With the growth of coaching as a profession, the need for coaching supervision has been more pronounced than ever.
In fact, many coaches heed the call to become coaching supervisors later on in their careers.
This journey from coach to a supervisor is one that Nick Bolton, founder and CEO of the International Centre for Coaching Supervision, shared with us in our recent interview.
He talked about how his passion for coaching supervision grew into establishing his own virtual supervision school and how he sees this thriving profession expand globally.
Watch the complete interview below and read on to discover more about Nick’s global vision for coaching supervision and the story behind ICCS.
Nick Bolton’s Journey from Coach to Coaching Supervisor
Like other coaching supervisors, Nick had his beginnings in the world of organisational coaching. In the early 2000s, he worked in various organisations, coaching police officers, social workers and other public sectors managers on how they could improve their performance at work.
Progressing into his coaching career, he eventually opened up his own coaching school, Animas Centre for Coaching.
With Animas being one of the largest coaching schools in the UK, Nick sensed a responsibility towards the thousands of coaches that took part in their courses.
This is where his supervision journey began.
His initial thoughts around what supervision meant were that being a good coach was enough to be a good supervisor.
I think that’s pretty normal in the supervision field. Most supervisors start by just going from whatever their practice is, to a more experienced version of that practice, to a supervisor of that practice. They don’t necessarily know that there’s a specific journey to becoming a supervisor.
In 2014, Nick trained to be a supervisor and found the experience “mind-blowing”.
I hadn’t realised the extent to which supervision was a separate discipline with its own competencies, its own ethical framework, in own way of seeing the relationship with the person in front of you. Everything was…the same, but different. And it was… it was brilliant.
At that point, Nick realised truly what supervision meant. For him, it’s more than helping someone become a better coach.
He recognised that coaching supervision dials into the coach and how they fit in as a human being. It encompasses the understanding of how the coach actually copes, what impact they have on their clients and how they are fitting into the norms and standards of the profession.
The Genesis of ICCS
Given the various perspectives Nick had on coaching supervision, it was natural for him to find ways to share his specific skills and experiences.
In 2016, he developed a coaching supervision course within his coaching school, Animas. This was the seed that grew to what is now the International Centre for Coaching Supervision (ICCS).
The ICCS officially launched at the beginning of 2020, right at the start of the pandemic. Nick likened the experience of starting ICCS to the Chinese word for “crisis”, in which he explains:
Everyone knows the cliche that the word ‘crisis’ in Chinese is two symbols (危机 = wēi jī), danger and opportunity. And so when Covid struck last year and we went virtual with our main coaching course, I really felt like this was an opportunity for me to double down on supervision training, but built natively for the virtual world.
ICCS has developed a completely virtual program, with a mission to make high-quality coach supervision training accessible throughout the coaching world.
The Why of ICCS
When asked about his goals for ICCS, Nick was very open to say that he is an entrepreneur at heart. However, he knew there needed to be a deeper purpose when he started the company.
As a very pragmatic business person, my main goal is to make a business work. But when you think about what’s the goal that sits behind that goal, you might say, ‘Well, why bother doing it at all? What’s the bigger goal that you’re trying to achieve by starting this company?’
According to Nick, the bigger purpose for ICCS is really threefold — improving the quality of coaching, contributing to standards in coaching, and developing coaches’ sense of self.
Improving the Quality of Coaching
For Nick Bolton, building ICCS was more than creating another training course. In his journey with leading Animas, he recognised the responsibility he has as the owner of a coaching school that puts thousands of coaches into the world.
Finding a way to enrich their ongoing development has been part and parcel of his supervision journey. In improving the quality of coaching as a field, he wanted to find answers to these questions:
How do I continue to support the quality of work being done by the coaches that, not only Animas creates, but also from the wider coaching world? How do I become part of that mission of improving the quality of coaching that’s done across the world?
Standards in Coaching
According to Nick, there has been an pattern of ebb and flow within the coaching profession in which coaches become motivated and interested in a particular area of work that almost entrances the profession, sometimes to the detriment of itself.
An example of this is the current conversation about coaching and trauma.
“It’s not that I don’t think coaches should be working on the trauma, but I think there are questions about their competence to do the work. So then I think to myself, the role of the supervision school is to make sure that the standards and ethics of the profession I care about are at least being thought of,” Nick shares.
“It’s not for me to dictate that this shouldn’t be done or should be done. But I think I have a role to at least create a conversation around what we are trying to get to as a profession and what the role of supervision is within that.”
Sense of Self of the Coach
Working in the coaching profession for more than 20 years, Nick has noticed how many coaches get caught up with competencies, skills and rules.
He believes this can disrupt the true purpose of being a coach as they lose touch with their sense of being a whole human.
After all, coaches don’t just become one by accident. It requires a very conscious choice and effort to gain the skills and expertise to be a coach. However, with the demands to fit in to what the profession wants from a coach, they can often lose themselves in the process.
In this sense, Nick wants his virtual coaching supervision school to be a part of the ecosystem that helps coaches find their true selves.
Going Beyond Virtual Training: What Else Does ICCS Have To Offer?
The pandemic turned many training programmes into virtual learning environments.
However, more than ICCS’ mission to deliver coaching supervision training to as many coaches around the world as possible, Nick sees so much more opportunity with the community of coaching supervisors he’s building.
“My main passion is growing communities of learning. I’m much more fascinated by what it takes to create a sustainable community of learning versus what it takes to create a training company.”
His interest revolves around creating a community that’s going to sustain itself, and creating opportunities for the coaching supervisors to engage with each other in a very deliberate and conscious sense.
In response, ICCS currently host a variety of events such as communities of practice, book clubs, and summits, which are scheduled throughout the year.
Is ICCS any different to other coaching supervision schools? Well, not so much…
When Nick was asked about his thoughts on what sets ICCS apart from other coaching supervision schools, he was very honest in saying that he feels that, ultimately, the course itself isn’t so different.
Honestly, I don’t think that [the curriculum] matters that much. I think what’s more important is the wider context in to which as a student, you fit. And what I care more about is ‘what’s the context I’m creating’. It’s more the philosophy, the vibe, the connections, all those kinds of very intangible differences.
He believes that joining a supervision school should rely on the aspiring supervisor to sense how they feel about the curriculum and the community they’re taking part in and that’s a much more important distinction than what he thinks is different.
Nick Bolton’s Global Vision for Coaching Supervision and ICCS: Where Will It Be in the Next Few Years?
With ICCS only starting in early 2020, Nick believes the business is still in a formative phase. But with its foundations set as virtual learning, the coaching supervision school is focused on reaching a wider, global audience.
Slowly but surely, this vision is coming to light. Nick was excited when a supervisor trainee joined from the Reunion Island — an island located in the Indian Ocean, near Madagascar.
I would love that we have genuinely spread the coaching supervision, ethos, and practice to as many places around the world as possible.
Once the world reopens once again, Nick is looking forward to having live international summits to bring together all these coaching supervisors from around the world and meet in person.
“Well, that’s where I start dreaming. So, my first practical step is to spread the school to as many places as possible. And then see what comes from that.”
What exciting things are happening within ICCS?
Since its establishment, ICCS have already gathered an active group of coaching supervisors on Facebook. Aptly called the Coach Supervisors’ Lounge, this private Facebook group has become a network and discussion zone for the alumni and students of the ICCS.
Although the social media platform has been a great avenue to use as a collaborative space for the ICCS community, Nick also sees potential in building a separate app exclusively for this purpose.
Another initiative Nick is looking to launch is the ICCS’ Community of Practice. In these virtual round-table sessions, coaching supervisors can also look forward to building connections and having enriching discussions with their colleagues.
We’re launching a business community of practice for ‘How do I, as a supervisor, grow my practice?’ We’re looking at communities of practice around being a supervisor. You know, challenges you might have within supervision, the ideas and things that come up within supervision. And we’re looking at a community of practice in group supervision, which is a specific skill in itself.
ICCS will also be holding a number of external events, where they will bring in expert trainers from outside the school to deliver talks about different themes and topics in supervision.
What’s exciting in the world of coaching supervision?
Nick believes that coaching supervision as a profession is going through some exciting shifts. For one, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) just launched its own community of practice for supervision.
“It’s the first tentative signs that the professional body is beginning to engage in a very meaningful sense with supervision.
There are also a number of books and resources coming out that offer exciting concepts, which Nick calls a “rebirth of ideas” within the supervision field.
On Nick’s Final Reflections…
Before we ended the interview, Nick aired out his reflections when it comes to doing business in the same profession.
Being in the coaching business for several years, he finds it a struggle to connect with other competitors in the same field. As with many businesses nowadays, protecting each others’ interests has been a vital priority.
However, Nick would rather turn these competitions into partners.
One of the things I recognise is that my first duty and responsibility is to the customers and professionals that I’m trying to serve, not to my business, which means that if I see something that one of my ‘competitors’ is doing, I would love to share that with my community. I would like them to get the training they need. I’d like them to get the community they need. I’d like them to connect to who they need to connect to, that isn’t just about staying in my little bubble.
That is where Nick Bolton envisions ICCS to be — being a part of a wider connection of bodies who can bring the walls down between them and start working together collaboratively.
Somebody should choose the right school based on themselves and their beliefs, not based on whether we can stop them from finding another school! So, I’d love to bring those walls down. That would be my dream.
For all aspiring coaching supervisors looking for the right supervision school to train with, Nick parts with this advice:
Go see the whole supervision training world. And if we’re right for you, you’ll come to us. And if you’re not, you’ll make the right choice to not be with us. And that’s fine either way. Because you’ve got to make the choice for you. That’s how I see it. I think that’s a true reflection of the beliefs of supervision and coaching.
If you’re interested to learn more about the virtual coaching supervision courses of ICCS, you can check out our Diploma in Coaching Supervision page.