Photo of Alison leading the Working with Group programme in Dublin, May 2019
Working with groups: A programme in Sydney
15th December 2019
Summer study break on play and imagination
14th January 2020

Themes for the year ahead

Reflecting on the year past – and the year ahead – over the past week or two, I realised there are three recurring themes that have emerged in work with my clients. I’m carrying them with me into this new year, because the issues and possibilities they raise have excited, challenged and inspired me, and I’m keen to continue sharing and exploring them in the time ahead.

The three themes are:

Dynamics of team coaching – the complexity of working with groups and teams, and the challenges this work presents to coaches and their clients, calls for our best work as we support and reflect with coaches in supervision.

David Clutterbuck and I carried out an online research survey in 2017, exploring the experience and needs of team coaches and their supervisors. Our continuing research in this area resulted in a collaborative chapter, ‘Guidelines for team coaching supervision’, in the new book (2019) edited by Jo Birch and Peter Welch, Coaching Supervision: Advancing Practice, Changing Landscapes.

Out of the research, and through my cumulative experience, I have developed a map entitled, ‘Factors to consider in team coaching’, which aims to demonstrate the many diverse elements practitioners need to attend to during an assignment. For more on the research and the map, see my online paper, ‘Mapping the dynamics of team coaching’.

Working at relational depth – Recently I’ve been running a series of experiential webinars for the Association for Coaching entitled ‘Relational Depth in Coaching and Supervision’. I was prompted to offer the seminars after reflecting on my experience of coaches coming to supervision and saying, ‘I wish my client would go deeper’.

As I’ve explored this theme over recent years, I’ve noticed a groundswell of concern in our field that there is huge emphasis on competencies and qualifications. This emphasis can get in the way of coaches developing their own personal, emotional and professional capacity to go deeper in terms of their self-awareness and self-understanding, which in turn may negatively impact their client relationships and their effectiveness.

With too much emphasis on return on investment and measurability, the coach can lose sight of the impact they may be having relationally with their client (and vice versa), and then lose sight of the expectations they have for themselves and their clients in the work. For more on this area of work, see my experiential webinars for the Association for Coaching.

Supervision on location – My experience of taking supervision groups outdoors, into parks and gardens, or into public spaces such as galleries and museums, has had a profound impact on the way I work. I’m finding a growing interest from coaches who are keen to explore working with their clients out of the office, in the great outdoors.

It’s fascinating to learn with them how nature and the environment provoke our imagination, and help us see the bigger picture. The metaphors that subsequently emerge give greater insights and awareness of what might be happening in their client systems – whether those systems are individual or in groups. I wrote about this work recently in the online journal of The Association for Management Education and Development, ‘Taking creativity for a walk’.

I’m hoping that the year ahead will give me greater opportunities to expand my learning and deepen my inquiries into these areas.

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash