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Home » Blog » 4 Ethical Standards by ICF for a Coach

Why Do We Need Ethical Codes in Coaching

The ICF Code of Ethics incorporates ethical behaviour principles, a philosophy, a description of coaching, and a promise that all ICF members and credentialed coaches must follow.

The aim of the coaching code of ethics is to encourage professional coaching practises. Also, raise public consciousness about the honesty, engagement, and ethical behaviour of ICF coaching practises by people outside the profession. The coaching code of ethics serves as a standard of professionalism for all professional coaches and as a tool for bringing out the best in each of them.

Ethics knowledge and integrity can make or break a profession, an organisation, and its citizens in any business setting.

As a first move, it’s vital to recognise that ethics is more than a matter of right and wrong; it’s about recognising the values and principles that guide professionals’ behaviour. To put it another way, a code of ethics that emphasises how to behave as a professional or leader would resonate much more than one that focuses on what not to do.

When more businesses turn to professional coaching to develop leadership skills, boost workplace results, or accomplish specific objectives; understanding who professional coaches are and what they stand for should be as important as knowing an individual’s expertise and qualifications.

The International Coach Federation (ICF) has taken the lead in defining a concept and theory of coaching, as well as setting ethical principles for its members, as the leading global organisation committed to advancing the coaching profession.

Despite the fact that ICF may only evaluate, investigate, and react to alleged violations of the Code of Ethics or deviant conduct among ICF Members, ICF certification holders, and ICF-approved training programmes, the global standards provide a competent benchmark for organisations investing in coaching.

4 Ethical Standards by ICF for a Coach- 

The ICF Code of Ethics is based on the ICF Core Values and the actions that flow from them. All values are equally important and support one another. These values are aspirational and should be used as a way to understand and interpret the standards. All ICF Professionals are expected to showcase and propagate these Values in all their interactions.

The following ethical standards are applied to the professional activities of ICF Professionals:

Section I—Responsibility to Clients

As an ICF Professional, I:

1. Explain and ensure that, prior to or at the initial meeting, my coaching client(s) and Sponsor(s) understand the nature and potential value of coaching, the nature and limits of confidentiality, financial arrangements, and any other terms of the coaching agreement.

2. Create an agreement/contract regarding the roles, responsibilities and rights of all parties involved with my Client(s) and Sponsor(s) prior to the commencement of services.

3. Maintain the strictest levels of confidentiality with all parties as agreed upon. I am aware of and agree to comply with all applicable laws that pertain to personal data and communications.

4. Have a clear understanding about how information is exchanged among all parties involved during all coaching interactions.

5. Have a clear understanding with both Clients and Sponsors or interested parties about the conditions under which information will not be kept confidential (e.g., illegal activity, if required by law, pursuant to valid court order or subpoena; imminent or likely risk of danger to self or to others; etc.). Where I reasonably believe one of the above circumstances is applicable, I may need to inform appropriate authorities.

6. When working as an Internal Coach, manage conflicts of interest or potential conflicts of interest with my coaching Clients and Sponsor(s) through coaching agreement(s) and ongoing dialogue. This should include addressing organizational roles, responsibilities, relationships, records, confidentiality and other reporting requirements.

7. Maintain, store and dispose of any records, including electronic files and communications, created during my professional interactions in a manner that promotes confidentiality, security and privacy and complies with any applicable laws and agreements. Furthermore, I seek to make proper use of emerging and growing technological developments that are being used in coaching services (technology-assisted coaching services) and be aware how various ethical standards apply to them.

8. Remain alert to indications that there might be a shift in the value received from the coaching relationship. If so, make a change in the relationship or encourage the Client(s)/Sponsor(s) to seek another coach, seek another professional or use a different resource.

9. Respect all parties’ right to terminate the coaching relationship at any point for any reason during the coaching process subject to the provisions of the agreement.

10. Am sensitive to the implications of having multiple contracts and relationships with the same Client(s) and Sponsor(s) at the same time in order to avoid conflict of interest situations.

11. Am aware of and actively manage any power or status difference between the Client and me that may be caused by cultural, relational, psychological or contextual issues.

12. Disclose to my Clients the potential receipt of compensation, and other benefits I may receive for referring my Clients to third parties.

13. Assure consistent quality of coaching regardless of the amount or form of agreed compensation in any relationship.

Section II—Responsibility to Practice and Performance

As an ICF Professional, I:

14. Adhere to the ICF Code of Ethics in all my interactions. When I become aware of a possible breach of the Code by myself or I recognize unethical behavior in another ICF Professional, I respectfully raise the matter with those involved. If this does not resolve the matter, I refer it to a formal authority (e.g., ICF Global) for resolution.

15. Require adherence to the ICF Code of Ethics by all Support Personnel.

16. Commit to excellence through continued personal, professional and ethical development.

17. Recognize my personal limitations or circumstances that may impair, conflict with or interfere with my coaching performance or my professional coaching relationships. I will reach out for support to determine the action to be taken and, if necessary, promptly seek relevant professional guidance. This may include suspending or terminating my coaching relationship(s).

18. Resolve any conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest by working through the issue with relevant parties, seeking professional assistance, or suspending temporarily or ending the professional relationship.

19 Maintain the privacy of ICF Members and use the ICF Member contact information (email addresses, telephone numbers, and so on) only as authorized by ICF or the ICF Member.

Section III—Responsibility to Professionalism

As an ICF Professional, I:

20. Identify accurately my coaching qualifications, my level of coaching competency, expertise, experience, training, certifications and ICF Credentials.

21. Make verbal and written statements that are true and accurate about what I offer as an ICF Professional, what is offered by ICF, the coaching profession, and the potential value of coaching.

22. Communicate and create awareness with those who need to be informed of the ethical responsibilities established by this Code.

23. Hold responsibility for being aware of and setting clear, appropriate and culturally sensitive boundaries that govern interactions, physical or otherwise.

24. Do not participate in any romantic engagement with Client(s) or Sponsor(s). I will be ever mindful of the level of intimacy appropriate for the relationship. I take the appropriate action to address the issue or cancel the coaching engagement.

Section IV—Responsibility to Society

As an ICF Professional, I:

25. Avoid discrimination by maintaining fairness and equality in all activities and operations, while respecting local rules and cultural practices. This includes, but is not limited to, discrimination on the basis of age, race, gender expression, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability or military status.

26. Recognize and honor the contributions and intellectual property of others, only claiming ownership of my own material. I understand that a breach of this standard may subject me to legal remedy by a third party.

27. Am honest and work within recognized scientific standards, applicable subject guidelines and boundaries of my competence when conducting and reporting research.

28. Am aware of my and my clients’ impact on society. I adhere to the philosophy of “doing good,” versus “avoiding bad.”