This episode is inspired by my own breaches in integrity over the 2 decades plus that I’ve been a coach and some I see other coaches stumble with as well.
If you took coach training, hopefully you were provided with some standard ethical guidelines that need to be followed with your clients. Things like:
- Keeping your coaching client’s contact info and what they say confidential unless they give express permission for you to share some part of it.
- Setting personal and time boundaries with clients.
Beyond that, no one talks much about ethics and integrity in coaching.
Coaching is not currently a regulated field so it’s doubly important that you, as the professional coach, regulate yourself. That helps all coaches and the future of coaching.
Complaints about coaches hurt the field of coaching. And we really don’t want this field to be regulated, as it would greatly change the coaching industry for the worse.
What It Really Means to Be a Professional Coach
Have you realized that YOU are a PROFESSIONAL? Take this in.
Own the fact that what you do is a professional service and you are a trained professional offering serious and consequential experiences through your coaching.
When I say serious and consequential, I mean that you could hurt someone just as easily as you could help them.
I don’t think you should fear the possibility of hurting someone, but it’s wise to consider it often. More and more I craft what I say to clients both verbally and in writing.
When a client pays you for your services it automatically changes the power differential. You have a bit more or maybe a lot more perceived power than your client. You can equalize that by:
- The respect you show your clients. Acknowledge always that they are resourceful, intelligent and whole human beings who don’t need you to survive. They can take of themselves.
- Encouraging them to take full responsibility for their feelings, thoughts and actions.
I even have a sentence about this in my Coaching Agreement — part of my intake packet (also called a welcome or onboarding packet.)
As a professional you have an obligation to improve and maintain your integrity – your professional boundaries and more.
A Make or Break Factor of Your Coaching Business Success
Beyond being the right thing to do, I’ve come to think of integrity as a make it or break it factor in coaching business success.
I’ve seen how the way coaches conduct themselves affects their ability to earn well.
For example, if a coaching relationship is damaged by a breach of some sort that’s not addressed quickly that bad energy can float out and infect your business. People may not want to work with you even if they don’t know why.
Your integrity is about your core values in life, business, relationships — everything. It’s a set of principles that guide your words and actions – and even your mindset to help you to be your best self and do well at everything you do.
5 Powerful Questions to Check In With Your Integrity Level
To raise your integrity in your coaching business, look at all of these areas:
- What you do and say with clients
- What you do and say with potential coaching clients – including your marketing practices, social media posting, the words on your website, how you enroll clients
- Your business habits and timeliness
- How honest you are with yourself about what’s going on with your business.
Consider checking in with yourself every month or so. Ask yourself …
Am I operating from my integrity?
Am I conducting all aspects of my coaching business in an honest and authentic way?
Do I feel good about what I’m saying and doing with coaching clients?
Do I feel good about how I market and all the content I put out?
If you can say without a doubt ‘yes’ to these questions, you’re doing well. Here’s a different powerful question that will help you uncover the blind spots:
Am I regretting any decision, action or conversation I’ve had in the last few months?
If yes, take the time as soon as possible to look closely at this and take action to correct it. With clients it could be something that’s nagging at you but that you avoid dealing with.
Did something come out of your mouth in a session that could have been said better?
Look, this is human stuff. No one is infallible. Everyone makes ethical mistakes. However, coaches should be held to a high standard. It means, bringing awareness to this and consciously choosing your words and actions.