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Ep. 92: What Bothers Us about Supervision with Tracy Bertran, Michele White, Traci Manalani, Larissa Thurlow

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 Tracy Bertran, Michele White, Traci Manalini and Larissa Thurlow are all executive coaches, team coaches, individual and group supervisors offering diverse and extensive experience in the fields of learning and adult development.


Podcast episode Summary:

This podcast discusses the often-misunderstood topic of Supervision, how it serves coaches and team coaches and how it is distinctive from Mentoring and Therapy.  To fully appreciate the value of Supervision in the field of professional coaching this episode explores the evocative question: what bothers us about Supervision. 

Points made throughout the Episode: 

    • Tracy Bertran PCC, kicked this conversation off by sharing how she came to Supervision. It was an integral part of her Coach Training. She confesses that supervision and its value went off her radar once she finished her Coach training. Larissa Thurlow came to supervision slightly later in her professional career. Larissa was doing lots of training & exposure to team coaching and felt something was missing. She learnt about Supervision, still was not completely sure what she was getting into and then found its value. 
    • Traci Manalini picks up the thread about not really know what you are going into by virtue of Supervision and shares that a colleague found that Supervision made him better as a Coach. Intrigued Traci explored more and found many to be of the same opinion. Supervision supports you to become a better Coach. For Michele White Supervision brings her back to herself and who she wants to be as a Coach. Like Tracy Bertran, Michele came back to supervision after a while and trained to become a trained Supervisor mainly because she wanted to become a better reflective Coach and from there her supervision practice grew. 
    • In addition to becoming a better reflective Coach, Supervision offers more. It provides illumination that extends to the whole of the system. Supervision helps to normalise our practice. It helps to see better and see again. 
    • The title of this podcast is called what bothers us about Supervision and Traci Manalini shares that what bothers her is that people really do not understand what Supervision is as an offering. The word itself, Supervision, has so many preconceptions about what it is. Often people assume it has something to do with a power dynamic, where the Supervisor is “overseeing” someone’s work. This puts an extra emphasise on education to support people unlearn their perceptions about what it is. It ends up that people do not understand what Supervision is and the close their minds to the possibilities it affords. 
    • Tracy Bertran adds that what bothers her is the confusion between Supervision and Mentoring. Some treat the two modalities as interchangeable as if the names are simply semantic preferences. In addition to this confusion what bothers Tracy is the amount of supervision being undertaken by Coaches. Only about 50% are actively engaged in the practice of regular supervision. Professional Rigour is at question. 
    • It makes Tracy sad given the fact that there is so much to be gained by undertaking Supervision. The opportunity to look at behaviours, thoughts feelings, patterns, systems etc is provided. Supervision allow coaches to build mastery as opposed to the acquisition of new knowledge. Supervision can be transformational. 
    • Michele White builds on the feelings of sadness by sharing that she feels sad because Individual or Team Coaches do not experience the joy of Supervision & the depth of Supervision. She queries the ethical nature of the Coaching Profession if supervision is absent. This asks the question about the responsibility of the Professional Bodies to make supervision mandatory. It would appear they are tentative, not mandating supervision or enough supervision. Larissa Thurlow adds that there is an inconsistency at play if we as coaches are asking our clients to be vulnerable and yet we are not doing the same. If we are supposed to be thinking partners with clients who are we partnering with to stretch and expand our capacities, in thinking, seeing and ways of being. 
    • Larissa turns the word “bother” on its head to suggest that increasingly we are bothered about taking up Supervision. She recognises the difference between when she first started out and people thought she had a number of heads talking about Supervision and now where it is being talked about. 
    • What bothers Coaches and Team Coaches about Supervision? We have to appreciate that adopting Supervision is a change. It is a fundamental difference to how Coaches, at least in North America have been practicing. Maybe there is a perception by Coaches that they are being put upon by having to accept Supervision as part of their practice, especially if it is seen as mandatory. If coaches are labouring under the assumption that they have been practicing individual coaching and team coaching for ages and could write the book they might be assuming there is nothing to be learnt by going to Supervision. Without understanding there is every chance the imposition of Supervision could feel heavy handed. 
    • Tracy Bertran adds that Supervision can be exposing. You have to be vulnerable enough to expose things about your practice to allow Supervision to be enacted. You can feel vulnerable amongst your peers and it cannot be forgotten that Supervision allows you space to celebrate as well to share successes and interventions that worked. 
    • We can be brought to the of our thinking, our comfort zone our feelings of safety and right to the edge of where we need to go to invite learning. Supervision can be in equal measure scary and brilliant. 
    • Traci adds that often Team Coaches will deselect themselves from Group Supervision believing they are not yet experienced enough or have enough cases. This can also mean premature judgement by coaches that they will not add enough value. 
    • Judgement about experience, whether you are too experienced or inexperienced can confuse the potential value of Supervision when coaches fixate on the relative exchange they will experience. 
    • The differences in experience could be handled in the set up by Supervisors as Michele explains. We need to be careful not to engineer the set up too much. We too can make erroneous assumptions about what might work. It is both and. 
    • It is very likely that protective defences are being exercised by Individual and Team Coaches in the space of Supervision. This begs the question how can we help as Supervisors? 
    • Traci Manalini offers that when talking about different experiences or levels of coaches and number of cases they can or cannot offer etc might mean we have to accept the differences and not over engineer the set up. As a parallel Teams, very often do not chose their team colleagues. 
    • Having 1:1 Conversations is one step that support the development of care and safety, the next might include the norms we create in a group to ensure reciprocity etc. 
    • There is another parallel going on with respect to group Coaching. Tracy suggests that if you think about Team Coaching, team coaches are looking at the wisdom of the team and the same is true of Group Supervision. The learning in relation you get in group Supervision is similar to the process of surfacing the intelligence that resides on teams. 
    • Michele notices her own resistance the mention of hours and the nominal value of 5 hours to be undertaken by Team Coaches if they chose to become certified. She questions whether 5 hours is enough. 5 hours is simply nothing for a team coach. 
    • Tracy had a similar allergic reaction as Michele to the mention of 5 hours. For Tracy it is another “bother about Supervision” The more team Coaching Tracy engages with the more Team Coaching Supervision she needs. It serves as a restorative place a place where she can get professional reassurance. 
    • If we think about Supervision providing Normative, Formative and Restorative resources this is especially true with Team Coaching. 
    • As Larissa puts herself in the shoes of Coaches and Team Coaches she opines that it is often the case that Supervisors extol the virtues of Supervision. For Larissa naming 5 hours to support certification is serving a purpose and it is getting Supervision recognised. 
    • Supervision is an investment in time and money and that could potentially bother Coaches as well. 
    • Tracy would love the 5 hours to be an introductory taster to Supervision so that people could experience its value and wonder how they could have lived without it in the first place. 
    • It would appear that as Supervisors, guests to the GOT podcast, that a threshold has been crossed to appreciate the value of Supervision. How can coaches and team coaches be communicated to in a way that makes the crossing so much easier? What can be said on this podcast to help people imagine what we are experiencing? 
    • Traci suggests “to try it” to give Supervision a try and maybe not just once. Most of her practice, at least 90% have suggested that Supervision has been transformative. 
    • Michele shares a story to help illuminate the potency of Supervision. What Michele was feeling and brought to Supervision was a belief “am I good enough” What she learnt in Supervision was that she was carrying this belief on the part of the team. It was not hers to own. In fact each of the executives in her case was feeling really challenged and each of them in differing ways were questioning whether they were up to the challenge.  A parallel process was revealed.
    • Tracy is pretty sure that each of us and anyone who has attended group supervision about their team practice will have been asked “what belongs to you and what belongs to the system?’ Larissa further adds to the same theme by describing how two coaches who operated as Co-Coaches both came to the realisation in Group Supervision that what they thought was about them as a dynamic or as a duo and around which they were stuck was actually the stickiness of the system. Having a place to get unstuck helped them see what they had to do to help the team get unstuck. 
    • One way to distinguish between Mentoring and Supervision is to appreciate the different language used in both. In Supervision psychological phenomenon such as Parallel process, transference and counter transference are often used terms. Supervision is the art of looking at systems and calling out complex patterns and concerns. Mentoring is more about the acquisition of skills and competencies. 
    • Coaching and Mentoring can often be about goals and achievement whereas Supervision is often a place holder for the unknown, that which wants to emerge. It’s often about “kicking the tyres” looking at cases from different angles or looking awry. Supervision is akin to theory U which speaks to sensing and allowing for emergence. 
    • Some knotty issues can present in Supervision. Relations and team dynamics invariably surface in Supervision, especially when you think about the many interdependencies  on Teams. Entanglements is often a theme. 
      • Contracting is or seems to be a fairly typical topic that presents in Supervision “All roads lead to contracting. System Patterns is another. Often difficult to see in the moment and very often surfaced in Supervision. 
      • To be able to see the very many complex dynamics and pattern on teams is the territory of Supervision.
      • Roles come up a lot in Supervision as well. The role of the Team Coach, the seduction to assume responsibility to fix the team is often a conundrum to be seen. The proclivity of Team Coaches to be sucked into the team, to assume a role on the team or to become enmeshed is often a theme to be explored in Supervision. 
      • Money and people willing to invest in themselves is the unspoken elephant in the room. It bothers Traci that so many coaches, team coaches and often Supervisors question their own value and so do not invest in this magical offer. 
      • The podcast conversation comes full circle to explore the vexating temptation by coaches to invest more in the acquisition of knowledge and skills than in their personal professional development and reflective practice as coaches. 
      • Michele wonders if there also a need to educate our Clients as well.  Michele is provocative and asks, how many of us as Coaches put at the top of our credentials the fact that we are in regular supervision? 
      • Michele acknowledges that she might have ceased the “grabbing” of more courses in favour of Supervision but she has not mentioned that in her credentials. 
    • Tracy hopes that coaches embrace supervision as an integral part of their practice. Larissa shares this hope and adds that she hopes for more research, to provide an evidence based rationale for Supervision. Traci was really struck by the word integration used across the podcast and her hope is that coaches integrate their knowledge and skill acquired in Supervision. Michele would love everyone to experience Supervision for the depth, joy and resourcing it provides

    Ways to get in touch with my four Guests 

    • Michele White, Owner People & Development LTD,
    • Traci Manalani, MA, PCC, ACTC & rebel with a cause, Principal of Practical Solutions for Sustainable change.


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