In the realm of executive coaching, ethics assume a paramount role, intertwining with the fabric of practice. In comparison to fields like therapy and psychology, coaching has been relatively slow in constructing a comprehensive ethical framework. Nevertheless, significant strides have been made globally in recent years, establishing a foundational platform for ethical coaching practice. This article delves into the importance of ethics, the nuances of values, morals, and integrity, and how these principles intersect within the context of executive coaching.
Ethical Evolution and Coaching Practice
In a world brimming with dynamic shifts and disruptive events, ethics find a crucial foothold within the practice of executive coaching. Unlike therapy and psychology, coaching has taken its time in crystallising a universally agreed ethical framework. However, strides have been taken globally to define a baseline for ethical expectations, serving as a foundation for continuous improvement. This evolution is imperative as the landscape of expectations from coaches, coachees, organisations, and societies undergoes continual transformation (European Economic and Social Committee, 2011).
Unravelling Ethics, Morals, Values, and Integrity
Ethics, morals, values, and integrity intertwine in a complex tapestry, often confused and misused. Values represent individual behavioural preferences, influenced by personality traits, experiences, cultures, and environments. For instance, values like honesty, integrity, compassion, courage, humility, and pragmatism shape how individuals conduct themselves. Morals are an extension of personal values, guiding one’s sense of good or bad. Morals, in turn, fuel ethical considerations, which assess actions as right or wrong within the context of a group or organisation. Institutions formulate codes of ethics, which serve as behavioural guidelines, while integrity embodies aligning one’s actions with both personal morals and organisational ethics (Jensen, 2009).
The Relevance of Ethics in Executive Coaching
Ethics stand as the cornerstone of integrity in executive coaching. A global code of ethics, collaboratively shaped by the Association for Coaching (AoC) and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC), has garnered substantial support, although the International Coaching Federation (ICF) has yet to adopt it. However, the ICF Code of Ethics shares alignment with the Global Code of Ethics (GCE). Both frameworks are accessible and comprehensible, simplifying adherence for coaches and enabling them to communicate these principles to coachees effectively (Global Code of Ethics, 2021; Association for Coaching et al., 2011).
Navigating the Landscape of Ethics
As a practitioner, I have found the ICF Code of Ethics to be clear, direct, and focused on the protection of both coaches and coachees. Its emphasis on professional responsibility, performance, and societal commitment resonates deeply with my approach. While I am now part of the AoC, serving the UK, the EU, and Canada, my commitment to furthering coaching practices remains firmly aligned with the ICF Code of Ethics. My intention is to ethically promote the benefits of coaching across various contexts, ranging from global consultancy in international businesses to personal relationships.
The Ethical Compass in Executive Coaching
Ethics, in my view, function as a safeguard not only for coaches and coachees but also for stakeholders invested in the coaching relationship. An executive coach’s responsibility extends beyond the one-on-one interactions, encompassing a broader impact. This was underscored during a group supervision session, where the importance of confidentiality when discussing coaching sessions with a sponsor was discussed. The ethical considerations here are multifaceted, including respecting the coachee’s right to privacy and determining what information is appropriate to share.
Charting an Ethical Course in Coaching
Ethics is a guiding force in coaching, continually evolving and subject to interpretation. Communication, trust, and collaboration form the bedrock of upholding ethics and morals within the coaching relationship. As the coaching landscape continues to evolve, adherence to ethical principles ensures not only the well-being of coaches and coachees but also cultivates a practice that is rooted in integrity, authenticity, and positive transformation. The journey of ethical coaching is one of constant reflection and adaptation, leading to richer and more impactful coaching experiences.
Association for Coaching. (n.d.-a). What is Coaching Supervision? – Association for Coaching. Retrieved June 12, 2022, from https://www.associationforcoaching.com/page/WhatisCoachingSupervision
European Economic and Social Committee. (2011). European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) and International Coach Federation (ICF) and others, Professional Charter for Coaching and Mentoring, June 2011 | European Economic and Social Committee. https://www.eesc.europa.eu/en/policies/policy-areas/enterprise/database-self-and-co-regulation-initiatives/142
Global Code of Ethics. (2021). Global Code of Ethics. https://www.globalcodeofethics.org/
Jensen, M. C. (2009). Integrity: Without it Nothing Works. In Rotman Magazine: The Magazine of the Rotman School of Management, pp. 16-20, Fall 2009. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1511274