A Critical review of the skills and behaviours required for ethical practice of Coaching or Mentoring at a senior or strategic level.
The behaviours required for a coach or mentor to demonstrate ethical practice are outlined in a document called The Global Code of Ethics issued by The Association for Coaching (AC) and the European Mentoring & Coaching Council (EMCC) (AC &EMCC 2016). The International Coach Federation (ICF) has their own ethics document covering similar areas. (www.coachfederation.org/code-of-ethics).
Coaches and Mentors are unregulated in the UK. Therefore for any Coach or Mentor who wants to operate with credibility and integrity some form of Ethical Code is essential. At a senior level, coaches and mentors will predominantly be external to the organisation. They therefore will need to adhere to a code of ethics drawn up by a recognised Affiliation such as AC, EMCC or ICF. This can be demonstrated through membership of one of these associations or by referencing the relevant code of ethics in the contract between client and coach or mentor..
Irrespective of what code the practitioner follows, there are several areas that arguably are essential skills and behaviours for ethical practice.
When beginning to work with a client the coach or mentor must outline a description of the coaching or mentoring process and define the agreed outcomes from the relationship. Understanding the client’s requirements and expectations is a critical skill, and can influence how the client and sponsor view the integrity of the coach or mentor. The coach needs to make sure that what is being discussed is really a coaching issue (Merlevede and Bridoux 2014 p13). A regular review and feedback process must be agreed and a clear definition of what confidentiality means for the work being undertaken. This includes conditions where confidentiality will not be maintained such as illegal activity, pursuant to a valid court order or subpoena and imminent or likely danger(ICF Code of Ethics). Part of the expectations need to include how the agreement is terminated and how both sides need to manage their ongoing responsibilities. This would include ongoing confidentiality, safe and secure handling of data and managing any follow up meetings and correspondence.
Acting with integrity and credibility is very important to an ethical coach or mentor. This means honestly representing the coach’s or mentor’s qualifications and experience, recognising their own limitations and attributing any material they use to the originator. (AC & EMCC Global code of ethics 2016). Having a recognised qualification in coaching and mentoring would also improve a coach’s credibility. They should also share with the client and sponsor that they are receiving supervision, but that the client will remain anonymous in any discussions with their supervisor, and the supervision relationship is itself a confidential relationship. Identifying and managing conflicts of interest is important to maintain a coaches integrity, even if this means terminating the contract, where the conflict cannot be managed to the satisfaction of the client or sponsor. This is of critical importance at a senior level, where conflicts of interest can be commercially important. Inappropriate interactions must be avoided especially between coach and client. The coach must set clear boundaries and selecting a safe and secure location for coaching meetings is important. A coach acting with integrity would also encourage his client or sponsor to end the coaching if the coach believed he was not delivering value or that the client would be better served by another coach. Clients at a senior level will place a very high value on their time, and a coach can help by identifying areas of ineffectiveness. In the long term a coach who acts with integrity will increase his credibility and be recognised by his clients and sponsors and rewarded with more contracts.
Outside the context of working with the client, a coach or mentor must also conduct himself professionally and demonstrate excellent practice. If a coach joins one of the associations or identifies within his contract that he will follow the ethics of one of the organisations he will be agreeing to maintain the reputation of coaching and mentoring (AC&EMCC 2016). That in itself is not essential but is another behaviour that would enhance the coach or mentor’s reputation and credibility.
The AMC &EMCC also suggest that the coach or mentor should recognise equality and diversity while meeting all legal and statutory obligations and duties. The ICF even references the coach honouring his ethical obligations to the public at large. (ICF 2016). In regard to Excellent practice the AC&EMCC code ability to perform, ongoing supervision and continuing professional development.
With the exception of ongoing supervision all these professional conduct and excellent practice codes of ethics are used by other organisations. All the engineering institutes adhere to the code of ethics developed by the Royal Academy of Engineering, which is more extensive than the AC&AMCC code (www.raeng.org.uk/policy/engineering-ethics/ethics). Ongoing supervision is important to coaching and mentoring because of the one to one relationships. All other areas of general ethics are part of good professional practice.