Issue 41

UTD Coaching News

ICF Code of Ethics – Can You Read Between the Lines?

    By Vicki Escude, M.A., MCC

(Note:  Send your Ethics questions for clarification to , and please include the number of the ethics code relating to your question.)

Becoming a credentialed coach involves learning about and discussing the standards of behavior and ethics as set by the International Coach Federation.  Indeed, having clearly defined ethics as well as a means for reporting violations and providing consequences supports coaching to be a respected profession.

Did you know that the ethics code is dynamic, continually being examined and continually being updated?  As we gain more experience and are aware of more situations in which coaches find themselves, the Ethics Committee discusses and refines the code to make sure it is currently relevant.

Are you clear about the terms used in the ICF Code of Ethics?  Can you answer these questions? 

  • Is the person you are coaching your client, or is the company that is paying you your client?
  • How long must a coaching relationship last to be considered “professional coaching?”
  • What kinds of coaching relationships are there, other than professional?


The answers to these questions are below. 

In order to clarify roles in the coaching relationship it is often necessary to distinguish between the client and the sponsor.  In most cases, the client and sponsor is the same person and therefore jointly referred to as the client. 

The following answers are quoted from the ICF Code of Ethics Frequently Asked Questions, used with permission of the ICF:

Client: The “client” is the person(s) being coached.

Sponsor: The “sponsor” is the entity (including its representatives) paying for and/or arranging for coaching services to be provided.  In all cases, coaching engagement contracts or agreements should clearly establish the rights, roles, and responsibilities for both the client and sponsor if they are not the same persons.

Q: Can you give me an example of a sponsor?

A: A sponsor might be a parent, an agency who contracts out coaches, or a business hiring coaches for its employees.

Q: Must the coaching relationship last over a certain amount of time to be considered professional?

A: The coaching process does take time.  Using coaching competencies once or twice with someone does not necessarily constitute a coaching relationship. The criteria to use are whether there are coachable results, and an agreement that spells out roles and responsibilities of the coach and the client.

Q: What kinds of coaching relationships are there other than professional? 

A: You might use coaching competencies in coaching your child and there is no agreement.  You are in a relationship and you might be using coaching competencies, yet that does not mean it is a professional coaching relationship.

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! 

Warm regards,

Vicki Escudé


VICKI ESCUDE, M.A., MCC, Mentor Coach, is a pioneer in the coaching profession, promoting the professionalism of coaching for over 14 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 practice, and is author of several coaching books:  Getting Everything You Want!  Coaching for Mastery; Create Your Day with Intention; and the soon-to-be published, Fast-Track Leader series for Get to the Point Books.


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