New Year Awakening

A very happy new year to all our current and indeed past participants, and if you are visiting our website for the first time then welcome.  I am delighted to introduce our guest blog from ECA Associate, Colby Adams….

Joanne and I have been working together this month with a talented new group of coach supervisors to deliver our last workshop of the second ‘Certificate in Coaching Supervision’ programme (leading to an ILM Level 7 Postgraduate Qualification).  We have been generously hosted this time by the University of St Andrews and have been enjoying the breathtaking views of the city, the golf course and the waves rolling up over the long golden sands.

Yesterday I started dipping into the book, “Coaching Supervision: A Practical Guide for Supervisees”, by Clutterbuck, Whitaker and Lucas (2016, Routledge, LONDON).

The chapter about developing our ‘internal supervisor’ states that a large part of the learning that takes place through supervision occurs as we reflect on our experiences in preparation for that supervision. In effect this is ‘self supervision’, together with post supervision reflection and personal development planning.

But what is the internal supervisor? And how can I ever trust myself given that I will  always be blinkered by my infinite blind spots and biases?!

Well, in the same chapter, Clutterbuck and Megginson offer some signposting for reflecting on our ‘maturing’ process through looking back over the evolutionary trail of our practice.

As I read their four stage outline, I recognised how I clung to ‘models’ at the beginning of my practice as a coach and as a coach supervisor. My excuse was safety and control. But safety and control for whom? Well I thought it was all in service of the client, but now looking back, I realise it was also about wanting to feel ‘in control of’ and ‘safe from’ the client – and the guilt of being found wanting or getting something wrong. So really my first order of development for my own practice was, in fact, self protection and do no harm! Perfectly natural for ‘newbies’ as I have been discovering as a Coach Supervisor.

As time went on I focussed on the processes and techniques to create the container and encourage greater sharing of control and safety with the client, to enlarge the space, to trust presence, and to trust myself and the client.  Processes, including conversational sequences and phrasings were lovingly honed, and coincidentally started becoming perhaps a little too comfortable and formulaic. I may well have been serving the client but I began to feel bored. Sessions started to feel the same with everyone.

So how to enlarge the container and shake up my practice? Well, I thought, by loosening the preordained processes and facilitating the client experience within a wider boundary of philosophy.  For me it was through the philosophy of compassion.  I found myself not only studying, but embodying compassion through Mindfulness practice and guiding over several years. This was a way of defining my practice and my relationships with my clients. All well and good. I am confident that I am doing no harm.

Wait a minute! Is this still about control and safety and self protection?  After almost twenty years practicing as a coach and coach supervisor, am I still afraid of the client and the guilt of being found wanting or getting something wrong?

I wonder how my fears serve me now?

Is my practice really all about choosing and using the ‘right’ models, processes or philosophies as a safety net for ‘doing the right thing’ with the client in the room?

How can I enable trust in myself and in my relationship with the client in the moment? And even if I still notice that gray descending fog of panic and uncertainty – what if I just stay with this, embrace it as a gift rather than drop back into the safety net that I have build for myself over all these years? What if I just let go, allow, relax and trust emergence?

Perhaps my internal supervisor will support me to see this uncertainty as a sign, a preamble, for another breakthrough in the evolution of my practice and my learning.

My internal supervisor will always work best, hand in hand, with my external supervisor for perspective, support and challenge – but now I think that it is my internal supervisor who will give me the courage to blaze the trail for moving forward and deeper into my practice.

If you are interested in finding more about how we work at ECA and what we offer, please do check out our current Certificate in Executive Coaching and Mentoring (starting in May 2018) and our Certificate in Coaching Supervision (Autumn 2018).


Colby Adams

January 2018