Center for Coaching Certification

Coaching Ethics Speak to Diversity

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.” Coaching Ethics Speak to Diversity

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.

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ICF Statement, Ethics, Competencies, and Markers for Diversity

Welcome to this blog series that will explore how the ICF Code of Ethics, the ICF Core Competencies, and ICF’s PCC markers speak to diversity.   In the series, we will look at the specific points, the meaning, and how they apply. ICF Statement, Ethics, Competencies, and Markers for Diversity

ICF published a statement of diversity, inclusion, belonging and justice at “ICF Members and Credential-holders live and work in more than 140 countries and territories.  ICF is a vibrant global community committed to the shared vision of making coaching an integral part of a thriving society.  Our mission is to lead the global advancement of coaching.  To do this, we must reflect on our blind spots and be aware of opportunities for improvement.  We cannot ignore the challenges that many coaches and coaching clients face due to systemic problems in their communities.

As members of the ICF community, we ascribe to the core values of integrity, excellence, collaboration, and respect.  The foundation of these values is a shared commitment to diversity, inclusion, belonging, and justice.

We will place diversity, inclusion, belonging, and justice at the forefront of every decision we make within our Association.  As we continue the journey toward our vision, we will recommit ourselves to valuing the unique talents, insights, and experiences that every coach and client brings to the world.”

In keeping with this statement, let’s explore how ICF’s Coaching Ethics, Core Competencies, and PCC Markers speak to Diversity – visit Mondays and Thursdays for the next post in the series.

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Be Ethical: Accurately Name the Designation

A common mistake that coaches make is changing their designation. They simply name themselves whatever they want to name themselves. For example, they take a Certified Professional Coach program, and then they say they are a certified life coach.  It is not the same thing. Schools that give the certifications have gone through a process for being accredited to give those designations and those specific designations are what is allowed and accurate. Be Ethical- Accurately Name the Designation

If you want to put yourself out there as a life coach after earning your Certified Professional Coach designation, say, “I’m a Certified Professional Coach that specializes in life coaching.” Add your focus area as your niche.   You can also say that you are a Certified Professional Coach working with clients on relationships or on relocating or on family, or whatever it is you want to specialize in. If you go on and earn the Certified Master Coach, you can say you are a Certified Master Coach specializing in working with executives.  This is different than calling yourself a certified executive coach.

We often get asked about the Certified Coach Specialist program.  When you take that class, you are choosing a designation. The Center for Coaching Certification has the approval for you to focus in a specific area so you can call yourself a Certified Life Coach Specialist, a Certified Executive Coach Specialist, a Certified Business Coach Specialist, a Certified Career Coach Specialist, or a Certified Wellness Coach Specialist.  If you want a designation that cites your niche you have that opportunity.

Accurately naming your certification and/or credential is your credibility, your accountability, and your demonstration of your commitment to quality.  This speaks to your customers. It tells them what you offer, and for many, that you meet their standards. Be clear on what initials you have earned, and state them accurately.


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CMC versus MCC

The second level of training at the Center for Coaching Certification is called the Certified Master Coach. The International Coaching Federation offers a credential called the Master Certified Coach. These are completely different. CMC versus MCC

Specifically, the CMC at the Center for Coaching Certification is a 35-hour training program. The CPC is a prerequisite for it.  When you take these two training programs, you’ve completed the hours of training that are required to join the ICF as a member. If you wish to earn a credential from the ICF, there are additional requirements.

The Master Certified Coach credential that is given by the ICF says you must have your PCC credential first and hold it for three years. Then, to earn the MCC, you must have 200 hours of training, 2500 hours of experience logged as a coach, have the 10 hours of mentor coaching with a MCC coach, submit two recordings of yourself coaching that pass assessment at the MCC level, and pass the coach knowledge assessment.

If you are unsure whether you have earned the MCC, chances are you have not since you would know that you completed all of these requirements. As an additional note, at this time there are fewer than 1500 MCC coaches in the world!  There is obviously a huge difference between the CMC and the MCC. What is an easy way to remember this?

When you earn a credential with the ICF, the unique letter is first, “A”CC, “P”CC, or “M”CC.  At the Center for Coaching Certification, the unique letter is in the middle: C”P”C, or C”M”C. If you are ever unsure, simply look at your certificate. What are the words? What is the order of the first letter in the words?


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Avoid Making a Mistake with the Letters for Coaching Certification

What happens if somebody claims a coaching credential that they don’t have?  Sometimes this gets noticed, sometimes it doesn’t. When it does get noticed for the person who claimed a credential they don’t have, there’s embarrassment, there’s a loss of credibility, and potentially sanctions against them for claiming something they don’t have.  What if that claim was a completely innocent mistake, and they didn’t realize it?

Here is a great example. Let’s say a driver from a country that normally drives on the left side of the road goes to a country where the driving is done on the right side of the road.  They drive on the left side of the road.  A totally innocent mistake. Then say, as horrible as it may sound, they have a head on accident. Does it matter that the mistake was innocent? Are they still responsible? Ultimately, they’re still responsible. Avoid Making a Mistake with the Letters for Coaching Certification

This is true for us as coaches as well. Making the mistake in terms of what the letters are after our name, thus how we are presenting ourselves in terms of our credentials, is not an option. We are putting ourselves out there as a coach and our Code of Ethics calls on us to be accurate in how we represent ourselves.  Be sure you know what claim you are making. It does matter!

What is the reason for this blog?  Because unfortunately coaches are mistakenly reversing letters for their coaching certification to those of a coaching credential which is completely different!  There is a difference between CPC and PCC, and a difference between CMC and MCC.  In the upcoming blog posts we will explore this further!


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Demonstrating Credibility as a Coach

While technically, legally, anyone can call themselves a coach (including my dog 😊), like all professions have, coaching is moving toward either self-regulating or governments will step in and regulate it.  ICF is at the forefront of self-regulation and with the standards, competencies, and ethics is the gold standard as an organizing body for self-regulation in the profession.  There are other organizations in the coaching profession and at the same time ICF is the largest and as a profession, to successfully self-regulate, we must be collaborative.  Earning the opportunity for membership by completing coach training, and/or earning a credential, shows professionalism and includes accountability to the coaching code of ethics. Demonstrating Credibility as a Coach

A key reason for earning a credential is demonstrating your commitment to excellence and your credibility. Earning a credential shows you put in the time and the effort.  Think about it this way: ff somebody says, “oh, I don’t need to do that” does that mean they feel it’s unimportant to learn, and to continue to develop their skill set?  Is that the kind of professional you want to work with?  Earning a credential and maintaining that credential is a demonstration of your commitment to excellence because it shows your commitment to quality and to ongoing learning.

Above and beyond professionalism, many coaches earn a credential because their customers want it (the customers know it demonstrates excellence). Increasingly, people are finding that when organizations hire a coach, they are requesting or requiring a credential to the point where some coaches who have been working with people in an organization for years are now being told to earn their credential or lose the contract.

Earning the letters for coaching certification or credentialing is for the credibility, the accountability, and the demonstration of quality and because the customer demands it.  It boils down to what it means in terms of who you are as a coach: it means you yourself are committed to continuously upgrading your skill set, enhancing your services, ensuring the quality of what you do, and staying accountable to ethics and standards.  When someone is looking for a coach, your certification and/or credentialing are a very clear message that you care about what you do, and you care about the of quality of service you are providing.


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The Significance of Letters

What are we talking about with “the significance of letters”?  As a professional, it’s important to have credentials. This means having letters after your name. In some environments, it almost becomes a necessity.  It may be important to list as many letters as you can after your name to demonstrate your education, your expertise, and your skill in what you offer. The Significance of Letters

What does this have to do with coaching?  What are the reasons that people want to earn those letters, the credentials as a coach?  Often the biggest reason is credibility.  It demonstrates that you have knowledge and a skill.  Think about it this way: whatever professional you’re going to hire, do you want to know they’ve been trained, that they have the knowledge?  For example, no one is going to a doctor who doesn’t have the MD after their name.  Nor hire an attorney who doesn’t have the credentials. It is a very important way of saying, yes, you care about professionalism. It shows you care about learning and enhancing and upgrading your professional skills.  It shows you invested the time and effort in the education because you want to provide excellence as a coach.  It shows you have the knowledge and skill set to do this kind of work. It is about the credibility!

Another reason the letters are significant to coaches is accountability.  Specifically, when through coaching certification you earn the opportunity for membership in ICF, or earn a credential from the ICF, you’re accountable to the code of ethics. It also means you’ve done the coach specific training that teaches the competencies (because there are standards for membership which includes standards for training that you completed to earn membership). It is a clear demonstration of your coach training and that you are accountable to the code of ethics.


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Telling is a Fail – Asking is a Win

Think about parenting a teenager.  As much as parents want their children to listen to what they are told, sometimes teens just have to make their own mistakes. When they make their own mistakes, they learn and then they move forward.   Telling is a Fail – Asking is a Win

It’s a very similar concept with coaching clients. Whether or not the coach thinks the client came up with the right idea doesn’t matter. It is what the client thinks is the right idea. If it works great; if it doesn’t work, they’re going to learn from it and do something different next time.

During coach training we learn that telling someone is not coaching.  It’s unethical for a coach to be telling. Telling interferes with the client’s growth.  The coach’s job is to be a partner who sees the client as fully capable. An ethical coach stays true to the role as a coach.  This means asking the client questions and supporting them thinking it through to discover their own answer.

When a coach partners with a client to create their own plan, there is a return on the investment for coaching.  The client develops and grows as an individual and as a professional. They will develop confidence in themselves and in their ability to figure it out. Best of all, the client will own the answer they come up with which increases follow-through and success.

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The Impact of a Coach Telling

In the previous blog a scenario used in the coach training class on ethics was provided where the coach gave the client the answer.  In this blog, the possible outcomes are explored. The Impact of a Coach Telling

If the coach gives the answer and the client does not use it, how did the coach cause harm?  They caused harm because the coach interfered with the client figuring it out and doing it.  They interfered with the client coming up with their own idea. They also interfered with that person’s development. If I give you the answer, the next time you have a question, you’ll come back to me for the answer. This repeats itself over and over in the workplace. Think about managers that are overwhelmed.  Everybody is dependent on them for everything.  That manager has literally trained the people around them to come to them with their questions, because they keep answering. In this example, the coach gave the idea to the client.  They interfered with the client’s own development by giving the answer because the client had the ability to figure it out.

What if the client starts to use the idea and then runs into a problem and gives up – how did the coach cause harm?  There’s a couple of things going on: first, the clients may say, well, it’s about the idea the coach gave me – it doesn’t work. The client may think, “I tried; it didn’t work. It is the coach’s fault!”   One thing to be aware of is this.  Since it was not the client’s idea, they weren’t invested in figuring out how to make it work.  Since it was the coach’s idea, the client had no investment in making it work.  In this case it was easy for the client to give up and blame the coach. As in the first possible outcome, the coach interfered with the clients thinking and development.

What if the client uses the idea and it works? How did the coach cause harm in a situation like that?   Let’s go back to what we keep saying: the coach caused harm because they got in the client’s way.  The client had no opportunity to think about it, figure it out, and do it.  The coach gave them the answer.  The client has not grown, and the coach is developing an unnatural dependency on others.  The clients will be coming to the coach the next time with a challenge asking, what do I do?   Think also about the impact on their confidence. If they are consistently told what to do, and how to do it, are they building their own confidence in their own skill set in their own abilities? No, of course not. That’s been interfered with too.


Coaching is about partnering with the client to discover their own idea.  When they implement the idea, if they face a challenge, chances are they will figure out how to move past that challenge and to make it work.

What about ethics in this example?   During coaching certification we learn that giving the answer is not coaching. The coach stepped into a different role – serving as a trainer or consultant. If that happens, the return on investment goes down. When coaching follow your ethics and competencies and stay true to the role of coach for maximum value.


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What if a coach gives the answer?

During the coaching certification class on ethics, one of the examples we use is of a coach that was hired by an organization to work with one of their employees. The employee had been with a company for a long time.  The company valued the employee and wanted to keep them.  There was a performance issue. The company had attempted many different things to address this, and it wasn’t working.  Coaching was their last-ditch effort.  If this person addressed the performance gap, then they can be kept in their position.  If not, the person was to be terminated. It really boiled down to that. What if a coach gives the answer?

In this case, the coach was new, and they were super excited about working on this engagement.  The employee shared with them what the situation was, and the coach had an idea. The coach told the client, their idea, “oh, you can do this…”  The coach gave the client what to do and how to do it.  The client’s response was very positive. They said, “Oh, that’s a great idea. I love it. That’s perfect. It’s simple. I can do it. I know it will fix the problem.”

When the coach called me afterwards, they said, “you know, I know you’re going to tell me I shouldn’t have told them. The idea is just that it was such a great idea, and they really loved it.”

Explore the possible outcomes:

  • One possibility is the client just doesn’t do it. They say they’re going to do it, and they don’t. We’ve all experienced that with friends or others we give advice to where they think it’s a great idea and they say they’re going to do it and then they didn’t get there.
  • A different possibility is they start to do it and they run into a problem or challenge and then give up.
  • The third possibility is that they do it and it works.

The question then becomes, how did the coach cause harm?

In the next blog, the answer to this question for each of the possibilities will be explored.


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