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Ethical Reflection: Walking Along the Grey Area

When it comes to coaching, how can coaches navigate the complex landscape of ethics in a professional and efficient manner? As part of ICF Québec’s Breakfast Series, local coaches recently attended a presentation on the topic of Ethical Reflection.
November 14, 2019
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JMEC_Ethics

What a topic to get the mind working first thing in the morning. Over 20 local coaches gathered early Friday, September 13, 2019 for a presentation on the topic of Ethical Reflection led by Master Coach and Certified Supervisor Nathalie Dubé. The conference is part of a series of breakfast sessions hosted by the Québec chapter of the International Coach Federation (ICF) with support from the John Molson Executive Centre.

Throughout the session, Dubé facilitated a reflective discussion which helped to clarify some key questions regarding ethics in coaching.

 

What is ethical reflection?

Nathalie_Dube_JMEC Nathalie Dubé

Dubé started the session off with a (seemingly) simple question: What is ethical reflection? Answering this question is easier said than done, though; the term can be interpreted openly. Answers from the group defined ethical reflection as taking a step back from a situation – or as many steps back as necessary – until it becomes clearer. Others defined it as challenging one’s own assumptions and thoughts in an effort to see things from a neutral perspective and being aware of oneself, being vulnerable and self-evaluating; it means asking questions like: Am I okay? How are my relationships with my clients? Am I uncomfortable with such situations, and if so – why?

My wish for you is that the code of ethics becomes your friend.

How can the ICF code of ethics help?

The ICF has a code of ethics, which its coaches are expected to abide by in all situations. This code, however, may also act as a practical resource that is currently under-utilized. Using a real-world case study, Dubé demonstrated how examining the code of ethics when something feels off can help coaches to make the right decision using tangible reasoning. When it comes to situations that are ethically complicated, there usually isn’t any one solution to be found. The code of ethics can help coaches to detach their specific feelings from the situation, and look at it more objectively.

Before seeking guidance from other places, it is important that coaches have a solid understanding of what their own core values are.

What else can help?

My wish for you is that the code of ethics becomes your friend,” was one of Nathalie’s closing remarks. It’s a good friend to have indeed. It wasn’t the only recommended resource for coaches struggling with ethically complex situations, though. Stepping back and applying different lenses, as well as discussing with other coaches can enlighten coaches to unique ways of handling a situation, which they may not have previously considered.

A crucial step to clarity, however, doesn’t come from a document or another person. It comes from oneself. Before seeking guidance from other places, it is important that coaches have a solid understanding of what their own core values are, so that they can make informed decisions about what is and is not okay for them. An individual that one coach decides he or she cannot coach due to a lack of alignment of core values may be the perfect client for another coach. Ethics is a highly personal area of coaching, and no situation is black or white. Coaches need to create success out of situations that land in that grey area with confidence and a good conscience. 


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