By Joanne Searle
Ethical practice and Coaching Supervision: an introduction

Ethical practice and Coaching Supervision: an introduction

Coach Supervision is a natural ally of ethical coaching practice 

Ethical Practice can’t be maintained by rules and regulations. Many ethical situations are fraught with complexity requiring further careful exploration rather than simple answers. Supervision provides a forum for all parties to increase their ethical maturity. [1] 

The need for, and benefits of, coaching supervision are generally recognised in theory, yet it seems that the use of coaching supervision in practice is not widespread. This is due to:

  • coaching supervision being in a relatively early stage of development
  • a lack of trained and experienced supervisors,
  • a reluctance on the part of coaches, both individuals and coaching companies, to invest in supervision, and
  • the real benefits of supervision not fully realised or appreciated in practice. 

In the last few years much has been developed and written about in the way of models or theories of coaching supervision. And still, most of what we know about supervision comes from social work, psychology and psychotherapy and, until recently with the increase in coach supervision training offerings, most coaching supervisors came from psychology backgrounds where supervision models and theories are well established. 

Coaching supervision fulfils three main functions and benefits: 

  • It protects the client by providing a forum that calls coaches to account and focuses on improving the quality of coaching provided. Supervision breaks the coach’s isolation and exposes us, as coaches, to insight and awareness of our blind spots and the dynamics between coach and coachee.
  • It provides on-going learning and growth for coaches. It provides a safe supportive space for coaches to develop their own creativity and style.
  • It provides affirmation and emotional support for the coach. It is a confidential space for the coach to share both challenges and triumphs in their work. 

When choosing supervision, a coach should go through the same process they that they would recommend a client does when choosing a coach: personal recommendation, check out credentials, try out more than one, until they feel comfortable and can trust their supervisor, be able to build a relationship and feel they are learning and developing as a coach.

The options for supervision are individual, group and/or peer. Peer supervision is complementary to individual or group supervision with a trained/experienced supervisor and is not generally seen as a substitute for either. 

Group Supervision

Group supervision holds several benefits over individual supervision:

  • It provides the opportunity to learn from and identify with other coaches
  • It creates a sense of community that provides support, challenge and insight in a profession where we can easily be and become isolated
  • The diversity of personality and experience of the group members provides a broader perspective on ourselves and our work
  • It has the edge over one-to-one when it comes to accountability
  • It is more cost effective 

Supervision for Corporate Coaches

Organisational Supervision provides another function for an organisation which has invested in a coaching programme:

  • It invites the question of what organisational learning themes or insights can be drawn from the coaching. Again, well defined confidentiality boundaries are required to make discussion safe and allow a flow of creativity and timing of insight that can serve the organisation as a whole.
  • Supervision can also increase the return on investment and can help provide evidence of that return. 

My goal as a supervisor is to build a reputable profession. Choosing supervision is an essential part of investing in ourselves as coaches and in our practices. It is about developing our professional reputation and above all our impact as coaches. 

Joanne is an executive coach and coach supervisor. She has a background as a Chartered Accountant and Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapist registered with the UKCP. She is a Master Coach with the IMCSA and a Master Practitioner with COMENSA and a member of AoCS. 

Article authored by Joanne Searle: [email protected] 

[1] Coaching Supervision: Maximising the Potential of Coaching by CIPD (UK) 2006


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