A coach must create a safe space for clients to bring and discus their agenda. This is the bedrock of why confidentiality is so important in coaching. But it doesn't stop there. A coach should be mindful of all communications they have whenever they are acting in the capacity of a coach, mentor, supervisor, trainer, and consultant. As noted, this strict adherence to confidentiality applies not only to clients and sponsors but also to students and fellow coaches.
Students of mine often express concern that the ICF Code of Ethics doesn't define confidentiality. Below, I have thrown together my interpretation of the Code's intent on the matter and offer it up for your thoughts.
Confidentiality – In the coaching profession, confidentiality is not just a skill but an expectation. Coaches occupy a unique and powerful position where individuals and organizations share and trust sensitive and personal information to them. Anyone communicating with a coach must be able to open themselves completely and know without a doubt that their communications to the coach are protected. Therefore a coach must have a very high standard of confidentiality in all interactions:
A coach may divulge confidential information in the following circumstances:
Confidentiality Policy – A standard operating procedure where the coach or coaching firm addresses the protection of communications (written, electronic or otherwise) relevant to conducting business as a coach, trainer, facilitator, or consultant. Components of the policy could include a statement of organizational intent, guidance on storage of client records, procedures in the event of a compromise. Support staff must be aware of and comply with the confidentiality policy.
This month I completed the four month training cohort to gain proficiency in the PCC Markers. What a powerful and truly educational experience. This journey has really helped strengthen my coaching and certainly helped me become a better trainer for my students.
If you have not signed up for the International Coach Federation's PCC Markers training, I strongly suggest you do. Even if you are not intending on being an exam assessor or not in a training environment, the education is so much worth the benefits you and your clients will gain.
I especially want to thank the credentialing staff at ICF - Carrie Abner, and Angie Holleran, and the trainers/ facilitators Margaret Krigbaum, MCC, and Guiseppe Meli, MCC, and Pat Mathews, MCC, and Julie Shows, MCC, for putting together such robust and engaging training. They all have truly worked to advance our profession and it was an honor to learn from them. Thank you!
When I teach ethics to my coaching students and we examine the International Coach Federation's Code of Ethics, I'm often asked what's the purpose of the Code Preamble, or "Does it matter?". Is it just an introduction, a preface to the Code?
The way that I answer is by reading the Preamble and breaking it down piece by piece and illustrating my interpretations of it... which you know, must be correct! Lets dive in and examine what the Preamble offers.
ICF is committed to maintaining and promoting excellence in coaching.
This is an important statement because it lets the world know right away what the ICF is here for. The mission statement of the ICF in part reads "...lead the global advancement of the coaching profession." What better way to do this than by maintaining and promoting excellence? As a coach, I am thankful to have this large association working for the best interests of the profession by continually promoting excellence. In fact, this should be an objective of all coaches - to continually preserve the integrity of the (our) profession. We do this by first protecting and honoring our clients, also by a consistent dedication to increasing our competence in coaching, and finally by spreading the word about coaching and how beneficial it is to society.
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.
In this next sentence, parameters are set as to who the ICF expects to use and abide by this code. In my opinion, this statement has a broad application and applies to anyone associated with the ICF through membership and credentialing. An argument could be made that even students in an ICF approved curriculum could be held to the ethical guidelines set out by the Code. It is my thought that the Code imparts additional responsibility to act ethically in a general sense as well - not just when you are being a coach (or a trainer, student, mentor coach, or supervisor, etc.). This means being a good business person, a good consultant, trainer, etc. Coaches are given advice to be competent in their craft. We do this by continuing education and always learning. When we coach, we want to be curious with our clients - we must be curious in our own development too. We also do this by integrating the Core Competencies into our coaching - my recommendation is to print out the Competencies and refer to them often, even daily, to keep your focus sharp.
In line with the ICF core values and ICF definition of coaching, the Code of Ethics is designed to provide appropriate guidelines, accountability and enforceable standards of conduct for all ICF Members and ICF Credential-holders, who commit to abiding by the following ICF Code of Ethics:
This final sentence of the Preamble tells us that the Code along with the ICF definition of coaching and the ICF core values provide the coach with guidance, a hook of accountability and enforceable standards by which we can use in our coaching relationships and our business. You may be wondering what enforceable means. There is a process by which a client that believes a coach has breached the Code can make a complaint against a coach. The ICF's Independent Review Board (IRB) oversees this process. Once a complaint is received and validated, the IRB assigns it to investigators who collect evidence, and draft a report. The completed report is then passed on to a panel of final reviewers that will determine if a breach of the Code has happened. If so, the coach will be assigned remedial actions which could include mandatory training, etc. All ICF member and credentialed coaches implicitly agree to this by way of their membership or credential.
So there you have it - while the Preamble may look like just an introduction to the Code, once parsed out it has a lot of information and packs a pretty big punch.
What do you think? How often are you reviewing the Code of Ethics or the Core Competencies?Leave a comment below.
It's very exciting and rewarding to be a professional coach. Since starting this journey, I have remained committed to continuing my education and moving upward. Part of that plan is to become an International Coach Federation Master Certified Coach (MCC). This is the highest level of coach credentialing the ICF offers and is a qualification I don't take lightly. When I became a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) I was especially proud and so very excited. But I also realized I was representing a high standard of coaching excellence set out by the ICF and the many other PCCs in the field. So moving toward the role of an MCC suggests even more responsibility not just to clients but to the profession.
Over the years, I've had the privilege and honor of collaborating with many master coaches. Often they have shared with me their insights and practice points that I've been able to weave into my own practice. Based on their mentorship and advice, I feel poised to take this next big step in coaching.
Becoming an MCC requires additional training and education. Here again, I've been fortunate to train with some of the most incredible people. I never get tired with advancing education, especially when it's from committed and exceptional colleagues.
Probably the most rewarding part of moving toward this objective is getting all of the required coaching hours with clients. To become an MCC, one needs a total of 2500 client coaching hours. My time with clients has proved to be so enriching, and with every session, I walk away having learned more about coaching, myself and of course the richness of the client.
I'm excited to be on this journey, keep checking in and I will update my progress on here periodically. And to all those that have helped get me to this point in my career - thank you!
The coaching school that I serve as the Director of Learning for MentorCoach LLC is hosting an exciting Master Class/ webinar that I cannot wait to attend, (the class starts in October). If you are interested in the Values in Action (VIA) Character Strengths assessment and interventions or Ryan Niemiec, Psy.D. and his work in character strengths this is for you.
Here's the sign up information:
THE CHARACTER STRENGTHS INTERVENTIONS MASTER CLASS
Learning to Unleash What’s Best in You and Your Clients
A Webinar Led by Ryan M. Niemiec, Psy.D.
Psychologist, Coach, International Speaker, Education Director of the VIA Institute on Character, Widely considered to be the world’s leading expert on the science and practice of character strengths, and author of seven books including his latest,
Character Strengths Interventions: A Field Guide for Practitioners.
Tuesdays at 2:00 PM Eastern (New York)
Starts Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Eight 75-minute Classes
10 hours of CEUs and ICF CCEUs
10 hours Toward Coach Certification
A Webinar - All Classes Recorded
Learn more and sign up for the webinar at:
Recently I became part of the latest cohort to be trained in the new International Coach Federation's PCC Markers. Many have criticized the new markers for various reasons (including myself)... why fix something thats not broken? But the more I have learned about and applied the markers, the more impressed I have become. Going through the training has allowed me to realize how I can better serve my clients by incorporating the spirit of the markers.
What I see moving forward with the markers training is two distinct advantages:
First - By using the markers, coaches will undoubtably become better in their work with clients. Lets look at the Competency 2 Markers: Creating the Coaching Agreement.
1. Coach helps the client identify, or reconfirm, what s/he wants to accomplish in the session.
2. Coach helps the client to define or reconfirm measures of success for what s/he wants to accomplish in the session.
These first two markers serve as vital reminders to the coach of who is in charge of the session and the importance of coach and client partnering to get the most from the session. Where are we going with this and how will we know when we've arrived? These simple questions provide a GPS for the forthcoming exploration and help illustrate progress and ultimately the session results.
3. Coach explores what is important or meaningful to the client about what s/he wants to accomplish in the session.
By the coach exploring this question, the client can express both to themselves and the coach the foundational motivation behind the session's agenda. This can also help the client gain even more focus on their intended outcome.
4. Coach helps the client define what the client believes he/she needs to address or resolve in order to achieve what s/he wants to accomplish in the session.
There are obstacles and challenges to every goal or objective. This marker aids in bringing these to light early on so that momentum can build and remain steady. Once a client knows the way forward we want to know what we may need to manage or clear along the way.
5. Coach continues conversation in direction of client’s desired outcome unless client indicates otherwise.
The importance of this marker is that it reminds me as the coach - who is really in charge of the session. Coaches must always defer to the agenda and intent of the client. It's their session, it's their circumstance, we are just honored to be the coach and help them reach objectives. As such, our questions, comments and observations should remain faithful to those stated objectives unless the client shifts directions.
As we can see from the above comments the coach will certainly enhance their contribution to the client by operating within the markers.
Second - Those seeking a credential from the ICF now have much clearer guidelines within which to practice their coaching and thereby attain their PCC. By no means am I suggesting to use the markers as a checklist or roadmap to coaching a client, but it can be used as a series of reminders of how one can better engage with their client and thus help the client maximize results. A practice that I recommend for all coaches - record your sessions with clients, and go back and listen to them with a copy of the markers at hand. This self-grading will help you find areas to improve on and note others where you are showing competence.
The ICF Code of Ethics provides sound advice regarding confidentiality and professional coaches that have staff working for them.
27) Require all those who work with me in support of my clients to adhere to the ICF Code of Ethics, Number 26, Section 4, Confidentiality and Privacy Standards, and any other sections of the Code of Ethics that might be applicable.
A question comes to mind - just who is included in the phrase "those who work for me in support of my clients". The answer could be broad and include part and full time employees, remote contractors, virtual assistants and partner coaches/ consultants from outside firms. In fact, it could be argued that even family members that provide support services to the coach are included.
Having best practice in place, regardless of the size of your coaching practice, is the best way to ensure client confidentiality and privacy. Here are some strategies that can be deployed that can help your firm develop best practices.
While I love coaching and helping clients maximize their potential, I also love discussing ethical considerations in coaching. A question that often comes up in coaching is when does the actual coaching relationship start?
In my opinion the answer to this question is based on the potential client’s perception. This is why it’s incumbent on the coach to inform the perspective client when actual coaching has started versus initial consultation, etc.
Here are some strategies that may help keep all parties clear:
The coach should differentiate between an informational consultation call and a real coaching session.
“Thanks for giving me this opportunity to talk to you about coaching – if it’s okay with you, we can spend 20 minutes or so and I will explain what coaching is and how I work as a coach and along the way, you can ask me questions… and just so you know, this is not actual coaching, just a consultation.”
“Great… it sounds like you are ready to get started and I am very excited that you have decided to work with me. In order for us to get started actually coaching, I need you to review and sign our coaching agreement.”
“I see you have signed and returned our coaching agreement, thanks for getting that back to me. Since you have no questions about the agreement let's go ahead and get started with coaching… ”
While the above dialog may seem elementary, it is important to clearly set client expectations. If the coach is not clear, and if the client believes a coaching relationship has started then a fair argument can be made that it has. But who cares? No one really until something goes wrong. Think of the coach that also offers consultation services or facilitates strategic planning, etc.
This is what makes having a solid coaching agreement in place such a spectacular idea. All parties know what to expect and there are no surprises. In fact, the coach can even have in her coaching agreement a provision that reads something like:
“A coaching relationship implies certain rights and responsibilities for both parties. Our coaching relationship does not start until this coaching agreement is signed by both parties.”
The above strategies achieve two ends, it ensures the client is clear when the relationship starts and it ensures the coach uses an agreement. But this assumes the coach is really using an agreement. The coaching agreement is everyone’s friend, without it the client lacks clarity and it’s hard to say when the relationship has started and the coach forfeits a valuable opportunity to educate and set expectations.
What are your thoughts?
Coaching is in my blood. As such I teach coaching too, at a school named MentorCoach LLC. My next ethics class - Safe Passage is starting up on January 29th, 2018. The class will meet for ten weeks, every Monday starting at 1:00 pm EST. Here's my invitation for you to take pause and consider your current business processes, how you may handle third-party contracts, confidentiality breaches, liability risks in business, or a customer lodging a formal complaint against you. In class, we'll address these situations and much more.
You can read about the class here:
This is a great opportunity to learn about ethics and risk management in coaching and round out your coaching practice while learning of ways to decrease the risk associated with any business.
Want an easy way that you can become a life saver? Then join the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP). Your selfless act may offer new life for a person with leukemia or lymphoma.
For me personally, I am so thankful for the NMDP in it's effort to collect donor information and provide education and resources. And I'm especially happy and thankful for my donor for giving me a second chance at life.
You can learn more about the National Marrow Donor Program here:
I love coaching!
In fact I love it so much that I teach people how to become coaches. In late May, I will start a 31 week Foundations class that teaches you so much about coaching and how to get into this emerging and exciting business - I can't wait to get started!
As the director of learning for MentorCoach LLC, I personally try to teach this class twice a year... there is just so much content and exciting stuff that I look at it like a complete 'refresher training' for me! Also, because we have so many exciting people (from around the world) in the class, you build connections and relationships with people with the same mission - to help others. Foundations is a step by step program that is designed to give you everything you need to get started coaching others.
If you are interested in becoming a coach, I invite you to check out the MentorCoach.com website and learn about our Foundations program. Join my class - it will be great to have you! If you have any questions, please message me here.
Really happy today for a big accomplishment, I have now connected all of my social media accounts to my website. Sounds easy enough, but with all the competing demands in my life, it was really a tall order to get it done.
This is a task that I have encouraged so many of my small business owner clients to do - such an easy way to stay in touch with your audience.
I invite you to check out the social media buttons over on the right hand side of this page and visit me on other platforms.
Heres a question for you - what do you consider to be the hottest or most important social media platform? Why?
Received a very nice note and some swag from the Thumbtack team this week.
In case you don't know, Thumbtack is a great platform where professionals list their services and consumers can request and hire professionals for specific needs. My family has used Thumbtack to find contractors for home repairs. Whether you need a photographer or a new roof for your house, I invite you to consider checking out Thumbtack next time - it's really easy to find a professional for your next project
Once again we are starting a group coaching cohort for small business owners and entrepreneurs. The group will start March 23rd, 2017 at 7:00 pm EST, I try to keep the group to around 10 - 12 participants.
You join by calling a telephone bridge line where we meet and then I coach the group on a variety of issues facing small business owners such as:
- Developing strategic plan,
- Assessing your strengths,
- Social media marketing,
- Creating work-life balance,
This is a great way to experience coaching at a more economical price point. Plus, you get robust insight and experience from the other participants on the call. Want to learn more? Shoot me an email and we'll chat by phone, I'd be happy to answer your questions.
Recently I went to a pharmacy to pick up some medication. This particular pharmacy is a small, privately owned establishment and not part of a large chain. So kinda like a mom and pop, neighborhood place. I specifically support them because they are a small business and because they are located nearby.
Once inside I walked up to the counter and stood, waiting patiently to be served. Meanwhile, four employees all about six feet away from me chatted about personal matters, occasionally looking at me, and even making eye contact. A few minutes went by, and still, I am standing there waiting to be acknowledged, occasionally I smile at one of them to be polite. At this point, I am starting to study the situation... as a coach I often do just that.
Here we have a small business (pharmacy), with four employees all that have seen me, and all of them are just 'shootin the breeze'. Not one of the four have greeted me, even though I am in the place quite often, and so they likely recognize me. Five minutes pass by and no one has taken an interest in me - the customer. So I leave. Less than a block away, there is a CVS and two blocks away a Rite Aid. Both open 24 hours, and both have substantially more consumer resources than the mom and pop place. I go to the CVS to get my needs met and I am greeted by a person at the front register and later greeted by the pharmacist.
As a coach, I've advised many small business owners and entrepreneurs on basic customer service concepts. Here are a few for your consideration:
Acknowledging the customer right when they enter into your establishment. Don't go overboard with this - but say 'hello', or 'hi'... it goes a long way. Let the customer know they are welcome and that you see them.
Recognizing regular customers is something many places are failing to do but this is a great way to make the customer feel special and build loyalty.
Being accountable when it becomes obvious that a customer may not have had the best experience in your establishment.
Learn from your customer service mistakes and prevent the same from happening again.
Again these are very fundamental measures that have no cost but can pay big dividends for your future business. Customers are your business - if you do not cultivate, respect and honor them, they will walk.
Is your business keeping the customer in focus?
As a coach, I always talk to clients and students about thier goals. But I wanted to share and publish one of my personal goals for 2017 - decluttering my life.
For the new year, I've committed to decluttering my life, thinning out junk, getting rid of 'stuff'. Specifically throwing out all those extra items that I just don't need or use anymore. Donate some of them, maybe sell a few, recycle others and finally if there is no other option then commit the item to the trash. This is an important exercise because our society constantly affords us opportunities to consume and collect stuff and now, I am deliberately setting aside time to purge and get rid of stuff.
By doing this, I create more space in my home and office physically, but also on a mental level. I will keep you posted on my progress and please feel free to comment or send me an email on your goals for 2017.
Recently I came by this excellent article by Tim Urban, a writer illustrator at waitbutwhy.com. It's a short but telling article that really helps put priorities, time, and life in perspective.
After reading this, I had to stop and ask myself "What really is important in my life?"
Check it out here:
In just a few days, a whole new year of opportunity will be upon us. The holiday season presents a chance to reflect on the past, be thankful, and look to the future. The new year is a time to examine where you want to take your destiny. Improving your life, changing careers, focusing on your health, starting a business, writing a book, or launching a dream.
I invite you to take some time out for you and really assess where you want to take your destiny in 2017. Sit dowm, write it out, design a plan, and then set it in motion. You deserve it!
Feel free to email me or leave a comment below, I'd love to hear your plans.
May you have the very best opportunities come you way in 2017!
What do you think of when you hear 'strategic planning'.
Many businesses - small and large give little to no attention to this incredibly important tool that can help guide and develop your business. A strategic plan can remind you of strengths, keep your awareness on the competition and help you set and keep objectives.
Every year after Thanksgiving, I start to examine my strategic business plan (SBP) for the upcoming year and by mid-December I have set goals and laid out the strategy to achieve them. By January 1st of the coming year, the plan is in place.
I just don't store my SBP in an icon on my desktop and not look at it again for months, rather I print it out keep it nearby and revisit it often. As a solopreneur, I must keep a consistent eye on it to make sure I am working toward my goals. By the end of the year, my SBP is overwritten, coffee stained and has notes for the next version.
If you own a small business or you are a solopreneur, I invite you to start looking at your business strategy - where do you want to be in five years? How are you going to get there? A strategic business plan provides the insight and long range vision on the direction you want your business to go. Start now - where do you want to be in the future and design a plan to get you there.
3 Steps to Achieving Goals
Want to get to a certain goal? Looking to bring about a change in our life? Then use these two steps to help move toward your goals:
1. Identify it. Think deliberatly about what you want... really think it through. Weigh through the pros and cons, worst case scenario, etc.
2. Publish it. Once you have it identified, write down your goals, your outcomes, your objectives - don't just keep them in your mind. You can write it down in a journal or a sticky note and stick it where you'll see it often. Strengthen this idea by telling two or three people. Don't just tell anyone, but a person that will take you serious and engage you about the outcome - someone who cares and will support you.
3. Intend it. Pretend, visualize, do whatever it takes but expect that the goal is manifesting itself and becoming your reality. Of couse you need to work too, but every effort should be seen as a confirmation that you are creating the reality you want.
The world of professional coaching can be confusing. There are a lot of certifications and often a coach will have an array of letters behind their name which can be intimidating for a prospective client. In this post, I want to share a couple of tips to consider when you hire a coach.
A certification is typically granted by a private, non-governmental institution to an individual after they have completed a course of study in a particular area of instruction. Examples include Wellness Coaching, Executive Coaching, Business Coaching. The thing to consider here is who is granting the certification and the quality of the program. Some coaching certification programs are pretty short, involve little interaction with peers and instructors, and lack supervision. The course content may be minimal and formulated on individual standards rather than widely accepted competencies. Other certifications may be lengthy, immersed in a collegiate culture, structured, supervised and generally of high quality.
A good rule of thumb to consider is to make sure the coach has a certification or experience in the area that you need coaching in. Do this by asking questions and probing, in fact treat your initial conversation with a potential coach as an interview.
The number of institutions that offer a coaching credential is much smaller than those that offer certification. In the world of coaching, likely the most important credentials are offered by the International Coach Federation. ICF credentials are the associate certified coach (ACC), professional certified coach (PCC), and master certified coach (MCC). Credentialing requires the coach to gain structured education and demonstrate expertise and skills. Additionally, ICF credentialed coaches commit themselves to adhering to high professional standards and a strong code of ethics. You can learn more about the ICF and it's credentialing process here: https://www.coachfederation.org/credential/?navItemNumber=502.
If a coach is attempting to work in the corporate, non-profit or government worlds, the hiring authority will likely expect the coach to be credentialed by the ICF.
If you are considering a coach, I encourage you to look for a coach that has the certifications, experience and formal education that not only creates a sense of confidence with you but more importantly, meets your coaching needs. Additionally, go the extra step and make sure your potential coach is credentialed by the International Coach Federation.
Have something to say? - please share your comments.
It must be career season as I am seeing many new clients interested in career coaching. In the career coaching process, reviewing one's resume is paramount to making sure they are on the right path, sending the correct message and selling themselves appropriately.
Recently I found an article on BusinessInsider.com "31 things you should remove from your resume immediately" - the article is packed with great tips and a few are listed here.
- Too much text. Your resume should have some, what I like to call, 'air and light' in it. If it looks like a law school textbook, the reader will be turned off before they ever start reading.
- References. If the perspective employer wants to communicate with your references, they'll ask you. Save that space for more important information.
- Inconsistent formatting. Its so easy to keep your resume looking sharp and polished just by proper formatting. If you indent where you list your a job, make sure its consistent throughout.
- Company specific jargon. This is particularly important for military or government employees transferring into the civilian sector. Just because you know what a TAD, TDY, RELAD or REFTRA is, the person reading your resume will not be impressed, rather they'll likely be frustrated and put off.
You can see all 31 of these great points at:
As technology continues to improve and become more accessible employers are using the video interview format more and more. Online platforms such as Skype.com and Zoom.us provides an excellent low-cost solution for conducting interviews.
If an organization wants to interview you using a video conferencing platform here are a few tips you can plug in to ensure success.
1. Treat it like the real thing. Prepare just as you would for an in person interview. Make sure you have done your research, have your responses ready to go for typical questions, and dress for success.
2. Do some test runs. Set up your computer for some tests. Make sure your face is well framed and the lighting is balanced. Do the clothes you plan to wear look okay once they are broadcast?
3. Location. Make sure the place you plan to have your interview call is secure from visitors, noise or other distractions. Consider turning off cell phones, land lines, faxes, etc.
Need more help preparing for your video interview? Consider hiring a professional coach. Coaches are trained and educated in helping people bring out their best during those highly anxious times such as interviewing for a new job. So why not leverage their expertise?
Remember, they liked your resume, you made it past the phone interview, now its up to you to do everything possible to nail the video interview - set yourself up for success!
Clients often ask me how to be more productive, to keep better tabs on their time and remain focused on the many things that need to get done. In today's digital world, there are many apps and digital solutions that can satisfy your needs. But what many of my clients and I have learned is that the handwritten 'to - do' list still proves an easy way to manage daily tasks. For me personally, there is also a meditative quality to sitting down and designing my day.
Kept on a steno pad or some other bound pad, the list is easily portable and managed. Additionally, when the day is done, you see what you've accomplished and this is an easy reminder of how productive you've been. When you don't complete a task for the day, carry it over to the next day. Finally, don't destroy these lists, I keep mine for future reference. They provide an accessible log or record of daily events and combined with my planner help keep me organized and on top of tasks.
International Coaching Week is May 16 through May 22. In honor of this, Scott Howard Coaching will offer a exclusive special discount to two people who respond to this post. Two people will be selected to get coaching services at a significant price reduction, $49.00 per session for up to a year.
This is for either life coaching or executive coaching. This is an excellent way to experience coaching and see if its right for you.
Scott Howard is a professional executive coach and leadership coach focusing on human empowerment and maximizing potential.