Gaye Kuelsen, PCC • November 8, 2022 • 5 Minute Read
Demonstrating Ethical Practices
This first competency, Demonstrates Ethical Practice, has far reaching impact and influence. Being an ethical coach requires us to focus on our own self, and how we show up as a coach with honesty, integrity and professionalism. Ethical practice also impacts our coaching relationships with our clients, stakeholders and sponsors. In this edition we will focus on this first competency:
1. Demonstrates Ethical Practice
Definition: Understands and consistently applies coaching ethics and standards of coaching
1. Demonstrates personal integrity and honesty in interactions with clients, sponsors and relevant stakeholders
This first competency is the base for all other seven competencies and drives the essence and intent of what is means and what is required to be an ethical coach. Here we need to look at both internal and external relationships. Firstly, the relationship with our own self – I’ve found that coach training and being a coach goes hand in hand with our personal growth. This career path provides many opportunities for us to get to know our own self and to identify our values so we are clear on who we are and who we want to be. Secondly our relationships with our clients and/or sponsors and stakeholders are often governed by our coaching contact or agreement. When crafting this document, it is important to include how you want to present yourself as a coach, and how you want to interact with your clients and other relevant parties. In what way, does your coaching agreement highlight and support your personal integrity and honesty as a professional coach? During our daily interactions with our clients, paying attention to the small details helps build our professional reputation which can be as simple as always being on time for sessions, following through on commitments and sharing resources when requested.
2. Is sensitive to clients’ identity, environment, experiences, values and beliefs
As a coach, we use many soft skills to nurture the relationship with our clients when we show kindness, empathy and sensitivity. Being culturally competent, enables us understand, appreciate and interact with people from cultures or belief systems that are different from our own. There are a number of approaches to cultivate our cultural competency, starting with valuing diversity, respecting everyone’s uniqueness, working to eliminate any personal biases. Being aware that some clients do not have access to the same choices or opportunities due to their culture, and it is important we meet our clients where they are and work within the directives of their communities.
3. Uses language appropriate and respectful to clients, sponsors and relevant stakeholders
The language we use, is not limited just what we say, but also includes emails, direct or text messages, contracts and other documents. To ensure clear communication, always choose simple language and be as concise and to the point as possible. One area that often varies greatly between cultures is humour, and this is one subject that can so easily be misinterpreted. Exercising caution when introducing humour to coaching conversations can avoid any contentious issues, however unintentional.
4. Abides by the ICF Code of Ethics and upholds the Core Values
As ICF professional coaches, we have pledged to abide by the ICF Code of Ethics and ICF Core Values. This pledge sets us apart from other professionals as we uphold the professional coaching community and work to demonstrate these core values. These values include:
- Professionalism – We commit to a coaching mindset and professional quality that encompasses responsibility, respect, integrity, competence and excellence.
- Collaboration – We commit to develop social connection and community building.
- Humanity – We commit to being humane, kind, compassionate and respectful toward others.
- Equity –We commit to use a coaching mindset to explore and understand the needs of others so we can practice equitable processes at all times that create equality for all.
Being clear of your own business values gives you the guidelines on how you will manage your business. As well as encompassing these core values above, I also incorporate the values of Generosity of Spirit and Fun in my coaching practice. The element of fun makes all the difference and keeps energy high and positive during the day. The concept of – doing good = feeling good – strongly resonates with me, and allows me to be generous with my time and talents whenever I see the need. What other values do you have in your own coaching business?
5. Maintains confidentiality with client information per stakeholder agreements and pertinent laws
This closely aligns with the fourth competency, Cultivates Trust and Safety as we develop our coaching relationship with our clients and building their confidence with us, they will become more comfortable with being vulnerable and discussing sensitive topics with us. They will trust that we will keep all matters completely and strictly confidential. There are several aspects to confidentiality, and the most obvious is that we don’t discuss any client conversations outside of the session or with third parties. Also, consider how you maintain the confidentiality of your business and client records, and take steps to ensure their security. Finally keep up to date with relevant laws in your local community, so you know when and if, you ever need to breach confidentially if someone’s safety is compromised.
6. Maintains the distinctions between coaching, consulting, psychotherapy and other support professions
This topic is always covered in our coach training and is often one that causes most uncertainty with emerging coaches. One way for you to gain clarity on this distinction, is to have your own concise explanation of what your coaching is, and is not. When you can easily determine what is included in your coaching practice and what is not, you are able to more easily identify the situations and/or clients when a referral to another professional is needed. As a coach, one aspect of your role is to raise this issue with your client if you feel it is warranted. If you are unsure how to approach your client, initially having a discussion with your Mentor coach, may be very useful to you.
7. Refers clients to other support professionals, as appropriate
As coaches we all come from very diverse backgrounds and bring a multitude of knowledge, skills and experience into our coaching practice. Being able to leverage previous skills, enables some coaches to offer their clients, other services in addition to their coaching. Building a network of close and trusted colleagues from different professions, makes the process of referring much easier, as we all want only the best for our clients and help them navigate some of the rocky challenges they face!
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