Part Two: A Circle of Inquiry – A Metaphor for Coach Supervision

Earlier this fall, my husband looked out the window of our house in the middle of the night. He spied about 20 elk a few feet from our house.

The elk were camping out on our grass that evening, resting together, in a circle formation. And, in the center of that circle, were the wee elk sleeping peacefully knowing that they were in a protected and safe place.

He noticed that all of the elk in the circle were sleeping, save a few, who were keeping an eye out for any sign of danger.

My husband and I feel thrilled to have made such a magical discovery. It’s like being let in on a secret of nature that only we are able to see.

After we saw this, I decided to do some research around the phenomenon of elk sleeping in a protective circle, I couldn’t find it anywhere … this only serves to confirm for me that the longer we live near, and learn about, these animals, the more I am amazed by their protective behaviors on behalf of each member of the herd.

The elk take care in the rendering of their young, as we saw by the young who were sleeping in the middle of a protective circle. They also watch out for each of the members of their herd. There are always watcher elk doing their job around the clock to keep the herd safe in all of the natural environments that they enter.

We feel very fortunate that the elk regularly gather on our property.

We have heard them talk quite animatedly to each other using their various shrill calls. Each one sounding a bit different from the others. They have distinctive voices and a mysterious language.

Through observing each of these behaviors it is easy to see that they form a community. One that is in place to help their herd to thrive.

I believe that the metaphor of a protective circle of inquiry and a corresponding disposition of watchfulness and care, is at the core and serves to elaborate on the nature of quality coaching supervision.

Together, coach supervisor and coach create a safe circle of inquiry where each is present in the moment to ensure safety, trust, exploration, reflection, dialogue and learning with the successful outcome being the continued learning, and thriving of each, for the benefit of their clients.

Watchfulness is a word that qualifies the idea that coach supervision is a process of being shoulder to shoulder even though the word supervision brings up quite a negative reaction from many. Supervision is not about surveillance. It is about a much richer and learning oriented circle of inquiry.

Here, the definition of coaching supervision provided to us by the International Coach Federation is helpful for us.

“Coaching Supervision is the interaction that occurs when a coach periodically brings his or her coaching work experiences to a coaching supervisor in order to engage in reflective dialogue and collaborative learning for the development and benefit of the coach and his or her clients.”

Delving deeper into our collective work together, in this circle of inquiry, is working together, in what I would call, sacred ground.

It is a space of honor, and of deep appreciation for the integrity of our calling as coaches, with, and for, clients.

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