International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring
2020, Vol. 18(2), pp.183-196. DOI: 10.24384/jxxd-st61

Academic Paper

Self-determination theory: A theoretical framework for group supervision with internal coaches

Alan Wingrove (University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)
Yi-Ling Lai (Birkbeck, University of London, UK)
Stephen Palmer (Wales Academy for Professional Practice and Applied Research, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, UK)
Stephen Williams (University of Portsmouth, UK)

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Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to propose that Self-determination Theory (SDT) (Ryan & Deci, 2017) provides an evidence-based theoretical framework for the group supervision of internal coaches. This proposal is developed through results that emerged from an integrative literature review into coaching supervision for internal coaches, where the small amount of primary research literature on internal coaches focuses on group supervision. This research defines internal coaches in the same way as Jones, Woods and Guillaume (2016) and St. John-Brooks (2019), as employees of an organisation, who are trained coaches and coach fellow employees, as opposed to managers who have coaching conversations with their staff.

Within the various definitions of coaching supervision, three common purposes are addressed; the coach’s development, support for the coach in dealing with issues arising from their practice and providing quality assurance of the coach’s work (Hawkins & Smith, 2006; Hodge, 2014; Lucas, 2012; Robson, 2016; Tkach & DiGirolamo, 2017). The primary aim of coaching supervision is to enable the coach to provide the best service to their clients (Hodge, 2014; Moyes, 2009) and can be delivered by individual one-to-one sessions or through group supervision. Much of the extant literature on coaching supervision focuses on full-time coaching practitioners and exists in advocacy-based books and non-peer reviewed articles. There is much less research into the use of coaching supervision for internal coaches, although organisations are increasingly using their own staff to coach (Grant, 2017; Maxwell, 2011; St John-Brooks, 2019). In relation to what coaching supervision means to internal coaches, in order to find any common factors within the empirical literature published in peer-reviewed journals an integrative literature review was conducted, to allow for the inclusion of diverse research methodologies (Whittemore & Knafl, 2005, p. 547). The questions addressed in the integrative literature review are:

  1. To what extent does coaching supervision have a positive effect on internal coaches' practice and development?
  2. What are the common factors in an internal coaching supervision process?

Internal coaches, “generally coach on top of their day jobs” (St John-Brooks, 2019, p. 155) and are also employees of the organisation in which they coach (Butwell, 2006; Maxwell, 2011; St John-Brooks, 2014), which brings its own issues.

One of these issues is the level of autonomy the coach can operate at; whether working to their coachee’s agenda or the organisation’s agenda; recognising that coaches and their ‘coachees’ are employees of the same organisation. As opposed to an external coach, who has to be cognisant of the systemic context their client works in (Hawkins & Shohet, 2012), the internal coach and their coachee are both part of that systemic context. In addition to the three common areas of coaching supervision above, the emergent data shows internal coaches using group supervision for the purpose of checking and improving their level of competence, in comparison to other internal coaches and for a sense of community. Self-determination theory (SDT), developed by Deci and Ryan in 1985, identifies the areas of autonomy, competence and relatedness as the three basic psychological needs in relation to motivation, wellness and functioning (Ryan & Deci, 2000; Ryan & Deci, 2017). Wellbeing is, “generally considered to be a short- and long-term goal of positive psychology coaching” (Panchal, Palmer & Green, 2019, p. 52) and SDT is one of the fundamental theories of positive psychology coaching (Panchal et al., 2019; Passmore & Oades, 2014). This paper proposes SDT as a theoretical framework for group supervision with internal coaches to understand the supervisees’ areas of autonomy, competence and relatedness. Using an evidence-based theory can assist in developing evidence-based coaching supervision and also extends positive psychology coaching into positive psychology coaching supervision.

Methodology

The integrative literature review had five inclusion criteria; peer reviewed papers; of primary research, with valid research methods and clear sample sizes and types; printed in English, to overcome language barriers; published between 2003 and 2018; relevant to coaching supervision of coaches working in an organisational context. This last criterion was broad due to some researchers using mixed samples of internal and external coaches and using the terms of executive coach, business coach and workplace coach to describe both. During the analysis an attempt was made to differentiate the findings for external coaches from internal coaches.

The review then followed a process based on the PRISMA guidelines (Moher, Liberati, Tetzlaff, & Altman, 2009), as shown in Figure 1.

Four databases were searched; EBSCO, PsycINFO, Business Source Complete, EThOS and the search-engine of The International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring (IJEBCM). Using ten search terms, the number of papers identified for the reading of abstracts was three hundred and ninety five (n=395). After duplicates were removed, forty-five full texts were acquired and read (n=45), which showed eighteen papers (n=18) met all five inclusion criteria. Half of the included papers (n=9) (Armstrong & Geddes, 2009; Bachkirova, 2015; Hodge, 2014; Homer, 2017; Maxwell, 2009; McGivern, 2009; Pampallis Paisley, 2006; Salter, 2008; Sheppard, 2017) used samples of coaches who worked as external practitioners for organisations. Of the nine remaining papers, seven (n=7) had mixed samples of external and internal coaches (de Haan, 2017; Grant, 2012; Hawkins & Turner, 2017; Jepson, 2016; Lawrence & Whyte, 2014; Passmore & McGoldrick, 2009; Spence, Armour, Driessen, Lea & North, 2016) and only two (n=2) papers (Butwell, 2006; Robson, 2016) had samples consisting of only internal coaches. This review focuses on those nine papers that included internal coaches in their studies.

Figure 1: PRISMA guidelines - adapted from Moher, Liberati, Tetzlaff and Altman (2009)

Figure 1

It is acknowledged that criticism could be made of the inclusion of the papers by Lawrence and Whyte (2014) and Passmore and McGoldrick (2009), as they only have tentative links to the supervision of internal coaches. However, Lawrence and Whyte (2014) researched purchasing clients and one participant researched by Passmore and McGoldrick (2009) worked as a senior HR manager and both papers contained findings relevant to the subject. As shown in Table 1, of the nine papers that included internal coaches, seven had mixed samples of external and internal coaches. Three of the papers (de Haan, 2017; Grant, 2012; Hawkins & Turner, 2017) were quantitative studies with large numbers of external coaches, internal coaches and manager as coach. The results from these papers dealt with coaches as being a homogeneous category whereas, as shown later, the findings from this review identify the need to treat the participants as heterogeneous categories. There was not sufficient consistency within the samples for systematic comparison. Therefore, thematic coding was used in order to ascertain the extent to which this primary research answers the integrative literature review questions. Following this, due to the difficulty in separating the findings within some papers between the supervision of external coaches, internal coaches and manager as coach, gerund coding (Charmaz, 2014) was used in areas of the papers relating specifically to the supervision of internal coaches.

Findings

Answering the research questions specifically to internal coaches was made challenging for two reasons; the mixed sampling of external and internal coaches and including different forms of supervision in the same research. The characteristics of the papers included in this review are shown in Table 1. Differentiating the three coaching categories of external coaches, internal coaches and manager as coach in research is important to understand different needs for and experiences of supervision. Grant (2012) specified the proportion of each sample category; external coaches 83%, internal coaches 13.8% and manager coach 9.1% with 2.7% saying these categories did not apply. However, in a similar way to other quantitative research (de Haan, 207; Hawkins & Turner, 2017) the data analysis and study results treated the participants as a homogeneous group. In contrast, Jepson (2016) had samples of both external coaches and internal coaches, which she referred to as ‘freelance’ and ‘in-house’ coaches respectively. She made some comparisons between the two that showed the importance of treating them as heterogeneous categories. 

Table 1: Characteristics of integrative literature review papers

AuthorExternal coachesInternal coachesResearch methodSample sizeTypes of Supervision
One-to-oneGroupPeer
Armstrong & Geddes, 2009XAction research / case study3 supervision groups 10 semi-structured interviewsX
Bachkirova, 2015XHermeneutic perspective using semi-structured interviews6 experienced supervisorsX
Butwell, 2006XPhenomenological, with the researcher as participant8 participants, including supervisor and researcherX
de Haan, 2017XXOn-line questionnaire518 full responsesXX
Grant, 2012XXOn-line questionnaire174 experienced coachesXXX
Hawkins & Turner, 2017XXOn-line questionnaire Grounded theory569 coaches 52 organisational representatives 30 clientsXXX
Hodge, 2014XAction research6 coaches 5 supervisorsX
Homer, 2017XConstructivist grounded theory6 peersX
Jepson, 2016XXMixed methodology: On-line questionnaire Interviews Focus Group108 respondents 14 interviews 10 coachesXXX
Lawrence & Whyte, 2014XXGrounded theory33 executive coaches 29 purchasing clientsXXX
Maxwell, 2009XInterpretive phenomenological interviews8 business / executive coachesX
McGivern, 2009XInterpretive phenomenological interviews6 executive coachesX
Pampallis Paisley, 2006XGrounded theory28 executive coachesXX
Passmore & McGoldrick, 2009XXObservation Grounded theory4 coaches 2 supervisorsXXX
Robson, 2016XEthnographic observations and interviews8 internal supervisorsX
Salter, 2008XGrounded theory: On-line questionnaire Telephone interviews218 coaches 6 coachesX
Sheppard, 2017XGrounded theory12 supervisees 7 supervisorsXX
Spence et al., 2016XXMixed methodology across 4 research assignmentsVarious across 4 research studiesXX

The results from this review also show supervisees using different forms of supervision for different needs. The answers to the research questions posed in this review show how the form of supervision can affect the learning and development of the supervisee, together with their levels of trust.

Question 1: To what extent does coaching supervision have a positive effect on internal coaches' practice and development?

The positive effect of coaching supervision is recognised as the personal development and learning it offers the coach (Butwell, 2006; Grant, 2012; Jepson, 2016; Lawrence & Whyte, 2014; Passmore & McGoldrick, 2009; Robson, 2016). Whilst in all forms of supervision this learning takes place through shared reflection (Armstrong & Geddes, 2009; de Haan, 2017; Grant, 2012; Hawkins & Turner, 2017, Jepson, 2016) the results showed coaches also wanting to learn new coaching models and skills. Jepson (2016) found this with newer coaches, whereas more experienced coaches were more concerned with achieving a deeper level of critical reflection. This result did not differentiate between external and internal coaches, so whether this applies to both categories is unclear. It was found by Passmore & McGoldrick (2009) that new coaches benefit greatly from group supervision in learning from each other. Other results showed group supervision being used for learning by sharing practice with each other by discussing cases (Butwell, 2006; Jepson, 2016; Lawrence & Whyte, 2014), so this appears applicable to both external and internal coaches. The benefit specific to internal coaches was wanting to benchmark their level of competence, in comparison to their peers (Butwell, 2006; Robson, 2016).

Question 2: What are the common factors in an internal coaching supervision process?

This review identifies three common themes in an effective internal coaching supervision process; the quality of the relationship, trust and the qualification / accreditation of the supervisor. As the quality of the relationship and trust are often interlinked (Armstrong & Geddes, 2009; Bachkirova, 2015; de Haan, 2017; Hodge, 2014) these two themes are discussed together in this review. In the included studies, trust was reported on at three dyadic levels, the coaching dyad, the supervision dyad and the coach with the organisation their coachee works in (Armstrong & Geddes, 2009; de Haan, 2017; Grant, 2012; Hodge, 2014; Homer, 2017; Jepson, 2016; Maxwell, 2009; Passmore & McGoldrick, 2009; Sheppard, 2017). Again, these results present coaches as a homogeneous category, whereas for the heterogeneous category of internal coaches this last relationship changes, with the coach and coachee being part of the same organisation (Butwell, 2006; Robson, 2016). This creates a triadic relationship between the coachee, the coach and the organisation they both work for, rather than in. For organisations developing internal supervisors these relationships become even more complex, due to the multiple stakeholders within the organisation. Within group supervision, the relationship that exists between the participants of the group also needs to be considered. These relationships are co-created (Grant, 2012; Maxwell, 2009; Sheppard, 2017) and each party having equal power is important (Passmore & McGoldrick; Sheppard, 2017). However, the results suggest this may be difficult to achieve, as “supervisees reported that the supervisor’s role is imbued with power and many supervisees did not see themselves as an equal partner.” (Sheppard, 2017, p. 117). What the research did not show is how internal coaches perceive the question of power in the supervisory relationship and how this may impact on their trust within the supervision process.

The results within this review show trust within group supervision as taking time to develop (Armstrong & Geddes, 2009; Butwell, 2006; de Haan, 2017; Hodge, 2014) and may be impacted by whether the supervision is obligatory and whether the participants have chosen each other. de Haan (2017) identified supervision being a more positive experience when the coach choose their own supervisor. This made them more trusting of their supervisor, in contrast to where, “many trainees and clinicians from other professions were under an obligation to attend a certain amount of supervision and they cannot in many cases choose their own supervisor” (de Haan, 2017, p. 46). This review discovered that internal coaches are treated in much the same way as trainees and clinicians from other professions, in that their coaching supervision is arranged by their organisation and have an obligation to attend (Butwell, 2006; Robson, 2016). The enforcement of the obligation was outlined by the comment, “it was agreed supervisors would log whether coaches attended supervision, but that the scheme manager was responsible for ‘managing’ those coaches who failed to attend” (Robson, 2016, p. 112). Meanwhile, de Haan (2017) revealed that trust may be affected by whether the participants had chosen each other and whether they had different levels of ambition and competence. However, from the papers specific to internal coaches, it is not clear whether autonomy was allowed by choosing supervision groups, peers or supervisors. The relationship and trust in group supervision for internal coaches are made more complex as members are employees in the same organisation, where they may have working relationships with others in the group (Butwell, 2006). When analysing the papers to answer question 1, the data from the papers specific to internal coaches showed them wanting to benchmark their level of competence, in comparison to their peers (Butwell, 2006; Robson, 2016). The results from these papers also showed that the relationship and trust within the group would take time develop for this to happen.

Being employees of the same organisation means the number of stakeholder interests in coaching and coaching supervision also increases. The stakeholders for internal coaches are described as including the coachee, the coachee’s sponsor, HR and the coachee’s line management (Butwell, 2006). The results of the papers specific to internal coaches in this review (Butwell, 2006; Robson, 2016) also identified the coach’s managers as an additional key stakeholder who may affect the relationship and trust between the coach and their organisations. Both internal coaches and internal coach supervisors expressed the significance of support from senior management and line managers’ engagement, as some managers saw supervision as a luxury and incurring time away from their ‘day job’ (Butwell, 2006; Jepson, 2016; Robson, 2016). An example was coaches being asked to demonstrate to their managers that they had used their time profitably, which caused unease about spending time on personal development rather than other business duties (Butwell, 2006). This request questioned the internal coach’s level of autonomy and the gerund coding in this review also identified internal coaches as surrendering time for supervision in favour of competing business priorities (Butwell, 2006; Jepson, 2016; Robson, 2016). Jepson (2016) indicated that 36% of internal coaches found time was a barrier to attending supervision. Whether this surrendering of time for supervision was the choice of the coach or because of actual or perceived pressure from the organisation was not reported on and needs further research.

The third common factor identified in this review is the qualification / accreditation of the supervisor. In contrast to earlier coaching supervision research, the most recent of the included studies (Grant, 2012; Hawkins & Turner, 2017; Hodge, 2014; Jepson, 2016; Lawrence & Whyte, 2014; Robson, 2016) indicated the importance of using a qualified or accredited supervisor. This may be due to, “a plethora of accredited coach supervision training courses to choose from” (Jepson, 2016, p. 130). Relevant studies prior to 2010 (Butwell, 2006; Hawkins & Schwenk, 2006) reported the shortage of qualified supervisors being an issue. Despite the debates on the ‘qualification’ or ‘accreditation’ of a coaching supervisor, the group supervisor also needs to be a good facilitator (Armstrong & Geddes, 2009; Butwell, 2006; Grant, 2012; Jepson, 2016; Sheppard, 2017).

Discussion

Overall this review identified areas for future research and practice:

  1. This review shows the coaching supervision needs of internal coaches going beyond the limits of current coaching supervision models. More focused and specific research is advocated for coaching supervision within the heterogeneous categories of external coaches, internal coaches and manager coaches.
  2. The findings from this review, together with the data that emerged from it, recognises Self-determination theory as a useful framework for future research and future practice by coaching supervisors engaged in group coaching supervision with internal coaches.

A blurred picture

As more organisations train their own staff to be coaches (Maxwell, 2011; St John-Brooks, 2014) focused and specific coaching supervision studies are advocated within the heterogeneous categories of external coach, internal coach and manager coach, as the extant literature gives a blurred picture. This blurring is caused by what appears to be an accepted convention of discussing coaches as a homogeneous category, primarily of external coaches working with coachees in organisations. An example is the widely cited result from Hawkins and Schwenk (2016) that whilst 88% of organisers of coaching and 86% of coaches believed they should have coaching supervision only 44% actually received it (de Haan, 2017; Hawkins & Turner, 2017; Hodge, 2014; McGivern, 2009; Passmore & McGoldrick, 2009; Robson, 2016). Although reported as 86% of coaches, within paper of Hawkins and Schwenk (2006) there is a table, shown in Figure 2, showing different results for external, internal and manager coaches. This table shows the number of internal coaches who believed they should have regular ongoing supervision is higher than the number of external coaches or managers and the number of internal coaches receiving regular ongoing supervision was less than external coaches but greater than managers (Hawkins & Schwenk, 2006, p. 4). This table is not referred to in the text of Hawkins and Schwenk’s paper and the exact figures for each category of coach are no longer available (personal communications 15th and 16th August 2019). However, the cited figures of 88%, 86% and 44% appear to be an average of coaches, as a homogeneous category. Unless specific research is conducted into external coach, internal coach and manager coach, as heterogeneous categories, we will not know the cause of the differences between belief in supervision and the amount received. 

Figure 2: Belief and use of coaching supervision (Hawkins & Schwenk, 2006, p. 4, Reproduced with permission of CIPD)

Figure 2

This blurred picture also extends to the frequency with which coaches receive supervision. Hawkins and Turner (2017) compared 2014 research into the use of coaching supervision with that produced by Hawkins and Schwenk (2006). The 2014 research showed the frequency with which coaches received supervision and the fee they paid for their supervision. This identified the majority of coaches had supervision every other month or quarterly which, “shows less frequency than was recommended in best practice by Hawkins and Schwenk (2006) of 1 hour to every 35 hours of practice, for experienced coaches and 1 hour for every 10 hours of practice for those still in training” (Hawkins & Turner, 2017, p. 107). This ‘best practice’ again appears to be a recommendation for coaches as a homogeneous category, whereas the group of internal coaches researched by Butwell (2006) met five times over a fourteen month period and the groups researched by Robson (2016) met quarterly. Until focused research is conducted as to the meaning and purpose of coaching supervision for internal coaches and manager coaches it is not clear whether they need the same levels of supervision as external coaches. In response to the statement, “I do not pay for supervision I have a peer arrangement”, Hawkins and Turner (2017) reported 33.43% of participants saying they did not pay for supervision whereas Jepson (2016) found 62% of internal coaches had their supervision paid for by their organisation. Separating internal coaches and manager coaches as heterogeneous groups, with an additional statement ‘my organisation pays for my coaching’ may have impacted the result shown by Hawkins and Turner (2017), dependent upon the number of internal coaches or manager coaches in the sample.

The accepted convention of reporting coaching supervision is also shown by the terminology ‘the purchasers of coaching’ (Hawkins & Schwenk, 2006; Hodge, 2014; Lawrence & Whyte, 2014; Moyes, 2009) or ‘coaching commissioners’ (Hawkins, Turner & Passmore, 2019) within an organisation. The extant literature showed purchasers of coaching being more focused on coaching supervision being used to check the quality of the coaching, in contrast to coaches seeing it as developmental (Hawkins & Schwenk, 2006; Hodge, 2014; Lawrence & Whyte, 2014). In contrast, Robson (2016) refers to the ‘scheme manager’ for internal coaching. This terminology changes the role of a person in the organisation, from purchasing coaching services from external coaches to being the person responsible for organising and managing the internal coaching scheme. In other words, their role changes from a purchaser of coaching services to a provider of coaching services. What is not known is what coaching supervision means to scheme managers, as the providers of coaching and this is another area for future research.

The needs of internal coaches for group supervision go beyond the limitations of current coaching supervision models

The data from the papers specific to internal coaching (Butwell, 2006; Robson, 2016) identified internal coaches using group supervision for comparing their competence with their peers and for creating a community and network; areas that go beyond current models of coaching supervision. The ‘seven-eyed model’ (Hawkins & Schwenk, 2011) is one of the best known and widely used models of supervision (Lawrence & Whyte, 2014; Tkach & DiGirolamo, 2017). One purpose of Mode 7 in Hawkins and Schwenk’s (2011) model is, “to develop the coach’s understanding of the coachee’s organisational context in order to illuminate the shift that the coachee may need to make a sustainable impact on their wider system” (Hawkins & Schwenk, 2011, p. 35). However, internal coaches’ may have a different view of the context, in contrast to external coaches, when they and their coachee are part of the same organisation, linked with stronger power relationships due to the organisational structure. Munro-Turner (2011) identified limitations in the seven-eyed model and made modifications, resulting in the ‘Three worlds four territories model of supervision’, the first world being the work world of the coachee. Again, for internal coaches, this model has similar limitations to the seven-eyed model, as coach and the coachee are part of the same work world. So, whilst current supervision models focus on the development of the coach and support for the coach in dealing with emotional issues arising from their practice (resourcing), they do not explicitly cater for the uses expressed by internal coaches. The results of this integrated literature review show group supervision being used by internal coaches for the development of knowledge, skills and practice, to compare their competence with their peers and for providing a sense of community and network. The following section shows how the findings, together with the data that emerged from it, makes Self-Determination Theory a useful framework in understanding these needs during group supervision of internal coaches.

Self-determination theory as a framework for group coaching supervision with internal coaches

SDT, which identifies three psychological needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness and suggests the social-integration and wellbeing of a person is impacted by these needs Ryan & Deci (2000) can be used to understand internal coaches’ motivation to participate in coaching supervision. “SDT predicts that more autonomous forms of motivation are associated with higher quality engagement and wellness in the workplace and that more autonomously motivated employees experience less exhaustion, burnout and ill-being” (Ryan & Deci, 2017, p. 538).  SDT has been theoretically associated with positive psychology, since its arena is the investigation of people’s inherent growth tendencies and innate psychological needs that are the basis for their self-motivation and personality integration, as well as for the conditions that foster those positive processes (Ryan & Deci, 2000). SDT is also widely applied in the adult learning context (Gagné & Deci, 2005). Being that papers in this review (Butwell, 2006; Jepson, 2016; Robson, 2016) identified group supervision needs of internal coaches to be comparing their competence with their peers and for creating a community and network, SDT which elaborates people’s intrinsic motivations and psychological needs for growth is considered as an appropriate theory to use in internal coaching supervision. SDT is also one of the four fundamental theories of positive psychology coaching (Passmore & Oades, 2014, p. 68), as shown in Figure 3. A definition of positive psychology coaching is “evidence-based coaching practice informed by the theories and research of positive psychology for the enhancement of resilience, achievement and well-being (Green & Palmer, 2014)” (Green & Palmer, 2019, p.10). SDT has been advocated by Spence and Oades (2011) as a theoretical framework for coaching and using SDT in coaching supervision is a logical progression to support this practice.  Two of the psychological needs, competence and relatedness, relate specifically to the findings in the integrative literature review. The questionable level of autonomy an internal coach is allowed is raised by managers requiring them to evidence they are using their time profitably (Butwell, 2006) and their willingness to surrender time for supervision, in favour of other business priorities (Butwell, 2006; Robson, 2016). What is not clear from the research is whether this ‘surrendering of time’ is caused by external influence from the organisation or by through choice of the internal coach preferring to partake in business activities, rather than coaching supervision. Using the SDT theoretical framework enables the coaching supervisor to explore these three psychological factors issues within group coaching supervision.

Figure 3 - Four fundamental theories of positive psychology coaching - adapted from Passmore & Oades (2014)

Figure 3

Autonomy is considered the central construct of SDT, as it “concerns the regulation of behaviour by the self” (Ryan & Deci, 2017, p. 97). The level of autonomy an organisation gives an internal coach may impact on the level of trust in the relationship they have with their coachees, their internal coach peers, their supervisor and their organisation. This is because all behaviours have a cause, referred to as the ‘perceived locus of causality’ (PLOC) (Sheldon, Osin, Gordeeva, Suchkov, & Sychev, 2017) and in SDT these are put on a continuum between external regulation and intrinsic regulation (Ryan & Deci, 2017). In externally regulated activities (E-PLOC) engagement is for reasons of compliance, reward or punishment, moving to introjected regulation, where engagement is for ego and self-esteem. Moving along the continuum, internal (I-PLOC) can still be extrinsically motivated by ‘identified regulation’ where the behaviour has personal importance and is valued and ‘integrated regulation’ where the individual has congruence with the behaviour and identifies with its cause. Intrinsic motivation, where the behaviour is for enjoyment, interest and inherent satisfaction, has the highest I-PLOC (Sheldon et al., 2017). Exploring issues causing the internal coach being extrinsically rather than intrinsically motivated will assist the coaching supervisor in identifying tensions in the relationship between the coach and their organisation. It may surface any external regulation having an adverse impact on the coach and their practice, such as the time for coaching supervision being sacrificed in favour of other business demands (Butwell, 2006; Jepson, 2016; Robson, 2016). External regulation by the organisation may reduce levels of trust felt by internal coaches if the organisation has established the group (Butwell, 2006). Group supervision is a more cost-effective way for organisations to provide coaching supervision (Jepson, 2016; Maxwell, 2011; Robson, 2016), meaning the coach may not have chosen their group and the supervisor may have been imposed, which, as discussed by de Haan (2017), has a detrimental effect. If the internal coach is performing their coaching role with autonomy, including partaking in supervision, then it is more likely they will participate with trust.

Competence is a feeling people need to flourish and feeling incompetent may threaten their feelings of agency. Even if a person is good at an activity, SDT argues that a person is more motivated by a self-initiated activity (Ryan & Deci, 2017). Participants use group supervision to compare their competence with their colleagues (Butwell, 2006) and to learn knowledge, skills and practice from other members (Armstrong & Geddes, 2009; Butwell, 2006; Hodge, 2014; Jepson, 2016; Robson, 2016). As shown by de Haan (2017) the coaching supervisor may need to spend time building the relationship and trust within the group, to enable this, where some members may perceive others as more competent. There is currently a lack of research as to what extent coach training for an internal coach provides them with knowledge, skills and capability to perform confidently in the role and satisfy the psychological need of competence. The supervisor of internal coaches can support their supervisees through encouraging the group to share experiences by providing a safe, reflective space where coaches can practice different knowledge and skills.

As regards relatedness, SDT demonstrates the importance of the psychological need of belonging (Ryan & Deci, 2017). Whilst an individual can have a sense of relatedness to his or her work colleagues in relation to their technical role the research shows internal coaches using group supervision for a ‘sense of community’ (Armstrong & Geddes, 2009; Butwell, 2006; Jepson, 2016; Robson, 2016). Feelings of relatedness to co-workers may enhance performance (Ryan & Deci, 2017) and the supervisor using group supervision for this purpose is a positive move forward. It prevents those for whom coaching is a role additional to their day job feeling isolated (de Haan, 2017).

This shows how SDT goes beyond the limitations of current theories and models of coaching supervision. Whilst these models address the development of the coach, they do not explicitly address the psychological motivational factors in the way SDT does. By coaching supervisors using SDT as a framework for group supervision with internal coaches, the supervisor can support the coach in developing the ability of recognising parallel processes with the SDT psychological needs of their coachees. A parallel process is where the behaviour of the coach is replicating the behaviour of their coachee (Armstrong & Geddes, 2009; Bachkirova, 2015; Hodge, 2014). If a coach is surrendering time for supervision in favour of other business needs, are their coachees sacrificing time for coaching for the same reasons? A similar parallel process can occur if the coachee is assigned their coach by the organisation in the same way that the coach is assigned their group for supervision. The supervisor can be the communication bridge between the internal coach and the scheme manager (Robson, 2016). Communicating such organisational issues to the scheme manager is a learning opportunity for the organisation (Lucas, 2013). By the organisation becoming aware of how they can help the motivation of their coaches, the coach and the organisation will flourish and, within positive psychology coaching, “it may be argued that Self-determination theory (SDT) is the key theory of flourishing” (Panchal et al., 2019, p. 53).

In order to achieve this, the review finding, of supervision being more positive when there is a qualified / accredited supervisor (Grant, 2012; Hawkins & Turner, 2017; Hodge, 2014; Jepson, 2016; Lawrence & Whyte, 2014; Robson, 2016), together with the supervisor also being a skilled facilitator (Armstrong & Geddes, 2009; Butwell, 2006; Grant, 2012; Jepson, 2016; Sheppard, 2017) becomes even more relevant.

Conclusion

In answering the research questions, this study shows the importance of the development of the coach, the quality of the relationship and trust between the coach and the supervisor and the qualification / accreditation of the supervisor. However, this may not give an accurate picture. In researching Australian coaches’ views on supervision Grant (2012, p. 30) says, “It is generally assumed there is a broad homogeneity between coaches from different countries. It may be that coaches in different countries have different attitudes towards, and needs for supervision”. The results from this study show a similar assumption of a broad homogeneity between external coaches, internal coaches and manager coaches. With mixed sampling, the way the majority of research findings are reported on means there are challenges in understanding how issues of the relationship and trust impact on what should be treated as heterogeneous groups of external coach, internal coach and manager as coach.

The emergent findings show this difference in the way that internal coaches use group coaching supervision for comparing their competence with their peers and to create a sense of community and networking; areas that current models of coaching supervision do not explicitly address. SDT can be used as a framework in group supervision with internal coaches for exploring these issues, together with the level of autonomy the internal coach has. If using SDT as a framework for coaching, as suggested by Spence and Oades (2011), is then supported by using the same theory in group coaching supervision with internal coaches, there are benefits for internal coaches, their coachees (fellow employees) and the wider organisation. These combined approaches will assist in delivering evidence-based group coaching supervision. However, it is acknowledged that these findings are limited, due to the small number of research papers focused on coaching supervision for internal coaches.

Future research

This review has identified the majority of the literature on coaching supervision focusing on external coaches or using mixed sampling, making the picture of coaching supervision somewhat blurred. Future research, both qualitative and quantitative, is required into the meaning and use of coaching supervision, specific to the heterogenous categories of internal coaches and manager coaches. This study shows the extant primary research literature for internal coaches to be focused on group supervision for internal coaches. Future research would also benefit from focusing on the method of coaching supervision delivery, to explore what one-to-one coaching supervision and peer supervision means to these categories of coaches.

Researching external coaches, internal coaches and manager coaches as heterogeneous groups will give a clearer picture and provide a stronger evidence-base for coaching supervision.

References

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About the authors

Alan Wingrove, is a PhD student with the University of Portsmouth, researching what coaching supervision means to internal coaches, scheme managers and coaching supervisors.

Yi-Ling Lai (CPsychol) is a Lecturer in Organisational Psychology at Birkbeck, University of London. Yi-Ling has published papers in organisational behaviours and psychological coaching interventions.

Stephen Palmer is Professor of Practice, Wales Academy for Professional Practice and Applied Research, UWTSD, and Adjunct Professor of Coaching Psychology at Aalborg University, Denmark.

Steve Williams is a Reader in Employment Relations at the University of Portsmouth. He has published widely on various aspects of employment relations.

Details

  • Owner: Daniel Croft
  • Collection: IJEBCM
  • Version: 1 (show all)
  • Status: Live