The ICF Code of Ethics states, “I will seek to avoid conflicts of interest and potential conflicts of interest and openly disclose any such conflicts. I will offer to remove myself when such a conflict arises.”
What is a conflict of interest? One coach will only coach executives from one company in an industry to avoid conflicts of interest. Another coach will specialize in an industry and all of their clients are in the same industry. Does the client know? What if a client is having an affair with someone else in the office? What if the coach finds out their client is having an affair with their friend and the friend is unaware the client is married? These scenarios may or may not be considered conflicts of interest.
In coaching certification at the Center for Coaching Certification, we provide a decision tree to help the coach process the considerations. It starts with the coach asking them self whether they can effectively coach this client. Then the coach must consider whether this could be perceived as a conflict of interest by the client. When a coach decides they will not be effective and will be removing them self as the coach, they must consider whether disclosing the conflict creates or adds to a problem.
With the over-arching view towards transparency, the coach must have a conversation with their client(s) about an actual or possible conflict of interest.