Years ago when I did my social work training I read Social Work as Art by Martin Davies. At the time I couldn’t quite key into the concept.
Now, I offer supervision to consultants in practice. Supervision is the one thing I really missed when I started working for myself – the opportunity to explore ideas, the meaning of the work, the impact of methods on outcomes. Doing it well is an art I have come to understand.
I’ve been developing the concept of ‘supervision as art’ over the past couple of years, combining supervision with coaching and adding more discursive elements to the mix where it fits the client’s needs and preferences. Recently after an hour and a half session with a client, we de-camped to a local gallery and wandered round an exhibition of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photography. Having ‘got into the zone’ in the supervision session itself, we then extended the concepts that had emerged in supervision and linked them to the images we were looking at. Not in a self-conscious way, but naturally and spontaneously. It really enriched the session for my client, and for me.
It made me remember my experience on The King’s Fund Top Manager Programme, when we were taken to The National Portrait Gallery and asked to look at four different pictures, on our own and then in small groups, and then discuss them. This was a significant swing away from the normal ‘taught’ elements in previous experience of leadership programmes. This one led you into places you hadn’t been; asked questions that had never been asked; requested our patience when our experience made us feel uncomfortable; asked us to dig deeper for meaning and insight.
These are the elements of supervision and coaching that I love to explore, and so do my clients. Moving out of the ‘normal’ supervision and coaching zone is not for the faint-hearted and should always be undertaken with care and planning. But for some clients it heightens their experience and strengthens their self-knowledge. And for me, it offers another dimension to the experience of offering supervision and coaching.