by Michael J. Marx

“I like Frank. He is in my coaching group. Yet I do not think that what he is doing is ethically correct.”
The ICF Independent Review Board (IRB) hears many cases against a coach filed by another coach. It is a sticky situation because the IRB first asks about remedies tried before they get involved. More often than not, the complainant has not tried to talk to the violator, nor tried to understand the situation objectively.

Ironically, this too could be a violation of Standard 14 in the ICF Code of Ethics. If you are an ICF member and/or credential holder and feel the need to criticize another coach, you should “respectfully raise the matter with those involved. If this does not resolve the matter, I refer it to a formal authority (e.g., ICF Global) for resolution.” This might sound familiar. Since I was on the committee that formed the Code verbiage, I can tell you that this verbiage indeed comes from Matthew 18:15-17.

“If a brother sins against you, go to him privately and confront him with his fault. If he listens and confesses it, you have won back a brother. But if not, then take one or two others with you and go back to him again, proving everything you say by these witnesses. If he still refuses to listen, then take your case to the church, and if the church’s verdict favors you, but he won’t accept it, then the church should excommunicate him.” (TLB)

So, if you find yourself at odds with another coach, it is incumbent on you to first go to that person and respectfully express your concerns. Perhaps you could also run this by your mentor coach or supervisor. You yourself might be off base, and an advisor can help set you straight. For additional advice, you can also contact the ICF Ethics Hotline at ethics@coachfederation.org or call 1.859.226.4245. If that does not achieve the necessary change, try to get another coach whom the “violator” respects to talk to them. Lastly, you could file a formal complaint. Both ICF and CCNI have processes in place for such circumstances.

Based on my experience with ethical violations, a lack of knowledge or a difference in perspective about the code underlies the reason for the situation. When I have been called in as a mediator, the “violator” often thinks he has a good reason for his behavior. Mediation usually goes well. We all always learn a lot in the process. A complaint is a terrible thing to waste.

Michael J. Marx, MBA, EdD, PCC, CMCC. Michael is a Certified Master Christian Coach (CCNI) and specializes in business coaching and corporate consultation. Dr. Marx has served as the leader of the ICF ‘Global Community of Practice on Ethics.’ He also serves on the ICF Independent Review Board and leads the team for the Ethics Interpretive Statements. Additionally, he is a past-president of Christian Coaches Network International and the author of Ethics and Risk Management for Christian Coaches (2016). He also has co-founded a non-profit to inform coaches about what to do when someone is suicidal. See: https://coachingsuicideawareness.com/