Professional Coaching Ethics: The International Coaching Federation Code of Ethics

What is the International Coaching Federation Code of Ethics? It is defined by the ICF as guided moral principles designed to provide appropriate guidelines, accountability and enforceable standards of conduct for all ICF Members and ICF Credential-holders.

Professional Coaching Ethics: The International Coaching Federation Code of Ethics

What is a Code of Ethics?

Basically, a code of ethics is a set of guidelines designed to help individuals in a particular profession conduct business honestly and with integrity. And so when you join an association or a professional coaching body such as the ICF, you are agreeing to comply with the ethical standards of the organization. The ICF defines ethics as guiding moral principles underlying how coaches behave congruently with ICF鈥檚 core values of integrity, excellence, collaboration, and respect.

The International Coaching Federation Code of Ethics

ICF is committed to maintaining and promoting excellence in coaching. Therefore, ICF expects all members and credentialed coaches (coaches, coach mentors, coaching supervisors, coach trainers or students), to adhere to the elements and principles of ethical conduct: to be competent and integrate ICF Core Competencies effectively in their work. Their code of ethics is grouped into three categories:

Part One: Definitions

Part Two: The ICF Standards of Ethical Conduct

路 Section 1: Professional Conduct at Large

路 Section 2: Conflicts of Interest

路 Section 3: Professional Conduct with Clients

路 Section 4: Confidentiality/Privacy

路 Section 5: Continuing Development

Part Three: The ICF Pledge of Ethics

You can access the detailed list of the code of ethics via the ICF website:

Due to a high response on parts of the code of ethics, the 2015 ICF Ethics and Standards Committee developed an online resource highlighting frequently asked questions regarding the code of ethics for coaches to help them better understand and apply it to different scenarios in their practice. Here are a few of the questions commonly asked

1. As a coach, I accurately identify my coaching qualifications, expertise, experience, training, certifications and ICF Credentials.

Question: I have coached two executives, can I say I鈥檓 an experienced Executive Coach?

Answer: This could be misleading. Perhaps saying 鈥淚 have coached executives,鈥 would be appropriate. However, someone who has coached two executives for a length of time through a lot of issues might be experienced. It seems to be a personal judgment call.

2. As a coach, I maintain, store and dispose of any records, including electronic files and communications, created during my coaching engagements in a manner that promotes confidentiality, security, and privacy and complies with any applicable laws and agreements.

Question: How long do I have to keep client records?

Answer: There are no ICF guidelines at this time. You should check your local and national laws and regulations for compliance guidelines. If you are audited for income taxes, be sure to protect confidentiality.

Question: How should I dispose of records?

Answer: To the best of your ability you should delete all online and electronic records, as well as shred paper records.

3. As a coach, I make verbal and written statements that are true and accurate about what I offer as a coach, the coaching profession or ICF.

Question: I have a master鈥檚 degree in communication. Can I put that on my coaching website and just say I have a master鈥檚 degree?

Answer: Whatever degrees and credentials you choose to put on your site should clearly state which degree goes with which profession so that the information presented is not misleading. For example, a master鈥檚 degree in communication is clearly stated whereas a master鈥檚 degree by itself might mislead the reader to think that it is in coaching.

4. As a coach, I have a clear coaching service agreement with my clients and sponsor(s) before beginning the coaching relationship and honor this agreement. The agreement shall include the roles, responsibilities, and rights of all parties involved.

Question: After several meetings with my client, he has begun to cancel appointments at the last minute. I think I should charge him, and my contract does not cover this. May I send him a bill for the missed meetings?

Answer: If you have not contracted with the client to pay for missed meetings, you should honor your original agreement and may not charge for canceled meetings. You may, however, attempt to re-contract.

Every professional coach regardless of whether they are an ICF certified coach or not should adopt the international coaching federation code of ethics. Adhering to these ethical guidelines and standards will help develop a higher level of trust with your clients as you continue to build your practice.

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Peggy Adegoke
Life Coach
Writer, Coaches Training Blog community

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