“It all starts with me.” This was a phrase I once remember using at the start of an interview and the interviewer later giving me feedback, as to how this had impacted his curiosity with me opening the interview in this way. The rest is history about the interview, as I didn’t get the job opportunity at that time and, reflecting back, I feel that was a good thing, as if I had, it might have resulted in me progressing in a different direction.
Fast forward 12 years and this is something I often still think about, as being a coach and coach supervisor, I believe that it is absolutely critical to stop and think about our experiences of life and learn lessons from these experiences. This is what supervision is there for it is used to support other coaches in monitoring how they are working as a coach, getting them to self-assess and check in that they are working competently and ethically. Moving to the aim of helping them develop their skills, professional knowledge, and appropriate attitudes and values, which leads them to a deeper level of self-awareness. Finally getting the coach to look at challenging situations they may find themselves in and allowing them a place to process their emotional responses.
Research highlights that we can only perceive what our filters let in and often we fall into the danger zone of our “fixed reality”, this is the way we see the reality that often is the same.
What is the danger of holding a blind spot to coaching supervision? To put it simply as a coach you may fail to take your best self to your clients and even in extreme cases head to burn out yourself. Therefore, we have to learn to expand our awareness, and this is where the beauty of supervision comes in.
During my recent experience of group supervision, I was asked to share a client challenge in the form of a story with the group I was working with. We used an exercise to look at the multilevels of intelligence to support me in unpicking what was going on with this client situation, in order to allow me to feel I could work more freely with this person going forward. To give you a little more context on multilevels of intelligence, some of these could be logical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, artistic, metaphorical, somatic, values and beliefs.
So, I shared my story and explained that I noticed that I was struggling to make a connection with a client, and my supervisor asked me to come up with a gesture to highlight how I was feeling. I held my hands out in front of me, I noticed that I was simply creating a sign that said stop. I continued with my hands held out in front of me at eye level, I was feeling a force of pressure pushing away from me. It got more interesting when my supervisor asked me to show him, what gesture I would prefer to be choosing in that moment, I immediately cupped my hands towards my chest covering my heart. This physiological small move was powerful as it shifted something immediately within me. I realised that I needed to be coming from my own heart as I worked with this client, so that I could hold self-regard for both of us. My supervisor then asked me to tell him what the next image was appearing for me. Suddenly out of nowhere, I looked at the blank wall in front of me and saw an image of myself jumping off a cross onto the floor. This really did evoke what I call an aha moment in my body, as I realised that I wanted to free myself from the shackles that clearly, I had been feeling restrained by whilst working with this particular client.
Once the short supervision exercise was over, the supervisor asked me to share what I had noticed about myself during this short supervision exercise and then it was the turn of the other trusted supervisors in the group to share what they had noticed in themselves as I had shared the story. The data was astonishing, the 1st person said they felt they saw a door partially open and perhaps noticed my client showing up fearful and wanting to protect himself, the next person felt the feeling of sadness and a feeling of pain for me, they wanted to offer empathy and give me a hug. The 3rd person had seen a band aid plaster and waved their hands all over the place. The 4th person said he felt like he had a tourniquet on his arm, he had his arm out in front of him and felt he was stemming the bleeding. The next person said he felt like he wanted to fall back onto a sofa and relax and rest, with the final person saying she saw shards of light shining down and linked spiritually to my cross image and when I looked up, she got the sense of knowing that I would be seeing a cross, which was rather spooky to me.
All this data suddenly became so useful in me understanding my own situation. It gave me valuable insight as to what I need to do to move forward when I next meet this particular client and actually provided me a new strategy for meeting all my future clients. I now know I want to ensure I own the belief of being able to open the door fully to my clients and therefore feel fully present with my clients, whilst opening my heart to them. The pain suddenly left me, and I felt like this exercise released me from my own band aid or tourniquet. I felt the shackles releasing and now feel I can step into my own power and be aware of noticing the shards of light flowing down on me in my next session with this client. A further lesson taken from this session is to allow myself to sit down on my own sofa to rest and relax before I meet with my clients and then do the same when I have left my clients to do some more reflection, which will quantify me being mindful of self-supervision as a coach. However, my final message from the session and possibly the most important one of all, is to remember to be kind to myself and show empathy to self, as when I create a joyful state, I will take my best self to my sessions.
Although this session was virtual, I felt the warmth of all the people and was aware of the virtual hugs I received that day, which I am always grateful for given that I often work alone.
What do you do as a practicing coach, to ensure you are showing up professionally and ethically?