Coaching Ethics 101: Ethics and Etiquette

Recently, I was reviewing a complaint case against a coach. Ultimately, the coach was found in breach of several points of the ethics code. However, what impressed me was the trigger. As the client was expressing her dissatisfaction to the coach on the phone, the coach actually hung up on her. Ouch!

It should go without saying that there are many points of culture and kindness that a professional should follow:

  • Show up on time
  • Be properly dressed and clean
  • Have a compliment on the ready

Yet, there are numerous other points that might offend a client if you are not adequately aware of the nuances of the cultural and background knowledge of the situation.

For example:

  • Are you aware that a Muslim might be offended if you show up to a meeting with your dog?
  • Are you aware that some clients might view your tight-fitting pants as offensive?
  • Are you aware that people react negatively to your strong perfume or cologne?

The key to avoiding most mishaps is to think through your actions before you do them. This is easier said than done. One cannot always know what will set off a downward spiral of negative perceptions that lead to misperception and disconnection. Yet, a caring coach should at all times be curious and considerate about the client’s needs and values.

Be a student of your clients. Find out what makes them tick and what makes them sick. Have a good idea what might not work before it becomes a problem. The professional adjusts to the client, not the other way around. Think before you speak and look before you leap.

Nevertheless, “love covers a multitude of sins”, 1 Peter 4:8. When clients trust that you have their best interests at heart, you can make a lot of mistakes and get easily forgiven. The client’s perception of the coach’s level of care and concern is foundational to building a healthy relationship. Regardless of your level of skill, when the client thinks that your motives are ingenuine, the level of trust diminishes. Most of the time dissatisfied clients just go away when they are unhappy – they simply exit the coaching relationship. Sometimes, however, they feel so offended that they seek retribution and file an official complaint. You can avoid this happening to you.

What can you do to ensure that your clients always feel the love you have for them?

About the Author:

Michael J. Marx, MBA, EdD, PCC, CPCC Michael is a Certified Professional Christian Coach with CCNI specializing in business coaching and corporate consultation. Dr. Marx currently serves as the leader of the ICF ‘Global Community of Practice on Ethics’. He also serves on ICF’s Independent Review Board and the Ethics Code Review Team. Additionally, he is a past-president of Christian Coaches Network International and the author of Ethics and Risk Management for Christian Coaches (2016).

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