Consider how specific points from the Code of Ethics speak to diversity. The ICF Code of Ethics number 11 says: “am aware of and actively manage any power or status difference between the client and me that may be caused by cultural, relational, psychological, or contextual issues.”
That is telling us as coaches that even if we don’t think there is a status difference, or a power differential, we must pay attention to this due to the fact our client may have a different perception. We ask ourselves: How do they see it? Then, how are we having that conversation and addressing it so that we both know there truly is a level playing field? We are partners working together. Be aware and be willing to have the conversation to address what it may be for the other person.
ICF Code of Ethics number 23 states that the coach holds responsibility for being aware of and setting clear, appropriate, and culturally sensitive boundaries that govern interactions, physical or otherwise. First, we establish our boundaries. Most coaching is done on the phone or online. In this case, because we are not interacting physically, the boundaries are about contact between sessions. Alternatively, if we meet face-to-face, the boundaries address contact including handshakes, a light touch, or a hug. What works for one person does not work for the another. As the coach, it is our job to learn, be aware, and be sensitive to what it is appropriate for the client.
Another example or consideration of this is a coaching agreement. In most parts of the world, it is a written agreement. We also must be aware that there are places in the world where a written agreement is an insult. This is an unspoken boundary that we must ensure we are not crossing.
One of the challenges in our global society is that we are often interacting with clients from all over the world. Do basic research before starting a coaching relationship across borders. Have an open a conversation with a client. Talk about agreements and boundaries, and then figure out what is appropriate for everyone.
More in the next blog.