Professional coaching standards

In the United Kingdom, there are a number of professional coaching organisations such as the Association for Coaching (AC), International Coaching Federation (ICF), European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) and the Association for Professional Executive Coaching and Supervision (APECS). All of these professional associations ask their members to abide by an ethical code of conduct.

In June 2011, the ICF, EMCC and others drafted a Professional Charter for Coaching and Mentoring which outlines recommendations regarding regulations, monitoring, reporting and independent investigation of coaching conduct (EESC, 2013). This charter could be the first step in unifying the professional code of practice for the vocation.

Contracting between coach and client at the senior and strategic level is vitally important as it sets out a number of conditions pertaining to the professional relationship. An overall objective with subsequent goals should be logged within the contract, this allows all parties to state what is important to themselves or the organisation. The definitive roles and responsibilities of each party will be outlined so that each may understand what is expected of them. Boundaries of operation are also vital to be included within the contract, this allows the client and coach to know the overall remit of the relationship.

Contracting can be even more important when used within a multi-stakeholder scenario. The overall client that agrees the contract may not be the actual personnel receiving the coaching or mentoring. The contract therefore enables all parties involved to be aware of the agreed interventions.

Coaching supervision has been identified as one source of support in the field of executive coaching. Professional coaches have also been encouraged and more recently mandated for coaches seeking accreditation by virtually all the professional coaching associations in the UK (APECS, AC, EMCC).

A study conducted on behalf of Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) (Hawkins & Schwenk, 2006) identified that less than 50% of coaches engaged in supervision. Reasons offered then and continue to be cited include: fear of exposure, fear of being shamed, delusions of grandeur, lack of curiosity, inability to find a supervisor, resistance to pay for the service (Hodge, 2016).

The importance of supervision at this level of coaching and mentoring can be captured in the CIPD (2006) definition of coaching supervision; “a structured formal process for coaches, with the help of a coaching supervisor, to attend to improving the quality of their coaching, grow their coaching capacity and support themselves and their practice. Supervision should also be a source of organisational learning”.

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