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Towards a Theory of Supervision for Coaching: An Integral Vision

P Pampallis-Paisley 2006

This research project was undertaken as a response to the compelling need for coaching to firmly establish itself as a profession of the highest standing. Supervision has been a way of ensuring best practice for the helping professions since the beginning of the twentieth century. The practice of coaching supervision is a new field of application and has thus far drawn on supervision models imported from other helping professions, or from specific models of coaching. The purpose of this qualitative research was to investigate coaching supervision, specifically in the context of executive coaching, in order to identify the phenomena necessary for this discipline, and thus work towards proposing a theory and framework particular to this context. I used two approaches: a broad phenomenological approach and Grounded Theory: 1. I looked at the practice of executive coaching and psychotherapy, to determine what phenomena were similar or different. 2. I then looked at a number of existing supervision models to determine the core phenomena particular to the existing practices of supervision. 3. I concurrently viewed a range of theories, to identify themes or phenomena that were particular to the field of executive coaching which would inform the development of a possible theory and framework that would be applicable to coaching supervision. 4. Through the use of Grounded Theory (a systematic set of procedures to develop an inductively derived grounded theory); multiple perspectives were obtained from my sample groups to derive those phenomena which were particular to the needs of executive coaches for supervision. These were then systematically encoded into themes. A question put forward for this research was: as a result of determining these phenomena, were the existing models of supervision sufficient for the demands of executive coaching, which operates in a particularly complex field of work. 5. Finally, the core phenomena extrapolated were then compared with those identified in Point 2 above to see what was the same or different between existing supervision approaches to the helping professions and that of executive coaching. The review of practice and literature at the time of the literature review also showed that there was no coherent theory oflearning that had been systematically applied to supervision. The results determined that the arena of executive coaching is distinctive through its high-level complexity, and as such demands particular skills and levels of consciousness from executive coaches and supervisors. The research also determined that though there were a number of areas in which supervision as applied to the helping profession is easily transportable into coaching supervision, to select a single model above another would be to provide a partial view of the total picture of supervision as relevant for the field of coaching, and would thus be an incomplete application. What is needed is an inclusive, balanced, comprehensive and holistic approach to meet the demands of the work of executive coaching. I concurrently studied the thought systems for understanding the experience of an individual (and organisation) and through an iterative process. What emerged from this and the research pointed to the use of an integrated framework to support executive coaching, and in fact coaching in general. I have thus proposed the use of integral theory and practice as a viable means for working at high levels of complexity in the domain of executive coaching, as well as with coaching in general. The research supports the view of taking supervision to integral vision as a way to manage growth and development for executive coaches. It accommodates multiple perspectives across individual and collective domains by providing a composite map upon which supervision can be placed. This allows the supervisor to manage the diversity and challenges of coaching through a comprehensive and holistic approach.

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