongside professional and personal confronting).
  • Supervisee now able to flex approach to client to meet individual and specific needs.
  • Able to see wider context and develop helicopter skills.
  • Able to be fully present with client but also to widen out to: relationship with client, client’s personal history/life patterns, client’s external life circumstances, clients life stage, social context, ethnic background.
  • Less apparent where supervisee has received coaching schooling as incorporated learning into own personality rather than piece of learnt methodology.

Level IV: Process-in-Context-Centred:

  • Can be seen as Level III Integrated – Practitioner now at Master level, i.e. personal autonomy, insightful awareness, personal security, stable motivation, awareness about confronting own personal and professional problems. “Who you are is how you coach.”
  • Not about acquiring more knowledge but deepening and integrating until it becomes wisdom.

These categories show the value of supervision not just for inexperienced coaches like the one described, but also how supervision can provide depth for coaches who have been coaching longer and maybe needing to focus more on ethical decision making and the linkages between the coach as flawed human being (like us all)and their relationships with clients.

If you want to take your coaching to the next level via supervision then please contact me. I always offer a complimentary phone call to potential supervision clients to discuss whether we would be the right fit for each other – as the relational aspects of the work are even more crucial than in coaching itself.

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Julia helped me focus on how to identify solution's which are within my control, whilst dealing more effectively and positively with those issues and behaviours from others which are outside my control Helen Dale, Head of Conservation & Reserves, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust

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