The Outstanding Coach Series #1: Meeting the Code of Ethics and Professional Standards
As coaches, we are in a position of authority. Our clients trust us, and rightly expect a level of professionalism from the coach they work with.
This makes the ethics of coaching even more important and vital. How we conduct ourselves defines whether or not the client can build trust in us.
Coaches are entrusted with confidential and sensitive information and we’re held to the highest standards. Your clients see us as keepers of excellence. It’s expected of coaches to conduct ourselves in the best manner required.
How to Meet the Code of Ethics and Professional Standards
1. You understand and are an advocate for, and apply the ICG Code of Ethics in your coaching business.
The International Coach Guild is committed to maintaining and promoting excellence in coaching practice. Therefore it expects all members to adhere to the essential elements of ethical, competent and effective practice set out in this Code of Ethics. (Click here to access the ICG Code of Ethics).
2. You apply the ICG Code of Ethics appropriately to all coaching situations.
It’s not enough to know about the Code of Ethics. It’s important we apply them in our coaching and hold ourselves accountable to each of them.
It may be a good idea to include a copy of Code of Ethics in with your coaching agreement. Develop a little pack that all new clients receive, including this and other useful and appropriate information.
3. You ensure appropriate confidentiality and client safety.
Your clients, over time, will share many of their deepest secrets with you. As their coach, you’ll carry those with you, keeping them confidential and safe.
An outstanding coach respects the boundaries and knows there are no exceptions when it comes to their client’s confidentiality.
That said, there will be times when you will have to request an appropriate third-party’s intervention. This is especially true in extreme cases such as suicide or abuse.
But we, as coaches, don’t have the same protections as clinicians. We cannot refuse to provide client notes when requested by legal authorities. There is no legal “confidentiality” that applies to coaching, as it’s seen as an industry, not a profession. So there will be times when you will have to “give up” on the confidentiality, where appropriate.
At all other times, coaches are expected to maintain a level of professionalism that is of the highest standard. We do not discuss our coaching experience outside of the session. This includes your mentors and fellow coaches.
4. You manage professional boundaries with clients.
Too many coaches wonder why they struggle and it’s simple – they go into coaching to meet people and make friends.
But here’s the thing: Our clients are not our friends. We may have a great relationship with our clients, but we’re expected to maintain professional boundaries.
Outstanding coaches never confuse the relationship with friendship.
A coaching relationship is mostly one-way – it’s from your client to you, where the client shares about them. The lesser you are a part of the equation, the better it is for their coaching.
Of course, there will be times when you will share your own story, background, experiences and beliefs in the moment it will serve the client. Good coaching is never about sharing just for the sake of sharing.
At all other times, coaches should be “invisible” in the process.
5. You evaluate outcomes with key stakeholders and ensure all agree on the expectations and outcomes before starting.
When we engage directly with the client, we need to establish if there is anyone else who may need to be involved.
There will be times when the person paying for a session is different from the person being coached. Sometimes the sponsor would not want certain subjects to be discussed. They wouldn’t want, for example, the coaching to be around personal matters. They want you to stay on topic and be about the issue at hand. This may be a project that needs completing, a skill that needs to be learned or an issue that needs to be navigated.
The coaching is topic-specific in this case and everyone – including the sponsors – need to agree the outcomes and the limitations of sessions.
6. You refer the client to a specialist when required.
If it is beyond us to coach something, and we feel out of our depth, it’s better not to coach and refer the client to someone who can.
In the end, it’s all about the client and serving them.
These ethics aren’t just guidelines, but they exist for good reasons. They provide clear direction to us on appropriate behaviour as coaches.
Because if we, as coaches, don’t act professionally, coaching no longer remains a profession.