9 tips to being a better line-manager

by Jackie Arnold

Jackie Arnold is an associate of the Leadership Foundation, she specialises in coaching and is part of the launch team on our new women only leadership programme Aurora. This blog post is an extract from the new book Full Spectrum Supervision which Jackie has edited.

“The key to ‘seeing from the whole’ is developing the capacity not only to suspend our assumptions but to ‘redirect’ our awareness towards the generative process that lies behind what we see” Presence, Senge

When supervising at our best we need to create a connection with supervisees (the line-managed) at a fundamentally deep level. This enables us to work on the true nature of the issues that arise and achieve insights by means of safe exploration. It is important for the organisation to know that the contracting and outlining of clear responsibilities is being taken care of properly. So that honesty, integrity and good practice is being observed and that the supervisor (line manager) is taking on that responsibility. It is important for the organisation to have a part in the conversation and that the supervisor feed that back sensitively. This gives the organisation and the supervisee the opportunity to say what areas they would like the supervisor to work on. They will have some input into how their coaches are supported and developed. This needs to be a genuine, open conversation not just a reporting back.

As a leader you will be supervising many different people in a variety of situations. It is important to build on the strengths of your staff and accept that there will be times when limiting beliefs and learnt behaviours can and should be challenged. However, be mindful that this may not always be appropriate. Listening to your own internal supervisor will give you a greater degree of awareness. This knowledge will enable you to use non-judgemental reflection and insightful questioning to foster a collaborative, mindful and supportive relationship.

Here are some tips that will help you to stay mindful when supervising/line managing:
1. Leave expectation and preconceived ideas about how the session should go at the door.
2. Be patient and still to allow for the emergence of what comes from the supervisee. When the supervisee brings situations you can also identify with, remember that no two people ever feel or experience similar issues in quite the same way.
3. Refrain from entering into the content of the session and remain open to what unfolds.
4. Practise “mindfulness” so you can increase awareness of what is present and be non-judgemental in sessions with supervisees.
5. Tap into the silence so that you have the capability to ‘hold’ the different parts of the system and to be acutely aware of what is often not said.
6. Pay attention to your gestures noticing how they fit with your own words and emotions.
7. Notice how your supervisees use words and how their gestures and non-verbal language informs the emerging knowledge.
8. Sensitively direct their attention to their gestures and use of words as this helps build understanding
9. Keep a broad overview of what goes on in organisations and how the different parts relate to each other. How the different personality types and behaviours affect standards, performance, well-being and core values.

This quality of mindful attention shows respect and allows for an unconditional positive space for supervisees to explore and grow.

Full Spectrum Supervision is available on Amazon here. Jackie’s new book Coaching Supervision at its B.E.S.T. will be published in February 2014.