Being in the moment

It is hard to fathom that we are now in May and 2019 is racing by without any opportunity to write any new blogs. I have been reflecting on this today and recognise that I have been reveling in being ‘in’ the moments in supervision this year, and spending less time reflecting on these moments.

Supervision continues to be such a sacred and special space; a space of sitting with another and sitting with questions and solutions and answers as they emerge. Being able to be truly in these moments and present in these moments, takes dedication, commitment and often practise.

I sat with someone in supervision today, and listened to them talk about the incredible privilege they felt at being able to sit with their ‘clients’ and journey with their ‘clients’ and to be honoured in having their ‘clients’ share their precious stories with them. It struck me that I felt the same way about the work of being a supervisor. An immensely and honouring position of sitting with a person in the highs and lows of their work.

In our busy, and often frantically paced world it can be easy to attempt to multi-task and to be distracted by the next task on our list by still attending to the previous. It can be easy to be pulled into the internal monologue or to be hooked into a device, and the ‘demands’ that modern technology can make on our time. It can be easy to be only half present. It is in the moments of being truly present that the privilege and honour of sitting with another human being is really appreciated. And so I look back on the first four months of this year and I celebrate that I work in a role which offers me the opportunity to be ‘in’ moments with people every day, and I can recall moments of incredible profound and minutely small discoveries as we have been together in these moments.

What are the ways you have been able to be ‘in’ the moments of your work so far this year? I invite you to stop and notice this now.

Ngā mihinui


Titiro whakamuri, haere whakamuri Look to the past, move forward to the future

As I come to the end of another year of supervision practice, I pause to reflect back on that year and what it has brought.  It is good to reflect back on the highs, lows, successes and learning for my supervision space.  This reflection causes me to ponder the dialectic views which present in my supervision space and the way that very little is black and white, rather it is all part of the continuum of being ‘both/and’.  So bare with me as I notice some of these:

  • Supervision is both a privilege and a pressure: it is a privilege to work and engage in dialogue with others about their work, coupled with the pressure of also holding best practice and accountability at heart;
  • Supervision is structured and flexible: requiring structure to ensure we follow process and purpose, while also being flexible enough to just ‘go with’ and ‘be in’ the flow of what the supervisee brings and needs each time we meet;
  • Supervision is easy and hard: engaging in conversation and exploration is an easy way to spend an hour, while it is hard and takes bravery often to try a new thing and to keep everyone honest and prepared to go deeper in their reflection, self-awareness and practice;
  • Supervision is about being me and about adapting me: as I can only be me all the time and must be authentic to who I am and the skill I bring, while also engaging and responding with others and others’ needs, style and authenticity cautiously never colonising them with ‘my way’;
  • And in that same theme, supervision is also about holding social work ethics close and also holding them gently: so I hold integrity to my profession while carefully not imposing social work ethics and practice standards onto other professions I work with in my supervision space.

This year’s supervision conversations have highlighted highs, lows and success and challenges in all areas; for the people I work with in supervision, for the organisations they work within, and for the whanau, communities and individuals they support in their mahi.  I have had a year where support has seemed to be required more than challenge for many I have worked with, and walking gently has been more important then going deeper or further.  I do not find it hard to make social and political assumptions about this and about the environment our supervision is held within, in order to make sense of this supportive gentleness that has been required.  I can see a year summarised by overworked and pressured individuals/organisations,  whom respond to the pressure experienced by their communities, hence this year I have sought to support people to survive their circumstances while encouraging and noting their success and moments of thriving.

Looking forward, perhaps next year it will be the time to engage in more challenge; challenge of the status quo;  of unrealistic expectations of workers, and of the way we ask communities, whanau and individuals to keep ‘sucking it up’ and cope with unfairness, inequity, racism, and marginalisation.  Perhaps next year my end of year reflection will be to notice how I have done this from the place that I sit within my supervision space.

In the meantime I will hold onto that this year it has been a privilege and a pleasure to journey with those I have journeyed with in supervision and await what 2019 will bring.  May this end of year bring you to a place of reflection and hope for moving forward.

Titiro Whakamuri, haere whakamuri

Ngā mihi


Doing what we aspire to do

Recently I have had two interesting feedback moments in my supervision room.  The first involved someone coming back a month after our supervision session, and expressing that a core belief they had held onto for 50 years had been changed since our last supervision.  Their comment to me was, “I don’t remember what the question was that you asked me but I know I’ve turned a corner I’ve been stuck at for 50 years”.   I also have no idea what the ‘magic’ question was that I asked this supervisee, but I am thrilled for this person that I’ve been part of the catalyst of change for them.

The second piece of feedback was from another supervisee who is currently engaged in study in supervision training to develop themselves as a supervisor.  They explained to me in supervision that they could observe me doing in our supervision what they were reading about and writing about in their supervision course, except I seemed make it look effortless and easy. (If only they knew right?!)

Both these moments of feedback have me pondering the ‘magic’ of what we do in supervision and the ‘art of the craft’ of being with a person and working with them at an intuitive and intentional way.

It is such a dialectic to be both methodically and structured, as well as fluid and in the moment in supervision – to have conscious intentionality and spontaneity.

These feedback moments causes me to reflect on the importance of having a clear supervision framework to guide us in our engagement, so that we can trust our road map (or GPS) and then can just enjoy the journey of the dialogue and relationship.  In addition to a clear framework to guide me I also must tap in to the understanding of the purpose and role of supervision and thus my role as supervisor.  Knowing this helps me keep on the right path, while following the dance that my supervisee sets up.

As I reflect back on the two supervision sessions generating these pieces of feedback, I call to mind the questions I might have asked and stance I would have taken in these sessions, and note it is likely my stance would have been:

  • clarity that I don’t have to have the answer
  • a belief that my supervisee will find their answers
  • a use of mainly catalytic and cathartic supportive questions
  • recognising when to be occasionally informative
  • just going with the conversation without predetermined outcomes in mind

So I pat myself on the back for a moment at this feedback and the realisation that I have successfully used mostly catalytic questions to support and generate change in these circumstances.   I note that I have done what I aspire to do on these two occasions! I notice and move on to be inspired and to aspire to do this again….values lived out in action.  What an exciting space supervision can be.

Ngā mihi, Karen

It’s all about relationship

Supervision is foremost about relationship.

I’ve been pondering what this means in supervision this week. I am not one to agree with the proposal that supervisors should be changed after one or two years of working with them, and yet I also recognise that a supervision relationship should not go on indefinitely without review and evaluation about when the time to change supervisor is necessary.

However at the end of the day, if supervision is about a working and trusting, safe relationship then it is necessary to spent the time to develop and grow the safety and trusting relationship, to be able to nurture and develop the person and the practice of each other.

How does this happen?

Well it all begins with the process of whanaungatanga and spending time on Ko wai au.  The ability to meet and greet, to spend some time in mihi and whanaungatanga and to find together the place where we meet.  A safe and trusting relationship extends beyond this if supervision is to stretch and grow.  The literature is full of how to establish a working relationship and a supervision contract, and how to set up this supervision arrangement.  The wairua and mauri of how this happens cannot easily be quantified into a book or onto a page.  It still baffles me after over 20 years of supervision practice, what the ’magic’ ingredients are that create the working and effective relationship.  It is still so subjective and in the moment.

As I review my own supervision relationships I am caused to ponder what or where safe is, where trusting is and where challenge and comfort diverge.  Contrasting examples come to mind and I am aware that I have some supervision relationships which are pretty new, and yet have a depth and a safety to them already, and in contrast I also have supervision relationships which have stood the test of chronological time, but do not have a sense of depth and safety to mirror the length of the relationship.  There are a myriad of variables which support the creation of safety and to enhance depth, (and therefore robust conversation and challenge) in supervision.  I feel like I could talk (or write) myself around and around in circles trying to quantify and to understand why some supervision spaces hold safety and depth and some do not.  But I still come back to the same conclusion at the end of the day.  In the same way as any human practice is about human encounter and relationship, supervision is the same;  in the words of another;  “It seems that whatever approach or method is used, in the end it is the quality of the relationship between supervisor and supervisee that determines whether supervision is effective of not.” (Hunt, 1986)

May you enjoy depth and sincerity in robust supervision relationships today.

Na Karen

Starting with values

No matter our ideology, worldview, model, theory or roles in supervision, I believe we always start with our values; articulated, consciously or otherwise; in our work.  Naming and knowing the values which inform us has a flow on effect into our supervision practice and conversation.  A recent conversation I had in supervision with someone revealed how hard it can be to name and articulate these values and to be clear and succinct with them.  We all bring values informed by our cultural and ethnic background, spiritual or religious beliefs, and from our families of origin.  We are also influenced and informed by our lived experiences, our training and our professional or discipline values.  As a social work supervisor my practice is grounded in ANZASW ethics and practice standards and in SWRB competencies however deeper than that I have individual and core values that need bringing to the light, in order to be transparent and real in my work.

As colleagues who have been working in supervision and supervision training together for a number of years, The Project Team have honed and named some of principles which we recognise as implicit and explicit in the work we do.

These principles are:

  • Respectful and mana-enhancing
  • Transparency and Honesty
  • Sharing the space (knowledge, skills and expertise)
  • Ako – all learners together
  • Focus on strengths and capacities (uncovering and enhancing what works well)
  • Partnership, Participation and Protection (Bicultural practice)
  • Collaboration and conversation
  • Future and presence focussed
  • Holding hope and possibility
  • Acting justly
  • Noticing when we are ’being and doing’ it and growing this

How these principles are borne out in practice on any given day may vary or depend on who is in the room with me and what they need.  These principles are not static, not something that ‘I have’ or that I have ‘accomplished’ in life.  Instead I see them as ‘living, breathing’ aspirations to measure myself against each moment and to call myself to be accountable to; a turangawaewae if you like, a place to stand, to ensure I am on solid and safe ground in my practice.

Some days I know I live and breath these principles, in my own unique way, and feel success; others I know I could have been more successful at this aspiration.  These become my KPI or measure of how have I been in my day and in my supervision experiences.

So I wonder reader, in what way are your values or principles in supervision or in practice articulated and then aspired to?  Are you clear about your values/principles, named and unnamed, are they conscious or under the surface?  What values do you and those you work with in supervision adhere to?  How do these values work and align with each other in the supervision space? And if we start with a full picture of our own values, how do we engage with those whose values differ from ours?

As I write these reflective questions for you to answer, I am conscious that these are questions I have to answer too and that I continue to ask myself in my supervision practice.  Each first meeting of a new person to work with in supervision entails some time for ko wai au together, and in this conversation values are explicitly, overtly and subtly  shared and discussed.

And so I conclude (because it is important to conclude at the end of a blog right?) that we cannot be separate from our essence, our worldview and our values within the supervision room any differently that we can be in our social work practice.  Our role is not to influence those we work with to adhere to our values; (although it may be to encourage and support adherance to professional ethics, but that’s a topic for another day); but to assist them to be  conscious of the values and principles they bring to their work, while also holding consciousness of our own.

So intentional and conscious awareness of that which informs are practice is essential.

What a wonderful opportunity supervision provides for us to truly be ourselves in our working relationships!