Melody Cheal, Coaching Supervision provider and trainer.

What is Coaching Supervision? 10 answers and why it’s vital!

I was asked the other day “What is coaching supervision and what does a Coaching Supervisor do?” and realised that the answer is not obvious to everyone.

In order to answer this question I must first create some frames to start from. The field of personal development and business Coaching has evolved over several decades now.  Typically Coaches were lone workers and had little in the way of support or development.

As professional bodies  (such as the Association for Coaching and International Coaching Federation) developed to represent Coaches it became apparent that Coaches do need ongoing support and a sense of belonging.

Coaching Supervision and training for Coaching Supervisors grew out of this need.

A number of years ago I conducted a survey and one of the questions I asked was about the definition of Supervision and what it is. Here are some of the responses:

  • A process where either on a group or individual basis, my practice is discussed and reviewed with experienced Coaches/Supervisors.  The aim of the process is to ensure that practice is safe, reflexive, and therefore improves with the aim of ensuring the client’s needs are central to the work.
  • Having someone with knowledge and experience to go to on a regular basis to discuss issues related to the coaching work done by the individual. Helping with further development and confidence building, as well as providing personal support to prevent burnout
  • Someone who has the responsibility and competence to monitor performance.
  • 1:1 meeting between an individual and (usually) their line manager or another respected individual.  Used to review cases, for reflective practice; to identify areas for improvement and celebrate successes.
  • A tiered support system for coachs.
  • In the strictest term – someone monitoring another individual, but also being there as a guide, coach, tutor, support, overseer.
  • My definition of coaching supervision would be – allowing someone the freedom to be, do or make choices but questioning those choices should the “supervisor” feel that the outcome could be detrimental in any way, to their (or indeed others) health or well being.  Ideally the supervisor would share their knowledge or experience, usually backed up with examples and allow the person being supervised to think of more appropriate options or revise any decision before making it.
  • Monitoring your work to ensure that your practice is safe and ethical; supporting and encouraging your ongoing development as a practitioner; progressing your work with clients.
  • I feel that supervision means that someone is there with you. With regard to coach training should be of a high standard and that there should be back up with contact and not necessarily have to be there in person.
  • I guess it is a mentor of sorts, someone for a practitioner to refer to for advice and support.

How does it match up with your definition and understanding?

What is Supervision?

Here is my brief definition.

Supervision is a key element of good coaching practice providing the coach with support and development. It also signals a professional approach to your client. Supervision is essentially the process of going “meta” to your coaching practice, it helps you to metaphorically take a step back and look at your work from a new perspective.

The term “supervision” as used here is very different to the managerial usage of the term. The supervisor may or may not line manage the coach, the role is intended more for development and providing the coach with a coach. Coaching Supervision as a process works best when separated from day to day line management. This means that clear contracting is just as important in this relationship as it is in primary coaching mentoring relationships. This is more clear cut for independent Coaches and Supervisors. In-house programmes need a little more thought and contracting to keep the process “clean”.

Brigid Proctor (1986) described three elements useful in counselling supervision; normative, formative and restorative. These elements have value in coaching supervision too. Julie Hay (2007) re-labelled restorative as supportive when applied to coaching to reflect the less traumatic nature of the coaching process when compared to counselling.

The normative aspects of supervision relate to ensuring that the coach is practicing in a competent and ethical way. This includes working in accordance with the law and within whatever professional or organisational boundaries apply.

The formative aspect is aimed at encouraging development and growth in the coach by the use of feedback, direct guidance, challenge or role modelling. The aim is to engage the coach in active self awareness, development of skills and increased knowledge of theoretical models.

Finally the supportive aspect is aimed at providing the coach/ mentor with a safety valve to ensure that they are avoiding unhealthy transference or counter transference issues. This may involve challenging the coach/mentors perceptions about emotions, issues or approaches. It may even include recommending that the coach/ mentor seek more in-depth personal support if their own personal issues have begun to intrude into their professional practice. In addition this aspect provides the encouragement and support to help the coach/ mentor if they experience feelings of self doubt or insecurity.

In-house coaching and mentoring programmes should include a formally set up supervision process. This can involve experiences coaches or mentors within the organisation or may involve using and external provider.

If you are a practicing Coach do you have a Supervisor? If not do contact me to find out about my groups and one to one support.

If you are an experienced Coach maybe it is time to consider training as a Supervisor yourself. My next Accredited Diploma starts in September and there is still time to join the Cohort. Contact me direct or click the link for more details.


Melody Cheal MSc MAPP
Follow GWiz
Latest posts by Melody Cheal MSc MAPP (see all)