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Through the Cultural Lens – Who I am is How I Supervise

One of the foundational pillars of a coach or a coach supervisor is their own personal development and journey. Edna Murdoch, Director of the Coaching Supervision Academy (CSA), says “who you are is how you coach/supervise”, and, I would add, for me, who I am is how I lead, mother, grandmother, facilitate, and just show up in the world!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about who I am that has an impact on how I coach and supervise. In this article, I will focus on how I supervise, as that’s highlighted for me right now.

More specifically, I have been reflecting on the cultural and diversity lenses of who I am. I’ve come to think of myself as this incredibly complex person that is the result of my personality merged with my upbringing merged with my education, merged with my cultural heritage and every single conversation and experience that I have engaged in. Almost like a throbbing, growing amoeba, where at any given time, while the whole is who I am, some parts of me will be highlighted based on the situation and context that I find myself in. Let me offer a couple of examples. When I am in an academic environment, my education and professional demeanour are highlighted and my “street” experience may take a slightly back seat. When I am hanging out with my friends from high school and dare I say elementary school, my education and professional demeanour may take a back seat and my “street” experience may be slightly more pronounced. Does this make sense? These parts are still within me, just the amoeba shifts.

Culture, in its broad sense, is all those aspects of a group that distinguishes itself from another group (Edgar Schein). When I look at it this way, I can see myself belonging to an almost infinite number of cultures and subcultures. For example, I belong to the coaching culture, the coaching supervisor culture, the CSA culture, the Canadian culture, the Chinese culture, the Chinese-Canadian culture, the grandmother culture, the mother culture, the consulting culture, and the list goes on.

So back to coaching supervision. To me, the clearer I am about who I am from a cultural perspective, the clearer I can be about how my cultures inform my supervision. I watch and reflect on what comes up for me as I supervise and take those niggling results to my own supervisor. For example, do I hold deference to those who have more letters behind their name? When I first began coaching, I’ll admit I was intimidated by all the letters. And now, not usually. When I supervise someone who has a similar ethnic background to me, I know I need to be careful about making any assumptions about common experiences, because the Chinese and Chinese-Canadian cultures are so diverse as cultures and subcultures. What potential transference is happening during these sessions? What comes up for me when someone makes reference to, and focuses on my ethnic culture, or my education, rather than who I am as a whole? And what assumptions are being made both ways? My journey continues and indeed, who I am is how I coach/supervise. And I am grateful that I have discovered the supervision space to reflect on these elements of who I am and how they are showing up for me.

Lily Seto . Accredited graduate of the first North American cohort of the Coaching Supervision Academy . Lily lives in Victoria and may be reached at: