‘I don’t want to be coached by my mother!’

‘I don’t want to be coached by my mother!’

Young professional using hand-held devices

How does a supervisor born in the 1960s work with a coach born in the 1990s? What happens when a coach from the 1970s generation takes on a millennial client who expects to be in touch for support by texting between sessions? Natalia de Estevan-Ubeda and Peter Duffell recently carried out research into the issues surrounding supervision and generational difference. We’re making their research paper available here as an EMCC UK resource for young professionals.

Webinar: Natalia and Peter are leading a webinar, free to EMCC UK members, on 24 February, on how generational differences affect the relationships between clients, coaches and supervisors. For details and registration go to the webinar page here.

Sarah had been working with Jack, a millennial client, who was in his first job, as a software developer. She soon brought to supervision some of the issues she was experiencing in working with her young client.

She explained that Jack had been calling, messaging and emailing at all hours, without respecting contracts, boundaries or personal time. He’d said, ‘I want your support when I’m thinking about a problem,’ and he’d questioned why Sarah appeared reluctant to engage with him via technology.

Sarah had also started to notice transference. Jack was about the same age as her own son, and she’d increasingly had to stop herself offering advice. Jack had noticed this and had commented: ‘Sometimes you sound like my mother.’

In the supervision session, Sarah was disappointed when she raised these issues with her supervisor, a man in his mid-60s. He noticed her frustration and decided to focus on that, rather than on the issues she was experiencing with her millennial client. Her growing sense was that her supervisor didn’t really relate to the issues she was having. She was beginning to wonder how she might deal with them, especially as her supervisor told her that the supervision process didn’t need him to understand the issues her client was bringing into the room.

Generational differences are becoming increasingly noticeable across society, and it’s no surprise that they affect the relationships between clients, coaches and supervisors, who can each belong to a different generation. Our research, which we carried out through a quantitative and qualitative survey in early 2019, examined which differences are most marked, and how they may show up in coach supervision.

Some 20% of the supervisors we surveyed said the issues younger generations bring to coaching are different to the issues which arise with clients of their own generation. Among younger clients, there is much more emphasis on immediacy, as well as a focus on solving ‘how to’ questions. Younger clients also have a deep relationship with technology, which is central to how they communicate, and this stretches ‘normal’ models of coaching and supervision.

While these generational changes are relevant to coaching supervision, they don’t yet feature widely in the way we train coaches and supervisors. Why have we not recognised this already? ‘If we don’t pay attention to our differences, it is fatally easy to misunderstand the fears, the hopes, the general prejudices and the general outlook of a generation other than your own’ (E Carson, quoted in the New Scientist last year).

We’re grateful to Natalia de Estevan-Ubeda and Peter Duffell for making their research paper available as an EMCC UK resource (to EMCC UK members only). To read the paper, please log in and follow this link: ‘I don’t want to be coached by my mother’.

Photo: 7shifts on Unsplash