As a research scientist, I was promoted to lead a team of researchers and found myself caught between my old job of delivering experimental results and my new job of managing the work of others.
It was difficult to let go of the things that I worked so hard to learn and do well. It was difficult to give up the praise and the rewards for doing my experiments well.
I felt like the confidence I had in my lab science was undermined by the discomfort of having to focus on something less tangible, less familiar.
The relationships with my former peers changed—I was no longer one of them, but I didn’t feel like one of the leaders yet either. My identity and my purpose were changing as I took on this new role of leader / manager.
Uncertain of what was expected of me as a new leader, and not knowing how to measure my success, I found myself spending time on the familiar; on telling others how I would design and carry out experiments. Essentially, I was trying to do my old job instead of my new job. After a while I realised that I was getting in the way of those I was supposed to lead by trying to do their jobs for them. My inner drive to please others and to work hard made it difficult to set expectations, hold others to account, and mange performance. It was easier to do it myself than try to get my new team to do the job I knew so well. Somehow, by trial and error—lots of errors!—I muddled through.
What I know now is that this transition is not uncommon. It is challenging and it’s often unsupported. The skills of people-management, of setting directions and expectations and then allowing others space to use their expertise, are not soft skills. Having honest conversations about performance, providing direct and factual feedback, and driving your team’s development and growth are challenging tasks and require a different mindset and a greater self-awareness than that of an individual contributor.
It took me a good few years to develop my leadership style. I had lots of training courses, yet I was not taught how to reflect on my leadership, nor how to notice and reflect on my own unconscious patterns of thinking and behaviour. For a long time, I was unaware of the ways in which my own actions and thoughts influenced that of the team.
When I became a coach alongside my day job as a leader, I discovered a support mechanism called Coaching Supervision. I wish I’d had the kind of support I now have as a coach back when I was a leader.
The word “Supervision” conjures up different ideas for different people, for example: shop floor supervision where the supervisor issues tasks and oversees the results, or academic supervision in which the supervisor directs the learning of the student and holds a place as expert to the students place as apprentice. Then there is clinical supervision, in which the supervisor is responsible for both training and patient safety, primarily ensuring that the correct procedures are being followed. But when I talk about Supervision, I don’t mean any of these.
Coach Supervision is quite different. It is primarily focused on reflecting on and learning from the professional practice of the supervisee. It is a reflective partnership between supervisor and supervisee that brings new insight and enables and encourages multiple perspectives to be considered before choosing what to do.
Liz Nottingham and I are determined to bring Supervision to those who need it. In doing so, we’ve coined the term ‘Super-Vision’. This describes not only the reflective partnership but also the new perspectives that coaching brings, and is something that we offer to leaders and managers. Our Super-Vision provides a safe, confidential, non-judgemental reflective learning partnership. Super-Vision offers a co-created safe space in which you can think out loud, be heard, and not be judged.
Our group Super-Vision sessions enable participants to pause and reflect on what they are doing in their professional work as leaders. We use creative approaches to take stock of what’s happening around you and within you. We help you to uncover and explore your patterns of thinking and behaviour by sharing our own observations and asking questions—sometimes even those challenging questions that you avoid asking yourself. This enables you to gather fresh perspectives and a better awareness of your intentions and your behaviour. In this way, you can assess the choices that stand before you and work out possible actions to take back into your work and add to your own leadership practice. Super-Vision changes the way you lead and allows you to identify and improve the impact you’re having on your team.
The topics most brought to Supervision are…
Research by the European Mentoring & Coaching Council (Sept 2020) found that the main work brought to supervision by coaches are:
- Recognising blind spots
- Exploring beliefs/ prejudices which can distort our observations
- Validating good practices and bringing challenge to any hypothesis
- Exploring and discussing ethical dilemmas
- Supporting any emotional entanglements
We invite you to join one of our Super-Vision groups for leaders and accelerate your leadership growth and development.