Supervision
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Supervision shares the view that you are there for your colleagues, to help them think, to share your experiences in service of them resolving their challenges and to continue to deepen your connection with the group and the coaching community at large. This blog supports this view and facilitates the opportunity to share ideas and support for other members.

 

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The Dark Side of Rapport

Posted By Michelle Lucas Ms, Greenfields Consulting Ltd, 06 September 2018
As a practitioner within the helping professions, it is highly likely that you are skilled at developing a good sense of connection with your clients. We call it rapport. We tend to think of rapport as a good thing – however as a supervisor I often witness the difficulties that arise precisely because of our rapport with another person. I call this the dark side of rapport. It is the kind of rapport that pulls you out of the neutral territory of the coach and into the client’s world… a bit too much. It can happen in subtle ways. A sense of shared experience may just blunt our awareness of the assumptions we are making and the unconscious bias that enters the room. And it can happen in profound ways, counter transference. In connecting with the client, our own “unfinished business” rears its head. What is troublesome, is that these processes rarely occur in our conscious and rational brain. They are more likely to be on the edge of our awareness. As the supervisor our role is often about drawing attention to what could be happening in a way that is helpful, for both the coach and the client (and perhaps ourselves too). In the coaching community we talk about “parallel process”. The notion that the supervisor will experience in the here and now of the supervision session, dynamics which were in play in the coaching session itself. As a supervisor there is something naturally helpful about being one step removed. Perhaps a greater objectivity to what was going on in the room and which allows the supervisor to notice the dynamic. Moreover, when a supervisor has worked with a coach over a period of time, they can bring an additional perspective. Through experiencing how a coach tends to work, it is possible for the supervisor to notice how a coach’s reaction to a particular client is similar or different to how they typically work. Variations to the norm hint that something else could be occurring. Knowing that the parallel process is a possibility allows the supervisor to enquire how the wider system might be impacting on them. Have you ever worked with a client going through a difficult time and found yourself leaving the session feeling heavy and down at heart? The chances are that what may have started as an empathetic connection has morphed into a conduit, and not only are you empathising with them, you start to experience it with them too. Some supervisors would encourage you to set firmer boundaries, to put more effort into staying neutral. I wouldn’t. Instead, I would encourage you to do two things. First deepen your understanding of you – how does your energy manifest, change shape, play tricks on you in your “regular life”. Knowing your typical triggers – motivators and inhibitors is an essential baseline, against which you can calibrate your experience as you work with a client. Secondly, get good at taking your own energetic temperature. What is happening to you in this moment – do you know why? Can you make sense of it for you? If so then what is happening is probably “your stuff”. If you can’t make sense of it, can you articulate what you are experiencing in a way that is helpful to your client. This happened to me just the other day – it was a relatively new client and we were struggling to make headway in the session. In every avenue of discussion I felt blocked, I felt irritated yet I persisted with the dialogue. At times I felt like I wanted to be quite petulant and simply say “I give up!”. I knew that I didn’t typically feel like this – so I shared my sense of “being blocked at every turn”. Surprise, surprise – this was how she was feeling about the issue in hand. That’s the parallel process in action. Great for empathy, and sometimes this will prompt the individual to consider a way forward with fresh energy. This didn’t happen on this occasion. So I sought permission to share my own learning of how I work with my “blockedness”. I described the ambivalence I was experiencing (the dark side of our rapport) – both persistent and defeated almost simultaneously. I shared my simple strategy of creating a mind map of all my competing thoughts. She shared that she had done something similar as this in her head but hadn’t actually written it down. We spent a few moments creating her mindmap. Something shifted. She did not have an answer to her conundrum, however her energy in relation to it was different. The agitation has subsided and a more objective quality had emerged. Her attachment to the issue had lessened its grip. Doing this “in the moment” with your client can be tricky, so don’t expect to have a 100% success record! The more you experiment with this, the more artful you will become. Supervision can be a great place to become more aware of when this might be happening with you and your client and is a place where you can rehearse what you might do next. We also need to be open to the fact that what we are experiencing could be much more to do with our unfinished business than it is to do with our client – in which case seeking out an appropriate helping practitioner for our personal development is likely to be a good call. If this blog is ringing bells for you, then it would be great to have a discussion with you. Contact: michelle@greenfieldsconsultancy.co.uk Call: Michelle on 07717 122950

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When is over, over…? (Part 2)

Posted By Michelle Lucas Ms, Greenfields Consulting Ltd, 06 July 2018
When we train as coaches, most programmes give a lot of attention to the start of the coaching relationship. How to set up the contract, how to establish rapport, the importance of setting goals or establishing a pre-agreed end point. However, certainly in my own training, much less attention was paid to how the coaching relationship may end. My working assumption was that the programme would end when the coaching goal was met or when the number of sessions of contracted for expired. As a practitioner, however, I have come to realise that this kind of “natural close” is only one of three ways in which the coaching relationship may come to an end. In this and the previous blog, I want to share with you two other types of ending that often occur in a coaching relationship, along with some suggestions on how you might manage them with good grace! In the previous blog , I explored how you might spot and manage the “premature” end. This second blog is about a different kind of ending – the “uncertain end”. The uncertain ending, happens where the client simply goes “AWOL” and you find yourself in the dark about what is going on. Perhaps you agreed the next session, but they cancel it due to an “emergency” and then they don’t respond to e-mails or return your calls. Or perhaps they keep promising to find a date, but it never actually happens. Sometimes they simply don’t turn up and you are left wondering if you should wait because they are simply delayed, or you start double checking if something went awry in your diary management. Unlike regular business relationships where continuity is a shared responsibility, in coaching we are taught that the client needs to take responsibility for making their sessions happen. All very well if you are an internal coach, or where money doesn’t change hands, but much more complicated when not seeing a client either means a lack of income, or means you have been paid to deliver something, but you can’t actually get to deliver it! So here are some strategies I employ to handle this kind of circumstance: • When people don’t show, the first thing I do is check my own diary and the e-mail trail to see if there could be any confusion. At 5 minutes past the start time, I will text them to let them know I have arrived, that I am waiting and to enquire by how much they are delayed. • Of course often if people are genuinely delayed, they are unable to communicate with you. They may be in the tube or still driving. So I wait. I take the view that they have paid (or will be paying) for 60 or 90 minutes. This is their time, so I stay in the agreed location for the duration of the session in case they show up. By the way I always take something with me to work on, and so whilst I might be irritated that they aren’t ready when I was, I can usually do something useful with my time. • Typically when the session time is over, I will then send an e-mail. I seek reassurance that they are ok and invite an explanation of what happened with the appointment. As much as I can I approach this in the spirit of enquiry, wanting to believe that it was a simple administrative error. When I don’t really believe this to be the case, I ask a colleague to check my draft e-mail before I press send – to check it comes across in a non-judgemental fashion. Sometimes people respond, and re-arrange, sometimes people don’t. Then you are left with the conundrum how much “chasing” is appropriate if we believe the client needs to take responsibility for making the sessions happen, and without feeling like you are becoming a bit of a stalker! • With some clients a pattern starts to emerge, a cancellation, with notice and a commitment to rearrange, a new date is put into the diary. Then that gets cancelled too, the cycle repeats. Months go by with lots of opportunities to meet, but you never get to actually do any work with them. I work on the basis that one cancellation is “just life”, twice could be a coincidence, and three times indicates a theme. After the second cancellation, I provide an observation that this will be the second time we’ve needed to re-arrange and to ask if a different time of day would be easier to protect. After the 3rd cancellation, I play back how difficult it seems to be to find a time that they can commit to and ask the question about whether now is the right time for coaching. I offer that if it is a particularly busy time for them, that it may be helpful to put the programme on hold for a couple of months and reconvene when things are quieter. If I have a niggling doubt that I might be part of the problem, then I surface that. I am quite bold with this, as it really is nothing to be ashamed of. I suggest that on occasion, having had a couple of coaching sessions, it can highlight that working with a different kind of coach or a different kind of helping professional might actually serve them better. Further if that is true for them, then I ask for the opportunity to have a shorter session, perhaps over the phone, to agree how we close out the work we have done so far, and to offer any help in finding the support they now know they want. • Depending on how curious I am , and indeed how busy I am, I may then do a little bit of detective work! If they are on Linked In, even if I am not connected with them, I keep an eye on their profile to see what they are up to. I have had a couple of instances where clients have gone AWOL and I have then been alerted that they have updated their profile. It turns out there was a restructure and they have moved companies, or they got made an offer they couldn’t refuse. In one case where the individual had actively left the company he wasn’t sure it would be appropriate to contact me, given the contract was with his organisation, and he didn’t want to put me in an awkward situation. He’d asked HR to close the loop with me, but it had fallen through an administrative crack. This can provide a huge sense of relief – it offers an explanation of why they lost touch, and depending on the contract you have with the various stakeholders, you are then in a position to re-connect with them at an appropriate juncture. • Often times though, we are simply left hanging. This is particularly true of private practice clients, because your only means of communication is directly with the individual. In an organisational setting you may have more options. For example, on the third attempt to connect, when to date it hasn’t prompted a reply, I indicate that if I don’t hear from them by a particular date, that I will contact the sponsor or organisational stakeholder to see if they can help us to reconnect. Interestingly, this often prompts people to respond! • Inevitably, sometimes you draw a big fat blank. Despite the most beautifully crafted e-mails, silence prevails. I find this particularly frustrating when from my point of view the coaching had seemed to go well, with good engagement and progress being made. To quell the frustration, I remind myself of how insignificant I am in their overall life. Trust me this is actually helpful!! When we are in a coaching session and have good rapport, it can be experienced as quite an intimate relationship – we are privileged that as a trusted partner, people allow us into their inner world. However, this is just for a moment. We are but a jot in the scheme of things. Seen in their context we are only 90 minutes out of a 60 hour week and over 1000 working hours in the month! And let’s not forget the maelstrom of domestic and personal commitments that most clients are juggling in their wider life. So in truth, whilst we might have some very connected moments with them – our presence is quite likely to be overshadowed by all the “significant others” in their wider world. • Finally, whilst it can be difficult to admit, the client going AWOL may be in small or large part due to our relationship with them. And if we are unable to connect with them to understand “what happened?”, we are left with our own insecurities for company. Did we intervene too much? Or too little? Or in an unhelpful manner? Or in a too helpful manner and they no longer need us? Or did they simply not find a connection with us? When I simply can’t shake either my curiosity or my frustration, I know it’s time for supervision. If you have an experience of a client going AWOL and the memory still haunts you, then do get in touch, it might help to talk it through. Contact : michelle@Greenfieldsconsultancy.co.uk Call Michelle on 07717 122950

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Getting the best of both worlds!

Posted By Michelle Lucas Ms, Greenfields Consulting Ltd, 02 July 2018
I hosted an AC webinar last month with Peter Hawkins and he commented that when we think we are facing an “either / or” decision, we would benefit from considering that the way forward very often lies in a “third way”. That resonated for me. I mention this because last week myself and Carol Whitaker presented our new book “Peer Supervision in Coaching and Mentoring” (written with Tammy Turner) at the South West Councils Coaching Conference in Taunton. Our presentation offered a way of bringing together both peer and professional supervision to offer coaches both an affordable and robust approach to reflecting on their practice. Before I continue, it probably is worth stating an underpinning belief that I hold – namely that there is no such thing as “too much reflective practice”!! Certainly for me every time I reflect on a piece of work, whether independently, with a colleague or with my supervisor… I see something new. The proposed approach offers a symbiosis – the best of both peer and professional supervision worlds. Peer supervision has many benefits. It can be accessed flexibly on an “as needed” basis, it often feels like a “safe space” to as “rookie” questions. It can serve to deepen the understanding gained from the training received (especially if you have all received the same method of training or if you are an alumni group), and it can promote knowledge sharing within your coaching community. However, it can often come with some limitations. When colleagues or contemporaries work together, conversation can sometimes slide into “cosy chats” or conversely a sense of competitiveness may emerge. Where there is a common training provider, or simply a very similar level of coaching experience, then developmental stagnation or a sense of “plateau” can occur. The benefits of professional supervision are that the supervisor is specifically trained and can bring rigour to the supervision exploration, they also provide a level of independence, and professional safety, both spotting and then managing potentially harmful group dynamics. On occasion, they may also move into a mentoring role, given many professional supervisors will have several thousands of hours of coaching experience to draw from and share. The limitations are however, that this will usually come with a financial cost and often the very nature of the role of “supervisor” implies a degree of formality (no matter how personable the supervisor may be). Depending on the supervisor, they may not always be available “on demand” like a colleague may be. So in Taunton, we outlined what a hybrid solution could look like. An example would be that a group of coaches could come together perhaps 6 times a year to reflect on their work. Of those six occasions they could be partnered by a professional supervisor for two of them. Ideally the professional supervisor would support them at the beginning of their journey, helping them define their Contract in a way that “sets them up for success”. At this early stage they might also demonstrate a couple of supervision techniques that the peers could use independently. The coaches would then meet a couple of times without the professional supervisor to reflect on their coaching practice. Half way through the cycle the Professional Supervisor might re-join the group, observe how they are working together and offer some developmental feedback for the group. Where there is appetite the supervisor might then demonstrate some new techniques which they could experiment with in the coming months. At the end of the cycle the Professional supervisor would join them to review progress, revisit the Contract and help them consider what their peer group supervision might look like in the year ahead and how they want (or don’t want!) to leverage the Professional Supervisor going forwards. This kind of hybrid approach not only provides accessible and robust supervision, it has the benefit of up-skilling all the coaches in a continuous improvement manner. Over time this may allow some of the coaches to prepare for becoming a coaching supervisor themselves. Now, you might expect me to say what I am about to say …. becoming a professional coaching supervisor is quite a journey. It requires a substantial track record of coaching hours, and it requires a significant investment in specific supervision and group dynamics training. Most professional supervision programmes will span a year of training in order to get sufficient underpinning knowledge (not to mention self-awareness) to be in a position to confidently navigate the complexity of the group supervision task. Of course these skills are not uniquely the domain of the external supervisor. Nonetheless they will take time and money to develop internally. So, meanwhile, proactive organisations could begin their journey through this “best of both worlds” model. So how would your organisation configure both peer and professional supervision in a way that helps you get the “best of both”? If you’d like some help thinking this through, then do get in touch. Michelle@greenfieldsconsultancy.co.uk Michelle Mobile : 07717 122950

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Sharing what’s similar to provoke what’s different

Posted By Michelle Lucas Ms, Greenfields Consulting Ltd, 28 June 2018
This is all about what is going on for the Supervisor themselves. Just like Eyes 1 & 4 – this could be about the “here and now” or of course a supervisor may well have their own baggage which they bring into the mix. The usefulness of this “eye” is connected to the supervisor’s ability to bring what they are experiencing, into the session in a way that generates insight and which is therefore helpful to the client work itself. In order for the information accessed in this way to be useful, the supervisor needs to be able to identify where “stuff” is coming from. Could it be connected to the client work ? Their own struggles and fantasies? Perhaps to their own unfinished business ? Or perhaps to something unknown? When the supervisor assesses that their “here and now” experience is not primarily from their own “stuff” – it is quite likely to be the trigger for identifying a parallel process - which is what Eye 5 relates to. However, in Eye 6 we enter more challenging and potentially unknown territory. Let’s look at this in order of “known-ness”. Firstly, it is not unusual for a supervisor to have experienced similar sensations to their supervisee at some point in their past. Where the supervisor has acknowledged the issue themselves, and begun working on it, it can be appropriate to share their own story. In expressing their own vulnerability the supervisor may give clues about how the supervisee might work to deepen their own insight. This is “easier” for the supervisor when the developmental issue is resolved or at least accepted. Of course there may be some things in the supervisees story that resonate for the supervisor and which are still very much a “work in progress” or perhaps an active fantasy. Here it can be more difficult for the supervisor to share their own experience – it may still be a private matter. The challenge for the supervisor in this situation, is to reveal only as much about the shared sensation as is necessary to prompt discussion, rather than using the session to do their own work. Finally, there is the sometimes unnerving emergence of “something out of nowhere” – that makes no logical sense, but seems somehow important. For example, whilst working on the phone, I once experienced a strong sensation of being pulled to stand upright as though there were a string running from the top of my head to the ceiling – it reminded me of my ballet lessons as a child. I shared this with my client and it was a lightbulb moment for her – turns out her son was a professional dancer and my description resonated for her. She suddenly knew she needed to “stand tall”. I don’t rationally know where this sensation came from, but in sharing my experience something “clicked” for my supervisee. An example : I was working with a novice internal coach who was talking through her struggle to transition from “expert” to coach. As an experienced lawyer she was used to being paid to express her opinion and was finding it a hard habit to break. She was talking about her frustration that whilst “intellectually” she knew the client had to find their own way - she couldn’t help herself from “helping”. She found it almost impossible not to respond to their struggle by offering suggestions and solutions. We explored this a little but it was clear from her energy that she “didn’t know why” and in highlighting the contradiction between belief’s and behaviours she was getting more and more exasperated. Rather incongruently as I listened to her angst, I felt myself supress a smile. I almost instantly knew what the smile was about – I’d been there, how often had a well-intended but directive question or suggestion tumbled out of my mouth, before I had a chance to catch it?? I shared with her that I was smiling because it was resonating with my own experience – and offered to share my journey of how I have worked to “control” this. In particular I shared with her the notion of the drama triangle and how when we help “too much” we can assume the “rescuer” role – which effectively puts our client in the “victim” role. I explained that for me “victim” was a very emotive word and so it acted as quite a deterrent when I started to feel my “rescuer” emerge. And I shared that over 10 years on and with thousands of coaching hours under my belt, there were still times when those well intended suggestions crept out – especially when under time pressure and heading towards the close of a session. After sharing my own learning, I asked her what, if anything, that prompted in her. Turns out that the timing issue was probably playing out for her too… not so much at the end of the session though, more in terms of handling “silence” or when the session seemed to be slowing or lacking energy. A light bulb went on – she commented on how impatient she was and mused this probably came from her “day job” where she charges by the 10 minute unit. My revelation that I still struggle with this issue was met with confusion – she didn’t know whether to be relieved that the struggle was not unique to her or to be dismayed that she might never crack it! I smiled openly and broadly now and simply said “welcome to my world”!

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The first 'eye': What 'lies beneath' ...

Posted By Michelle Lucas Ms, Greenfields Consulting Ltd, 25 June 2018

What do we really know about the client as they enter the room? In Part Two of this blog series about the “7 eyed Model” for coaching reflection and supervision, I’d like to share my personal reflections about looking through the first ‘eye’: The Client System.

We could be forgiven when reading some coaching text books for thinking that a coaching client will turn up for coaching, clearly state what they want to work on, that the coach will work their “magic”, the client then commits to action which when they leave the session they achieve. Yeah right ! How many times does that happen?? In reality, what we meet when the client enters the room is both their “here and now” thinking and needs along with “everything else in their life” that has gone before them. Or as a colleague (Thanks Alison!) once said – “their whole messy self” enters the room. This is what eye 1 of the model – “The Client System” is about.

Let’s take for example a client of mine who felt overwhelmed by their workload and whose manager suggested they received coaching on their time management. In our first session we uncovered that he already knew about the “important vs urgent” prioritisation matrix – so why on earth wasn’t he doing it then? We explored what success could look like. We explored what he thought was getting in his way. I questioned how he approached things in practice ….every line of enquiry seemed to meet a complex set of “excuses”… hmmm…..I was getting nowhere fast! And, might I add, I was beginning to feel some level of sympathy for his line manager!

In our second session (and after some reflection) I realised that I needed to find out more about how he “ticked”. This is particularly what Eye 1 is about. So this time my line of enquiry was about what he knew about his personality and how that might have been affecting his ability to manage his time. Through this discussion we uncovered that he had reflective tendencies. So he suffered from that all too common experience, of only realising what he “should have said” after the conversation had ended! This is often a characteristic of introverts and so I also enquired how comfortable he was approaching people – he wasn’t. So, when a conversation had ended he didn’t feel able to “go back” and re-engage. We also discovered a tendency to put other people first. So when one of his team was busy and looking stressed, he felt it more important to get them sorted out even if that meant he had to stay late to catch up. This was gold dust for me!

It clarified that if we were to see a difference in his time management I needed to help him change some fundamental behaviours. First to get others to appreciate he would need some time to consider what was “do-able”, and to “get back to them”, rather than making a commitment during a conversation. Secondly, to help him be more aware that in addition to thinking about how he could help others at work , he could balance that with how he could help himself and his family at home. This actually shifted the emphasis of the coaching away from time management to a much deeper discussion around his values and beliefs about what was required of him in the organisation, his expectations of himself and his consequent perception of his responsibilities both at work and at home.

So the moral of this particular story is that when I don’t feel like I’m connecting with a client, it can be helpful to go back to basics and consider if I have properly understood their fundamental individual characteristics. In this example I considered their personality profile, and there are at least two other things to consider. Firstly, their learning style – are they an Activist, a Theorist, a Reflector or a Pragmatist? (if you would like to know more about this look up Honey & Mumford Learning Styles). Secondly, what is their representational system? If you have done any NLP training you will know that some people are Visual, some are Auditory and some more Kinesthetic.

I think people have hidden depths and all kinds of things can bubble up as part of a coaching exploration. There’s often a whole lot more under the surface than you at first imagine. Eye 1 encourages me to get into the water and explore what lies beneath.

If you like the 7-eyed model, it would be great to hear some of your experiences that will bring this first “eye” of the model to life for others. I look forward to hearing your comments!

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Once a coaching question is asked, you can't go back...

Posted By Michelle Lucas Ms, Greenfields Consulting Ltd, 25 June 2018

I remember when I was training as a coach that I held a belief that for every coaching situation there would be one intervention that was “perfect” for the matter in hand. And yet there were so many questions that I could ask or not ask – and so many avenues to explore once a conversation started – which one should I choose?

I was also very aware that once a question was asked I couldn’t go back, I couldn’t “un-say” it! I would always have influenced what happens next. In those early days I found this almost paralysing …. What if I say the “wrong” thing?

Many years later, I’ve become much more comfortable with the fact that no matter how experienced I become as a coach there will always be more “happening” in a session than it’s possible to deal with at the time. I’m now much more fascinated with considering what I do or don’t see. What was it that informed my choices ? And what was it that prompted me go in one direction or another? Whilst some of those choices will be conscious, at other times the choices I make could be the result of my unconscious or because of the dynamics in my client relationship. No wonder my head spins sometimes!

In truth it wasn’t until I trained as a supervisor myself that I became aware of something called the seven-eyed model, and once I got over the challenge of remembering what each of the 7 eyes were …. I found I loved it!

In my experience the structure provided by the 7-eyed model helps me un-pick what might have been happening in the session both at conscious and unconscious levels. Quite simply, each eye offers a different perspective from which to explore what might be happening. Sometimes I use it to review my work independently, sometimes it is still all rather confusing and I need to talk it through with another professional coach or my coach supervisor.

With practice I have become more aware of the choices I make “in the moment” when working with a client. However, the sheer complexity of the coaching relationship means that I have yet to feel that I am making the “perfect” intervention that I dreamed of finding in when I was training!

In this series of blogs I wanted to bring the 7-eyed model to life. Below you’ll find my own “pictogram” of the model - as to be frank I couldn’t understand the original! In the subsequent blogs I’ll offer you my understanding of how each of the “eyes” work in practice. Trust me, it’s really not as scary as it may first appear.

Diagram taken from Hawkins & Smith (2006) and adapted by Michelle Lucas

Is there a particular ‘eye’ that you find most valuable to reflect on and why? I’d love to hear your comments!

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Why did you do what you did?

Posted By Michelle Lucas Ms, Greenfields Consulting Ltd, 25 June 2018

Looking at your coaching technique reveals more that you might think. In Part Three of this blog series about the “7 eyed Model” for coaching reflection and supervision, I’d like to share my experiences of looking at my work through the second ‘eye’ of Supervision: The Intervention which is effectively the tools, techniques or questions used.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has left a “busy” coaching session and then asked myself “What exactly did I do?” and did it work or not ?? I find that sometimes I have clear inspiration that using a tool or technique that I have used before might be valuable, sometimes I feel like I need to create something specific for the client in front of me …. And of course sometimes I get stuck and don’t know what to do to be of any use !! When this happens I often feel that it would be helpful to talk to another coach and ask “What would you have done?”. Interestingly, whilst seeking support when I get stuck seems like a sensible approach, it hasn’t always occurred to me to review “why” I chose a particular approach that did work well. Through supervision and using this second eye of the model – it’s possible to slow things down and consider what influenced my decision to use a particular approach or line of enquiry.

Let’s take a recent example when I almost surprised myself with the technique I used ! My client was an independent consultant. Most of her work came from one big organisation – but they had frozen the budget and so suddenly her income took a massive dip. She was also experiencing some personal difficulties with her daughter. As she started the session a bundle of different emotions and issues tumbled out and I found I could not keep track of what she was saying. I decided to use the gestalt technique of deconstructing the issue into the separate components. Normally I would give the client post it notes to label up – but I didn’t have any! So we used some paper napkins to write on, then used whatever else we had in the room – water bottles, coasters, pens, notepads to represent different issues in the system. This really helped to slow her down and literally “see” the issues laid out. But the more interesting question is what drew me to use this technique? It was quite a creative solution – and as a coach I know I can tend to be quite “safe and rational”.

So, what prompted me to take this more creative approach? Firstly, we were working in the office of a “funky” social enterprise / business start-up hub – so perhaps the creative environment prompted a different flavour to the work. I also remember feeling tired that day and I had noticed that I was beginning to “work quite hard” - I felt like she was looking to me to make sense of things. So I wanted a technique that clearly put responsibility back to her for sorting things out. Finally, as she had done some coach training herself, I thought she might be familiar with the technique (I checked and discovered that she was). This was actually useful on two fronts, at a practical level it meant it was easier for us to use the technique, plus it also gave her a sense of confidence, it grounded her as here was at least one area where she “knew what to do”.

Diagram taken from Hawkins & Smith (2006) and adapted by Michelle Lucas

What I’ve discovered is that although it might sound like this eye is one that works in isolation – as with many of the other eyes it is actually influenced by the coach, the client and the context. Inevitably, when we start out we have a limited number of techniques to pull upon, whereas with experience you will have more or you can co-create something with the client. The kind of technique chosen might also reflect the characteristics of the client – for example some will like a rational structured dialogue and would balk at the idea of doing something creative. Others relish the opportunity to work differently and will experiment by working with metaphor or exploring things through creating pictures or sculpture.

Our technique is also influenced by our philosophy as a coach if you favour more psychological approaches you are more likely to “dive deep” than those coaches who prefer more action oriented approaches. Moreover, the context in which the coaching is done can also influence the techniques – for example I’ve noticed that some organisations train their internal coaches in a specific approach which by definition will limit the diversity of techniques used. Similarly as an independent coach if you work as an associate, you will sometimes be required to using psychometrics or 360 as part of the “package”.

So, I hope this illustrates that there’s no such thing as a simple “choice” of technique! This second eye brings fuller consideration of what really prompted you to do what you did? I know that at times I can be a “creature of habit” – so when I reach for one of my favourite techniques, this eye acts as my “jiminy cricket” and causes me to stop for a split second and think – “how else could I support the client right now?”

I wonder what has this blog prompted you to think about the techniques that you have used recently? It would be great to hear your experiences of what you think influences the techniques you use a lot or a little?

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Supervision: When What's Happening Here Mirrors What Happens There

Posted By Michelle Lucas Ms, Greenfields Consulting Ltd, 25 June 2018

The next blog in this series examines eye 5 of the Seven-Eyed Model: The relationship between Supervisor and coach.

This fifth eye suggests that the relationship between the supervisor and supervisee can hold useful information regarding what was happening in the original coaching session. Essentially, the supervisor can use the dynamics of their relationship in “the here and now” to gain clues about what might be happening in the coach:client relationship. This is what is known as the parallel process. I’ve noticed that the longer I work with a supervisee, the stronger my sense is of our own unique supervision relationship dynamic. And as can be seen from this story, it can be really helpful for the coaching client too.

I was supervising a coach who was relatively new to the world of coaching – she was a creative writer before. In our previous sessions I had been struck by how articulate she was and how mature her thinking was regarding her clients. We had only ever worked by phone, however, I felt I knew her quite well. She brought a client case where she felt stuck. We talked through what she had tried so far and what was happening – this all seemed very appropriate and yet she didn’t feel like it was working. When I asked her to explore her “stuckness” she really struggled – she was hesitant and clunky. I noticed that I was beginning to feel stuck too – I moved my attention to what was going on between us. When I thought about my supervisee it felt as though she wasn’t telling me the whole story. I couldn’t seem to “join the dots” from what she was saying. Although I couldn’t see her, I imagined that if she had been in the room with me, she would be averting her eyes from my gaze. This felt like a different person to the one I was used to supervising, for that reason, I wondered if a parallel process was in play. I shared this with her and explained that I felt I wasn’t hearing the whole story and asked if that might be how she felt when she was working the client. It was an “OMG” moment – yes she said, it really felt like her client was “holding out” on her. Through further discussion, she remembered a passing “niggle” early on in their coaching relationship. Something said about a prior relationship that the coach had noticed, not been able to make sense of and which had passed by. For some reason she started to connect the two things. A penny seemed to drop, and the coach said… “perhaps we’re not having the right conversation …. If I get stuck again, I’ll ask her that question … something tells me it’s all tied up with her ability to trust”.

So how do I know as the supervisor, that what I am experiencing is a parallel process?! Well of course I don’t always. A fundamental requirement for a supervisor is to have a high level of self-awareness so that they can identify any personal interference. I shall say more about this in my next blog about Eye 6. However, when I think about an established supervisor: supervisee relationship, I have a general sense of the coach’s coaching model, their typical style, their repertoire of techniques and their development areas. I also have a strong sense of “how” they are when we work together. As a supervisor therefore, I am always looking out for any changes in this dynamic which might hold clues about something that is “just beyond” the coach’s current awareness. Helpfully, my separateness from the actual coaching situation that gives me a wider perspective. Whilst the parallel process can be a powerful phenomenon, as the supervisor, when it occurs I am less “in the grip” of it than the coach is. Together we can think through how our current experience relates to the client experience, gradually bringing something that was just beyond reach to come into view.

When have you experienced of this kind of thing with your supervisor? When I’m training coaches they often ask “how does this happen”? And I have yet to find an eloquent answer! I have suggested that the supervisor has developed some kind of systemic empathy. How would you explain and describe what happens when you experience the parallel process? I’ll be intrigued to hear your thoughts.

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Getting too close? Remember to 'temperature check' your relationship with your coachee

Posted By Michelle Lucas Ms, Greenfields Consulting Ltd, 25 June 2018

In Part four of this blog series about the “7 eyed Model” for coaching reflection and supervision, I’d like to share my experiences of looking at my work through the third ‘eye’: which is all about the relationship as it develops between coach and client.

In most cases, it is probably true that there is some sense of connection or rapport between client and coach – otherwise the coaching programme would not have got off the ground! However, there is general acceptance that the quality of the coaching relationship will determine the quality of the coaching that takes place. Indeed if you have ever worked with someone who has been “sent” to coaching, or who has had no choice in which coach they work with, you’ll know what it is like when that natural rapport is missing!! So, it is Eye 3 of the model that encourages us to explore what’s happening in the dynamic between coach and client and then to consider how this might be influencing the coaching dialogue.

If you are familiar with the psychodynamic school of thought – then you will have heard about the notions of ‘transference’ (when the client sees in you, characteristics that are actually borrowed from other people in their lives) or ‘counter-transference’ (when the coach starts to absorb characteristics of the client, for themselves). This is why a classic supervision question is “Who does this client remind you of?” the question is testing whether we could be responding to the client as though they are someone else who we have experience of. What I find interesting is that with some clients my relationship feels consistent, with others it can feel different from session to session. Such differences can often signal that something of interest is going on, but as in my example below even when the relationship is relatively consistent it can still be helpful to “watch” what is happening to that relationship in each session.

Sometimes you meet a client where there is just a natural chemistry – and you just “know” that this is going to be a fun assignment. Last year I met a client for a chemistry session and within the first ten minutes he said “I just knew you’d be right for me when I read your profile”. We have been working together for over 6 months now and our relationship has really matured. He is a natural relationship builder anyway, he is “hungry” for development and keen to learn and remarkably self-aware and humble. As a result I find I can respond to him from many different frames – I find I bring my “whole self” to the relationship. Coach, mentor, educator, sounding board, provocateur. Interestingly he is really open about his family activities and although I normally share limited amounts of personal information with clients – I found myself swapping strategies about managing in-laws at Xmas! So how has this affected the quality of the coaching work? Interestingly a good relationship can be a double edged sword. Definitely there is a sense of trust between us – which means I can stretch his thinking beyond what might be completely comfortable for him. However, I also noticed that occasionally I am in danger of getting “too close”. In one session I was about to make a strong challenge, and I hesitated as I felt a “tug” of worry about denting the relationship, almost as I would worry, if I were to challenge a friend. A loud warning bell sounded in my head…thankfully, I knew I had to voice this hesitation …. and then make the challenge anyway.

So I think it is always worth considering what’s happening in the relationship with my clients. I quite naturally “worry” when something doesn’t seem quite right and take this to supervision. But as this example illustrates, it’s also fruitful to inspect what’s happening with those clients who you get on really well with. It strikes me that whilst we all do our best to create good rapport, there is always the potential for things to get a bit too cosy??

7 eyed model

So it is Eye 3 that reminds me to “check in” and to do a temperature check on my client relationship. Too cool and perhaps we wont get to the heart of the matter. Too warm and I need to be vigilant for potential collusion. So some good questions I ask myself are – how is this person making me feel about me? How do I respond to them as a result? Or I consider how long have we’ve been working together. I ask myself, do I still feel like I must be on my “best behaviour”? or am I prepared to take a few risks and to experiment?

What kind of “checks and balances” do you put in place to determine whether you have the optimal level of rapport for an effective working relationship? What happens when you can’t seem to get close enough or conversely when you feel that you might be getting too close to be objective? I’d love to hear your experiences.

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Seven reasons Group Supervision could be a 'team Sport'?!

Posted By Michelle Lucas Ms, Greenfields Consulting Ltd, 25 June 2018

Do you have regular supervision arrangements, or do you tend to operate on an “as needed” basis? I’ve noticed that some coaches say that they don’t always have something pressing to bring to supervision. My sense is that perhaps they see supervision as something they do “when they get stuck”. However, in reality I think supervision – especially Group Supervision can be much more useful than just getting “unstuck”! Here are 7 reasons why I see reflecting on your work (the good bits as well as the tricky bits) in group supervision, as a team activity

  1. Connecting as a community: Coaching can be a lonely profession. Regularly meeting with a group of fellow coaches provides reassurance when you discover that your personal coaching challenges are shared by others.
  2. Keeping your coaching muscle “toned”: When your coaching activity reduces it is easy to lose confidence about your work and to lose a sense of connection with coaching more generally. Hearing about other’s work may re-invigorate your energy for coaching, and prompt you to seek out more opportunities for coaching yourself.
  3. Jogging your memory: Listening and contributing to other people’s “cases” often gets you thinking more deeply about your own work. Whilst you might arrive at the group feeling as though “I’ve got nothing to bring” it’s common for something you’d almost forgotten about to be prompted by the group and to have a rich and lively discussion about it.
  4. Creating collective intelligence: Coaching is complex! Rarely is there one definitive “right” question or interpretation or approach. Nowhere is this clearer than in group supervision. You can almost guarantee that everyone will see something different in the client case presented, and everyone will have their own sense of what they would “do”. Clearly each coach will want to develop their own authentic response – however, together we can generate a diversity of ideas that individually would have escaped us.
  5. Deepening your repertoire by osmosis: For the most part supervision groups will include coaches from a variety of contexts and experience. Some of the situations that your peers will bring for exploration you may not have come across before. This can be fantastic preparation for your own practice. No two situations are ever the same, but by participating in the supervision discussion, you will be better prepared when something similar does occur.
  6. Keeping humble: As we deepen our experience as coaches we become increasingly comfortable about how we work with a range of clients and topics. However, it’s entirely possible to get “a bit too comfortable” and to use our go-to responses when faced with what appears to be a familiar situation. When listening to other people’s work or sharing our own, it’s fascinating what our peers see that we don’t.
  7. Being a resource for others: When we participate in group supervision we will naturally be thinking about the personal benefit. However, even if there is nothing that we want for ourselves we have the chance to take a more altruistic stance. When group members bring a topic to the group they are depending on us, as colleagues to help them think things through, to share experiences and to “be there” to provide affirmation, challenge or support. It’s this combination of personal benefit and benevolence to others that gives the sense of “team” to a group.

So that’s why I think group supervision is a “team sport”. It may well be that you feel you have nothing to bring. However if the group works as a team then whether or not you feel you have something “pressing” is not really the point! The point is that you are there for your colleagues, to help them think, to share your experiences in service of them resolving their challenges and to continue to deepen your connection with the group and the coaching community at large.

I’m not entirely sure what kind of team sport group supervision would be – maybe cricket when 9 of 11 people in a team are not on the field of play? What kind of sports team would be a good metaphor for your group supervision experiences? And importantly, what kind of supervision team player do you want to be?

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