A Case for HR Super-Vision

 by Liz Nottingham and Doug Montgomery

This article was posted on Linked In July 2020 

When we completed our coaching supervision course a few years ago we noticed that there is great value in offering a coaching supervision framework for the HR professional.   

Why do we say this?

The HR team in all organisations are responding to major life events, sickness, bereavement, stress and relationship challenges on a daily basis. A counsellor, social worker and coach would be provided with supervision as a given to support their work.

The changing role of Human Resources

Human Resources seem to be increasingly responsible for the conscience of the company, for the health and well-being of the organisation and required to navigate multiple simultaneous relationships with line managers, leadership teams, exec boards and individuals. Whilst professional qualifications support employment legalities and important process and procedure, it seems to us that there is little in place to support the personal growth of the HR professional as they manage a broad range and depth of relationships and boundaries with complex human content.

Liz noticed that as a HR professional that she “wished that she had found supervision much earlier in her career; a space to reflect on her interactions with others and to learn more about herself. Who we are is how we shape our HR practice.”

Questions for reflection – an invitation

As you reflect on your HR role, ask yourself:- 

  • Who am I in relationship with others?
  • How am I in relationship with others? 
  • What is the impact of these relationships on me? 
  • How do I manage dual and complex relationships? 
  • What patterns am I noticing in how I interact with others?  
  • How do I do what I do? 
  • Who can I talk to about this honestly and in confidence?

We would suggest that the HR director and the CEO have the loneliest positions in the organisation.    They are the company confidants and are privy to multiple layers of classified knowledge within the business. Everyone they talk to in the organisation has an agenda.  In addition, navigating what is happening across relationships as multiple characters share their stories may sometimes be complicated, confusing and contradictory. HR professionals hold a lot of psychological complexity in confidence.  This takes a toll and needs attention to manage well.  Notice what complexities you may be drawn into.

What is super-vision?

 “Supervision is a working alliance between two professionals where supervisees offer an account of their work, reflect on it, receive feedback, and receive guidance if appropriate.  The object of this alliance is to enable the worker to gain in ethical competency, confidence and creativity as to give the best possible services to clients”.  (Inskipp and Proctor, 2001).

How does super-vision work?

Working in either groups or in a one-to-one relationship the benefit of supervision is to provide a safe and non-judgemental space for the supervisee to reflect on what they did, and why and how they did it. This gives space for people to share their doubts, their concerns and anxieties to learn about themselves. The consequence of not doing this reflective work is that we do not question and explore our patterns, assumptions and triggers and therefore, through lack of awareness, do not give ourselves the resources to change and to grow.

The supervision relationship provides learning as you work with new models, methods and tools to examine relationships and dynamics between people. The supervisor is in service of your growth and development.

As the supervision relationship grows, this in turn ripples out into the relationship you are having within the organisation. The quality of the supervision relationship is then modelled by  you as this emerges in the relationships within the business. The conversations change, the interventions change and in turn the relationships change.

Why Super Vision for HR?

Many are drawn into a HR career to help people, to solve problems, to give advice and to be in service of others. To be fully available for others we need to take care of ourselves. To perform our roles we need to develop and nurture our super-vision.  And if we are not resourced how can we possibly offer our best self to others? 

We leave you with this quote from Robin Shoet to reflect on:-  “The quality of the intervention depends on the interior of the intervener.” 

Who are we?

The authors, Doug and Liz, are independent accredited coach supervisors and experienced business leaders from different industries.   Doug’s a former research scientist and senior leader in the pharmaceutical industry and now runs an independent executive coaching and coach supervision practice.  Liz ‘s background is in senior HR roles, supporting and developing senior leaders.  We both trained in coaching supervision at the Coaching Supervision Academy, where we learned that “Who we are is how we supervise”.    We base our supervision offering on the premise that “Who you are is how you practice your profession”.   

For further information and conversation about what this could mean for you, contact

Doug by email to  Doug@Elmbank-Coaching.co.uk or Liz via email to liz.notts15@gmail.com  to arrange a call.