I carry a limiting belief, that I am more effective in one-to-one situations than I am in group situations. Like all limiting beliefs, when I look for evidence that this is true … not much exists. However, what I do know to be true is that I feel more comfortable and confident in one to one settings – regardless of experience, the underlying introvert in me has a stubborn hold.
I also carry an assumption – and that is when working with groups, the work on the group dynamics should be done by the group whilst being held by the group facilitator. Until recently this has led to a deliberate strategy to engage with group supervision members outside of the session as little as possible, and certainly not to engage with them about the group itself on an individual basis. My sense was this would contribute to splits within the group, or to a pairing (with me) or collusion.
And yet I noticed that over time I was making a number of exceptions…. Offering 121 supervision in an “emergency” or when one of the group could not make a session; talking to individuals who were weighing up remaining with the group for a further year…. I was breaking my “rule” and knowingly.
I also had a couple of groups where I found some of the members within them more challenging to work with than the others, and I took this to my own supervision. I noticed a theme – part of my difficulty was that working with them as a group member meant I felt less able to reach them and to connect with them, than I imagined would be the case if I were working with them individually. A seed was sown. I developed a different configuration for the group work. At the start of the year I have added in a 121 with each of them. The purpose of this individual session from their perspective is to help me focus on what they want to get from their supervision in the year ahead. How can I support them in affirming their strengths, in stretching them to work on their “bleeding edge”? I enquire about what energy they naturally bring to the group, their intention behind that and how I might support them in that intention. All good questions I hope?! From my perspective my explicit agenda is to connect – “truly, madly, deeply”…. to coin a phrase!
I discussed my planned approach with my supervisor. She has a therapeutic background and whilst she stayed open to the idea, she jostled me around the potential difficulties and impact of working this way. At some level I knew she was right and at some level I knew I was right too! I left the session acknowledging my need to experiment with this at least for a year – and to notice what happened.
In working this through with the groups, a lightbulb went on for me. Essentially, what I am exploring is being borrowed from team coaching. Whilst the team coach will work with the team collectively, either they or another team coach might work with individuals on their unique issues. However, the individual is not the client at that point, the team is the client. Together the pair find a way of bringing what’s helpful from the individual setting back to the team setting. This is exactly what I’m doing with my groups. Doing this at the beginning of the year, is helpful because there is a natural expectation to revisit the contract (and in many cases some members move away from the group and new ones join). I can also imagine doing this throughout the year if there are some “exceptional circumstances”… it will be interesting to observe what those turn out to be!
So…. I am at the start of this exploration for me … perhaps it’s a road that others have travelled? I would love to share experiences.
And it prompts a familiar question – what could we be missing as coaching supervisors when we respect the influences that supervision from the helping professions has brought to our coaching community?