By Doug Montgomery and Liz Nottingham
Developing your HR Super-Vision

Developing your HR Super-Vision

 This article by Doug Montgomery and Liz Nottingham is an invitation to HR professionals to bring Super-Vision into their professional and personal development.

Why Super-Vision for HR Leaders?

Many are drawn into a career in human resources to be in service of others;  helping people resource themselves,  solving problems, offering expertise and  advice.   To be fully available for others we need to take care of ourselves. To perform our HR roles we need to develop and nurture our inner and outer Super-Vision.

Bill O’Brien, the late CEO of Hanover Insurance, summarised his most important insights from leading transformational change in his own company, in relation to Scharmer's Theory U, O’Brien said: “The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener.”

So if we are not resourced how can we possibly offer our best self to others?  Where do we go to restore your inner resources and resilience?

When we completed our coaching supervision course a few years ago we noticed that there is great value in offering a version of the coaching supervision framework to HR professionals.  

We know from our own experience that Coaching is a great resource for professionals who have a particular well defined behavioural and or developmental goal, and we are both executive coaches who coach leaders with such goals. What we are describing here - HR Super-Vision - goes beyond coaching. 

Why do we say this?

The HR team in all organisations are responding to major life events, sickness, bereavement, stress and relationship challenges on a daily basis. A counsellor, social worker and coach would be provided with supervision resources as a given to support their professional work,  development, and perhaps most importantly at this time, their restoration and wellbeing. 

The changing role of Human Resources

Human Resources seem to be increasingly responsible for the conscience of the company, for the health and well-being of the organisation and required to navigate multiple simultaneous relationships with line managers, leadership teams, exec boards and individuals. Whilst professional qualifications support employment legalities and important process and procedure, it seems to us that there is little in place to support the personal growth of the HR professional as they manage a broad range and depth of relationships and boundaries with complex human content.

Liz noticed that as a HR professional she “wished that she had found supervision much earlier in her career; a space to reflect on her interactions with others and to learn more about herself. Who we are is how we shape our HR practice.”

We would suggest that the HR director and the CEO have the loneliest positions in the organisation. They are the company confidants and are privy to multiple layers of classified knowledge within the business. Everyone they talk to in the organisation has an agenda. In addition, navigating what is happening across relationships as multiple characters share their stories may sometimes be complicated, confusing and contradictory. HR professionals hold a lot of psychological complexity in confidence.  Often, we do not notice what complexities we are being drawn into. This takes a toll and needs attention to manage well. Super-Vision provides a space to reflect, look through different lenses and notice what is going on so that choices become available.

What is supervision?

“Supervision is a working alliance between two professionals where supervisees offer an account of their work, reflect on it, receive feedback, and receive guidance if appropriate.  The object of this alliance is to enable the worker to gain in ethical competency, confidence and creativity as to give the best possible services to clients”.  (Inskipp and Proctor, 2001).

We would add that the HR leaders we have spoken to are looking for a safe place to share their experiences and be heard. The safe sounding board and opportunity to find and explore new perspectives is much needed.

How does supervision work?

Working in either groups or in a one-to-one relationship, the benefit of supervision is to provide a safe and non-judgemental space for the supervisee to reflect on what they did, and why and how they did it. This gives space for people to share their doubts, their concerns and anxieties and successes and in so doing to learn about themselves. The consequence of not doing this reflective work is that we do not question and explore our patterns, assumptions and triggers and therefore, through lack of awareness, do not give ourselves the resources and choices to change and to grow.

The supervision relationship provides learning as you work with new models, methods and tools to examine relationships and dynamics between people. As supervisors, we are in service of your being resourced for growth and development.

As the supervision relationship grows, this in turn ripples out into the relationship you are having within the organisation. The quality of the supervision relationship is then modelled by  you as this emerges in the relationships within the business. The conversations change, the interventions change and in turn the relationships change.

Who are we?

The authors, Dr Doug Montgomery, PCC, and Liz Nottingham, FIPA, are independent CSA accredited coach supervisors and experienced business leaders from different industries.  Doug’s a former research scientist and senior leader in the pharmaceutical industry and now runs an independent executive coaching and coach supervision practice. 

Liz has held several  senior HR roles, supporting and developing senior leaders. We both trained in coaching supervision at the Coaching Supervision Academy, where a fundamental pillar is: “Who we are is how we supervise”.  We base our HR Super-Vision offering on the premise that “Who you are is how you practice your profession”.  

For further information and conversation about what this could mean for you, contact Doug at [email protected] or Liz at [email protected] 


Inskipp, F. and Proctor, B. (2001). Making the Most of Supervision. Part 1. Twickenham: Cascade.


Share this article

About the author

Doug Montgomery and Liz Nottingham

All publications by Doug Montgomery and Liz Nottingham

The Latest On AOCS

Online Community

Become part of our online family. Connecting and empowering each other to succeed. We want to give supervision wider exposure and a larger 'share of voice' in the coaching community. Come and join us!

Back to Top