I’ve never been a big fan of the two words Supervisor and Supervision.
Whether I look at the official definition or not they still both leave me with an authoritarian overseer feel about things. Like you’re been watched and well, you know, supervised. For me there’s an emotive judgment to the word that suggests you have to be supervised, because, well, let’s face it, you’re kind of crap.
I know for many that supervisor and supervision doesn’t quite have the same connotation, but for me I can’t quite shake it.
But it did get me thinking. Especially around the type of person that you as a professional might need to keep an eye out for you and on you.
A good friend once said to me “you need to worry less about how you look to others, and concentrate instead on being the best person that you can be.” My friend is right, and it’s a great message for all who find themselves quite a lot in the public eye – like us Principals and School Leaders. We often find ourselves worrying about the optics of the decisions we make, or about the conversations we have had – or, let’s face it, anything to do with relationships at all in our schools.
The truth is you can’t control how you will be looked at or perceived by others. Even your best intentions can be misconstrued or taken out of context. Sometimes a clumsily placed word will change all the goodwill in the world. So I guess you can beat yourself up about this, or you can go back to the second part of my friend’s message – be the best person that you can be. Tear yourself apart on that instead, and I’m sure you’ll find that in actual fact you’re doing just fine.
Which leads me back to where I started. This sort of advice is gold because it’s exactly the sort of thought you should get if you were in supervision. Well, in my new interpretation of the word. Let me explain that a little, because I am beginning to wonder if I’ve been looking at supervision and supervisor all wrong.
So this is my new take. Supervision is made up of two words … SUPER and VISION. When you think of it that way the judgement intent goes away. What I mean is that the person providing you with the Super Vision is doing just that – giving you a way to have SUPER vision over a situation, problem, dilemma or concern that you may be embroiled in. This SUPER vision can come in two main ways:
- As a device to help you have super vision over an issue. Essentially helping you look at the issue with different eyes, or from a different angle, or from anywhere else that isn’t your current “vision” of the issue.
- As a device to give you some coaching as to other ways of looking at a situation – especially useful if you’ve found yourself neck deep in it and you can’t see a way out.
The key here is that the person giving this SUPER vision experience is a really trusted and respected individual to you. And it’s essential that you have a positive relationship with them. No trust, no respect and a toxic relationship won’t give you the supervision you need.
It’s difficult to find a person who can give this to you, but it’s gold if you can. And I’m beginning to wonder if it’s actually essential in our professional lives.
That second word; SUPER Visor.
I’ve decided to look at this in a different way as well. This role is more of a protector role; as in a visor that protects your face or eyes.
Sometimes you need someone who can give advice in a supporting role that protects you from the glare or sunlight that is going to be the cause of an impending car crash!
However there are times when you don’t need to know all the sh#t that’s going on, especially if it is opinion related to you. You certainly need to know the jist and the reason behind it, and you have to front up and do something about it, but if it’s nasty, offensive and painful then a SUPER Visor is a good person to protect you from that extra static.
A good Super Visor won’t hide the truth from you, but they’ll help filter out the stuff so that you can see things clearly for what they are.
If you’re really lucky you’ll find someone who is an excellent Super-visor and who is also wonderful at Super-vision. Again, you must have a trust and respect for them that is based on a longer term relationship. These sorts of people, sadly, don’t just fall out of trees.
This sort of leadership support, if and when you can find it, seems pretty essential in helping you become the best person you can be. It has the advantage too of keeping you just a little bit more grounded and helps clarify healthier professional thinking processes.
I wonder if you have someone close who plays this role for you?