Getting creative in Executive Coaching Supervision

Photo by Sandra Chile

Creativity enhances all sorts of situations. Creative thinking often delivers sparkles of brilliance, amazing and unexpected insights. And a creative slant gives executive coaches some real advantages, helping them re-imagine situations, dream up unusual solutions, and see things very differently. Here’s how creativity in executive coaching supervision can be a real game-changer.

Different stories told from different perspectives

Deliberating working with different narratives introduces an element of refreshing creativity to a supervision session. But coming up with different ways of telling the same story doesn’t have to be hard work. Sometimes you can even bring useful elements of humour and lightness to a session.

Putting yourself in other people’s shoes then exploring matters from that standpoint facilitates empathy, helps clients see the wider system and view issues from different angles. And it always requires imagination. But people sometimes need the seed of an idea or two to stimulate creative activity and get that imagination working.

As Maya Angelou, the author and poet says: “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” It’s true, once your creativity has been triggered. But for most of us, getting started is the hardest part.

How can creativity be catalysed in coaching supervision?

You might try telling a story from various standpoints. Going up to the balcony from the dance floor can be very effective. If you’re interested in reading more about this technique, here’s a link.

There are more ways to trigger thinking from different angles:

  • Speaking from your own perspective and all the others involved in your client’s situation, whether it’s the team, boss, colleagues, customers or stakeholders.
  • Each character needs a voice to express what they think is going on. You might stand or sit in different places in the room, or use objects on a table to represent each person.
  • You could give yourself the role of a non involved person observing the situation, maybe watching through a one-way window. Think about how they might react, what they might think.
  • You could take the role of a person observing you and your client across the room, exploring the two things they are most likely to notice.
  • You can tackle things from the perspective of a fly on the wall, looking dispassionately from above. What would that fly observe?

The Disney Pattern – different standpoints

The Disney Strategy or Technique is another great way to stimulate creative thinking. The exercise is derived from the way Walt Disney approached ideas. He’d take the type of thinking typical of the Dreamer, the Realist and the Critic, coming from entirely different perspectives to cover different aspects of a his ideas.

You can apply the same technique to developing coaching practices and finding new solutions to ongoing or seemingly stuck problems. Find out more about the Disney Pattern here.

Imagining the coaching relationship or event in an entirely different way.

Taking an imaginative slant to a supervision issue loosens up thinking quickly and can introduce humour and playfulness into the session. Putting an entirely different conceptual frame or set of frames around the situation or event can be enlightening and fun.

Paradoxically, this is particularly useful when the mood has become overly heavy and serious. Click this link if you want to read more about paradox and supervision.

Here are a few suggestions designed to trigger creative, imaginative conversations:

  • Slowing down the scene like a movie clip and giving it a title, then describing what the movie is about. Who are the stars and why? Who are the victims? The heroes? How does it end?
  • Imagining you and your client are stranded on a desert island. What is your initial reaction? How do you see your roles playing out? Describe what you see in your mind’s eye.
  • Identifying a relationship as a piece of music or a song. What would it be? Why do you associate the relationship with this particular music?

Using photographs as a stimulus

Imagery is remarkably powerful. Another way to stimulate creative thinking and discover more is to find images that are evocative. Ones that can act as potent metaphors and prompts.

Asking coaches to think about the issue they are bringing to the supervision in a metaphorical way by inviting them to choose from a range of around 50 such images, can deliver real insights. Metaphors often bypass words and go right to the heart of the matter faster, and exploring a person’s image choices often provokes fascinating discussions that move in the most unexpected and surprising ways.

Using different timeframes to add to creativity

Photo by Crew

Timeframes can add another interesting dimension to sessions too. Using a timeline on the floor or across a large table, with markers for the past, present and future, can shift stuck thinking. Walking along the timeline, then staying still at certain key points to think about an important question, can catalyse fresh thinking, since using space and distance to look forward and back literally introduces new perspective.

Here are some useful timeframe-related questions too:

  • Standing here in the past, what have you learned and what would you like to take forwards?
  • What are you feeling right now, in the present?
  • What reactions do you have as you look back to the past?
  • What aspects of this would you like to bring forward from your past into the present and onwards into your future?
  • What would you like to leave behind?
  • What hopes and concerns do you have as you move forwards?
  • If your future self could look back at this incident in 5 years’ time, what advice would you give yourself?

In conclusion

Ultimately, coaching supervision is all about constantly polishing your coaching skills, becoming a more skilled as coach, gaining greater self-awareness, then returning with a fuller, more informed view so you can be even more effective next time. Creative thinking helps you do all of this, adding a suite of extra skills to your repertoire and enabling you to better help your clients.

If you would like to access your own innate creativity to work more imaginatively with your clients, get in touch to discuss setting up a coaching supervision session with us.