How to avoid and manage conflicts of interest in coaching?

Posted on: 20 Nov 2020

While most of us can easily avoid blatant conflicts of interest in coaching, even the best of us can find ourselves in a pickle when we overlook some of the more subtle ways in which conflicts of interest can unexpectedly arise.


The ICF Code of Ethics defines a conflict of interest as “a situation in which an ICF Professional is involved in multiple interests where serving one interest could work against or be in conflict with another. This could be financial, personal or otherwise.”


We may think that we don’t do this, but in reality, it can be a very fine line… picture this:


Your twenty-eight year old daughter who still lives at home is making a major career decision. You offer to coach her and have your first session the next day and continue on a weekly basis over the next few weeks. You follow your standard GROW coaching process, but when you get to the Options, as the parent of your daughter, you realise that some of them might result in her living at home with meagre earnings for the rest of her life. Can you really serve your daughter as an impartial coach who is free of judgement?


It’s no surprise that the ICF Code of Ethics specifies that coaches need to be “sensitive to the implications of having multiple contracts and relationships with the same Client(s) and Sponsor(s) at the same time in order to avoid conflict of interest situations”. You can read more about avoiding and managing conflicts of interest here.


Coaching loved ones is a prime example. Although very tempting, most experienced coaches agree that it’s not worth the risk to attempt to coach a loved one. In fact, this is why, once or twice a year – particularly at traditional gift giving times like Christmas – ReciproCoach offers a gift coaching round.


As a participant in a gift coaching round, you are entitled to give your assigned coach to a loved one. This could be your partner, brother, mother, best friend or anyone else with whom you already share a close relationship that would normally prevent you from coaching them effectively. This allows you to give them coaching without the risk of a conflict of interest.


                                                                                                            (Registrations close Sunday, December 20)


I have participated in numerous ReciproCoach gift coaching rounds over the years and they are certainly some of my favorite ReciproCoach experiences. I have coached sisters, partners and best friends of my coaching colleagues. In return, so far my partner, mother and brother have been coached. I find that in gift coaching rounds the gratitude is doubled – it rolls in from the coachee as well as their ‘sponsor’ loved one.


ReciproCoach gift rounds are also an opportunity to give more coaching, without needing to receive more sessions yourself. This is particularly good if you are already involved in a peer coaching round and don’t need another coach yourself.


If you’d like to join our 2020 Christmas Gift Coaching Round (even if you don’t celebrate Christmas), and share coaching with one of your loved ones, registration closes on Sunday December 20. You will have all the information you need to be ready for Christmas and for your loved one to get started early in 2021.


Before you register, please make sure that your loved one is fully committed to receiving the coaching and understands that the gift requires them to receive 4 x 60min sessions within a 3-month period. It helps if they also understand that you are giving 4 x 60min sessions to another ReciproCoach’s loved one in return.


Spreading coaching that little bit further,

Kerryn Griffiths, PhD, PCC and Global ReciproCoach Coordinator