Groupwork Institute Blog

Supervision: How you can find out what’s really going on for your staff

We all need the right conditions to unfurl our potential.

We’d like to share a story with you. We think it shows how you can undertake supervision with real trust and clear agreement on expectations of priorities and timelines.

Jenny Boulton, a senior manager at Melbourne City Mission, shares this:

“I’ve been using the Groupwork Supervision model ever since I first did the Supervision course in the 90s, with my roles in three different organisations. The difference with this approach is that you get to decide things together. You come out with agreed understanding of what to do AND where each person is coming from, as well as where their work fits with the organisation’s goals.

In this particular story, I had just started in a new management position. One of my team, who had been there a very long time, came from a finance background. John saw things in black and white, and had no time for chat.

One day he came in and perched – literally – on the edge of the chair. I invited him to take a minute and relax, get a cuppa. ‘Oh, I’m not going to be here long. I’ll only be here ten minutes, haven’t got that much to say,’ he replied.

I said ‘Ok, I’m hearing what you’re saying; let’s put together an agenda.’ and he had a couple of little things. We began the Supervision process and started to talk. An hour and 29 minutes later he was surprised to realise the time had passed so quickly. He hadn’t realised how much he had to talk about.

After that, he became the person who most looked forward to Supervision. For him, I think it was the first time that he’d had space to talk about how he felt about his job, to get clarification, to talk things through. I saw a huge difference in him, as did the team, in how he interacted with all of us.

John changed significantly. He became more open, listened more, became more willing to have a conversation about things. I’ve seen huge change and benefit for him.

Everybody loves Supervision. It’s a bizarre thing to say, but it’s not seen as a chore!

Supervision gets you to really know someone; their work style; what it is they need – and they get to know you as well. It’s also an opportunity to disagree, have robust discussion.

This approach to Supervision is different. It’s the focus on the supervisee, it being their agenda, and having their Key Work Areas that form the focus of the work for the year.

Other courses on supervision will say ‘Here’s the formula, this is what you do, this is the end of it.’

The Groupwork model gives you time and space for:

  • reflection,
  • exploration,
  • relationship building. 

This way of working is really important – it’s a genuine engagement with staff.”

Thanks, Jenny!

Ed McKinley | Groupwork Institute of Australia

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