This reflection is the final in a series of blogs talking about the use of written reports/feedback to an organisation about supervision. You’ll see we have two separate blogs to cover the supervisor and supervisee perspective on a specific review report undertaken by us (Karen and Shane).
Shane and I met to hold our discussion to prepare the yearly supervision feedback report to the organisation, as we have done previous years. We have had some practice at completing the required template over several years, so know what is required. We have also been working with each other a few years so knew each other well and trust is high. Our usual process has been to remind each other that the report is due the month before, review the previous year’s report separately and then come together in the next supervision to prepare the feedback report. We have usually taken turns to keep notes from our discussion and then the notetaker drafts up the report, which is then checked by the other party and then signed off when both parties are happy. I feel very appreciative as a supervisor that Shane is willing to share the task of taking notes and completing the report, so that it does not all fall to me as the supervisor and thus it continues to feel like a collaborative process.
On the particular occasion this reflection is about, we completed our korero, covered all the required topics on the template and I felt like we had reviewed and learned what we needed to from the process. Shane went away to write up our report and then in due course sent the written document for my confirmation and signature. When the document returned to me, there was a paragraph within it which had not been discussed in our review meeting. In this paragraph Shane revealed his reflections and views on one of our earlier supervision sessions and supplied some feedback about how challenged he had felt in this particular supervision session. His reflection discussed the impact of my challenge on him, which was somewhat of a surprise to me. He shared that he felt so challenged he had considered finding a new supervisor. He then went on to share how my challenge had aided his growth even though it may have been initially uncomfortable for him. I felt there was an underlying statement from him that perhaps I had been too challenging in that session as a supervisor and he had been unable to tell me in our session or in our review.
Reading his words on the page in front of me, which we had not previously discussed in preparation for our collaborative report created so many questions in my mind:
- Why had I not noticed that I had been too challenging?
- What had I not observed in Shane’s body language and engagement that day?
- Why had Shane not told me/been honest with me at the time of the challenge?
- Why had Shane also not discussed this with me when we held our review conversation?
- What did I need to change in my practice with Shane?
- Didn’t we have a safe enough and robust enough relationship for this to have been discussed between us?
- How could I create further trust and safety in my relationship with Shane if he had been unable to discuss things with me?
Among this myriad of questions (and there were many more that the sample I have listed above as you may well imagine), was also the dawning appreciation that Shane had found a way of telling me what he needed to, by putting it in writing in our written review report. What he had perhaps not been able to articulate to my face he had still found a way to say. He had not just buried the experience, he had not just walked away from our supervision relationship, and he had chosen to tell me about the experience in the way that worked best for him. In many ways this last realisation affirmed to me that our relationship must have been strong enough for him to trust that I would respond okay when I read his direct written feedback.
And so how did I respond?
When we met again to confirm the report was accurate and ready for signing, I did affirm that most of the report covered what we had already discussed. I also bravely highlighted the information he had shared in the report which we had not previously discussed. I asked if it was okay to korero further about this and with his permission, I then asked some of my questions; essentially attempting to clarify with him if there were ways I needed to change my work with him based on his written feedback. Specifically, I wanted to know if I needed to moderate or change my challenges?
What ensued was a further honest and open conversation, where clarity was reached and in doing so highlighted to me the depth of our working relationship, and the safety that was indeed present and the ability to take this depth further. This conversation also gave the opportunity for me to have further insight into Shane, his view of himself, what he needs in supervision. It also affirmed what I already know about how strong and brave he is in being willing to developing himself and his practice. What I hope he learned from me was my willingness to listen, to be challenged back and be prepared to change my practice as/if required.
What happened moving forward from my perspective was the practice in our supervision did not change. We both realised that the challenge in supervision was an excellent petri dish for reflection and growth and provided him with the opportunity to learn more about himself and develop his practice further. The other outcome of this process was an appreciation for both of us in the merit of collaborative written feedback reports. If we had not engaged in the written feedback as part of our review (and if Shane had not been safe enough to write what he could not say in the conversation) we may never have learned more about each other, and the growth may not have occurred. The process of this particular incident did have a profound aha on both of us and was the catalyst of choosing to blog our experience in this series of blogs, in the hope of encouraging other supervision dyads to find ways to do written review and feedback to organisations together.
So in Conclusion…..we believe….
Reporting on the work done in supervision to an employer does not have to compromise supervisee safety or confidentiality. At best, it serves to evidence the growth an employee has demonstrated in the past year, as well as provide proof of the investment an agency has in the professional development of its staff through supervision. At worst, it enables the opportunity to have a courageous conversation about the efficacy of the relationship and whether change is needed. The benefits of the supervisee taking responsibility for writing the report are: it saves time for the supervisor and therefore costs to the agency; it provides a space for deeper reflection on the value of the relationship; and, it presents the opportunity to share important aspects of the work done that may otherwise never be known. If done well reviewing and reporting back on the work done in supervision is a parallel process for best social work practice.
Karen and Shane K