Part Three of the International Coach Federation's Code of Ethics is a pledge that coaches agree to comply with. The Pledge contains many important points that I'd like to review here - so let's examine it and parse it out.
Part Three: The ICF Pledge of Ethics:
As an ICF coach, I acknowledge and agree to honor my ethical and legal obligations to my coaching clients and sponsors, colleagues, and to the public at large. I pledge to comply with the ICF Code of Ethics and to practice these standards with those whom I coach, teach, mentor or supervise.
If I breach this Pledge of Ethics or any part of the ICF Code of Ethics, I agree that the ICF in its sole discretion may hold me accountable for so doing. I further agree that my accountability to the ICF for any breach may include sanctions, such as loss of my ICF Membership and/or my ICF Credentials.
As an ICF coach - in short this means if you have an ICF credential (ACC, PCC, MCC) or if you are an ICF member.
I acknowledge and agree to honor my ethical and legal obligations to my coaching clients and sponsors, colleagues, and to the public at large. - Here the coach both demonstrates awareness of and further commits to uphold their ethical and legal obligations that can arise out of the many relationships one can engage in while acting as a coach. Notice the language states only "ethical and legal obligations" and not something more specific like Standards set forth in this Code. My opinion on this choice of language is because the Code may or may not always apply to situations involving clients, sponsors, colleagues, and the public. For example, maybe the coach became aware of some proprietary information from a potential sponsor during an exploratory conversation. The coach was not hired but still has the information. So to cover that potential gap, the Code is prompting the coach to do the right thing by their obligations that may fall outside of specifics covered by the Code.
The promise of course extends to clients and sponsors, but colleagues are included. Many coaches collaborate and form business partnerships with other coaches or professionals. Maintaining ethical obligations is just as critical in these situations to help advance the collegiate development of the profession. And this responsibility extends to the public at large to help protect the integrity of the profession in the eyes of our potential and contracted clients.
I pledge to comply with the ICF Code of Ethics and to practice these standards... - In this phrase, the coach makes a solemn promise, an undertaking, to be in compliance with the Code and to put into practice, to use, the standards as guidance and direction for acting in the capacity of a coach professional. This isn't just about lip service rather it's knowing and applying the Code. In the words of an esteemed colleague, if a coach thinks there is an issue, check the Code... "What's the Code say?"
... and to practice these standards with those whom I coach, teach, mentor or supervise. - The Code doesn't just apply to clients or those that are coached. These standards are applicable to interactions with students, mentees and those the coach supervises. Confidentiality, contracting, avoiding sexual or romantic relationships, etc are all part of and essential to providing a safe space for professional development and personal growth.
If I breach this Pledge of Ethics or any part of the ICF Code of Ethics, I agree that the ICF in its sole discretion may hold me accountable for so doing. - This sentence indicates an acceptance on behalf of the coach that they will be held to account if they breach the Code and the Pledge. Credential holders and members initially agree when submitting their application for a credential or membership to abide by the Code and to submit to the Independent Review Board (IRB) process. This clause again affirms the coaches' awareness and acceptance of accountability.
I further agree that my accountability to the ICF for any breach may include sanctions, such as loss of my ICF Membership and/or my ICF Credentials. - Coaching is not regulated by government and so there are no punitive or administrative actions that can be taken against a coach from a regulatory standpoint. The ICF Code of Ethics provides essentially all of the governance and oversight our profession uses. When a breach is found, a member coach or credential holder agrees to the accountability provision. While a grieved party can still independently file a lawsuit against a coach, the ICF's Independent Review Board can only impose sanctions such as writing an essay, attending additional hours of coach training, and revoking membership or a credential.
Scott Howard is a professional executive coach and leadership coach focusing on human empowerment and maximizing potential.