My Own Magic Triangle - Reflections on the Supervision Triangle
By Karen Dean 15 March 2018
Secreted alongside the estuary, with cherished boats moored in the mud, I was refreshing my role as Coach Supervisor.
We were gathered in a room to explore and reflect upon the Supervision Triangles. Guided skilfully by Hilary Cochrane and Trudi Newton we were building layer upon layer of perspectives on Eric Berne’s original work. In Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy (1961, p83) he talks about the hungers which all human beings experience. In Cochrane and Newton (2018, p55-64) Supervision and Coaching - Growth and Learning in Professional Practice they introduce the Supervision Triangle and explain its purpose and relevance
The Supervision Triangle sets out three areas of attention, in Supervision conversations, with a Coach. I experience Supervision as a conversation with a Coach colleague. One where the Coach wishes to reflect upon a specific topic from their coaching practice, with an experienced, wise and qualified Supervisor. The Supervision role involves the capability to take account of:
1. The Coach’s professional management of their coaching, the contract, the ethics, the process, the potential influence of sponsors, line managers and organisational cultures in the work
2. The Coach’s development as a coach and practitioner, their conscious awareness, learning and growth
3. The Coach as a person, offering support, care and acknowledgment of the Coach in their coaching context
This approach resonates very strongly for me and ensures I am more agile, mindful and effective when I work with a fellow coach.
Trudi and Hilary invited us to consider what the Coach needed during Supervision. They wanted us to explore offering an intervention which ensures a positive parallel process. As Supervisor, how might I role model positive and useful behaviours which enable the Coach to make a different choice with their Client?
This has the potential via the Coach, to flow back into the Client’s world and make a positive shift in their wider system or organisation.
An example of this is a Coach arriving with concerns about chaotic behaviours from the Client. This chaos may show up in the demeanour of the Coach, who may arrive late, expressing that they haven’t had time to clarify their Supervision question and that they’re sorry they had to rearrange. The Coach may describe their Client as being haphazard, not confirming dates and arrangements and being unsure what they want to work on. On examination the Coach might notice that this mirrors the Client’s workplace culture and that as Coach they have taken this on.
It is important that the Supervisor behaves with clarity and consistency throughout the conversation. A specific mutual contract discussed during the Supervision conversation is a powerful intervention. The Coach also needs to feel supported by the Supervisor to understand the impact of the chaotic behaviours on their well being and confidence. The Coach can find a healthier way forward for themselves. The Coach develops insight about what stimulated this chaotic behaviour in them. Refining their coaching approach with this Client in the future is the learning and the benefit. The Coach decides what they would like to do differently next time. The Coach then behaves usefully with their Client, holding boundaries and contracting effectively, this models new possibilities for the Client who may shift more in this direction too. Potentially they then interact with their colleagues in the light of this experience, being clearer about what is wanted by when.
Being a more confident and grounded coach in further sessions has implications for the wider coaching practice with other clients and contexts.
The Supervisor is also learning with their Supervisee. The Supervisor has needs too, which are evident in co-creating the relationship. Simply put, when I Supervise I wish to connect with the Supervisee, I want to have impact from my way of working and being, I seek to learn and grow.
My mantra as a Coach is to be “utterly present while curiously absent”.
As Supervisor I am mindful of maintaining a meta-perspective, an overview of what is happening even while I connect. Finding my voice in the service of the Coach, their clients and our Profession is essential for me.
My Own Magic Triangle - how do I do this? How have I made this my own?
My answer is that I say to myself
“Have courage” - speak out on matters of professionalism, bringing structure and safety
“Be kind” - in acknowledging, supporting and encouraging the Coach to be who they are
“Be curious” - in exploring the content and behaviours, lightly liberating learning
At the core of this I hold the fun of sharing with a fellow colleague and the joy of living.
Special thanks to Anthony Cullen at www.photographicday.com
for the photographs in this blog