Supervision case study
Updated: Sep 14
- Photo David Becker -
Perhaps are you wondering what types of learning can emerge in supervision? Here are two distinct situations illustrating a similar phenomena:
Sarah, an accomplished CEO, faces recurring issues within her leadership team. Her expectations are perceived as increasingly unreasonable, and she realizes that she systematically gets defensive with her team. To help her, Sarah joins a supervision group of executives who meet regularly to share their leadership challenges and support each other, under the guidance of a professional supervisor.
Through these peer-to-peer exchanges, Sarah realizes that a past work experience has
profoundly shaped her professional behavior. Early in her career, Sarah had been unfairly fired
from a job she deeply appreciated for political reasons. This traumatic episode sowed the
seeds of her distrust of workplace relations and her constant need to prove herself.
David is an experienced team coach who has been recruited to help a team improve their collaboration and productivity. During his coaching sessions, he notices a problem: as he facilitates exchanges, asks probing questions and questions hypotheses to encourage critical thinking and teamwork, some team members have difficulty expressing their thoughts and concerns.
David thinks it’s because team members have different personalities and ways of working. But
after talking to his supervisor, he begins to understand that his coaching style could serve as a
trigger for some team members. He realizes that the way he communicates strongly looks like
the assertive and intimidating style of their previous manager and could explain that they are
hesitant to share their views.
These two cases illustrate mental processes known as transference and counter-transference. Both concepts describe the transfer of feelings, attitudes, and expectations from someone of our past to someone in our present. Since these complex dynamics are largely unconscious, they escape our understanding of situations and are rarely explored. Supervision, by offering a structured space of reflexivity facilitated by a trained supervisor, can allow the supervisee to highlight what is at play in himself or in the people he supports, and to adapt his behaviors.
Now that you know more about these concepts, will you be able to identify a working relationship where you think a transfer could influence your interactions? How could you become more aware of this and make more conscious choices in your responses and reactions?