Why professional standards?
The WABC Professional Standards for Business Coaches describe the practice of business coaches: what we do and don’t do. The document is intended to educate coaches, clients and the public, and to help clients and their sponsors and organizations understand what to expect from business coaching. As I am one of the members of the international task force who designed the Standards, I proudly present the them to you here.
In adopting professional standards, business coaching joins comparable occupations (e.g., psychology, human resources and management) in defining what makes our practice, and its contribution to clients, distinct. In doing so, we hope to further standardize the emerging profession and its practitioners, for the benefit of our clients and for the good of the public.
For the purposes of these standards, business coaching is defined as:
The process of engaging in regular, structured conversation with a client, with the goal of enhancing the client’s awareness and behavior so as to achieve business objectives for both the client and their organization.
For the purposes of these standards, client is defined as:
An individual or team who is within a business, profit or nonprofit organization, institution or government and who is the recipient of business coaching.
Business coaches are a diverse group of practitioners. They work in many sectors, including corporate, nonprofit and government, and they practice all over the world. Some are external coaches who serve a range of clients; others are internal coaches who work for one organization. Because each client is different, an effective business coach tailors each coaching engagement to meet the client’s and the organization’s needs, rather than taking a “one size fits all” approach.
Individual client circumstances and coaching styles aside, there are certain core standards that an effective business coach must adhere to. The following standards, grouped under 10 themes, outline the core knowledge and models of practice that an effective business coach applies in delivering coaching services.
Members of WABC, as part of their commitment to excellence in business coaching, view these professional standards as required practices for effective business coaches. WABC will oversee these standards and members’ adherence to them.
- Behave and manage my practice in a way that models exemplary professionalism and reflects well on the field of business coaching.
- Assume personal responsibility and accountability for my professional decisions and actions.
- Treat people fairly and with respect and dignity.
- Uphold WABC’s ethical guidelines, standards, and terms and policies.
- Honor all agreements made in the context of business coaching relationships, and all other legal and ethical obligations to the client and others involved in the coaching engagement (e.g., sponsor, organization, colleagues).
- Consider whether any potential engagement might create an actual or perceived conflict of interest and, if a conflict is identified, declare it and take all reasonable steps to protect the interests of the client and others involved in the coaching engagement.
- Serve the client to the highest possible standards, in a way that is appropriate to the client’s needs and the organization’s goals.
- Keep the client’s development and performance central to my work.
- Work to establish mutual trust and honest communication with the client.
- Be aware of the relevant values, ethical practices, confidentiality agreements, business practices and human resource policies within the client’s organization, and withdraw if these impede my ability to serve the client.
- Be aware of relevant legislation, regulations and standards in the contexts in which I practice, and never intentionally contravene them.
- Recognize, and act only within, the limits of my own competence, and refer to other professionals when appropriate.
- Understand the importance of context in my work, and display a strong grounding in fundamental business knowledge and processes.
- Ensure that I have the appropriate level of corporate knowledge to understand the developmental, political, commercial and environmental needs of the client and their organization.
- Ensure that the coaching engagement is appropriately aligned with the context of the client’s organization.
- Establish up front a clear and effective agreement for the coach-client relationship, strive to ensure that the client understands the terms, and refine the agreement when appropriate.
- Create a coherent process for my work in agreement with the client and others involved in the coaching engagement.
- Communicate with the client about what to expect from business coaching services, focusing on results and agreeing how outcomes of success will be measured, evaluated and realized.
- Ensure, before the coaching engagement begins, that a confidentiality agreement is in place to specify which information will and will not be shared, in which circumstances, with whom and how.
- Abide by the agreed-upon terms of confidentiality, except when they are superseded by matters of health, safety, ethics or legality.
- Protect the client’s assessment, performance and other personal data to the extent agreed upon in the confidentiality agreement.
- Understand how cultural dynamics and personal differences influence business relationships and outcomes.
- Work with the client as required to address diversity and personal differences in ways that improve business outcomes.
- Understand the potential preferences and biases associated with my own cultural and personal identity, and ensure that my communication and approach are appropriate to the client’s circumstances.
- Seek appropriate external feedback, on a regular basis, to maintain and improve my coaching effectiveness.
- Keep my learning and practice up to date through appropriate professional development, such as conference and workshop attendance, work-based learning, reading, research, training and supervision activities, presentations and involvement with WABC or other relevant professional associations.
- Set high standards for myself, and pursue challenging goals and performance excellence.
- Commit to the advancement of both my own knowledge base and that of the field of business coaching.
- Promote and uphold the good standing of WABC, and behave in a way that reflects well on its reputation.
- Observe and promote these professional standards as set out and as they may be revised from time to time.
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