WHAT COACHING & SUPERVISION CAN LOOK LIKE IN REAL LIFE
People often wonder what it is that I actually do. Below are some examples drawn from real life. Each illustration is an amalgamation of different interactions I have had with different people. This is to protect the identity and privacy of the people I've worked with, whilst still giving you a true idea of why people come to me and what sorts of solutions we can create together.
Essentially, my coaching clients and I work together to develop real life solutions to give them direction and hope for the future, so that they can build resilience and master stress wherever it happens, rather than having it master them. In supervision, my supervisees have a safe, private space to share their worries, vulnerabilities, and questions, to get a sounding board and know they're not alone, and discover ways and means for them to grow into the professionals they really want to be.
Since COVID, all of us have known someone who has experienced significant loss or change in their lives – loss of a partner, job, organisation, health, or ideal. For some of those people, this catapults them into a search for meaning and equilibrium, or a way to make their loss someone else’s gain.
Meet Ms Q. Enduring chronic ill-health, she wanted me to coach her so she could walk alongside others going through the same battle and make their journeys less lonely than her own. So together we clarified what going through these experience had meant for her, recognising some unique factors to her own journey amidst the experiences common to other sufferers. She made her own mental health a priority, understanding that her longevity in this ministry would in part rely on how well she continued to look after herself. So she focussed on her resilience, self-care, and improved nutrition, and then developed a huge range of short-term and long-term options to find and support others who were or would find themselves in the same boat. Much of our time was spent on developing the support structures for her plans and my keeping her accountable to the plans she was setting. She now regularly meets others one-on-one to encourage them in their journeys, writes, and runs a support group for fellow survivors.
Conflict and expectations (both inside ourselves and with/from others) around work, family, and personal growth are difficult to manage. What can you do when the competing pressures of work, family, mental health and resilience are all pulling you in different directions?
Meet Mr O. He decided to pursue coaching after he realised his pressurised work environment was spilling over and affecting his family and life at home. High levels of stress at work (conflict, high workload, tough expectations from himself and others, not much professional support) were making him irritable and distant from his family and so triggering relationship problems and conflict at home. So his stress levels kept rising, his effectiveness at work took a hit, which meant even more work stress, conflict at home, and he started feeling like he was burning out.
So we focussed on building his resilience, self-care and stress management strategies, identified what he valued in his different roles at home and work and elsewhere, what meaning he wanted to find and bring to the different areas of his life, and creating opportunities to actively live that out whilst caring for his family.
After four months, he was delighted to report that he was coping much better with the stresses at work; his irritability and conflicts at home had dropped way down; and whilst he still wasn’t able to give his family the time they really all wanted, the time he was able to give was intentional, thoughtful, attentive, warm and nurturing.
Sometimes people talk to me when they’re at a cross roads in their life. They’re feeling dissatisfied with some aspect of their life, and looking to make a change. But when? And how? And why is this feeling hitting now, of all times??
Meet Ms M. She sought coaching when she started feeling bored, cynical, and unenthusiastic about her work. She had been working cheerfully for the same company for more than fifteen years, and in many ways, they had become like a second family to her. However, when the company restructured and made some shifts in their organisational policies and culture, she became considerably disengaged and started struggling to even get to work in the morning. Seeing herself reacting in this way added to her distress and confusion, since she had previously thought of herself as reliable, enthusiastic, and committed to her employers and colleagues. Together, we realised that a large part of her difficulties were due to the emerging gap between her own values and that of her organisation.
So we spent time reflecting on how she could continue to seek meaning and live out her values in her professional context – and how that would look if she continued in the same role, sought a different role in the same company, or found a new role elsewhere. So then we also did some dreaming - what sort of a role would she really like to pursue, and in what sort of organisational structure and culture and ethos?
She ended up pursuing and winning a role in the higher ranks of a not-for-profit organisation, where she is still serving enthusiastically.
Supervision is an expected thing in allied health circles and is becoming so in pastoral settings. In fact, the Royal Commission strongly recommends that every pastoral worker receives pastoral supervision from a trained professional supervisor. Supervision is not about micro-managing or telling you what to do. It's literally "super-vision" - getting multiple perspectives (including the bird's eye view) on what's going on for you professionally and creating a safe space for you to reflect and discover what you need in order to cope, manage, and grow in your professional context. Here's an example of how that can look across the two domains.
Meet Mrs R. She was a part-time school chaplain and part-time social worker with an nonprofit organisation. She was struggling and looking for a new professional supervisor who could understand both aspects of her working life. When she first reached out to me, she had been enduring a difficult working environment at the nonprofit, largely due to an erratic manager with a critical style of relating. She loved her chaplaincy work with the kids at school, creating space and time for them to process their concerns and have a safe space to come and relax in every day. Both roles resonated with her faith and sense of justice - caring for the vulnerable and oppressed, giving them opportunities to be encouraged and to thrive.
But she continually struggled with her own sense of competence, confidence, and issues with communicating well with colleagues at the nonprofit. She noticed she was highly sensitive to criticism (actual and perceived) and went into fight-or-flight-or-fawn really quickly when she couldn't fix the problem or meet her own or others expectations.
Supervision typically has three main functions - restorative (coping with the stresses and strains of the work), normative (dealing with the day-to-day of the workplace - e.g. client issues, ethical concerns, team management and conflict, boundaries) and formative (focusing on professional growth and development - what are you learning, how are you developing in and through the work that you do).
Mrs R and I have been working together for over a year now. We've been discussing formative issues like the values that drive her in her work and how her competence is developing from enacting those; restorative activities including self-care, self-repair and emotional regulation; and normative skills around improving her communication and enhancing her rapport-building and relationship management.
As time has passed, even though we've not been deliberately focusing on it, her professional confidence has been lifting, she's recovered some of her equilibrium, and her overall morale and productivity is back on track. She's been delighted with the improvement and investment she’s made through supervision and the deeper realisations she been able to make about herself and her worth and ability in and contribution to her workplace and her clients. Our supervision relationship will continue for some time yet, continuing to reflect on and explore these themes and whatever else gets raised by the work.
People come away on retreat seeking peace and balance. They often feel overwhelmed by all the demands they're facing and the need to be constantly doing. But are we supposed to be human doings or human beings?
Group training usually happens when team leaders have recognised this in their people and want to give them the space to develop new stress management strategies and skills.
Meet my typical group members. Men and women who are busy holding down jobs, building businesses and ministries, caring for children or aging parents and friends, while trying to maintain healthy boundaries and self-care routines... yes, just a little challenging, right?
On retreat, they are able to make space away from the endless demands to think about what is really important to them, see themselves and their lives from a different perspective, and learn a practical and effective set of tools that they can immediately use to start managing the busyness and master the stresses they are carrying. It's a time to make calm out of chaos and be refreshed out of the busy-ness of the day-to-day.
In group training we focus on turning the dial down on stress and up on the rest of their lives. Building on my expertise as a trainer (I am currently gaining my Cert IV in Training and Assessment), people are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to maintain their health and wellbeing, particularly when they have to operate in high stress contexts. We spend time developing their own personal stress management and mastery plans, and when time allows (in the longer courses, e.g. 2 hour seminars over 6 weeks) we also test and evaluate their effectiveness and fine-tune them so they work even better.