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.
Scott Howard is a professional executive coach and leadership coach focusing on human empowerment and maximizing potential.