When we don’t look after ourselves, how does this affect how we coach?

Posted by on May 21, 2017 • 3 minute read


I am a self confessed flag bearer for coaching supervision. I make no excuses for it. I have personally experienced the multifaceted benefits to me and my practice, I deep dived into the practice for the academic research for my Masters and for my sins was “voluntold” to chair, for now, the Comensa Supervision Portfolio Committee. So, let’s be frank, I am biased.

In May 2017, the Gauteng region of the Supervision Portfolio Committee celebrated International Supervision Day by hosting a morning for coaches titled: Vulnerability – Who we are is how we supervise/coach. Many coaches came who were not in supervision and wanted to find out more. Inevitably the ever present resistance to the term supervision raised its head.  The word has heavy connotations of managerial oversight in this country. It puts coaches off that do not understand the offering. Locally and internationally there have been many debates about the value of keeping or changing the name of what we do. I have no intention of entering the debate here, in fact my wish is that it become a commonly understood term in the coaching, mentoring and consultancy arenas. But more on that at another time.

It was a morning of discussion, interaction and a taste of group supervision. Coaches and supervisors left buoyed by discussions about what it means to be vulnerable and how it impacts their practice as coaches. The experience of supervision in small groups gave naysayers the opportunity to re-frame their understanding of supervision. Participants expressed how valuable they found the morning, how they wanted more of these interventions. How they now knew the difference between supervision and coaching. How now they saw the necessity for the practice.

Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.
–Deborah Day

As the room cleared and the space became quiet, I pondered over how to harness this energy, how to encourage these coaches to find suitable supervisors, to attend regular supervision. I reflected that come Monday, most will probably get on with the pursuit of their work. They will become consumed by the day to day challenges that come with running a coaching practice. They will forget about themselves as people who need support, themselves as professionals who need to ensure they offer ethically sound work and themselves as coaches who continually need to sharpen the saw. I wondered about who we are as coaches that we put our professionalism, ourselves and our development last? How does this affect how we coach?

I believe my job as a coach is to model how I want my clients to show up. I am a business coach so I understand how difficult it is to show vulnerability in the workplace. I also believe that we only start to shift when we drop our masks and face who we are in all our divine imperfection. I cannot expect my clients to feel safe enough to show their vulnerability if I am not prepared to be vulnerable myself. I coach the whole person. I listen to clients, veritable slaves to their master corporate, who wear themselves out trying to balance family and work demands, who are connected 24/7 to their laptops, e-mails and multiple message systems. Who am I to challenge them to take better care of themselves if I don’t or won’t take care of myself? If I sell coaching as developmental and I don’t develop myself, what am I selling? How can I purport to be a professional if I refuse to hold myself up for scrutiny?

I go to supervision because I am painfully aware of what I do not know. I go to be held in a safe space, to be listened to, to be challenged. I go, because I want to be the best person, coach and professional I can be. I want that for all my fellow coaches. I often hear fellow coaches talk about how they cannot understand why anyone would not want to be coached. I ask the same thing: how can coaches not want to attend supervision?

About Chantal Dawtrey

Chantal Dawtrey is the founder and owner of CDC Chantal Dawtrey Consultants.

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