Ep 141 – 5 Questions to Test Your Coaching Business Integrity

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:

  1. What you do and say with clients
  2. 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
  3. Your business habits and timeliness
  4. 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.

Maybe you charge too little for your services and you’re feeling resentful?

Do you have a client you know is not a good fit for you?

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.

Ep 113 – Is it Okay to Coach Without Permission?

Recently, I heard a group of new coaches discussing the challenges of coaching someone who is un-coachable.

As one coach continued to describe the situation it came out that this was a conversation between friends not a coaching session. They hadn’t talked in years. The friend was having a rough time and the coach, wanting to help, tried to coach her.

Hearing that, took me back to an unpleasant memory from early in my years as a coach when I tried to coach a friend and it ended our friendship. At the time, I thought my friend wasn’t coachable either.

As a new coach, I was so eager to use my newly trained coaching skills that I attempted to coach nearly every one if I thought they needed it.

And that’s the big mistake — believing that people NEED coaching. No one NEEDS coaching. It’s not on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Now, I’m very careful to never step into the coaching role unless I’m directly asked to. And I’ve realized the arrogance behind the idea of thinking that people need me to coach them.

Coaching is a co-creative relationship. For it to be ethical, both the coach and the coachee must intentionally step into the container as equals. If the coachee isn’t a willing partner, coaching won’t happen.

That’s why someone might seem un-coachable.

Coaching is a professional relationship where the client invests in themselves. The most effective scenario is they hire you to coach them.

So, you might wondering now, aren’t there any circumstances where you can coach individuals who don’t ask to be coached? For me, the answer is no because I know the damage it can do.

Think about it …

If you had a therapist friend, would you like it if they were using their skills on you without your permission? Would you like it if your clergy friend tried to preach to or counsel you without permission?

Not only would it be annoying, it would likely damage your relationship.

So you have this fantastic new skill set. You’ve learned how to listen deeply. You know how to ask open ended questions. Aren’t those skills useable in so many settings?

Yes they are. But it’s not listening and asking questions that create the breach. It’s the energy and mindset you have if you automatically step into the coaching role when it’s not mutual.

The next time you catch yourself thinking that someone needs coaching, check yourself. Don’t coach. If a friend comes to you in pain, listen, hold them in love.

If they ask directly for your help, don’t step into the coaching role. Ask them how you can help.

See the difference?

In the Next Episode: 10 Things That Help You Become a Coach in High Demand