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Drawing Lines in the Sand: Ethics in Coaching, Contracting, and Confidentiality with Commentary

S Pomerantz, J Eiting International Journal of Coaching in Organizations 2007

Since many executives today confuse ethics (authentic leadership steeped in morals, values, and meaning) with compliance (Sarbanes-Oxley) or risk management (ethics training rather than culture development), it is no wonder executive coaches are increasingly faced with the ethical dilemma of how to address ethics with clients. Do we, as coaches, engage with our executive clients about ethical issues only once they’ve brought it up in a coaching session, or when we see an ethical quagmire of which the client may not be aware? We asked these questions and more to a select group of highly skilled, successful, experienced professionals. Among those we interviewed were top executive coaches, psychologists who are coaches, psychologists who are not coaches, and Human Resources executives at large, multinational corporations. As we suspected, several common themes emerged, including the topics that every executive coach and every person who hires an executive coach should discuss in the contracting phase. This article will highlight some of the themes we discovered, some of the types of ethical dilemmas faced by clients and coaches, and the eight things to clarify prior to every coaching engagement.

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