Individual, Group, or Peer coaching supervision — which format is best?

Peer, Group, Individual Coaching Supervision FormatsWhen you have decided to engage with supervision you need to consider which mix of activities will best suit you and your practice. There are three formats of coaching supervision available to a coach:

  • Individual (one-to-one)
  • Group
  • Peer (individual and group)

This article briefly outlines each of these to help you consider which might be the right choice for you.

What is individual (one-to-one) coaching supervision?

Individual supervision is where one coach works with one qualified supervisor on a regular or ad-hoc basis over a period of time (which could be months or years).

The coach is typically responsible for determining the focus of the supervision session so deciding how they want to use the time available. The duration of each session would be negotiated as part of the contracting process.

Individual supervision provides dedicated time for the coach’s personal reflection, which will give the opportunity for a deeper exploration than is likely to be achieved in a group supervision session. It is simpler for the supervisor to focus on the coach’s developmental perspective as they are only concentrating on one person.

Should an urgent need for coaching supervision arise, it is likely that it would be easier to arrange an ad-hoc session than if part of a group supervision cadre.

If the one-to-one relationship continues over a period of time it is likely that the relationship between supervisor and coach will strengthen building trust and greater insight from the supervisor into aspects of the coach’s practice and patterns that may emerge.

The opportunity to work with a qualified supervisor is valid and can be very productive. However, the supervisor may not be able to offer the breadth of perspectives that working in a group or with peers can bring. There is only one of them and they may have a preferred philosophy or approach. It is therefore worth considering combining individual supervision with group and/or peer supervision to provide wider perspectives, different learning opportunities and exposure to a larger network/community or practice.

What is group coaching supervision?

Group supervision is where a coach chooses to work with a number of other coaches to receive supervision from a qualified supervisor or qualified supervisors (there may be more than one supervisor depending on the size of the group). The group size can vary.

Group supervision provides the opportunity for coaches to share their experiences and to learn with others. Sharing contributions can generate a greater variety of input, broaden reflections over and above what might occur in a one-to-one session and provide the coach with multiple perspectives on an issue.

Working together tends to generate a sense of community and belonging and the group dynamics, if handled well, can accelerate learning.

When setting up group supervision the contracting needs to consider the needs of the group members and have clear ground rules and boundaries as to how the group will operate. How the group runs, needs to ensure that coaches feel safe to express themselves and share vulnerabilities; that coaches aren’t able to hide or coast in the sessions but are encouraged to articulate their own challenges and successes. Responsibility for making the group effective lies with every member of the group – not just the supervisor, although the supervisor is responsible for ‘holding the space’ for the group.

Each group will develop its own dynamic and may use a variety of supervision methodologies so coaches experience a range of supervisory approaches.

Peer coaching supervision

What is peer-to-peer supervision?

Typically, peer supervision is where a coach chooses to work with a colleague or with a number of colleagues.

For individual coaching supervision with a peer, often two colleagues agree to work with each other on a reciprocal basis – each providing supervision support to the other. Such an arrangement is often organised on an ‘as needed’ basis without formally negotiating how often to meet and how long the relationship will remain in place.

Working with a peer coach, particularly if the coach is from within the same organisation or community of practice, can make it easier to understand each other’s cases and challenges. If the peer is at the same developmental level it can be easier to open up and share concerns about work that might have been ‘imperfect’ without feeling that you could be judged by someone with greater experience. If the coaches do have a strong relationship with each other (i.e. they know each other well and have great rapport) it’s important that they maintain objectivity and are challenging of each other so as not to result in collusion – supervision is not about being nice to each other and having a cosy chat over a cup of coffee.

What is group peer supervision?

For group peer supervision a number of coaches meet regularly as a group. Typically, a formal contract is put in place and how the ‘role of supervisor’ will work for each session is pre-agreed (this could be rotated for each session, shared across the session, or tenure could be for a more extended period of time).

Other roles are often established and shared within the group: e.g. timekeeper, co-ordinator for logistics. In addition to bringing client work to review the group offers a forum for sharing learning — peer supervision groups have a lot in common with self-managed Action Learning Sets.

This approach works well where the group is made up of highly experienced coaches who bring complementary skills and experience, which brings a rich diversity of experience leading to multiple perspectives when reviewing client work.

Where groups are established from the alumni of a training course or from an internal coaching programme, the pre-existing relationship may add depth of rapport and connection. There may also be a shared philosophy to their practice, which could help to embed learning through a common approach to coaching work. As with peer to peer supervision, if the group is well connected and has strong relationships with each other, they need to be aware of collusion or being too cosy with each other and be mindful of any blind spots or group think that may arise as a result of their depth of rapport.

Working with peers can provide a useful sounding board, an opportunity to discuss, shape and share ideas and reduce the sense of isolation, particularly if you are working as an independent coach.

How do you choose the best format of coaching supervision?

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding what type of supervision to choose. These include:

  • The developmental stage of your coaching practice: more novice coaches may opt for group supervision as they feel they can learn a lot through working with other coaches, some of who may be more experienced. The supervision group also offers a sense of community, which can be important if you are an independent coach. As coaches develop their practice and experience they sometimes supplement their group supervision with one-to-one supervision. One-to-one supervision will provide more focus and time for the coach to reflect more deeply on their own cases and work.
  • How you prefer to learn and interact with people: coaches whose learning style is more ‘reflective’ and who are more introverted are likely to prefer individual supervision so they have the opportunity and time to think about things before speaking and the supervision discussion can be paced accordingly. If you are a more extroverted coach your preference may be to work with a group as there is the opportunity to ‘talk things out’ with others and the social interaction helps to generate more ideas.
  • How much you might expect to pay for supervision: generally speaking you can expect to pay more for one-to-one supervision than you would for group supervision per hour. For peer supervision the cost is usually an exchange of time rather than money.

Find out more…

We have previously explored what makes effective coaching supervision and the benefits of coach supervision in this series of articles. If you, or your organisation, are interested in finding out how Coach Mentoring Ltd can help you with your supervision, please get in touch.

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This entry was posted in Coaching and tagged by Linda Grant. Bookmark the permalink.

About Linda Grant

Linda’s career in coaching and mentoring follows over 20 years of working in the fields of management and people development with her final corporate role focusing on strategic change and people development as Head of People and Leadership Development at Skipton Building Society. She is Principal Consultant of Coach Mentoring Ltd and Chairperson of the Board of Trustees at Leeds Mind.

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