Animas Founder, Nick Bolton, interviews Edna Murdoch, co-founder of the Coaching Supervision Academy. They explore her journey into coaching supervision, how she’s helping shape the profession, and her views on where we’re headed.


Nick: So great, really lovely to talk to you again, Edna.

Edna: And you, yeah.

Nick: And I thought I’d start off by… we are going to talk as we go over the next 45 minutes or so or however long it takes, just to get a sense of your view of the supervision industry, in inverted commas, and where you see it going, where it’s come from and also what you feel is your part of that, what’s your impact that you’d like to make?

Edna: Yeah.

Nick: I want to start off by just getting a sense of who you are. What’s your background? What’s brought you to where you are?

Edna: Yeah, well it’s quite a long background in the sense that I’ve been an educator and then I was a psychotherapist and then I was a stress management consultant and then I became a clinical supervisor and then I became a coach around 1999 and then moved quite quickly into effectively translating clinical supervision into coaching supervision. In other words, I actually sent quite a lot of time and dedicated commitment into seeing what would work from the clinical side of supervision and what would not work and what the new field of coaching actually needed as a supervision practice, how that practice would really serve it and in a way I think we’re all still learning that because coaching evolves. It’s one of the most quickly evolving professions I’ve ever been involved in.

Nick: Right.

Edna: And I think it’s partly because coaches are great learners and because we’re working in environments that are constantly changing. So therefore I think coaching supervision is less static as a practice as say clinical supervision, really embraces like neuroscience, resilient, systemic work. We’re just keeping pace all the time with what coaches might need.

Nick: Right. So on the one hand coaches themselves are constantly growing their edges as they sort of suck in more and more influences and more and more possibilities and then as supervisors, we have to respond to that.

Edna: Yeah, absolutely. I mean if I think with my own supervision whereby I started about, oh, about 16 years ago started to supervising coaches, in a way my toolkit was reasonable but it was smaller than it is now and I think any supervisor who has been working for a while will experience that too. I’ve just come back from the 6th international coaching supervision conference at Oxford-Brookes.

Nick: Yeah.

Edna: And there’s so much there that’s just indicating how well we are managing to embrace and meet the evolving world of coaching and indeed of leadership and learning. We’re learning how people learn, we’re learning how the brain works. We’re learning how the brain teaches us about our relationships. We just have to keep up all the time, so that’s partly really exciting because it means you don’t stand still.

Nick: Right, alright.

Edna: Yeah.

Nick: So one thing I’m hearing and also noticing myself both in what you say and in my own experience is that the existing sort of cohort, if you like, of coaches are growing but also the industry as a whole is also bringing in more and more different people so that the profession itself is re-shaping itself through new entrants who are perhaps less corporate focused or who are perhaps coming from a therapeutic background or perhaps are coming from education.

Edna: Yeah.

Nick: And so in a way not only are coaches who exist already are growing but the whole field is growing as more and more people come into it.

Edna: I think so. It’s a very, very broad church now and I think it used to be that people would say that you know, there were 2 sector strands in coaching and one would be those who came in from the people side of things, the therapists and whatever and those who come in from the business end but I think it’s much more broader than that now. Coaching itself is attracting a very wide range of people and backgrounds and training and of course supervision will echo all of that and the people who are looking to train as supervisors will echo that.

Nick: Yes.

Edna: I think now for example; you know one of the things we’ve noticed in CSA is that over the last say 4 or 5 years, more leaders are wanting to be trained in supervision.
Nick: Right.

Edna: Because they’re really valuing that practise and valuing what it offers as distinct from coaching and nothing is entirely distinct in this way.

Nick: Yeah.

Edna: And more HR are wanting training now, so it’s actually broadening in all kinds of ways which of course I welcome.

Nick: Right, that’s interesting. So it’s less of sort of a hierarchy of you go from non-coach, coach, coach/supervisor. You could actually come into coaching supervision even without necessarily being a coach in the sort of professional sense. It’s more like the skills that supervision brings you offer sight to other professions too.
Edna: Yes, I mean like I think that happens. So certainly in our own company we do require that say an HR person has significant part of their work in coaching to have some coaching training but it’s not now always the executive coach who works all of the times as a coach who does supervision training and that’s been a very interesting development over the last few years.

Nick: Yeah, that’s interesting. Well let’s go back to your story; so there you were, you were translating clinical supervision into coaching supervision and at some point in that journey you decided to start educating coaching supervisors or developing coaching supervisors. Tell me about that, how you starter CSA, the Coaching supervision academy?

Edna: Yeah. Well our first training got off the ground in 2006 but obviously in the 2 or 3 years prior to that myself and Fiona Adamson and Mary Morrison were thinking about setting up the training because we were all ourselves now working with coaches. I mean I found when I first got into coaching communities and coaching groups that people were asking me things that I thought “Oh, that’s supervision,” and so that’s why I myself talk about “Well, how can I use other supervision I already know and how can I ditch what I need to ditch and how can I learn more about this coaching world that I’m in so that I can make supervisory processes really relevant.” So that built up and built up, I offered ‘vision on call’ for a couple of years and then people like Fiona [Nurin 00:07:00] who were already supervisors themselves mostly in the clinical world, they also were seniors managers and we began talking and we said “Look…” I think the only other person at the time was Peter Hawkins who was running a training. We said “Look, we can run a training. We’re all trainers. We do this.” So we put this together and I actually don’t quite know how our first pilot got through. It was a little bit hit and miss but we were learning all the time and we were enthusiastic.

Nick: Yeah, of course, yeah.

Edna: You know, with all kinds of feedback over the years as each program has unfolded, we’ve really built the thing and until its present form.

Nick: Yes.

Edna: So we got very excited about it and I think I’ve just been reading in the latest coaching at work actually, there is a piece of research from Hawkins and eve turner where they are updating the research that was done in 2006 which is say when our first program went out and from the respondents, they’ve discovered that back then about 44% of coaches were admitting to doing supervision, having some supervision and it’s up in the 90% now.

Nick: Wow!

Edna: And I guess we’re talking about people who are working quite significantly in coaching and earing well because I think money is part of it, so that’s quite an interesting piece of research.

Nick: So when you started as a supervisor, before you started your school, how did you find that coaching supervision got received within either the profession or within buyers of coaching?

Edna: Not very well.

Nick: Right.

Edna: I think it was very much “Good lord! What do we need this for?” Or “I’ve got my mentor,” or “I do peer to peer coaching. Why do I need this? What is it?” And I think then there were years of really solid education and I think in some countries that are now embracing supervision a bit. That is being repeated, we see that pattern.

Nick: Yes.

Edna: You know, our own graduates in Asia-pacific say or in other parts of Europe or the US, they’re having to go through this processes of getting out there a bit like a politician you know, getting the message out, just going round coaching groups, presenting at conferences, writing articles, really trying to enable people to understand what supervision is, what it’s values are, what it’s benefits are, how to access it, how to be an intelligent supervisee, make the most of this thing and how it fits along other forms, alongside other forms of CPD. I think that’s really important for people to realise too and I think also nick and you’ll know this as well, trying to distinguish this practice of called supervision from other forms of supervision which have more of a policing intent.

Nick: Right, yeah

Edna: More of a “Let me check and see if you’re doing this right.” You know?

Nick: Yes, yeah.

Edna: And of course coaching supervision, because it comes from within this marvellous profession where we relate with each other, we enquire, we learn together, all that sort of thing, it cannot be that policing thing although of course there is an ethical element but I always say supervision itself is an ethical event.

Nick: Yes.

Edna: It’s like if you’re in supervision, the ethics are being taken care of. It’s not like one day you say to your supervisee “Now let’s do ethics,” or “Do you have any ethical dilemmas?” There’s dilemmas all the time in supervision, that’s the point, you know, that you have that space.

Nick: Yeah. I often feel that with the restorative notion too, the restorative kind of function of supervision is almost inherent in the very act of being supervised rather than something you do when it’s the right time for it.

Edna: Absolutely, absolutely and I think it’s true that that restorative function can be easily overlooked by both supervisor and coach. I think I sometimes look at coaches and I do a little bit myself now but not nearly as much as I used to and I think we earn so well, the work is stimulating and yet and yet and yet, we’re out there working in a world which is, as they say, volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, all those tricky little things. We’re out there in such a competitive environment and where the pressure to deliver is phenomenal and so I think the restorative piece for coaches is so important. They have a space and a relationship to come into where they can go “Phew! I just want to think about my work. I just need to think about this or that. I need time, I need space. Need you to hear me,” and, you know, feedback and all of the rest of it. So, I think the restorative piece is terribly important and I think supervisors can sometimes underplay it, underplay its importance because sometimes we feel “Gosh! We’ve got to get this dilemma sorted,” or our supervisee gets plenty out of this because we only see each other say every 4 or 6 weeks or something.

Nick: Yeah, yeah.

Edna: And so I find myself sometimes having to slow down a bit on that and say “Hold on” With a supervisee, you see, “You sounded tired when you said that, you just sounded a bit stressed. What’s really going on? Do we need to pay attention?” Yeah.

Nick: Mm-hm. So when you talk about “underplaying”, what I’m hearing there a bit, is that there’s both a conscious need to acknowledge the restorative function but also perhaps a more implicit ongoing belief that the act of supervision is restorative anyway and we don’t need to therefore get a result every time in some way. We don’t need to solve or to grow the person. We can also know that just providing that space is restorative as a thing.

Edna: Yeah. I think that’s really, really true because what it points to nick is how the whole act of this conversation, this dialogue, this co-inquiry, this deep attending to all of the bits and pieces that coaches work with, all of that can in its own way bring insight, bring resolution without us having to try so hard; us being either the supervisor or the supervisee.

Nick: Yes, yeah.

Edna: I think the act of attending is so important, yeah.

Nick: Right. So let’s think about supervision then in terms of; well we’ve kind of entered the arena already in terms of supervision is and what it does but what is your sense? If you were to sum up for somebody who is entirely new to it, what’s your sense of how you would describe supervision to somebody?

Edna: What comes to mind when you say that is Michael Carroll’s lovely statement or question, how may I join you in your learning?

Nick: Right.

Edna: So it’s something about the coach being on their learning journey and they have someone that joins them and walks with them and holds up all kinds of mirrors and shines little lights into blind spots and helps them understand all the stuff they’ve already got in their locker, what’s already established but also enables then to relax enough to look at the bits that are sometimes sticky or ‘glitch’ or say a seam in their work where they think “Oh I’m great with certain types of clients but if that other type of a client comes in, I feel nervous or I’m not sure or I’m not so successful,” just so that they have the space where they can pick up any of that and really have time to look at it intelligently with somebody who is very interested in it all and somebody who knows how to provoke deeper learning and I think that’s a really key piece, you know, that a supervisee needs to know that they’re with someone who is interested in taking them a step further in their own enquiries about their work. Oh, of course that insight comes, resolution comes or somehow the question they first came with, it goes off somewhere else entirely but it’s richer, yeah?

Nick: And so when you describe the back in the day and it wasn’t received, it’s like why do we need that kind of thing? And yet as you described it there, it sounds why wouldn’t you need that kind of thing? Why wouldn’t you need supervision as you described it there? So how are you finding it being received now?

Edna: I think a lot more people know now that it’s valuable. As I say, we’ve just had the 6th international coaching supervision conference which tells you everything, the regular occurrence. There’s a lot of literature out there now on coaching supervision and I think the whole field of this work understands that anyone who is working intensively with another person and that covers a lot of people, can benefit from having a spaced step back and have a look at the complexities and try to iron out things and to have a look at themselves as well because part of this is that we are in relationship all of the time with the clients, with the stakeholders. We’re always in relationship, always in conversation and even right now I cannot see all of how I am being with you in this conversation but somebody over there i.e. a supervisor might be able to say “Edna, do you know you’re talking so fast that it’s not easy for nick to hear you?” Or point up things for me, we can’t see the whole thing.

Nick: Yeah.

Edna: So I think that relational piece is something that supervision takes a great deal of care of and it really enables coaches to grow and I think I understand that. I understood that when I first began working with coaches which is why we came up with that little mantra ‘who you are is how you coach’ because I was aware that as various coaches would come into supervision, that the ones who knew themselves least were least able to deliver their own skills in the best possible way. But those who really were aware of how they were doing what they were doing, how they were affecting them in the contractual conversations, how they were showing up, modify that, how to build on… the ones who kind of could build themselves into their awareness were the ones that were really, really good and so supervision enables a coach to develop that as well.

Nick: Now one of the things that strikes me about supervision as you describe all of that and some of the early stuff around leaders joining CSA and so on, is that there seems to be a greater sense across disciplinary working in the sense that you might have a therapist supervisor working with a coach or vice versa to some degree and I’m just wondering what your sense is of how important coaching supervision is versus what you might think was a transformative space of learning?

Edna: Yeah.

Nick: Yeah, what comes up for you as I say that?

Edna: I suppose context, context, context and in a way I think it’s a little bit debatable how important that is, you can’t just put numbers on it but I think that a coaching supervisor would have been trained to speak into a coaching context and they of course come out of a coaching context. So they’ll be familiar with the world of business, with organisations, with multiparty contracting, with all the kinds of stuff that goes on within organisations and when your coach comes in to supervision, they of course have been in the middle of all that, in the thick of it and so I think it’s much better that the coach – supervisor really understands that context. That’s not to say that say a therapeutic/clinical supervisor cannot do a good piece of work with a coach as a supervisor, so they can really highlight some of this relational stuff, conscious factors stuff and I think some of them operate quite well in terms of systemic understanding but which is they’re absolutely steeped in this.

Nick: Yeah, yeah, that makes a lot of sense as you described that. It’s like you say isn’t it? Who you are is how you supervise which means that you’ll also bring your prejudices or your biases of which part you’re going to focus on and I guess the therapist perhaps might focus more on the internal working of the coach.

Edna: That’s right. Coach supervision training attempts to give coaches some of that as well but I think a therapeutic supervisor will have a lot of that in their toolkit.
Nick: So this is interesting; I had a chat with Michel Morel yesterday and one of the things that Michel felt was what he called; I don’t know if you’ve engaged with Michel in any way about this debate but he talks about what he calls the Brit-centric approach to supervision.

Edna: Yes, I know.

Nick: You’ve come across this? So he talks about this idea that it’s very non-systemic and I was very curious because I always thought of supervision as essentially inherently systemic to some degree.

Edna: Yeah.
Nick: I’m curious about whether you have any thoughts on whether there’s some sort of divide between the UK, the continent, America? What’s your sense? I mean you work around the globe, don’t you? As a supervisor and a supervisor trainer.

Edna: Yeah. Well firstly in terms of systemic work, I think when you mention the word supervision, you’re already in a systemic field because supervision is working with the whole field of a conversation and our own map, of course spectrum model, actually takes this to the [uncertain 00:22:01] degree and speaks about the economic and political field and the organisational field, so we’re in systems all of the time and the intelligence of supervision is shining a light on that all the time. So I do disagree with Michel around that. I think any supervision training worth its salt and there are many of them, work automatically with systems, we have to, automatically and very specifically with systems.

I mean, I can’t speak for what is going in other countries in terms of trainings that are not pour own trainings but certainly what we’re offering in those parts of the world seems to fit perfectly well into what is an understanding of systemic work particularly say with the rise of constellations, systemic constellations in coaching. I think it’s wonderful that that work has come in and is being really highlighted; there was even a presentation at the Last Doctor Brook’s conference on it in terms of how it works within supervision, supervision of coaches. So I can’t speak a lot about the differences. I think some of the European supervision trainings actually work a little bit more psycho-dynamically than we might do. And a lot of creative work but I think some of the models are shared. The 7 eyed model is one that’s known all around the world. Our model, the full spectrum model, is very well known too, so I think some of these things are actually shared and of course globally, we’re so small now and so obviously interconnected that if I have an idea today, it will be around the globe tomorrow. So it’s impossible to be kind of sitting in your own little igloo with the rest of the world miles away anymore in terms of ideas and application of theory and how we train and how we work.

Nick: Yeah.

Edna: It’s a gorgeous thing how we are all kind of embracing learning in different ways and cross-fertilising each other. So I really don’t see this as UK-centric or some other lot do a different thing, I just don’t see that.

Nick: Sure, yeah. You talked early Edna about on the international stage how supervision is at different stages. So there are some which are more like where you were in the mid-2000’s.

Edna: Yeah.

Nick: What’s your sense of how supervision is progressing around the world whether that’s in the states or Asia or Europe and so on, do you have a feel for that at all?

Edna: Yeah, I think my sense is that in the Asia-pacific they’re really quite hungry and very interested and that it’s quite difficult for some of them because the processes of supervision in that they can be very open-ended and about deepening enquiry and open-ended learning and emergent thinking and all of that, quite different to the way in which some of them operate in terms of their thinking where everything needs to be a little bit more precise, so that’s quite challenging but I think it’s a marvellous space to be working in. I think in North America there is still some hesitation about supervision even though the ICF has now said “Yes, supervision is something. It is a practice and we need it and it can sit alongside coach-mentoring,” and they’ve very usefully described in different ways what each of those is and what it does. So ICF I think has had quite a battle to get ICF people really to take up supervision and I think that the battle is mostly in the states. As I understand this and I’m not the final word on this, we are on our 3rd cohort, we’re just gathering our 3rd cohort in America at the minute and the response has been marvellous and they’ve had a conference up in Canada about it and everything, so that’s lovely and there’s still a lot of reluctance there.

Nick: Yeah.

Edna: Certainly find the Asia-pacific and people in France which is where we also train, are very enthusiastic and they’re setting up their own supervision CPD and doing all sorts of things which is lovely.

Nick: As you describe all of that Edna, I’m really struck by what impact you must have had in this field. I’m just wondering what you feel when you look back at your journey so far?

Edna: I don’t mean to sound, is it disingenuous? I never quite know which it is but sometimes I look at it and people say “Edna, have you any idea what CSA has done in the world in impacting this particular profession?”

Nick: Right.

Edna: And I sometimes say “No,” and then I think “Don’t be silly Edna, of course you have,” because we have trained over 400 people and we’ve had a lot of impact in various ways. So yes, I know and I’m delighted by it because obviously I believe in what we’re doing and there’s a huge team now, a huge training team and we work very hard and it’s a real delight to do this work.

Nick: It’s interesting, your classic supervision humility comes into play there, doesn’t it? Because when I look at it I think “Wow!” It’s really impressive what you’ve achieved, I mean to expand to different countries and different continents and to have generated as many supervisors as you had at such a level of quality is for me as looking on the outside, I think “Wow!”

Edna: Oh, thank you, thanks Nick.

Nick: It feels like it makes a big difference.

Edna: And I think also genuinely it reflects the hunger in the field because once we got going, if you remember we started 2006 with the actual programs.

Nick: Yeah, yeah.

Edna: And once word started getting around, we were approached, we never went looking. We had coaches who came to train in London and then went back and then they said “Oh please, bring a training out here. They would love this, they would love this.” So that’s how we actually started training in different countries and I think there is a great hunger for more understanding about how we do what we do and more support for doing it well and for coaches, leaders, whatever, being able to sustain high level of performance over time and to be properly supported in that.

Nick: Yeah.

Edna: I think that’s lovely and I think anyway coaches just adore learning, happen to be greedy.

Nick: Yes, yeah.

Edna: I think supervision really feeds that.

Nick: Yeah. It’s interesting, I was just thinking as you were talking there about in some ways coaching is a very, very young industry but it’s kind of reaching a vague state of adulthood, isn’t it coaching? And supervision is younger again but they both have a certain maturity about them in a way that’s inherent in what they’re all about philosophically and in terms of how it’s practised so I’m just wondering, given that they’re both young but also inherently mature, what is your hope for them looking ahead for the future?

Edna: Gosh! Well where that takes me and yeah, I’m not making any apology for this, where it takes me is that the world really needs coaching and I think coaches are having massive impact at levels where it really, really matters both the level where they’re supporting ordinary folks to relate better in their families bring up their kids better and all of the rest of it and also they’re working with governments around the world, so I think the work of coaches is massively important and therefore of course, the quality of the supervisory support they get is massively important and I think much of what we understand in these professions points to the need for people to be real, to be strong, to be balanced, to be clear.

There’s all kinds of qualities and values that we are implicitly bringing into the world. You know, the whole business of how we even listen to other people particularly in a world where technologically, we don’t even have to listen to anybody, we just text them a few words and they text back. Where our whole style of relating and communicating is getting faster and briefer. I’m not just saying that off the top of my head, I read a lot about it. There’s already a lot of research about what this is doing to us and how it is diminishing in some ways our capacity for empathy, for understanding and so coaching and supervision really implicitly speak into that and work with the world in a way in which we are enabling the world to be more open, to be more considerate and to make good decisions. You know, even those three and that’s only a tiny bit of it. I think what we’re doing is massive actually.

Nick: It is, yeah.

Edna: And very important.

Nick: Yeah, yeah. So if you could blow out the candle and make a wish for something to do with supervision, what would that wish be for supervision, for the profession, for whatever it is that you would like to make happen in some way?

Edna: That it helps us grow into maturity so that we are accomplished individuals, balanced and capable of offering our best wherever we are. That’s what I you know, supervision can support with that, I know that.

Nick: Wonderful. I think that’s a nice place to end it Edna if that feels good for you. Is there anything else you wanted to add before we close off? Is there anything else you feel like you want to say?

Edna: I think I just want to say thank you Nick. I think it’s just been lovely to go over all this stuff which somehow usually stays in the background of my mind. Just to realise and feel again my delight in this work and my sense of the importance of this work, so thank you for giving me the opportunity.

Nick: Well thank you.