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What is Coaching Supervision?

An Introduction to Edna Murdoch

This a unique opportunity to hear Edna Murdoch, one of the pioneers of Coaching Supervision, talk about the birth of coaching supervision and of the Coaching Supervision Academy, about what supervision does and about the internationally successful CSA supervision diploma. The FREE video is a short section of a new video series on Personal Education Development which will be on this site shortly.


About Coaching Supervision

When a supervisee comes to supervision, both people will be changed by the relationship and the conversation that happens between them. (Supervision).. is a place for everyone in the system to be thought about or held in mind. It is a place to have deep conversations; it is a place to think creatively with a joined heart/mind perspective.’ Joan Wilmot (1)

When I hire a coach supervisor, I want someone who will walk with me, and create a reflective space in which I can become curious about all aspects of my work. One way of describing what coaching supervision does is to think of it as a process of Reflection, Insight and Support. Supervision enhances ‘seeing’ – the seeing into one’s practice, the illumination of subtle processes in coaching conversations and of blind spots in oneself and in one’s thinking. Super-vision is then something that I, the coach, take away with me – an enhanced view, a super-vision of my practice.’   ‘Reflection and Insight’ point to the range of learning which emerges as a result of sustained, supervisory focus on a piece of coaching or contracting, or on a particular aspect of the coach’s current style.  The ‘Support’ of coaching supervision is often overlooked; coaches in supervision regularly comment on the level of relief they experience because they have a safe, reflective space in which to explore their work.

Coaching supervision develops coaches’ awareness of ‘the lens through which we look’ – so that interventions benefit from paying attention to all that may be going on inside us, as we work with our coachees. As a result, we learn more about the impact that individual coachees have on us and we can respond to them more intelligently. Supervision also brings into focus the effects of dynamics in the space between our coachees and ourselves and the key elements in the wider system of the coaching conversation. As a result, we can begin to look beyond content to context – relational, organisational, economic contexts. These subtly and powerfully influence every coaching conversation. Newly acquired insights and skills bring elegance and impact to our work. B Critchley reminds us: ‘Change happens in the crucible of relationship”. (2) This level of relational awareness and understanding supports the coach to move from transactional, functional coaching to deep and transformative conversations that acknowledge the impact of the living, relational, systemic field of coaching.


Benefits of coaching supervision

‘Supervision is a place where a living profession breathes and learns…supervision can be a very important part of taking care of oneself, staying open to new learning’ Hawkins and Shohet (3)

Through skilled dialogue, creative interventions and collaborative learning, coaches in supervision have a space in which to reflect on and deepen all areas of their practice. Supervision may for example, enable to think through tough ethical dilemmas, boundary management, contractual issues or how to work better with ‘difficult’ coachees or resolve a ‘critical incident’ with a coachee. In other sessions, the coach may explore aspects of personal development so as to deepen their work and extend their range – eg supporting them to be less entangled with coachees’ ‘games’ or to deal quickly and effectively with the impact of challenging behaviour. In all of this, supervision will be enabling the coach to become more self-aware (‘the lens through which they look’) and to learn how to use that awareness in service of their work.  Key to this process, is supporting coaches to value and use their own Internal Supervisor – the ‘one’ who gets immediate cognitive, somatic and intuitive data and who, in my experience, is not noticed enough and is often under used. Supervision sessions will offer creative experiments to enhance learning – eg using role-play, cards or Gestalt exercises to illuminate significant unconscious processes or systemic factors.  Always, there will be new learning –  new perspectives, interventions and skills.

Coach supervisors work with and in, complex conversations all the time, and they need to be open to learning how to negotiate subtle influences in dialogue, both conscious and unconscious. In short, they need to have excellent relational skills. In ‘Supervision as Transformation’ Carroll says: ‘In the learning environment called supervision, it’s the supervisor who accommodates, who moves, who adapts to the learning needs of the supervisees….


How to Choose a Coach Supervisor.

It is very important that we feel comfortable with our supervisor  – comfortable and safe enough to have a conversation in which all areas of our work can be explored and in which we can develop, personally and professionally. Supervision will inevitably touch on the vulnerabilities of the supervisee and so supervisors are trained to challenge without threatening development or learning.  As a rough guide, I would suggest that a coach supervisor needs to:


  • Have a recognised qualification in coaching supervision
  • Be in touch with developments the field of coaching
  • Have knowledge of corporate life and organizational systems.
  • Have significant level of psychological understanding
  • Have sensitivity to the learner’s situation and to different learning styles.
  • Have ability to work with different coaching styles.
  • Have minimum of 3 years practice as coach or coach mentor
  • Demonstrate highest ethical and professional standards
  • Demonstrate that their work has been professionally supervised over a number of years.



Supervision is an opportunity to bring someone back to their own mind, to show them how good they can be.   Nancy Kline   (4)


  1. Joan Wilmot:  Supervision as Transformation.
  2. Prof Bill Critchley: Relation Coaching. EMCC Journal
  3. Hawkins and Shohe: Supervision in the Helping Professions
  4. Nancy Kline: Time to Think


What are the Central Tasks of Coaching Supervision?

  • Clear Contracting  – multi-party contracting where appropriate.
  • Ensuring that standards and ethics are maintained.
  • Establishing good boundaries.
  • Enhancing reflectivity – working with content and process.
  • Attending to the Coach’s Personal Development.
  • Creating the Working Alliance.
  • Deepening Coaching Presence.
  • Building the Internal Supervisor.
  • Offering new perspectives to the coach.
  • Increasing the coach’s interventions and tools.
  • Being sensitive to the coach’s Learning and Coaching Style.
  • Teaching about Coaching Psychology.
  • Working with Parallel Process.
  • Developing systemic thinking.
  • Giving constructive feedback.
  • Providing the coach with new tools.
  • Creating experiments through which the coach can learn.
  • Offering educative and restorative support to the coach.
  • Working systemically – with coach, client and the wider field.
  • Opening up new areas of competence for the coach.

One way of identifying what supervision does is to think of it as a process of Reflection, Insight and Support. This way of understanding Coaching Supervision underlines the fact that supervision enhances ‘seeing’, the seeing into one’s practice, the illumination of subtle processes in coaching conversations and of blind spots in oneself and in one’s thinking. ‘Supervision’ is then something that I, the coach, take away with me – an enhanced view, a super-vision of my practice.

Coaching Supervision – a relational practice

Coaching Supervision understands that while the observable business of coaching is going on – meetings, contracting, outlining coaching programmes, coaching sessions – it is people who do the talking and thus, who and how we are in the conversation, affects outcomes. This ‘who and how we are’ piece is mostly unobservable from the outside, but can have significant impact on effectiveness.

How does Coaching Supervision help?

A process of reflection with a Coach Supervisor helps the coach to become aware of relevant strengths and weaknesses and to become stronger and more confident across a range of conversations. CS explores and clarifies what goes on in these relationships and conversations and enables coaches to be intelligent about creating effective conversation in every ‘coaching moment’.

Coaches in supervision often refer to the relief of having time and space to think about particular aspects of their work and especially to think/reflect with a trusted colleague who will microscopically explore practice with them and contribute to their understanding. This support enables the coach to contain and resolve some of the more challenging parts of their work:

  • their frustrations with coachees
  • their concern that they are not doing enough
  • the difficulty of keeping to a coaching contract when the coaching ‘flow’ is going off piste  the undue influence of the organisation (often implicit) or of key stakeholders which might reduce coach effectiveness (power/disempowerment)
  • unexpected emotional material either within the coach or in the coachee
  • ‘ruptures’ in the coaching relationship

There are several models that can guide these explorations – you can read about them here.