Can we talk? Conceptual models and a pragmatic process for conducting reflexive supervisory dialogues in a learning organization

David J. Hamolsky (1996)

The purpose of this paper is to develop a theoretical model of supervision intended to improve the quality of supervisory relationships in an organizational context. As such, this paper presents a conceptual model of the supervisory relationship integrating the four dimensions of the working alliance (Bordin, 1983), the "unreal" relationship (Gelso & Carter, 1985), the "real" relationship (Rogers, 1961), and the language relationship (Anderson & Goolishian, 1988). This paper also presents the theoretical model of the "learning organization" (Senge, 1990a) as an organizational context in which positive supervisory relationships can be developed and nurtured. The supervisory relationship is defined, evolves and is enhanced through the process of "reflexivity" (Hawes, 1993; Hoffman, 1992; Lax, 1992). In the culture of a learning organization, reflexive dialogues are open, honest, and critical conversations about a myriad of issues including personal and shared visions, mental models and systemic structures which influence supervisors, supervisees and members of a work team. An essential assumption is that productive dialogues about any aspect of the supervisory relationship enhance relationships and improve the overall quality of supervision and work experience for the supervisory dyad as well as the work team. This paper offers one practical process and a "tool" that can be utilized within the culture of a learning organization to develop, nurture and improve supervisors' and supervisees' experience of the supervisory relationship. The pragmatic process is a structure for conducting a Reflexive Supervisory Dialogue (Andersen, 1991, 1990) amongst a supervisor, a supervisee and a consultant. The "tool" is a Reflexive Supervisory Dialogue Checklist intended to guide the consultant's participation in the reflexive conversation. Reflexive supervisory dialogues are understood to represent a significant shift in the supervisory relationship. The paper concludes that this difference will encourage further reflexive conversations within the supervisory process and isomorphically among the members of a work team as well as between staff and clients.