I wonder what your first thoughts were when you saw the title to this month’s newsletter. If they were anything like mine, they amounted to a denial: “Actually, I don’t think I have any ethical blind spots.” And then I had to concede that perhaps that’s why they call them blind spots!
(In the name of ethics, I need to confess that my thinking today has been provoked and even influenced by a Robert Biswes-Diener’s chapter entitled “Why are Ethics so boring?” in his book, Positive Provocation.)
It’s all about doing the right thing! Yeah, but by whose standards? Who decides whether our actions are right or not? Does a lightning bolt (aka your professional body) strike you from ‘above’ if you do something wrong? After all, for each accreditation or renewal thereof, the ICF requires that we pledge to abide by its Code of Ethics.
Or is it about our own ethical thinking? Again, after all, the ICF will only come down on me if someone complains about my taking a wrong action, and they agree. This would suggest to me that the onus or responsibility is on me to act ethically. “Ethos” is a Greek word which, when translated, means “character” which my AI assistant defines as a person’s moral or ethical qualities, as well as their patterns of behaviour and temperament, often revealed through their actions.
To me, this means it’s about right action – what is the right thing to do in the circumstances you find yourself? If so, then there is right action and wrong action, right? It turns out that this is not the case. A lot of the answers to ethical dilemmas start with the words “it depends…” Methinks it is here that a lot of our ethical blind spots may be found (if we happen to look for them).
Let’s take a look at one of Biswes-Diener’s examples. We’re all clear that coaches shouldn’t have a sexual relationship with any of their clients – I hope we are all on the same page here! But what about having a friendly lunch with a client? Is that permissible? Yes, it depends…it depends, amongst other things, on your respective intentions, and / or the impact the lunch may or may not have on your coaching relationship.
So, what can we do to become more aware of our ethical blind spots? Again, I am influenced by Biswes- Diener. Firstly, we should build into our post-session self-reflection practice the notion of looking for (i.e., becoming more aware of) our potential blind spots. Secondly, try developing a framework for making ethical decisions. What are the three to five principles or values that you believe you should apply to your ethical decision-making?
Finally, “treat yellow lights like red lights” – err on the side of caution. As the late Arnold Palmer once said: “If there is one person out there that might think I am taking advantage of the rules, it’s not worth it.”
I’d really be interested in hearing from you what typical ethical blind spots might be. I hope that, at the very least, I have got you thinking, wherever that leads for you.
Let’s all make a world of difference in the world.
Until next month
Are these the type of things you are currently thinking about?
Is it time to re-sharpen my coaching edge?
- Do I need to speak to someone about a coaching client?
- How am I going to get more clients?
- I really need to get around to my (first or next) accreditation.
- What am I going to do about CPD?
- I wish I could belong to a community of coaches that experiences the same things as I do.
If any of these resonate with you, or if you are looking for a mentor coach or a coach supervisor or other form of support, please use this link to my diary to set up a FREE informal Virtual Coffee Chat with me.