Home Marketing An Independent, External Coach’s Perspective on the Trend of Coaching Supervision

An Independent, External Coach’s Perspective on the Trend of Coaching Supervision

3 min read

I have been a successful, self-employed “single shingle” executive coach since 2002, and I keep abreast of trends and developments in our industry. I have been closely following and researching the coaching supervision trend since July 2014, and have the following thoughts to offer – that may be of particular interest to other experienced, self-employed, independent external coaches who work under contract to various businesses and organizations.

1. The coaching supervision “trend” is currently the subject of great debate – especially within the main professional/regulatory body for coaches, the ICF. There is currently no real agreement on a clear definition of coaching supervision (exactly what it is and who is truly qualified to “supervise”), nor can it be clearly articulated (or demonstrated) as to how it is separate and distinct from mentor coaching, or even just highly skilled regular coaching.

There is no research or validated information to prove that coaching supervision ensures high performance or provides additional quality assurance – with particular respect to external coaches who are independent business people/contractors (versus internal, salaried coaches, whose employers may choose to “supervise” them).

2. If a contracting employer were to require contracted external coaches to undergo coaching supervision (the pro-supervision faction is out there telling employers they should only contract with supervised external coaches), there would be serious implications to consider – such as the significant economic cost for the external coach who would have to pay out of their own pocket for the service, plus forgo income as they cannot be delivering coaching services while being supervised (unlike an internal coach who is getting paid their wage while they are being supervised, and who does not have to pay anything for their own supervision).

It would be an extraordinarily onerous and expensive burden to place on contracted external coaches, without any visible or reportable gain for the contracting employer. The ICF Coaching Supervision Phase 1 Task Force recommended between 18 to 24 hours of coaching supervision per year. At a (very low) estimated cost of $250.00 USD per hour for supervision, that would add overhead costs to your business of between $4,500.00 to $6,000.00 per year. Add in forgone income and the net business cost easily doubles. Would you have the time or funds left to pursue any other Continuing Professional Development each year – CPD that you may prefer far more than just talking to one coach supervisor all year?

3. Coaching confidentiality means there is no way of knowing, measuring, or reporting on whether or not coaching supervision provides additional quality assurance to the employer re: contracted external coaches’ skills and expertise. There would not be any key performance indicators (KPIs) or performance measures, beyond the external coach providing basic proof they are actively engaging in coaching supervision.

4. There is dissension and turmoil in the coaching industry (and ICF) currently – with factions apparently vying both for and against coaching supervision:

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  1. Suzi Pomerantz

    March 26, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Thank you, Lisa! It would be wonderful to have an open, global discussion on the topic of Coaching Supervision here in the comments!


  2. Teri-E Belf, MCC

    March 26, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    In my profession, coaching, we value growth and development.
    That is why we created the profession: to increase client awareness and
    increase client responsibility (the ability to respond to that awareness). We
    hold our clients accountable for taking action. We also firmly believe that
    clients have their own answers. We value serving the whole client because every
    new perception or learning impacts the entire person…and surroundings…and

    Many of you were there with me when we created our profession.

    As coaches we have to mirror that which we believe for our
    clients, valuing growth and acknowledging inner wisdom, being personally
    accountable for our choices and actions, remembering the holistic nature of
    living. If we are not in alignment and modeling what we believe for our
    clients, we are not effective coaches.

    I engage in so much learning about myself (and my ability to
    increase and demonstrate coaching competency each year), I cannot count how
    many hours. I read, write, discuss with colleagues and students, attend and
    deliver workshops, webinars, etc. As a coach I am aware of what I need and
    appreciate the feedback from colleagues all over the world who point out my
    blind spots. My whole life is committed to learning.

    Am I atypical of coaches? I think not. I hope not.

    I resent someone regulating how much learning I should have on
    what topic or with whom. It is in my bones and my chosen profession to continue
    learning. It is inherent in my soul to want to be better at who I am and
    what I do. (Isn’t that the essence of coaching?) Trust me to be a
    responsible as a person and coach to seek out and engage in learning to improve
    myself as a coach. I shall continue learning whether you regulate me or not.

    In conclusion, language is so very important, I implore the
    ultimate decision-makers to carefully choose and define your words and
    requirements as you move to evolve our profession, my profession.

    Also I am curious why this list has so many North American
    coaches and does not include coaching leaders I know in other parts of the

    Thank you for listening and regards to all,

    Teri-E Belf, MCC


    • Avatar photo

      Suzi Pomerantz

      March 27, 2015 at 8:57 am

      Excellent points, Teri-E! I’d love to have a more global and inclusive dialogue about this important question of advancing our profession!


  3. Patrick williams

    March 27, 2015 at 6:55 am

    The obvious and ridiculous question then becomes Who would supervise the supervisors? Will we train Master Supervisors?


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      Suzi Pomerantz

      March 27, 2015 at 8:55 am

      Great point, Pat…then it becomes an ever-expanding up-leveling of certified master supervisors for the master supervisors until we end up with a high lord priestess or something. And who regulates all this? The associations? Each country or state?


  4. Sara Arbel , MCC

    March 27, 2015 at 9:22 am

    Dear All, I couldn’t have said better than Lisa Mallett: “I personally maintain that coaching supervision is a solution in search of a problem, and that problem is one of revenue generation in the industry. If this is not true, someone has yet to make a compelling case by clearly explaining the problem(s) that only the modality of coaching supervision can adequately address and solve.”

    I agree with her observation totally. – As a external coach in many global and local organizations for the past 20 years, amongst them, Microsoft, Intel, Bloomberg and more.
    Who would be the supervisor with the experience,knowledge and and mileage, that had got me these clients in the first place? And renewed their contracts with me for so many years? I work very closely with the VP HR on each case, they are my trustworthy supervisors on some subjects and it is contracted with me that there are subject and issues that are fully confidential between me and the employee of the corp. Having a supervisor will deplete me of my confidentiality agreement and of my professional assets! I don’t need a partner to watch over me, I am fully responsible, fully aligned with the corp. needs and values, as well as have built a trustworthy relationship with my clients.
    If ICF has complaints from different corporate clients who had a bad experience with coaches, than maybe it’s time for ICF to have higher standards and stricter conditions for the population that wants to enter the coaching industry in the first place and be a member of it’s organization in the second place.
    ICF cannot have every human on earth as a member, and than expect the world to cheer for it’s low standard self regulatory process !!
    I don’t need ICF to tell me how to run my business, my business is my business ! Thank you All . Sara Arbel, MCC


  5. Alison Whitmire

    March 27, 2015 at 9:22 am

    As a former CPA, I’m always thinking about following the flow of money. Who’s pockets will this line? Who is asking for this? Is it the market demanding it or someone else? As an independent coach for the last decade, I’ve not heard the need for this voiced in the marketplace. So, whose problem does this solve?


  6. Renee Freedman

    March 27, 2015 at 10:17 am

    Like Teri-E, I am a lifelong learner and most coaches I know are also. This includes peer level conversations about strategy, challenges, and skills needed to coach clients (without breaking confidentiality). In the circles of coaches with whom I associate, this is a common practice. And, I believe its probably a common practice in within other coaching communities.

    I personally believe that idea that supervision is needed arose from three primary factors: inconsistency in client satisfaction (especially organizational) and a flux of new coaches or non-credentialed coaches flooding the market; the inability of many PCC level coaches to successfully pass the MCC certification requirements but desiring to have some level of esteem within the profession, and the absence of thriving practices and distinguishable offers from many long time coaches.

    When I sub-contract coaches or if there are coaches who participate in one of the pro-bono communities I lead, there is always the opportunity to receive support and perspective from me. It’s one of the things coaches enjoy knowing is there. Yet, its not supervision and nor does it need to be.

    I am NOT a proponent of required supervision. I think it will diminish the growth and expansion of our profession. I do like that it is something that may be available for new and ACC level coaches as a learning option – IF desired. However, I feel strongly that it would be best if offered through the ACTO accredited coach training programs instead of having it individualized as it is now.


  7. Diane Brennan

    April 2, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    I appreciate your starting this discussion Lisa. I’m reading the thoughts with interest and great respect for my colleagues. I was talking with Renee a little earlier today and wanted to share my thoughts/observations about supervision. I learned of coaching supervision from our colleagues in Europe and the UK in about 2007. As I learned more about what supervision as colleagues in Europe and Australia defined it, I realized they were describing developing reflective practice in ourselves – which I suspect fits with what many are describing as part of their ongoing learning and development as coaches and as people. My feeling is that good mentor coaching includes supervision (developing reflective practice) with the coach. I feel fortunate that my early mentor coaches were people that approached mentor coaching in this way. It’s part of how I developed my own process of reflection and learning as a coach – reflecting on what worked, what didn’t work, and what I might do differently. This all builds on what we know about adult learning and transformational learning. Julie Hay, former president of the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) has a book on Reflective practice and supervision for coaching (2006). I had a chance to observe Julie provide a ‘supervision’ session at an EMCC conference in 2008. Her job was to help the coach reflect on the situation and pull out the learning, not unlike the support, resources, strategy, and perspective Renee & Terri-E describe above. Supervision for coaches is not performance management as in organizations or supervising as it may have been for psychologists in the US.
    My understanding of what ICF has done related to supervision, is that coaches can now count supervision they’ve received as part of their continuing education. There is not a requirement for coaches to have supervision as ICF credentialed coaches.
    It’s great that this dialogue is occurring here, and I know there are also blogs on ICFs blog site as well as ACEC. I don’t want to see coaching create another industry that feeds off of coaches. I do want us to have options for ongoing development and learning just was we would want for our clients.


    • Patrick Williams

      April 9, 2015 at 5:51 am

      Well said Diane. And calling it supervision is what muddies the water. There are always some language differences and given that the word supervision is not fully accepted in the US as in Europe or Australia, we need to stick to either mentoring or peer consulting for reflective practice in professional coaching.


  8. Jacqueline Melbourne-Milner

    April 27, 2015 at 6:08 am

    Reflection within practice:

    When connecting with new, or potential, clients – I often introduce the following introduction.

    ‘Coaching skills: Coaching time: provides a unique bridge-way to individual support that can be tailored on an individual basis, helping to maintain your ongoing progression within the workplace, ‘social interaction’ – or even towards the achievement (through the building of individual self-esteem, outer-confidence and in the recognition and decrease of stress) of a better work-home-life (or integrative) balance.’

    Most often: clients are seeking a new and external link of ‘active listening’ (a listening ear [based on a different level that may be provided by a colleague, friend or family member] ) – inclusive of confidentiality – and not necessarily with the initial intention of a ‘therapeutic view-point’.

    Initially: a coach’s viewpoint on ‘the need for an external supervisory link’ may be based on future, or intended, cost implications to the coach and independent coaching practice – but, on further consideration there may be, for many, the realisation that there is some sanctity in ‘practicing what we preach’.

    In order to help maintain a full and rounded viewpoint of our own independent coaching practice, surely we must continue to look to the ongoing support of others who maintain a level of knowledge and understanding that will most probably be on a level above ourselves?

    Essentially – we should take time to consider our own referral within practice:

    A person-centred approach: is often a link that may be gained from a supervisory link, as it will also offer a more in depth consideration to a new level of personal understanding. When we offer ongoing non-judgemental support to others (clients on a one to one or group basis), we should always take care to ensure that we gain a link of external support for our own continued well being also.


  9. Bonnie Howell

    May 21, 2015 at 8:26 am

    Lisa: I couldn’t agree with you more and greatly admire your courage in even suggesting that the emperor may not be dressed for the season.
    I fear we are rapidly becoming, by decree, or default, a one size fits all industry. Perhaps a passing concern about the impact on our very different clients is appropriate. “We” are having the same debate around the absolute tenet thou shalt not give advice. This is evolving in such a way that I fear “Have a nice day” will soon become outlawed as giving advice.
    As a student of the evolution of organizations formed to respresent a large group of people from the AMA to the AFL-CIO, I offer these observations.
    The original reason for organizing was a good, needed, timely idea given the circumstances at hand. (Very true of the ICF, no debate there.) However, each organization historically evolved from that honored place to an “our way or the highway” closely held, tightly controlled quasi-regulatory body. This evolution occurred, at least partially, as a way to preserve whatever income may out there for those deemed worthy aka most closely resemble the founders, leaders, future mentors, those at the helm at the time. The rights of passage become tougher and tougher, the dues higher and higher to support the infrastructure now needed to adequately police the new and expanded mission.
    In the history of those “I represent you” organizations, there comes a period of rebalancing. Either other organizations rise up to compete for the title of be all end all and/or members simply vote with their feet, thus rejecting the need to pay attention to the baby (as in baby and the bath water). This era of correction can be bloody or relatively civilized; fraught with name calling, threats, retaliatory moves or perhaps a gracious acceptance of the need for re-balancing. I cannot predict how our current situation will unfold. And, of course, I offer no advice on any or all of it. As a commentary, I will say only I was once asked to give a talk on “Whatever happened to Bonnie Howell?” Now I have deep insight into why but apparently no behavioral changes will result. Thank you and have a nice day.


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