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The Game of Teams

Teams are the new unit of currency in business. Harnessing the wisdom and brilliance of teams is not easy. It can be messy, confusing, non linear and complicated. Learn from your peers and thought leaders about what it takes. Listen to their stories, pains, and pride when it works. This show is about the magic of mining work and relations for high performance, satisfaction and fulfilment on teams

May 1, 2024

Introduction:  David Rothauser, MA, MS, PCC, PsyA is an executive coach, coach supervisor, educator and psychoanalyst who has worked in leadership & human development for over 20 years. David brings together expertise in these areas to offer a unique forum for growth and development.  David trained in executive coaching at Columbia University, psychodynamic group leadership at the Centre for Group Studies, psychoanalysis at the Centre for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies and Coaching Supervision at Oxford Brookes University.

David offers individual and group supervision for coaches and is currently the Chair of Coaching Supervision for the Association of Coaching, US region.

On a personal note David lives outside of Philadelphia with his wife and two children.

Podcast episode Summary:  Supervision is explored through the prism of a live case that I brought to David as my Supervisor. David shares his approach and illuminates what can often remain mysterious & behind closed doors. We both opine on the value of Supervision and how it can bring relief and clarity from a place of being stuck as well as significant personal development.

Questions asked & points made throughout the Episode:


o    Who are you? And could you share a bit about how you got to where you are today? David reminded us of his professional identities and when encouraged to go further went on to say that he is a husband, a father of toddlers which means it makes up a big part of his learning journey today. David went onto say that he is a patient in his own therapy, in individual and group therapy & a supervisee with multiple supervisors.

o    Supervision has been a vehicle for David, over his career to support his development.

o    The invisible parts of our practice means we do not get to see how we take care of our work.

o    What interests you or intrigues you about a psychoanalytic approach to team and individual coaching? David is a trained psychoanalyst and he used psychoanalysis for his own development for his work as a coach in the professional world. David started coaching in the educational sector.

o    David may not have encountered psychoanalysis if it wasn’t for his sister who was training to be a therapist while David was training to become a school teacher early in his career. Looking across both domains David felt that the field of Psychoanalysis for postgraduate work felt richer and more compelling. David noticed his field was more behaviourally focused whereas his Sisters field was more about people working hard to make meaning. That field was focused on what makes people tick and how can work get done more effectively. David began to dabble and have experiences with psychoanalysis.  He continued & pursued his interest, studied more and at this point is a graduate of two psychoanalytic institutes and has his own psychoanalytic practice. He does not think of his coaching perse as Psychoanalytic.  

o    David is interested in being effective. This work has helped David explore cases where he was stuck, where the reasonable and rationale approaches of other disciplines have not been of help. Psychoanalytic training & supervision provides a space where we can access more parts of self & engage creatively when the counter transference is puzzling, when for example emotions are difficult and we don’t know what to do and where we are stuck. This realm has been a major orientation for David,  where the emotional and relational fields are enhanced with a psychodynamic lens.

o    What do your clients appreciate about your approach and do they even know? What is common about David’s Supervision sessions is that there is a feeling of relief and an opening up for new creative possibilities.

o    David takes an understanding based approach and in a lot of ways David draws on different disciplines, education, sociology, philosophy and psychoanalysis. When we are stuck we don’t understand what is happening. It calls for more meaning making.

o    At this point I re-introduced a case I had brought to David for Supervision. My case is a small team about whom I was stuck. I was curious to see if David, for the sake of my podcast listeners, could help me decode the approach David took, the potency of supervision & how it served me and my client at the time. David wondered too.

o    David shared that there is something about this work where there is a mystique about it. There are many kinds of supervision some for example where there is direct observation of a coach coaching with their client. The supervisor will observe a person actually coaching whereas a psychodynamic approach happens behind closed doors.

o    We decided to try and David asked “how shall we try” Whilst I endeavoured to revisit the case David suggested that “we back up a little” to share how he thinks about the work

o    A unique contribution of coaching & team coaching is offering an opportunity to the client to see themselves in new ways, to access their own creativity so that they can make new choices about what they want to do and how they want to be with others. No matter the discipline or theoretical orientation CBT, positive psychology, a PhD in coaching psychology or whatever the way we relate has a profound impact on the quality & outcomes of the work

o    One area of work that can always be expanded and deepened is the work we do on ourselves. It is a lifelong process to know yourself and to use yourself. The difficulties we experience with clients like fear, hopelessness, anxiety, shame and not having access to our minds is natural

o    Many of us in the helping professions are drawn to this work, either consciously or unconsciously because of the roles we picked up from our family of origin. That was when we were first introduced to our emotional lives. There were things we learnt about our feelings that were going to be acceptable and those we learnt to avoid. Our interpersonal tendencies around openness and avoidance were learnt in our early families.

o    Often the feelings that pose challenges for our clients are feelings that we have learnt to avoid or step around. As a supervisor they are the clients David hears about from his supervisees & the ones he brings to his own supervisor.

o    I shared my experience of working with my client and the feelings that were evoked in me especially the ones, fear of rejection, that I find intolerable. This is the value of talking.

o    Psychoanalysis is the talking cure and coaching is a kind of talking cure too and supervision is too.

o    In supervision with David, we dreamed up my case together. In our collaborative dialogue I was able to speak what might have been unspeakable for the client, to say more and more and more about what was happening. David pays attention to his supervisees and their subjective experience. He works to help supervisees make meaning and understand what is inside of them. David is happy to work & to talk about what to do but he leans more in terms of helping clients reach understanding.

o    Many of us come to supervision to wonder what to do and the question becomes to what end?

o    Looking for ways “to do” can  sometimes be about avoiding  the work of understanding and meaning and sometimes not. Brainstorming things to do or interventions to offer can provide avenues to see a way forward. Using our imaginations for example in a session like “what do I really want to say to this client in a world with no consequences” “what would I tell these people?” Some of those kinds of imagination exercises can be freeing.

o    The unconscious is not a civilised place. It can be unruly. This is how we can get stuck with our cases when some of our more unruly parts get activated & our more professional parts are hard at work to make sure those parts do not get air time. That is why it is important in a supervision space to create a playful open space for any words to be expressed.

o    How to deal with resistance on teams? Resistance is a word that can bring up a lot of resistance. The view of resistance that is helpful is that resistances are defences. They are needed to protect. There is no such thing as a relation without some form of protection. Peoples reluctances tell us something, they communicate something to us to us non-verbally. We will get a feeling that something is afoot or that this is a no go topic. Sometimes resistances show up not just in the non-verbal field but in the behavioural field, coming late to sessions, cancelling sessions etc.. these are all forms of behavioural resistances.

o    Freuds ideas about resistance, the original psychoanalytical conception, or resistance to free association was what he was interested in. He gave instructions to patients to say everything which was of course an impossible task. It was Freuds observation that something would interfere with the patient saying everything and he called that interference the resistance. Each person resisted the task of “saying everything” in a unique way. Freuds idea was that it was the transference or the patients expectations of the authority figure that made up the fuel for the resistance.

o    Freud had a particular method of intervention and there are many others ways of working with resistance today that are supportive, relieving and safety making for clients to find new ways to get the self-protection they need.

o    What are some of those ways of working with Resistance? A coaching client brought a case to David where the client of the supervisee was not doing the work, the reflection work, the work in between sessions and the coach was left with the feeling that they were doing all of the work. The coach had an uneasy feeling that something was not right. It did not feel to the coach that the client had any real skin in the game. David and his client imagined how to join the clients resistance. Just be like the client, not in a tongue in cheek sarcastic way but simply meeting the client where they are. If you have an ambivalent client it is not going to be helpful to be eager with them

o    The coaches mindset – a supervisee who already had the idea that there was resistance with her client enabled David and his client to work on the idea that the client was trying to protect themselves in the coaching process and they were then able to be curious about how and why that was the case. Resistance is important it is serving a protective function is a very different conversation than what can happen in coaching where a diagnosis is made and a conclusion drawn, for example this client is un-coachable

o    Resistance is mysterious because they are hidden or non-verbal in so many cases. So one feature of resistance in this work is that we feel it and it lives in our body before we can put thought or words to it.

o    If as a coach you feel those feelings you may or may not chose to reveal them to your client but you can of course speak to them in supervision. It is case dependent.

o    Winnicott’s idea about the use of an object is an important idea that David takes into his coaching.  For any of us to make use of another is a developmental proposition. David needs to know how a client makes use of him. He wants to know how he is perceived and how what comes from him might be perceived and made use of. David needs to have an imagination about that, a sense that the client will give him and he treads carefully assessing the appetite or motivation a client has for the work. It tends not to go so well in a coaching or other helping profession to give something that the client is not asking for. It is a primary task in the coaching relationship to understand what is wanted.

o    Coaches can be busy “cooking up stuff” to feel useful and of value especially in the face of uncomfortable feelings.

o    The phenomenon of not knowing can be very hard for everyone, being in the mystery of how the client is making use of our work or the work with us can be unnerving especially as each of us has a relationship with not knowing.

o    We explored so many topics across this podcast and David bemused that we did not speak to the unconscious. He chose “to leave it out there” as something we could pick up on another conversation and podcast.

o    David ended the podcast by sharing information about his practice. He occasionally has spaces in supervision groups and individual supervision programs and he is available on LinkedIn and he is happy to talk.

o    Finally after being asked how he wanted to close the conversation David shared how he didn’t want to close the conversation. He really enjoys talking with me about these topics and looks forward to more opportunities like this in the future.  


Resources shared across this podcast


2.    Donald Winnicott English paediatrician and psychoanalyst