Leading the World by Supporting Christian Coaching

Coaching Ethics 101: Stop, Look, and Listen

Have you ever felt like nothing was working?  You put a lot of time, money and effort into your coaching training.  And yet, the clients are not there. At least, you could use a few more.

Then you get an inquiry from a friend of a friend who thinks that coaching might be the answer for her. She is willing to pay good money, and you desperately need some good money.


Stop.  Stop yourself when getting the money becomes the first motivator for accepting a new client.  This should not be your primary priority. Why are you considering taking this client? Does she fit into the criteria of what you are professionally qualified to handle?  Are you able to focus on her future, not on her past? Can you really COACH her, or do you want to try to FIX her?

Look.  Look at her motivations for getting coaching.  She most likely will not be able to distinguish coaching from counseling or therapy anyway. What does she bring to the table? What has she done in the past and why did that work or not work?  Does she have a sponsor? In other words, you should check who will be paying for the coaching and why.

Listen.  Listen for victim vocabulary.  Try to carefully hear what she needs, not just what she wants.  Listen to your own heart as well. Does she sound like someone you will be excited to talk to or does she sound like someone who will drain your energy?  Above all, listen to the Holy Spirit. What does He say is the right thing to do?

A couple of weeks ago I gave a client a demo coaching session.  Typical for the first call, we centered in on the biggest challenges in his life.  He really could only come up with two. I don’t remember what the first one was. However, I clearly noted that the second one was his concern for how people perceived him.  He was very worried about how he looked in the eyes of others. At the end of the call, I told him that I would be happy to coach around the first topic, but the second one was outside of my wheelhouse; I simply could not go there.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

I said, “Well, that is not the type of topic I can do coaching around.  Perhaps another professional would be able to serve you better on that point.”

To my relief, he sent me an email two days later saying that he would look for someone else.  I felt like a burden had been lifted from my shoulders. Even though this would have been a high-dollar client, I felt that his preoccupation with his image would get in the way of his progress in the coaching relationship.  I knew this was one of my boundaries.

How do you decide on taking clients or not?  How do you know that you are moving forward for the right ethical reasons?  Instead of just looking at the potential of earning some well-deserved cash from a new client; stop, look, and listen.

God will provide, Philippians 4:19.

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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