Strengths-Based Supervision includes four components: (1) parallel practice principles in supervision, (2) conduct both crisis and in-depth supervisory conferences, (3) use individual and group supervision modalities, and (4) serve the administrative, educational, and support functions of supervision. With all of that said, YOU are indeed the most important piece of this puzzle. Your commitment to child welfare practice, your unique communication style, and your capacity to build strong relationships with your staff means everything.
Most fields require tools that are needed to complete a job. Painters need a ladder, fire fighters use a water hose, and construction workers use a hammer. For supervisors, you are the tool through which all of the supervisory practices we have been discussing are implemented. There is not one way to conduct a one-on-one supervisory conference and there are lots of varied approaches to having courageous conversations. Most important is not that everyone implements strengths-based supervision the same way, but instead that the processes that we labeled in this model of supervision occur through a genuine professional use of self.
Use of self means you use your personality, cultural identity, professional experience, and unique communication style to implement these practices in ways that are authentic to who you are. For some, that might mean sharing stories of your own practice as examples for your supervisees. For others, it could be using humor to lighten the mood. Regardless of how you do this, you should understand that you are the most important component of this model of supervision.
For me, people generally see me as hard working but also as someone who often takes on too much. For that reason, I am also known for my many “stunts” or times I am moving too fast or distracted while having too many balls in the air. Therefore, it is relatively characteristic of me to lose my keys, lock myself out of my office, spill my water glass at lunch, or to leave something behind at a home visit or someone else’s office.
During my time supervising, I enjoyed sharing stories of my “stunts” with my supervisees as a way of reminding them of my own humanness. While I was finishing my PhD, I was still supervising clinicians. Just one week after my dissertation defense, we experienced a gas shortage caused by a gas line break, and I was waiting in a long line for gas. I felt pressure to finish as quickly as possible, so when I got up to the pump, I quickly put my credit card in the slot to get started as fast as possible. Unfortunately, I was in such a rush that I put the card in the receipt dispenser rather than the credit card slot, the card fell in, and I had to get an attendant to unlock the receipt holder and retrieve my card while a long line of cars watched impatiently.
I shared this story the next day with my supervisees and let them know how disturbing it was that I can successfully defend a doctoral dissertation, but apparently, I can’t figure out how to pay for gas. They laughed and said they would miss sharing these moments when I moved on to start my new position as a faculty member. For me, sharing these stories lightened our difficult jobs; it reminded my supervisees that I am not perfect; and it allowed them to get to know me as a person. Your version of professional use of self will likely look a bit different. The key is to consider how we build authentic relationships through use of self, allowing us to implement the elements of strengths-based supervision effectively.
Think for a moment about the best supervisor you have ever had.
Make a list of the qualities and actions that made this supervisor so effective.
Now think about yourself and your strengths. What about you enhances your effectiveness as a supervisor? Embrace who you are in this process - you are the most important piece to pulling this all together!