The ICF Philosophy and Definition of Coaching, Pledge of Ethics, and Standards of Ethical Conduct


The ICF Philosophy of Coaching

The International Coach Federation adheres to a form of coaching that honors the client as the expert in his/her life and work, believes that every client is creative, resourceful, and whole. Standing on this foundation, the coach's responsibility is to:
  • Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
  • Encourage client self-discovery
  • Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
  • Hold the client responsible and accountable

The ICF Definition of Coaching

Professional Coaching is an ongoing professional relationship that helps people produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses or organizations. Through the process of coaching, clients deepen their learning, improve their performance, and enhance their quality of life.

In each meeting, the client chooses the focus of conversation, while the coach listens and contributes observations and questions. This interaction creates clarity and moves the client into action. Coaching accelerates the client's progress by providing greater focus and awareness of choice. Coaching concentrates on where clients are now and what they are willing to do to get where they want to be in the future, recognizing that results are a matter of the client's intentions, choices and actions, supported by the coach's efforts and application of the coaching process.

The ICF Pledge of Ethics

As a professional coach, I acknowledge and agree to honor my ethical obligations to my coaching clients and colleagues and to the public at large. I pledge to comply with ICF Standards of Ethical Conduct, to treat people with dignity as independent and equal human beings, and to model these standards with those whom I coach. If I breach this Pledge of Ethics or any ICF Standards of Ethical Conduct, I agree that the ICF in its sole discretion may hold me accountable for so doing. I further agree that my accountability to the ICF for any breach may include loss of my ICF membership or my ICF credentialing.

The ICF Standards of Ethical Conduct

  1. I will conduct myself in a manner that reflects well on coaching as a profession and I will refrain from doing anything that harms the public's understanding or acceptance of coaching as a profession.

  2. I will accurately identify my level of coaching competence and I will not overstate my qualifications, expertise or experience as a coach.

  3. I will ensure that my coaching client understands the nature of coaching and the terms of the coaching agreement between us.

  4. I will not intentionally mislead or make false claims about what my client will receive from the coaching process or from me as their coach.

  5. I will respect the confidentiality of my client's information, except as otherwise authorized by my client, or as required by law.

  6. I will obtain informed permission from each of my clients before releasing their names as clients or references or any other client identifying information.

  7. I will be alert to noticing when my client is no longer benefiting from our coaching relationship and would be better served by another coach or by another resource and, at that time, I will encourage my client to make that change.

  8. I will seek to avoid conflicts between my interests and the interests of my clients.

  9. Whenever any actual conflict of interest or the potential for a conflict of interest arises, I will openly disclose it and fully discuss with my client how to deal with it in whatever way best serves my client.

  10. I will disclose to my client all anticipated compensation from third parties that I may receive for referrals or advice concerning that client.

  11. I will honor agreements I make in my coaching relationships, and construct clear agreements that may include confidentiality, progress reports, and other particulars. I will obtain the express consent of the person being coached before releasing information to another person compensating me.

  12. I will not give my clients or any prospective clients information or advice I know to be misleading or beyond my competence.

  13. I will respect and honor the efforts and contributions of others.

  14. I will respect the creative and written work of others in developing my own materials.

  15. I will use ICF member contact information (email addresses, telephone numbers, etc.) only in the manner and to the extent authorized by the ICF.



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