Terminating the Coaching Relationship
By Vicki Escudé, M.A., M.C.C.
(Note: Send your Ethics questions for clarification to Vicki@excellentcoach.com , and please include the number of the ethics code relating to your question.)
An ICF Professional Coach agrees to practice the ICF Professional Core Competencies and pledges accountability to the ICF Code of Ethics. Although the Code provides guidelines for coaches, we must explore circumstances and situations, as well as use our critical thinking to choose how to act or react to issues that may arise.
One situation that may be problematic is knowing when or how to terminate the coaching relationship. What are the client’s rights? What are the coach’s rights? Further, what is the “right” action to take?
Termination of coaching involves more than the client bowing out. A client may be experiencing a temporary block to forward movement and think that he or she might not be benefiting from the coaching, and request a termination of the engagement. Discussion about this with the client, using the ICF Competencies of Creating Awareness, Powerful Questioning and Active Listening could serve to explore patterns or beliefs that are keeping the client stuck, and support the client to begin moving forward.
However, there may be circumstances in which the client wants to end the coaching relationship despite coaching intervention. This becomes a contractual issue, rather than a coaching issue. The ICF Code of Ethics speaks to the contractual obligations or rights.
Ask yourself these questions:
• What if my client wants to terminate the coaching relationship because of a change in his financial situation?
• What if my client wants to terminate the coaching relationship because he doesn’t think he is getting value?
• What if my client wants a full refund for the coaching, even though we are two-thirds through the agreed-upon coaching engagement?
• I, as a coach, am not seeing full commitment or progress with the coaching. Should I terminate the relationship?
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:
Code #19: I will respect the client’s right to terminate the coaching relationship at any point during the process, subject to the provisions of the agreement or contract. I will be alert to indications that the client is no longer benefiting from our coaching relationship.
Code #19 addresses the issue below:
Sample issue: My client paid in full and we agreed to 10 coaching meetings. After 6 meetings my client wants to stop. She says she wants her money back because she has not received the value she expected. Must I give it back?
Answer: If you did not clarify what might happen under these circumstances then you must discuss this with your client. You may attempt to negotiate with the client to be paid for services rendered to date. It would be advisable to return either the amount beyond services rendered to date, the entire amount minus an administrative fee, or the entire amount. Use your best judgment and remember that how you handle this will craft your reputation.
It seems that contracting is a key. Having clear policies in the coach’s contract, including termination policies, is essential, making sure the client and sponsor are fully aware of, and agree to, your terms. Because ethics are often contextual, as coaches we must also keep in mind what is in the best interest of the client as we choose our policies or make decisions about termination.
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!
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 15 years. She was among the first coach educators for UTD, 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 Ethics’ FAQs. Escudé has an active executive coaching and corporate coach training and mentoring 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.