Supervision is about improving wellbeing – of the people you work with, your own and the wider system.
One of my first tasks when I joined Research in Practice for Adults in June 2017 was to chair an expert knowledge exchange for the new Change Project on supervision. I knew about supervision. I’ve had mostly what I considered good supervision experiences in my working life, and some not so good. For me supervision was something that happens and was generally a useful opportunity to talk about how work was going. So I did wonder what more there was to find out. In fact, the whole process of Change Project methodology has enabled a deep understanding and exploration of an area that I had previously taken for granted. It was a hugely diverse and voluminous process, so in this blog I have only been able to pick out a few of the things that have stayed with me and are personal to my experience of being part of it.
The Change Project explored in detail why we do supervision, creating a greater understanding of its purpose and what supervision is ultimately there to achieve. Without this clarity, there is a risk that supervision is just another thing that we are expected to do.
The Change Project tested the hypothesis that the purpose of supervision is about improving ‘wellbeing’, clearly aligning with the underpinning legislation of the Care Act 2014. Ultimately the wellbeing of adults and carers, but enabling that by looking after our own wellbeing as practitioners, managers, supervisors, supervisees, and therefore contributing to the wellbeing of the ‘system’ within which we are working. The diagram on this page of the resource was developed with people from across our network involved in the Change Project. It describes the interfacing and cyclical components of a supervision system based around wellbeing.
The Change Project identified principles for wellbeing supervision and how these are embedded in practice. The organisation is crucial in setting the purpose for supervision, so the resource also helps you to explore the impact of organisational culture on supervision, as well as suggesting areas for inclusion in supervision policy to help set out clarity of purpose for all involved.
We also looked at how supervision can be delivered in order to achieve the purpose of improved wellbeing. Lots of discussion took place, including what a good day / bad day for supervision looked like, and modelling an ideal supervisor and ideal supervisee. Some themes I picked out were:
- How important it is to be person centred about supervision, what works for one may not for another.
- In order to set this up a relationship of good communication, openness, transparency and flexibility between supervisors and supervisees are crucial.
- That supervision happens in lots of different places – not just in one-to-ones – a really pertinent discussion included one where the development group were discussing ‘reflection on demand’ during six weekly one to ones, and how difficult this can be.
- How it is a joint responsibility for all people involved to get what they need from their supervision.
- The importance of a model – to enable structure and communicate purpose.
Another key area for development through the Change Project was to think about how we know supervision is making the difference to wellbeing that we want it to. Knowing why we do something, finding out the best way of doing it, and then checking back whether we’ve done it is something that we hope the Supervision: Change Project resources and tools will help you to do.
How to involve adults and carers was a big part of this discussion. Initially supervision felt quite distant from adults and carers and the discussion focused on practitioner wellbeing. So, as well as having examples of traditional audit tools, we also developed a feedback loops for adults and carers and an overarching evaluation framework which brings the different elements together.
So, the overarching message. Supervision is about improving wellbeing – of the people you work with, your own and the wider system. Keep your eye on this purpose and keep checking whether the supervision you are part of is achieving it. And if not these tools will help you to have some conversations and develop different ways of doing it that work better for you, and ultimately the people you are supporting.