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“Mirror, mirror on the wall….?”

Getting the Most from Your Super-Vision

“Learning is experience.
Everything else is just information”      Albert Einstein       Discovered on a greetings card in the Victoria and Albert Museum

What is Super-Vision?

“Super-Vision” occurs when a practitioner (the supervisee) brings their work to a Supervisor in order to learn from their experiences and to grow all of who they are.

Super-Vision works through reflective inquiry and the learning relationship which has been uniquely created between the Supervisor and the practitioner.

Super-Vision helicopters above the day to day to explore emerging patterns and themes and serves to build a practitioners awareness and insight as well the opportunity to refuel, re-energise and review. Super-Vision wakes up to what we are doing. What we cannot see we cannot change. Super-Vision reminds us of our humanity; what it is to be human; and how to connect with others through our shared humanity.

Why does it matter?

It matters because working in the people profession is now – more than ever – a privilege and an honor.

Today’s tough organizational and business environments are taking leaders and their teams into uncharted waters. Practitioners work with people who are at different times tired, exhausted, confused, isolated, and fearful; and their role is to help release the potential and possibility which is locked inside their clients, their teams and in their organisations.

This requires practitioners to work with courage, compassion and honesty; and this is hard when practitioners are not resourced properly. Super-Vision both supports and enriches practice. Super-Vision attends to the support and the development of the practitioner as well as helping to ensure safe and ethical practice.

What are the top tips to help get the most from Super-Vision?

This is explored from the perspective of the practitioner (the supervisee); the supervisor and then both working together.

For the Supervisee

  1. Give your supervisor feedback on how the supervisory relationship is working for you and any tweaks which you feel are needed to help you optimize your learning
  2. Bring real issues to your session
  3. Be kind to yourself
  4. Expect to learn about yourself as a person as well as being a practitioner and your workbecause “who is you and who are you becoming” is “how you practice”. This is the direct line to how you will be experienced by your client and the impact of your interventions.

For the Supervisor

  1. Focus on the contracting at the start of each session: ‘What does your client wish to explore?’; ‘What do they need from the session?’; ‘How do they need you to be with them on this?’ and at the end ‘What have they learnt?’
  2. Openly share your approach to supervision so that your supervisees know what to expect from working with you. Take time to understand their learning, thinking, perceiving and processing preferences
  3. Get your supervisees permission to offer what you are noticing in your work with them
  4. Focus on creating a safe space to hold the supervisee so that are free to do their bestthinking
  5. Role model an openness and a spaciousness for your supervisee
  1. Remember that less can be more; do not get in the way of your supervisee’s best thinking
  2. Remember that the process of learning can be tinged with embarrassment, guilt or shame; and that is appropriate
  3. Explore creative ways like the use of metaphor, art or drama to open up your supervisees thinking.
  4. Remember that the buck for assuring safe practice if a practitioner is in super-vision stops with you. Use your authority wisely.
  5. Pay sufficient attention to how you resource and support yourself whatever this is for you. Seriously consider stopping or taking a break if you find yourself no longer caring enough
  6. Be in super-vision yourself!

For Both the Supervisor and the Supervisee

  1. Invest in your learning partnership and working relationship. You get out of it what you put into it!
  2. Expect to both learn from the privilege of working with each other
  3. Work with appreciative curiosity
  4. Bring all your intelligences to your work together: be prepared to work from your mind, heart, soul and bodily intelligences as you explore new frontiers of inner knowing and wisdom
  5. Trust the process that you have created between yourselves
  6. Experiment with a breathing or brief meditation exercise before you start your work together
  7. Be human together.
  8. Enjoy your journey together!


Elaine Patterson is an Executive Coach, Coach Supervisor and Writer.

Elaine is an accredited Master Coach with the Association for Coaching and a Master Practitioner with the European Coaching and Mentoring Council and accredited Coach Supervisor with the Coaching Supervision Academy.

Elaine wrote a chapter in the recent published book Murdoch, E., and Arnold, J. ed. (2013) ‘Full Spectrum Supervision “Who you are is how you supervise”’. St Albans, Panoma Press Ltd. Visit the website for further details.

Elaine can be contacted at email: or via LinkedIn