Money, Compensation, and the Coach-Client Relationship
By Vicki Escudé, M.A., M.C.C.
An ICF Professional Coach agrees to practice the ICF Professional Core Competencies and pledges accountability to the ICF Code of Ethics.
Coaches deal with all aspects of a client’s life. In that regard, a coaching relationship requires clarity and integrity with money. Money and compensation are addressed in the ICF Code of Ethics, which serves as a guideline for our agreements and disclosure of information to clients. Are you clear about what money agreements might impair the coach-client relationship?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Should I disclose to my client that I may receive a “commission” from a referral of that client to another professional?
- I have potential clients who do not have the money to pay for my services. Does the ICF Code of Ethics have a stance on bartering my services with a client?
- Aside from my coaching business, I have products I sell that would benefit my clients. May I market to my clients? Also, may I involve my clients in my multi-level marketing program?
The answers to these questions are below. The following answers are quoted from the ICF Code of Ethics Frequently Asked Questions, used with permission of the ICF:
Sample Situation A: I am coaching someone who needs a service. I know of a resource for him and I receive a referral fee from the resource. Do I have to disclose this to the client?
A: Yes you do.
Sample Situation B: I received a surprise gift of baseball tickets from my realtor after I referred my client to her. Must I tell my client I received these tickets?
A: If the gift was not anticipated and happens after the referral is made, no disclosure is necessary.
Code #10 addresses the issues in Sample Situations A and B. It states: I will disclose to my client and his or her sponsor all anticipated compensation from third parties that I may pay or receive for referrals of that client.
Sample Situation C: My client says she does not have the money to pay for my coaching services and requests to barter. She believes she cannot make enough money to pay for the things she wants. Does her belief impair the coaching relationship?
A: It might, so you would need to explore further before coming to a conclusion.
Code #11 addresses the issue in Sample Situation C. It states: I will only barter for services, goods or other non-monetary remuneration when it will not impair the coaching relationship.
Sample Situation D: If I have a multi-level marketing business, can I sell my product to my coaching clients?
A: The coaching relationship might be impaired if you sell other products to the client, as the client might perceive undue pressure to purchase from you.
Code #12 addresses the issue in Sample Situation D. It states: I will not knowingly take any personal, professional, or monetary advantage or benefit of the coach-client relationship, except by a form of compensation as agreed in the agreement or contract.
The ICF Code of Ethics takes on a richer meaning when it can be applied to specific situations with clarity. Almost every guideline has a gray area – a point needing interpretation. As we explore the published FAQs, perhaps we can support the further refinement of our profession’s standards of behavior.
If you have an ethics question that you would like to have answered, please let me know and I will initiate discussion and hopefully help you find clarity. Your questions will enhance our professional progress!
(Note: Send your Ethics questions for clarification to Vicki@excellentcoach.com , and please include the number of the ethics code relating to your question.)
VICKI ESCUDE, M.A., MCC, Mentor Coach, is a pioneer in the coaching profession, promoting the professionalism of coaching to several areas of the country for over 14 years. She was among the first coach educators for UT Dallas, Success Unlimited Network®, LLC (SUN), and Strategic Executive Coaching Alliance (SECA). Escudé served on the Board of Directors for the ICF, and was Board Liaison to the Ethics Committee. She has subsequently been a member of the Ethics Committee for several years, and was on the subcommittee to develop the ICF Code of EthicsFAQs. Escudé has an active executive coaching and corporate coach training practice, and is author of several coaching books: Getting Everything You Want! Coaching for Mastery; Create Your Day with Intention in English, Portuguese and Spanish, and the Fast-Track Leader series published by Get-to-the-Point Books.