An Agile Coaching Code of Ethics  (ACCoE) must solve or deter a problem that can occur during a coaching relationship. Even when a coaching gig is strictly transactional, the relationship begins before any coaching occurs and extends well after coaching. The length of the relationship requires anyone delivering coaching to carefully consider the explicit and implicit outcomes of their behaviors. The essay Why An Agile Coaching Code Of Ethics laid out five ways that outcomes are tangibly affected. The first three effects provide a tactical framework for shaping and guiding behavior (the second set of two are more strategic and we will discuss them later).  The tactical framework includes:

  • As a guide. A set of rules establishes a set of principles that serve as guardrails so that everyone in a coaching relationship synchronizes behavioral expectations. An ACCoE does not anticipate every possible behavior but rather delivers a set of propositions that serve as the foundation for a system of behavior. 
  • As a support. Like the foundation of a house, an ACCoE provides a framework for deciding how to act or what approach to take during coaching. While in many scenarios that a coach will encounter it will be easy to distinguish ethical from unethical behavior, coaches will need a tool to make decisions when faced with gray zones. For example, if a “coachee” tells a coach that a piece of work will be late should a coach breach a coachee’s confidence? Without any extra context, the answer is pretty black and white, breaching the person’s confidence would be unethical. If the scenario would violate the law or if the work being late would impact human life and safety, the ethical answer would be equally as obvious (after trying to help the person come forward themselves). If the scenario becomes murky, for example, if not reporting the issue (breaking confidence) might be against the law, a coach will need a decision framework for evaluating the right thing to do. 
  • As a deterrence. Innocent breaches of ethics can easily occur if there is no code of ethics available to provide guidance.  A few months ago, I was driving to a wedding in a rural part of Ohio.  As I left a small town via a county road, I could not find a sign with a speed limit. Instead of flooring the accelerator and driving as fast as the circumstances would allow, I remembered that in Ohio unmarked two-lane roads had a speed limit. I did not remember the exact speed but I knew it could not be 70 MPH so I settled on 55. The knowledge of the rules kept me from inadvertently breaking the law. Establishing and then training coaches on an ACCoE will help to deter coaches from making the wrong decisions because they don’t know any better. 

A few examples of agile coaching ethics statements highlight how an ACCoE can have an impact:

  • Ensuring the relationship is valuable for both coach and the client
  1. I will ensure that the relationship remains valuable and I won’t extend it unnecessarily.
  2. I will be honest about any perception of declining value.

As A Guide: A coaching engagement must be structured to deliver and measure value or it will be hard to test whether value is being delivered.

As A Support: Over time any specific coaching engagement (internal or external) will decline in value, as a coach you must check the value you are delivering. If you are not delivering value, ethics provide the need impetus to make a change in what you are doing or have the hard conversation about disengaging.

As A Deterrence: Once a relationship is established, it is relatively easy and comfortable to continue selling a coaching relationship (termed farming in sales jargon that connotes maximizing the return from a client). Farming a client is unethical from an Agile Coach’s point-of-view.

An Agile Coaching Code of Ethics is a toolset that helps coaches, the people that hire them, and those they coach to set expectations about what will happen before and after establishing a relationship. 

Next – Impacting the bigger picture