Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ethics & Coach Subcontract Relationships

Posted on Thursday, February 07, 2013 by International Coach Federation

When a coach is a team of one (no partners or subcontract relationship) they are naturally aligned with their ethics on issues of confidentiality or contracting or the do’s and don’ts of the coaching relationship.  However once we build coaching partnerships and subcontracting relationships misalignment of ethics may occur.  And this misalignment occurs not because some of us are unethical and others ethical, but rather because we all come from different points of view on the same statement of ethics.  It is important for us to have a conversation on what the meanings of different ethical issues are in order to align the coach and coaching organization, and of course for coaches to be sure they aren’t put into a situation that they consider to be unethical by their partner coaching relationship. 

Let’s take an example.  How do we share client information within coaching partnerships? We promise to our clients the careful management of confidential conversations and client files.  But what if the head of a coaching organization you coach for states that they own all client information - how do you know that that information will be handled in accordance to your own code of ethics?  Once your client completes their coaching with you, do you hand your file to the coaching organization?  Do you do so with a verbal or written understanding of the eventual use of that file?  What if you find out later that the confidence of your client was violated by the coaching firm you worked for – who is responsible?  You?  The firm?

Another example is the internal coaching meetings many of the coaching partnerships may hold to develop the coaches and give value-add to the clients by sharing trends and situations within the client organization.  What kind of information is confidential and what kind of information is ethical to share? And is it the responsibility of the coaching organization to inform the client leadership or each client that that information is shared?  Is it necessary for the individual coach to share with each new client that that type of information is shared in coach organization meetings?

The ICF Code of Ethics includes some guidelines for “sponsors” or multi-coach organizations.  It is worth reading through and having a conversation with your sub-contracting or coach partnership organization to be sure you are aligned in how you view these and other key issues. 

by Sandi Stewart, PCC

The ICF Code of Ethics
Applicable Code Sections:

*The International Coach Federation defines these roles as follows:

  • Client: The "client" is the person(s) being coached.
  • Sponsor: The "sponsor" is the entity (including its representatives) paying for and/or arranging for coaching services to be provided.
Section 1: Professional Conduct At Large
5) I will conduct myself in accordance with the ICF Code of Ethics in all coach training, coach mentoring, and coach supervisory activities.
7) I will maintain, store, and dispose of any records created during my coaching business in a manner that promotes confidentiality, security, and privacy, and complies with any applicable laws and agreements.
8) I will use ICF member contact information (e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, etc.) only in the manner and to the extent authorized by the ICF.

Section 3: Professional Conduct with Clients
16) I will carefully explain and strive to ensure that, prior to or at the initial meeting, my coaching client and sponsor(s) understand the nature of coaching, the nature and limits of confidentiality, financial arrangements, and any other terms of the coaching agreement or contract.


Section 4: Confidentiality/Privacy
22) I will maintain the strictest levels of confidentiality with all client and sponsor information. I will have a clear agreement or contract before releasing information to another person, unless required by law.
23) I will have a clear agreement upon how coaching information will be exchanged among coach, client, and sponsor.
24) When acting as a trainer of student coaches, I will clarify confidentiality policies with the students.
25) I will have associated coaches and other persons whom I manage in service of my clients and their sponsors in a paid or volunteer capacity make clear agreements or contracts to adhere to the ICF Code of Ethics Part 2, Section 4: Confidentiality/Privacy standards and the entire ICF Code of Ethics to the extent applicable.

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