Supervision: the much-needed anchor in a sea of turmoil

I have had an interesting history… I originally trained as a Physiotherapist. Not long after graduating I suffered a major Stroke which left me with significant physical impairments, one of which was that I lost the use of my vision. For me this ended my career as a physio and put me on a long road of rehabilitation. Part of which was returning to the job market which I successfully managed 5 years after my Stroke. That first role was in the form of an administrator for a community Neuro rehab team.

Fast forward 9 years and 2 jobs later I find myself working as Communications and Engagement Manager for the social enterprise, Bridges Self-Management. I love this job and prior to the Covid-19 pandemic it would take me all over the UK, delivering training to enthusiastic healthcare professionals. At Bridges we’re only a small team based in our little broom cupboard at St Georges University in Tooting, SW London. This is probably also a good point for me to mention that I am one of life’s extroverts who relishes the opportunity for social contact with others whenever it is available. I also made one of the best decisions I have ever made in February 2020 and that was to engage the services of an external supervisor. I receive managerial supervision in my role at Bridges but I felt  that I needed to meet with somebody on a semi-regular basis who sat outside of the organization that I could discuss broader and more wide ranging topics with that were unencumbered by the burdens of regular workplace supervision.

In March 2020 we, like every other organization, made the decision to go from working from our office to working from our respective homes. For me this meant working from our fairly small 2-bedroom flat with my wife and at the time my 1.5 year old daughter for company. In terms of how we were operating as an organization we found ourselves unable to deliver any workshops and for us as a team we were now interacting in a completely different paradigm, whereas previously we’d all been in the same office occupying the same space and speaking to each other in person we had now shifted to a world of text chat and scheduled video calls.

I was swimming in a sea of turmoil where nothing was what I knew – my homelife had been thrown upside down by the uncertainty of lockdown, my work life was unrecognisable following the cancellation of all of our workshops and the shift to working from home but the one anchor that has kept me going throughout has been supervision.

I think that this has professionally been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Having these sessions every 6 weeks or so has been the space that I have needed to explore things. When I have needed pushing back on or clarifying something my supervisor has been there to push back, when I can’t see the wood for the trees my supervisor has been there to encourage me down the right path for me and most of all those sessions have allowed me to further my journey of discovery of who I am in the workplace and for that I’m eternally grateful.

My external supervision sessions have had such a profound effect on me that I made the decision that I in turn wanted to learn more about supervision, but crucially I wanted to become a better supervisor. I decided to enroll on the in tandem supervision courses and it has had some unexpected effects. Not only am I hopefully getting better at being a supervisor, but it is giving me more confidence to conduct interviews on our podcast, be in high level meetings both inside and outside of our organization and generally have the confidence to actually sit back and listen rather than say the first thing that comes into my head at the first opportunity.

So, when I reflect on the sea of turmoil that has been the past year, supervision has been that much needed anchor that has prevented me from being swept away completely into the abyss, that rock that has been there in a time of hardship and uncertainty but it hasn’t kept me tethered to an extent that I haven’t still been able to grow as an individual or within my role at that time.

By Scott Ballard-Ridley

Communications and Engagement Manager for Bridges Self-Management