A couple of years ago I was coaching a client and half way through the session remember getting that uncomfortable feeling that things weren’t going so well. My client was stuck and I was starting to feel stuck myself. Before I knew it, my mind was filled with negative thoughts questioning my own competence and I soon became immobilised, not knowing where to go next. I had well and truly brought my own ‘inner critic’ into the room and she wasn’t going to leave!
If you’re a coach you will probably have had similar experiences, where your inner critic has taken over, preventing you in that moment from working at your best. So, what if there was an alternative person to accompany you in your coaching sessions who could act as a helpful and resourceful ally, and turn a challenging session into one of deep insight and high impact?
The great news is that there is! In this article I want to introduce you to your own ‘internal coach supervisor,’ that helpful alternative to your ‘inner critic’ who can bring wisdom to both you and your client in a coaching session.
Firstly, you need to know that we all have an internal coach supervisor whom we can access with a bit of practice. They are the skilled, curious and non-judgemental observer who will pick up on multiple sources of information as you coach, including cognitive, intuitive and somatic information. They will notice what is going on for the client, the energy between you both and what is going on in the wider field. They will also be aware of what is going on for you personally, picking up on your thoughts, emotions and your own physical or somatic responses too. But unlike the inner critic they don’t take over, instead provides you with a wealth of information that allows you to offer timely and laser-like interventions for your client.
Developing and using the systemic awareness provided by your internal coach supervisor, opens up a much greater understanding about what is going on in a session, in service of your client, rather than unhelpfully focusing on whether you are doing a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ job as a coach.
We all have the capacity to develop and work with our own internal coach supervisors and here are some tips to get you started.
Are you a coach who operates at a million miles an hour? (…if you are, you won’t be the only one!) Being able to really tune in and listen to your thoughts, perspectives, emotions and physical responses requires the ability to slow down and be fully present in the here and now. Skidding into a coaching session straight after another meeting will put you in a place very differently energetically to entering into it at a calm and relaxed place. Putting aside distractions and creating space before your session will help you to prepare yourself mentally and physically for your client. Many coaches practice mindfulness meditation or take a walk outside to help them get present. Take time to notice before your session what is going on for you…are you relaxed and ready to tune into both your client and your internal coach supervisor?
Supervision is aptly named. Your internal coach supervisor provides you with an enhanced or ‘super’ vision of what is going on in your coaching. The useful data we have available to us extends beyond listening to the client’s words and enables us to pick up on their emotions and impact of your own interventions. You can broaden your vision by noticing what is happening in your relationship between you and your client such as the energy that is present and who appears to be holding responsibility at any point in a session. In particular, expand your vision by paying great attention to what you are experiencing emotionally, physically and intuitively. All of this is potentially useful information to help you work with your client.
The inner critic brings with it excessive judgement which inhibits learning. Adopting a mindset of curiosity will allow you to become aware of what is happening in the moment and use this data to dig deeper, explore and learn. If for example you are feeling anxious with your client, acknowledge it and get curious as to why this might be happening. Is this just a projection of your client’s own anxiety? What expectations do you have of your client and what expectations do they have of you?
Scary as it might seem, one of the most powerful things you can do is share with your client the data that your internal supervisor is picking up. Often, what is going on for you is a parallel process of what is going on for your client. Using your intuition and feeding back to them your own emotions and physical sensations can bring your client’s attention to what is happening for them, to provide them with deep insight that can be explored further.
Feeding back to my own clients that I'm feeling a knot in my stomach, a tightness in my chest or a weight on the shoulders has proved time and time to reflect what is going on for them, often drawing to their attention something they had not noticed before. This provides valuable insight for them to explore further and deepen their awareness.
Allowing time to reflect after each session will further develop your internal supervisor. Put your inner critic to one side and allow yourself to fully explore your experiences without judgement, noticing what was happening for you and your client. I find it helpful to jot down my initial observations and then some time later re-read and re-reflect, superimposing more reflections as I read what I have written. A regular commitment to this reflection will develop that self-reflection muscle, in preparation for future sessions.
For a number of years I have engaged my own professional ‘external’ coach supervisor to help me develop my confidence and competence as a coach, and after just a few sessions found myself reflecting more objectively during and after my client work. Having an impartial and supportive partner to help you to reflect, is a really effective way to continually develop this self-reflection muscle and access your internal supervisor when working in the moment with your clients.
If you have found this article useful you may wish to read these articles:
If you would like to know more about how to develop your internal supervisor or would like to engage an ‘external’ coach supervisor just get in touch by email or phone, details at the top of this page, and we can schedule some time in to talk.