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In a booming industry as unregulated as coaching, it is difficult to navigate – for both coaches and clients – the different practices, approaches, and styles of coaching. This huge variety is a gift because it allows diversity and it enables people to find a coach who will help them answer their specific needs. The other side of the coin is that quality and professionalism are not always a given.

In this context, following ethical standards and opting for a professional conduct are of the utmost importance for coaches.

CODES OF ETHICS

The International Coaching Federation (ICF), the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) and the Association for Coaching (AC) are the three main professional coaching organisations. Their members and accredited coaches commit to follow certain ethical standards that are clearly stated in a Code of Ethics:

These two codes of ethics offer a similar view of the professional conduct and behaviours expected from coaches. According to the AC, five themes emerge from coaching codes of ethics:

  1. Do not harm others and oneself.
  2. Act in ways that promote the welfare of other people.
  3. Practice within your scope of competence.
  4. Respect the interests of the client.
  5. Respect the law of the countries in which you operate.

IT PROTECTS THE CLIENT

A coach who has an ethical practice is clear on what it means and is able to demonstrate it in all their professional interactions. On the client’s side, working with an ethical coach means they are protected from experiencing malpractice, harm or dishonesty from the professional they confide in. They know the coach will always act in their best interest, will respect and acknowledge their identity, keep the content of their sessions confidential, and avoid any conflict of interest

This is essential to build trust and safety with the coaching professional they choose to work with. Without it, coaching can’t be powerful and meaningful.

IT PROTECTS THE COACH

Following an ethical code of conduct is also key for the coach’s own protection. It greatly reduces the risk of misunderstanding about the responsibility of the coach and the client, and the definition of coaching (as opposed to therapy, mentoring, etc.). It provides guidance to the coach on what to do when they face an ethical dilemma in their work. It also emphasises on the importance of self-care and professional development for coaches, which includes supervision, mentor coaching, or self-reflection.

When the coach is member of a professional organisation, they often have access to additional support and resources on coaching ethics, like courses, FAQ, community of practice and an email address to contact. The ICF even has an Ethics hotline!

IT ALSO PROTECTS THE COACHING PROFESSION

We circle back to where we started. The concept of coaching is relatively new compared to therapy and still has so much to prove. The great thing about being a coach is that anyone can become one. The bad thing about being a coach is that anyone can become one.

The moment you call yourself a “coach” – whether you are trained or not, accredited or not – you represent the coaching profession. You carry on your shoulders the perception that your clients have of coaching and of coaches. If they have a good experience, they will talk to others not just about your services, but about coaching as a whole; but if they don’t, they may use their bad experience to never consider coaching ever again. 

The ethical practice and professional conduct is here to make sure that coaches are aware of their responsibility towards the profession and their peers, and that they are proud ambassadors of an incredible line of work that makes a difference in people’s lives.

REFERENCES

Association for Coaching – Ethical Context and Codes. Link: https://www.associationforcoaching.com/page/EthicalContextandCodes

Global Code of Ethics. Link: https://www.globalcodeofethics.org/

International Coaching Federation – ICF Code of Ethics. Link: https://coachingfederation.org/ethics/code-of-ethics