The introductory conversation between a coach and their client, or coach and potential supervisor, is sometimes referred to as a chemistry meeting. I’m not a great fan of that terminology because it implies that there is some alchemy involved. How you decide on your coach supervisor deserves more evidence and structure than simply assessing how you feel. I have, though, as a coach supervisor discovered that describing the nuance and practise of what occurs during a coaching supervision session is complex. Therefore, it is helpful to have a common language for explanation and questions. In this article, I discuss how to choose a coach supervisor based on the 3Ps. The three Ps of coaching supervision, philosophy, purpose, and process (Backirova and Jackson, 2019), are a handy pneumonic to help the coach ask the right questions of the coach supervisor.

For example, my philosophy is based on the belief that we are all equally capable thinkers but sometimes we can get ‘stuck.’need time, space, and the right questions to help us to ‘unstick’. Often referred to as non-directive, this approach may not suit a coach who is looking for a more dynamic or directive approach.

The purpose of a coach supervisor is to help coaches to reflect on their practice so that they gain insight into the unseen and unhelpful, and individuals should be explicitly mindful of professional bodies code of conduct, standards, and ethics (normative). It also provides an opportunity to develop (formative) and provide emotional support (restorative). There is a duty of care on the supervisor to the coach and their client to ensure appropriate boundaries are maintained and to point out any concerns which might be harmful to either the coach or their client.

The process of coaching supervision is a collaborative method for development between the client (coach) and supervisor. This means that there will be three people in the room: client, coach, and supervisor. The coach can examine and reflect on their coaching practice and attend to its impact on their coaching client. However, when more than one person is in a room, it is not possible to create an environment that is context and assumption free. In coaching supervision, the cultures of the supervisor, coach, and client are present even when not explicitly acknowledged (Ryde, et al., 2019). In addition, there are power dynamics around role, personal status, and culture. Assumptions will be made based on how the client, coach, and supervisor see themselves in each of these roles and this may influence and impact on their ability to provide a ‘clean’ environment and conversation. Systemic coaches and supervisors would argue that the system and organisation are also vital to consider in coaching practice. However, systemic approaches warrant another article to do justice to the current thinking.

The supervision model should serve the coach and their client. Its effectiveness should be explored during contracting and at the beginning of each session so the client (coach) can consider whether their goals and expectations have been met; what has been helpful and unhelpful; and whether they have been challenged in their thinking to deepen their practice.

Ultimately, it is up to the coach to decide who and what approach best fits their needs at the time, which may end up being based on some chemistry, but hopefully also informed by the three Ps.

 First published in SA Coaching News, Vol 2, Issue 11. p22-23.