Ethics, boundaries, behaviours and attitude have an important place in organisational strategic coaching. Ethical practice refers to the standards of professional conduct which a coach is expected to uphold, whereas ethical maturity, at a strategic level, is defined as ‘the increasing capacity to embrace ethical complexity and deal with appropriate respect and fairness to all parties involved in a situation (Carroll, M, 1996).

At a strategic level issues around ethics and boundaries can often be blurred particularly when operating as an internal coach or even as a manager using a coaching style. The question remains, can a manager successfully coach their team and maintain good boundaries? Issues around confidentiality may arise particularly if the member of staff reveals something which might harm them or others. There may be a conflict of interest in terms of organisational conduct. Therefore, how can the manager maintain confidentiality by acting as a coach if there is a conflict with the employee’s conduct or performance at work?

Coach supervision will help avoid ethical dilemmas including cases where bullying, racism and sexism might be apparent. Through the process of supervision the supervisor will be skillfully pick up on what is going on between the person they are supervising (supervisee) and the supervisee’s team member /coachee. They will consider the organisational system the supervisee is operating within and hold the mirror up to the supervisee to help prevent long term problems and malpractice.

The role of coaching supervisor is to ensure that the supervisee is working within ethical boundaries and is aware of any ethical issues or dilemmas which the coach-manager may not have recognised in themselves.

Ethical Maturity in the Helping Professions (Carroll,M & Shaw, S 2012) is a fascinating and essential read for all supervisors and executive coaches. The book helps people to understand their own moral compass and the choices they make.

It is good practice for internal coaches not to coach someone they know or who they have prior knowledge of due to internal politics.  To avoid pitfalls, the most important thing for all coaching situations is to have a clear contract or agreement at the very start of the coaching relationship and to spot contract throughout the coaching conversation allowing the coach-manager the opportunity to stop the session and deal with whatever has been said. It is also advisable to refer someone on to another internal coach if they feel their role as internal coach is compromised by coaching the individual in any way.

Sadly, what is often missing from organisational coach development programmes is the on-going supervision for managers using the principles of coaching (or informally coaching). This would give managers the opportunity to talk about conflicts of interest and ethical issues when coaching their teams to ensure that they themselves are coaching to ethical standards.

Sue Noble is an experienced qualified and accredited coach and coach supervisor. She can help support you through ethic issues and boundaries. Contact Sue now to book your coaching supervision session. 0795 2033 395