ICF releases Updated Code of Ethics

This article has been updated January 2024.

Every 3 years, the International Coach Federation (ICF) undertakes a review of their Code of Ethics and releases the latest update.

The last ethics update was June 2015, so this is 4 years instead of 3 years since their last update. This additional time allowed for the inclusion of the Updated Core Competency Model changes to be incorporated.

You can access the latest ICF Code of Ethics here.

Further in this article you’ll find a link to my latest update of “Ethics Traps” for coaches. I highly recommend reading that as well.

This quote captures my feeling about being a Professional Coach; “Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do, and what is right to do.” – Potter Stewart

Professional Coaches have coaching skills-specific training, otherwise they are out of integrity calling themselves a (Professional) Coach.

It’s important that all coaches are guided by a Code of Ethics, given we are intimately involved with the hearts and minds of people most often going through some type of change in their lives.

Whether it’s in the work and/or personal environments, we have a responsibility to being ethical coaches who are conscious of our behavior, beliefs, mindset and overall impact on our clients. We need to be trained in coaching skills to call ourselves a Professional Coach.

Too many people still co-opt and use the term of Coach, when they have no coaching skills-specific training.

For me, that is an integrity issue. If you want to be a coach, get coaching skills training. If not, then please call yourself a Consultant, Mentor, Teacher, Trainer, or Guide. It’s the right thing to do by clients if you don’t have coaching skills training.

The continued misuse of the word Coach (which is different than a Sports Coach) is what keeps me a very involved member of the ICF. Professionalism and representing our profession with integrity, is of high value to me.

If you’re not a member of the ICF, then please consider doing so. Here are Member Eligibility Requirements. You will need to be involved in at least 60 hours of coach-specific training skills to be a member. There are so many ICF Accredited Coach Training Programs to choose from. You can search here.

I learned SO MUCH from coaching skills training!

If you are calling yourself a coach and haven’t taken at least 60 hours of specific training, I highly encourage you to do so. I was a successful Consultant with a lot of Personal Development training, prior to participating in coaching skills training.

From how to listen, my Presence and impact, how to offer observations, how to partner with a client to create a client-centered coaching session agreement. How to craft potentially powerful questions. How to keep the client ‘in the spotlight’ rather than me stepping into their spotlight. How to provide enormous value to a coaching client, without me telling them what to do. My expertise is in my coaching skills, and drawing out what the client already knows about themselves. Then any gap in knowledge; where to get that.

Upgrade your coaching skills regularly

In the Updated Core Competency Model, there’s a new Competency called, “Embodies a Coaching Mindset.” The second sub-point reads, “Engages in ongoing learning and development as a coach.”

Many coaches (as in other professions), never have their initial skill set re-evaluated, unless required to do so. For coaches, that’s most often when they apply for their next level of coaching credential.

To apply for your next credential, the ICF has a requirement of 10 hours of mentor coaching with an ICF credentialed coach of same or higher credential than you.

If you want to continue to be the best Professional Coach for your clients, commit to listening to a recording of your own coaching, at least once every 3-6 months. That alone will be informative (as many of my mentor coaching clients tell me!).

If you have a Growth Mindset, then consider participating in a mentor coaching relationship with a Qualified Mentor Coach, at least every 3 years, as part of your credential renewal. You can count the 10 hours of mentor coaching toward your credential renewal.

The skill set for master skill level (MCC) coaching is different than PCC. PCC is different than ACC level coaching. Ensure you continue to develop your skills so you can be an even more powerful change agent for your coaching clients.

Continually grow your knowledge of human emotion and behavior

If you’ve signed up to receive my monthly e-newsletter, you would also have received my, “Ethics Traps for Coaches” article. I’ve just updated it. You can access here

In this document, I write about our responsibility as coaches to continually upgrade our knowledge of normal human emotion, and where there might be trauma or early stages of grief, which may not be in the scope of what a coach can work with at at time. Become educated on how to recognize trauma in a client, and how to refer client’s when necessary to a specialized professional.

The ICF represents a variety of coaching contexts

The ICF has more than 140 Chapters in 70 countries. It truly is a global organization, which represents us as Professional Coaches.

ICF releases a Monthly Fact Sheet, which is very worthwhile to study, as the report gives current number of ICF member coaches, and the number of countries holding one of the three ICF Credentials. There is a breakdown of credential holders by country, by region, by credential. I periodically update and post the latest ICF Fact Sheet, which you can access here

ICF Core Values

The ICF Code of Ethics provides a link to the ICF Core Values, which I also post below.

As professional, member coaches of the International Coach Federation;

We are committed to reliability, openness, acceptance and congruence and consider all parts of the ICF community mutually accountable to uphold the following values:

Integrity: We uphold the highest standards both for the coaching profession and our organization.

Excellence: We set and demonstrate standards of excellence for professional coaching quality, qualification and competence.

Collaboration: We value the social connection and community building that occurs through collaborative partnership and co-created achievement.

Respect: We are inclusive and value the diversity and richness of our global stakeholders. We put people first, without compromising standards, policies and quality.

Ethical Standards

There are four sections in the ICF Code of Ethics:

Section 1 – Responsibility to clients

Section 2 – Responsibility to practice and performance

Section 3 – Responsibility to professionalism

Section 4 – Responsibility to society

In Closing….

Please do take some time to read and absorb the updated Code of Ethics. There is a lot to absorb! It is our responsibility to our clients, to society and to ourselves to be in integrity with what we are doing, when engaging in such an intimate relationship that coaching is.

Written by Carly Anderson, MCC


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