Getting it ‘right’ in coaching practice means trusting your instincts.
How you are is more important than how you’re doing, says Nicci Statham


 In my passionate journey of coaching supervision, I’ve been musing about a key challenge that, in my experience, coaches or mentors can often face in the wholehearted endeavour of their practice. In this article, I explore the widely challenging but often unspoken subject of the ‘how’ I am DOing the session.  

Frequently in coaching supervision I hear various forms of the following self-doubt from clients:

  • Am I being too directive? Does the conversation then become about me? 
  • Should I share my insights and if so, how do I know I am not pushing my agenda?
  • Am I saying too much?
  • Am I saying too little?
  • When or is it OK to be directive?


What is the right ‘way’? For me the root of these questions is really about am I getting it ‘right’? How should I be doing this? There’s an attachment to having some certainty and to the notion that there’s a ‘way’ or process to be followed which makes us an effective coach, and which will mean we will know we’re getting it right!  

I remember early in my coaching practice I was very focused on ‘how’ I was doing the process, which took me away from what was actually happening with my client. I learnt over time – and through my own regular supervision – that really trusting my heart, gut, instinct was where the magic lay. How I was BEing was far more important than what I was DOing. There wasn’t any ‘way’ to do the conversation – the best thing I could do was focus on being present and open to whatever ensued.  

Of course, there was/is a process or elements to be upheld in coaching.  Chemistry, contracting, the conversation, offering support and challenge which is aligned with the purpose of the coaching, feedback, etc.  However, the flow of the conversation and how I was BEing in that conversation was where the magic happened.     


Self, Other, Context

These days as an experienced coach and now coaching supervisor my focus is very much on the theory that the ‘sweet spot’ of coaching/supervision conversations happens when I balance my(self), the other (client) and the context (purpose/wider context).  

For me this is about Trust, being open, being with me/them and whatever shows up. Being fluid to whatever happens and practising acceptance. Trusting myself to hold the context of the conversation, trusting what I say or don’t say, trusting that they know what’s best for them and trusting that whatever happens is what’s meant to be.  

I’m not suggesting here that anything goes, but that all these ways of BEing are in line with the context of the coaching conversation. This is a key element of what I’m holding/upholding as a coach or supervisor.  This means that where we are at any given moment is perfect and the key piece is to be open, flow with the moment and be fully aligned with this.  Working with the reality of what’s actually happening. And of course any number of things can be revisited, reflected on or adjusted – this is often a key piece that evolves from supervision and reflective practice.    


The focus on self, other and context (Figure 1, below) means being in the moment, fluid and working with:

  • Self 

This is me as a coach or supervisor, my context, my realities (perceptions/values/how I see the world, etc). Being awake, aware and conscious of what I’m bringing and how this may affect my presence. The practice here is discerning what is/isn’t relevant to the context in which I’m operating (my client/wider organisational context).

  • Other 

This is my coaching or coach supervision client, their context, their realities (perceptions/values/ how they see the world, etc). My focus here is being with them as they really are…openness, allowing, listening deeply, reflecting back, encouraging them to show themselves fully and focus on our purpose for the conversation.  

  • Context 

The purpose (contracting/agreements) of the conversation, the realities of wider organisation or system, and of the world, where all of this is in any given moment of our conversation.


The beauty of the dance

I very much see this endeavour as a dance. The beautiful flow of responding to how my coachee or supervisee is in the ‘now’, how I am and how I can facilitate this to propel their growth. Plus relating all of this back to their purpose, objectives and/or organisational context…back and forth, bringing the elements of (my)self, them and their/our context together.  


What’s on offer for you as a coach or mentor?

Here’s my top three things to practise to co-create your own dance and bring to your own supervision/self-refection:

  • Notice 

Noticing is where everything starts, the golden ticket if you will of being present in the moment, clear and willing. Practise noticing how you’re feeling in your body, what you’re thinking – judgements/bias/ assumptions anyone? Plus noticing this in your client – their body language, reactions, language, etc. Our reaction to the events in the moment will let us know what is really happening for ourselves (self) or the other (client). Noticing is about being present to this reality, whether we like this or not. For example, you may have felt uncomfortable in your body, your client may have looked uncomfortable, the conversation may have drifted/gone off purpose.  

  • Feedback 

Life has a very gracious way of letting us know when we are ‘off’ with ourselves (self), the other (client) or the context. Being open to the feedback in what we notice (as above) is vital to supporting future conversations to be nearer the ‘sweet spot’. What are your reactions (thoughts/feelings) telling you about how you were in the conversation, how your client was or how purposeful the conversation was? For example, (as above) if the conversation went off purpose/drifted…did you or your client hold back, what was unsaid, was there something relevant to the coaching purpose that was missed or a piece of organisational/system context that wasn’t considered.

  • Growth 

This is where you can practise self-forgiveness, self-reflection and acceptance. The conversation was as it was and herein lies the golden gem of learning in your coaching practice.  What is your feedback from the conversation (as above) showing you about how you showed up? Where else do you do this in your life? What qualities as a coach can you bring forward in yourself to develop yourself and your practice? Often I find, especially for newer coaches, there’s a piece about acceptance and self-trust.  Other qualities that often come up are being more courageous, discerning and of course present. Also, often there can be pieces that were missed in contracting, especially unsaid expectations or assumptions.  


  • Nicci Statham is an executive master coach and qualified coaching supervisor who specialises in transformational behaviour change. She is passionate about empowering clients to transform their leadership and life through shifting their attitude and behaviour. She is an active member of the EMCC, AOCS and Global Supervision Network.



The Association of Coaching Supervisors (AOCS) is the voice of  coaching supervision. An international membership community and a source of good practice. 

We believe there is a need to focus on supervision to support the demand for and current growth in coaching, with increasing quality in mind, as well as quantity.

AOCS encourages coaches and supervisors worldwide:
To be: Challenged, supported, further educated and informed
To work: Ethically, globally, respectfully and at their very best.

Figure 1: Self, Other, Context model Source: More to Life Program, developed by K Bradford Brown and W Roy Whitten