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Home » Blog » 4 Ethical Components Every Coach Needs to Follow

4 Ethical Components Every Coach Needs to Follow

As we’ve discussed in previous blogs on Ethics in Coaching in this blog we are talking about the next building block in ethical coaching. 

When a professional is faced with an ethical situation or issue, multiple factors affect an individual’s recognition and knowledge of the situation. The character of the individual, and his/her propensity towards virtue ethics, professional ethical identity, and ethics training all have an effect on the process. To make a profound decision, one needs to switch to the bottom circle, “Components of Ethical Conduct,” on a more conscious basis.

We’ve described some questions that a coach might ask herself to tap into her cognitions, motives, and emotions and foster a collaborative partnership between the client and herself because the bottom circle is such an important part of the decision-making process.

These components were discussed and have been modified time again as various philosophers gave inputs. The article is inspired from the Book “Laws and Ethics in Coaching” by Patrick Williams and Sharon Anderson. 

Component 1—Ethical Sensitivity

These questions speak to coaches’ awareness that their choices affect others positively and


◆ What strikes you? In other words, awareness is everything; in counseling terms, being present in the moment, and projecting the consequences of behavior.

◆ What calls to your attention? As a coach, your obligation to the client involves careful attention to details—both those that are stated and those that are unstated.

◆ Who is involved in this situation? In simple terms, who are the key individuals and their context, both as known by you, the coach, and by the client?

◆ What makes you think, “Uh-oh, this doesn’t feel right”? This response is often described as a gut, intuitive feeling that something is awry.

◆ What makes you think, “Yes, this feels good or right”? How do you know that what you are doing is effective, or has efficacy? What is good or right for one client might be very different for another. How will you know this?

◆ What are the issues related to diversity? To differences between my client and me? To oppression or discrimination? Awareness of diversity is not enough. As a practitioner, you must be cognizant of your worldview and that of your client.

◆ How does my point of privilege affect my sensitivity to this issue? As an individual of privilege, you as coach must be able to look outside yourself at the potentialities and constrictions that a client might have experienced. Moving from your subjective experience to an objective realism can assist you in seeing privilege’s impact (Anderson & Middleton, 2005).

Component 2—Ethical Thought Process. 

These questions highlight Kitchener’s decision-making model (2000):

◆ What do I know about the situation? When you are assessing a situation, this question allows you to see what exists and what might not be readily visible.

◆ What else do I need to know? In Kitchener’s model of upholding the dignity of the individual, to have a full sense of an ethical dilemma is necessary.

◆ What does the ethical code say? The ethical code provides a guideline of imperatives that regulate and clarify your behavior as coach and your relationship with the client.

◆ What are the legal issues? The legal issues provide a minimum of expectations to consider within your professional realm as coach. Legal issues offer a precedent from which to minimally consider the outcome of a situation.

◆ With whom should I consult? As a coach, you need to understand the options available in terms of the professional bodies, authorities, and resources that can provide guidance when problematic ethical dilemmas arise.

◆ What does the client think is ethically appropriate? Inherent in the client’s rights is her consideration of a situation. Ultimately, if one considers Kitchener’s work, loyalty to the client is central.

◆ If I were the client, what would I hope my coach would do? Asking this question offers an opportunity for you as coach to parallel process the issue at hand and step outside the role of practitioner to consider the client’s perspectives and wishes.

Component 3—Ethical Motivation and Competing Values.

These questions search out the heart of the matter, the values conflicts within the coach:

◆ What are the conflicts inside me? This question presumes a level of introspection on your part, as a coach.

◆ Who benefits from which course of action? As coach, you must question the courses of action in detail, hypothetically seeing the potential results of any chosen action or behavior.

◆ What core values (personal and professional) are being stretched? As a coach, you must be centered in your personal and professional development to understand your own limitations.

◆ What core values (personal and professional) are being strengthened? As a coach, you must also have some metacognitive process to observe yourself thinking or reflecting on actions that relate to your core personal and professional values, and how you allow yourself to grow as an individual.

◆ How does my client win or lose, depending on the course of action? You as coach with your client must identify what fosters the client to gain clarity or win in a situation, and what impedes progress or causes the client to lose ground. Actions have consequences—

seemingly benign actions might be good for one client and yet hinder another.

◆ With whom do I need to consult to see the conflicts as clearly as possible?

Again, as coach, you must know and use your professional resources. You should never operate in isolation in your coaching role.

Component 4—Ethical Follow-Through

These questions prompt implementation of the choice:

◆ To whom do I want to be accountable? As a coach, you must understand the maximum extent of your accountability as outlined, for example, in the ICF’s ethical codes and the laws that regulate your coaching practice.

◆ Who are people from whom I can get encouragement? As a professional coach, you must be connected integrally with those other professionals in your domain.

◆ What core values do I need to draw upon? Knowing and identifying basic core values is essential to provide you with a compass, especially in issues of conflicting loyalties.

◆ What do I need to let the client know? The client has rights in many respects and must know about potential issues of concern.

For example, if as coach you provide a test to assess the client, your client has a right not to be tested, and to give informed consent to be tested.

It is important to remember that:  these components are sequential in nature, meaning that component 1 happens first, then component 2, and so on. As Rest mentioned “Each of these processes must have occurred for moral behavior to have occurred”.

In coaching, ethical decisions and ethical practices are key to performance. The streamlined process of “Ethical Components” provides a discussion and model that indicates a coach’s decision-making process is not confined to a single moment or circumstance. Several other factors affect the process, including the coach’s character, the creation of virtue ethics, ethics training, and professional ethical identity, which arises from acculturation to the coaching profession. Finally, it is the coach who goes through a more deliberate process to make an ethical decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an ethical component?

Several ethical components can be used by some professional associations to describe their ethical approach. Sincerity, Integrity, Honesty, Accountability, Confidentiality, Objectivity, Respect and Loyalty to the Law are a few common examples of ethical components.

What is one ethical component that every coach must follow?

It’s never about the coach when it comes to coaching; it’s all about the client. That is the only ethical component that every coach must adhere to and keep in mind.

What are the basic laws and ethics of coaching?

To avoid conflicts, clearly defined boundaries between coach, client, and partner should be established. Clear definitions of what coaching is and is not is the basic laws and ethics of coaching.

What is Ethical Motivation?

Prioritizing ethical behaviour above other goals and needs is what Ethical Motivation means.