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Home » Blog » The Roots of Ethics in Coaching

The Roots of Ethics in Coaching

The following article compares and contrasts the codes of ethics of coaching and management in an intercultural environment in order to achieve coaching success in intercultural management.

Coaching must include professional qualifications, definitions, ethical principles, ongoing testing, and credentialing in order to be accepted as a specialty. With the establishment of many coach training schools and organisations in the early 1990s, the coaching movement accelerated.

In 1996, two large organisations , the Professional Coaches & Mentors Association (PCMA) merged with the International Coaching Federation (ICF), and the ICF led the way as the most recognized international association representing the coaching profession. Practice standards, credentialing, and ethical guidelines were quickly developed after that.

Ethical Debate in Coaching

It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly when philosophical and ethical debates started. Ethics is a branch of philosophy that focuses on human behaviour and moral judgments in the sense of specific relationships, and it is used to codify ethical principles (Remley & Herlihy, 2001). These types of relationships are most common in occupations where people are qualified to provide personal services to members of the public. In fact, the word “profession” comes from the Latin word “oath,” and ethics codes have been described as the “most significant defining feature of a profession” (Havard, 1985, p. 8).

The codes of ethics refer not only to a long-established career like medicine, but also to a relatively recent one: coaching. Nonetheless, you’ll notice the commonalities in the challenges that all careers face. Hopefully, you will be able to see the inextricable connection between philosophy, morals, and ethics, as well as the desire to do right by their clients.

When an individual first enters the world of coaching, he may believe that in order to be successful and make ethical decisions, he must first undergo training and learn about the ethical code of conduct for coaches. However, ethical behavior involves a more comprehensive journey.

Handelsman, Gottlieb, and Knapp (2005) state that-

“Becoming an ethical professional is more complex than simply

following a set of rules or doing what one sees one’s mentors

do . . . [It] involves more than teaching certain professional rules

to morally upright people who will easily understand and implement them.”

It is not easy to fit into the coaching community. It entails a phase of adaptation or acculturation. According to Handelsman, Gottlieb, and Knapp (2005), the ethical culture of a profession, in this case coaching, may vary significantly from a person’s ethical culture of origin or personal ethics. Some new coaches or coaches in training, for example, can find it counterintuitive to not guide, steer, or advise their clients during the coaching relationship. They know that friends have searched them out for their sage advice in their personal lives, and they assumed that this would be part of coaching.

Giving guidance, however, deprives clients of their autonomy and power of choice, as coaches have learned.

In coaching, ethical choices and ethical practices are critical to success. The ethical debate and model that suggest a coach’s decision-making process are not limited to a single point in time or a single situation. Several other factors influence the process, including the coach’s character, the growth of virtue ethics, ethics training, and professional ethical identity, which emerges from acculturation to the coaching profession. Finally, the coach goes through a more deliberate procedure to reach an ethical decision.

The Relationship Between Coaching Ethics and Competence

Without competence in coaching skills, coaching ethics cannot be manifested in a tangible way. Even at the most basic level, competence necessitates an understanding of coaching’s limitations. There are issues, subjects, and areas that are beyond the scope of coaching. Since they involve conflicts of interest that can jeopardise the client’s objectives, they are often referred to as the wrong container for coaching. Coaches can also act in ways that put the coach’s interests ahead of the client’s. The application of technically sound coaching skills in the wrong context or for the wrong reason is a recipe for disaster.

The coach’s behaviour was unethical and incompetent. In a coaching relationship, the competent and ethical coach remembers that he is first and foremost serving the client.

Conversely, if the coach does not use coaching skills efficiently and effectively, there are ethical considerations that cannot be clearly emphasised. Recognizing a possible clinical problem necessitates a high degree of coaching presence, active listening, and strong questioning skills. Discussing a referral to a different specialist, such as a lawyer, therapist, or consultant, necessitates confidence, intimacy, and direct communication skills. Helping a client figure out what kind of clinical help they may need outside of coaching necessitates the ability to be conscious. As a result, applying and maintaining ethical practises for clients in a way that benefits them necessitates professional coaching skills.

As a result, any genuinely professional coach must have a thorough understanding of the profession’s ethics and strive to cultivate integrity in order to fully apply and honour ethical principles. Competence without principles, and ethics without competence, make the coach vulnerable to client loss, legal liability, or both. In the most basic sense, it prevents the coach from providing the level of service that his or her clients deserve.


Coaching is being used by industries to transform challenges into opportunities. In the workplace, this coaching culture creates a paradigm change. The ICF’s guidelines and structures, which have helped to establish coaching as a respected profession over the last decade, also serve as a strong basis for the profession’s self-governance. Furthermore, our strict adherence to these standards and practises as professionals offers the requisite assurance that the community is protected from possible harm.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are ethics in coaching important?

Ethics in Coaching is a must. It usually entails professional credentials, definitions, ethical standards, ongoing testing, and credentialing are normally required.

What is the relationship between coaching ethics and competence?

Coaching ethics cannot be manifested in a tangible way without expertise in coaching skills. Competence necessitates an understanding of coaching’s limitations, even at the most basic stage.

What are the benefits of the ICF’s guidelines and structures to a coach?

The ICF’s guidelines and structures, which have aided in the development of coaching as a respectable career over the last decade, also serve as a solid foundation for the profession’s self-governance.

What does a coaching code of ethics entail?

Coaches’ code of ethics in coaching is intended to provide ethical guidelines. This code is intended to include general guidelines that will apply to the majority of coaching situations.