By Michelle Lucas
The paradox of creating dependence and independence in supervision

The paradox of creating dependence and independence in supervision

The other day I reached out to a supervisee who I had supported to attain Accreditation.  I had not heard from her for a while…..  This was not unusual – often the intensity of the Accreditation process means that people “lay low” for a while gathering a different kind of energy for their supervision in the future.

We agreed a call to catch up, during which I asked what her plans were for supervision for the year ahead.  She shared with me that she had found a new supervisor for 121 supervision work.  Ouch!  I noticed two sensations arising in me.  One in my gut of disappointment and loss and a twinge of “not being good enough”.  One in my head which felt proud of her confidence as a supervisee, it was good to see her experimenting with different people to work with.  She must have felt my hesitation. She offered how much she had enjoyed working with me and reminded me that I had encouraged her to explore different supervisors … hadn’t I even written that supervisors have a natural “shelf life” in a book?  I laughed and shared that knowing that it’s the right thing to do and the emotional impact of having it happen are two very experiences ….and that both were happening in me right there and then!

It’s an interesting tight rope that we walk as supervisors.  By encouraging longevity in the supervision relationship we get to know our supervisees, better, more deeply and more courageously. We work out how to pace the coach’s development – how we can help them stretch beyond what they are comfortable and safe with, yet without letting anything “snap”. It’s good for our professional development as supervisors too.  Longer relationships become genuine learning partnerships.  We learn how to extend our craft. I get more creative and more brave, experimenting and enjoying the freedom of getting things wrong as a means to getting things more right for both of us. And significantly, from a commercial perspective, whilst supervision work may not be as well paid as corporate coaching work, the relationship often spans many years rather than many months.  So as someone who finds the procurement of work more depleting than the doing of the work, I notice that encouraging a longer term supervision relationship fits my personal agenda too.

By contrast I seek regular change in my own supervision arrangements. In my 11 years of being an independent coach, I am now on my fourth 121 supervisor.  I am also in group supervision – and I am enjoying what is now my second group.  Plus I supplement this with a peer supervision chain which gives me a new supervision partnership 3 times a year.  As an eclectic coach, this level of variety works well for me. It keep things fresh, stimulating and yes, occasionally its unsettling… and that’s a good thing, I think.  I also pick up ways of working when I am in the client (or peer) chair which prompts me to explore new avenues to integrate into my own practice.  It’s great value for money, both supervision and CPD rolled into one!

So, back to that day. I dropped the phone and went to make a cup of coffee, my husband was whittling away at the stair spindles (we are renovating our home).  I shared my disappointment that my supervisee had moved on, and away from me.  He stopped working, “What went wrong?”. That was a difficult question to answer.  I’m not sure that anything went wrong.  I’m not sure that I would do anything differently next time. I am quite sure that what happened, was right for her. Perhaps the only thing I can work on is re-framing what I am experiencing as a loss, and to recognise that it will free up space.  Again the head and heart are in opposition here - easy to know, not so easy to embrace.

Over dinner that night, having run an antiques renovation business himself, a business that rested on repeat business, my husband commented that encouraging my clients to regularly change supervisors seemed like commercial lunacy.  He asked me if all Supervisors work this way.  Another great question … do they? 

I would love to hear your thoughts on how you navigate the tension between creating independence in our supervisees whilst simultaneously inviting a loss for ourselves.

Contact: michelle@greenfieldsconsultancy.co.uk

Call Michelle 07717 122950


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Michelle Lucas

Accredited Coaching Supervisor

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