Top Menu

Working globally in organisations as a leadership supervisor


As many of you may be aware I use clean language methodology in my supervision sessions. I also impart some of the questions to the leaders I supervise as they usually find this very helpful when working with their own teams.


A Clean Supervision Case Study

Recently as part of my supervisor remit, I attended an international meeting in Geneva as an observer. The CEO was chairing the meeting with some of his direct reports. As part of his leadership supervision he had asked me to give him feedback on his coaching and leadership behaviours. He had invited me to this meeting for the express purpose of enhancing his listening and feedback skills when coaching his staff. I noticed how this CEO tended to jump in, interrupting the speaker’s flow of thoughts. He made certain assumptions about what was said without using a few short clean questions to check understanding.

Take a look at this exchange:

DR = Direct report   C = CEO

DR –“ ………So I decided to take action on this and make sure that the checks were done again so that….”

C – (interrupting) “Yes I see, so what were the findings?”

DR – Well, the checks were done and we noticed there had been several errors.

C – Yes, so I guess you learnt from that and those errors won’t occur again?

DR – Well yes, er ….I don’t think so.

In this exchange it is clear that all the CEO is interested in is that the problem has been resolved. He makes assumptions that these errors will not occur again without hearing his DR out. He does not check to see what needs to happen for similar mistakes to be avoided in the future.

Another issue is that if the DR comes back at a later date with the same problem, the blame will, in all probability, fall on the shoulders of the DR.

Just mindful listening and a few simple questions would have greatly enhanced this exchange such as:

C – Yes I see, what kind of checks did you make?


C – Is there anything else about those checks?


C – What needs to happen so those errors do not occur again?

C – Is there anything else?

C – What kind of learning will you take away as a result?

Then by mindfully listening to the responses the CEO would have encouraged the DR to dig deeper into the causes and find his own solutions. The DR would feel pride in the fact that the CEO had taken an interest and feel more motivated to move forward. When staff are questioned respectfully and then listened to they feel more involved and are willing to go the extra mile. This has a direct result on productivity as they take responsibility for their own tasks more readily. Leadership at its BEST when their confidence is Built, they feel Engaged, they are obviously Supported and then Trusted to take appropriate action. In addition, the chances of the DR returning with this problem again have been greatly reduced.

Using deep listening skills, clean language questions and techniques we can find new ways of effective communication. Surely this is the aim of all organisations as research proves that great communication means enhanced productivity?

So in my opinion the purpose of leadership supervision when working globally

in organisations is to support the leader to:

  1. consider and reflect on their impact, mind-set and personal style when working with their clients/staff
  2. ensure they are meeting the needs of their direct reports/staff and of the organisation
  3. reflect on, develop and update their skills, methods, knowledge, professional coaching and leadership techniques
  4. explore with their supervisor some different approaches and interventions in a supportive yet challenging space
  5. enrich relationships and support others to be honest and ethical thus ensuring high standards of leadership

I have also found that ‘Clean’ translates to an astonishingly wide range of professional settings:

  • In November last year I went to Germany to facilitate a ‘Clean Language’ development workshop for a group of HR directors. Asking Clean questions (In German which was a stretch for me!!) about that team’s metaphor maps got them thinking in new creative ways that really challenged their thinking.
  • This week I’ve used ‘Clean’ questions, together with Clean’s ‘Framework for Change’ model, to coach banking executives. In a session with a female senior manager, simply wondering out loud whether what she’d been thinking about was an ‘outcome’ or ‘remedy’ was enough for a moment of real insight to emerge. In the case of another leader who was struggling with motivating his new sales team just finding a metaphor (A formula One driver with his support team) enabled him to have a real mind set breakthrough.
  • Next week I’ll be supervising a global team of 5 professional coaches using Clean Language and symbolic modelling virtually.(Yes it is possible!)

For more information on Clean Language and Symbolic Modelling please take a look at: &