Coaching leaders: How can I truly coach anyone who does not share my values?

I talked earlier about true leadership and earning the trust and respect from their clients, employees and shareholders.


What does that mean for me as an executive coach? How can I truly serve anyone who does not aspire and commit to my values?


As I was thinking about this question a dear friend came to mind. Wendy Johnson is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC).  In May of last year, during the WABC International Conference in Vancouver, Canada, Ms Johnson delivered a memorable opening speech in which she answered that question.


Here are a few of her thoughts which she addressed to us, professional business coaches from all over the world:


“To earn the right to demand of others, we must first demand even more of ourselves.

What are the essential values required of any business coach? I believe there are five:


1. Authenticity


2. Integrity


3. Courage


4. Perseverance


5. Relentless self-improvement


1.         Authenticity—It was Shakespeare who said, “This above all: to thine own self be true.” True to our values, consistently and constantly; centered in our intention; focused in our purpose. How can we be of any value to another unless we are first true to ourselves?


2.         Integrity—When values are integrated into behaviors, and continually evidenced in actions, we demonstrate integrity. We say what we mean, and we mean what we say; we follow through. Our actions speak. Words may confuse, but actions define. As Alfred Adler, Austrian psychiatrist, stated: “Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. 1st movement.”


3.         Courage—Above all, we must commit to doing what we believe to be right by testing our decisions and actions against our values, and by challenging our clients to do the same.


4.         Perseverance—Stick-to-itiveness is critical for the people we serve. It demonstrates our loyalty; it fires their courage. And finally …


5.         Relentless self-improvement—To deliver to the highest standards of our professionalism, I believe it is critical that we regularly examine our intentions, our motivations and our competence.


To summarize, our values as business coaches—authenticity, integrity, courage, perseverance and relentless self-improvement—all speak to the common good in their realization—one and for all!


So we ask ourselves what I believe is a critical question. Recognizing and living our values as we have defined them, how can we truly serve anyone who does not aspire and commit to those same values?


To remain aligned to our values in qualifying our clients is essential to our process. We must test the evidence of their actions born out of their behaviors, and not simply be persuaded by their words, before we can engage in a meaningful and lasting relationship”.


Ms Johnson spoke as a true leader. That’s why I am such a proud member of the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches.


Next time more on ethics.


  1. Its hard to argue with values such authenticity, integrity, courage, perseverance and relentless self-improvement in a coach but we may not see all (or even any) of these in our clients. To be effective as coaches, I believe that we are often well served not to ignore these imporant aspirations in terms of our behaviour but to flex our style and approach when it is appropriate to do so-hence a client who lacks authenticity or perseverance is not judged negatively for these behaviours.
    Jon Warner

  2. Wise words Jon, thanks for your comment!
    You’ve touched one of the three principles of coaching:
    1. suspend judgment
    2. focus on the future
    3. action oriented

    It’s always about the coachee and never about the coach. To be effective as coaches we observe their actions and check for alignment with their values. If we notice a discrepancy between the two, then it becomes a great topic for a discussion. If we find a discrepancy between their core values and those of our own, then we have to ask ourselves whether or not we can continue the coaching relationship without compromising our own values.

    It has happened to me in my practice that I had to terminate a coaching engagement because of that. I think every coach, in order to stay true to him/herself has the right, the obligation and the duty to reconsider an arrangement in light of those findings.

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