When to fire a client!

Have you ever “fired” a client? Can you “fire” a client? We discussed this in our SF Coaching Masterclass the other day when we were speaking about Coaching Ethics. Here is what the ICF and EMCC codes of ethics say about this:

ICF: italics / EMCC: straight

When the client is aiming at something dishonest, unlawful, unprofessional, discriminatory, illegal or of harm for self and others:

2.12 Members will act within applicable law and not in any way encourage, assist or collude with conduct which is dishonest, unlawful, unprofessional or discriminatory.

2.14 Members will have a clear agreement with clients and sponsors about the conditions under which confidentiality will not be maintained (e.g. illegal activity, danger to self or others) and gain agreement to that limit of confidentiality where possible unless the release of information is required by law.

5. Have a clear understanding with both Clients and Sponsors or interested parties about the conditions under which information will not be kept confidential (e.g., illegal activity, if required by law, pursuant to valid court order or subpoena; imminent or likely risk of danger to self or to others; etc.). Where I reasonably believe one of the above circumstances is applicable, I may need to inform appropriate authorities

In my view, this is a tough one, as “dishonest, unprofessional, discriminatory and harm” are very stretchable terms which may be different for each coach. “Unlawful and illegal” are a bit easier, but then coaches are most often not lawyers, so it is not always easy to gauge. I like the old image of the coach as a “coach”, a bus or horse-drawn carriage. As a driver of such a vehicle, you can decide if there are areas of the city that you would rather not drive into. So when you are not comfortable with the ethical choices of the client, in my view, it would be best to mention these differences respectfully and discover together with the client if a continuation of the engagement makes sense.

If you fall in love with a client:

2.19 Members will avoid any romantic or sexual relationship with current clients or sponsors. Further, members will be alert to the possibility of any potential sexual intimacy with the aforementioned parties and take appropriate action to avoid the intimacy or cancel the engagement in order to provide a safe environment.

24. Do not participate in any sexual or romantic engagement with Client(s) or Sponsor(s). I will be ever mindful of the level of intimacy appropriate for the relationship. I take the appropriate action to address the issue or cancel the coaching engagement.

Ok. This should not happen. But it does. We are all human and have human hearts. The one thing that is necessary if you start feeling romantic toward a client is to end the coaching relationship. Does this mean you cannot coach your spouse? Actually, no. But no-one can forbid you asking a good question.

If there are conflicts of interest:

2.24 Members will disclose any conflict (of interest) openly with the client and agree to withdraw from the relationship if a conflict arises which cannot be managed effectively

Of course — if we notice that a conflict of interest gets in the way of the coaching agreement, discuss the conflict of interest with your client and when in doubt, terminate the areement.

If the client wants to fire you:

2.25 Members will respect a client’s right to terminate an engagement at any point in the process, subject to the provisions of the coaching, mentoring or supervision service agreement.

9. Respect all parties’ right to terminate the coaching relationship at any point for any reason during the coaching process subject to the provisions of the agreement.

I don’t think I need to say anything about this – of course, we can only coach those who give us a mandate.

If the client is not perceiving a value from the coaching process or the need another professional:

8. Remain alert to indications that there might be a shift in the value received from the coaching relationship. If so, make a change in the relationship or encourage the Client(s)/Sponsor(s) to seek another coach, seek another professional or use a different resource.

2.26 Members will encourage the client or sponsor to terminate the coaching, mentoring or supervision engagement if it is believed that the client would be better served by another practising member or a different form of professional help.

In my view, exploring the best resource for a client is really important. Coaches need to be aware that coaching is not a panacea: we need to be able to refer to psychotherapists, doctors, family therapists, lawyers when we are realizing that our coaching is not what the client needs first and formost.

If you are dead or incapacitated:

2.28 Members are required to have a provision for transfer of current clients and dissemination of records in the event of the member’s incapacitation, or termination of practice.

This is a bit morbid, but yes, it does make sense to think about what will happen to your clients should you fall off the face of the planet.

If you are not fit, healthy or there are other limitations or circumstances which do not allow you to practice safely and helpfully:

4.2 Members will be fit and healthy enough to practice. If they are not, or are unsure if they are able to practice safely for health reasons, they will seek professional guidance or support. Where necessary or appropriate, the practising member should manage the termination of their work with the client and refer the client to an alternative practising member.

17. Recognize my personal limitations or circumstances that may impair, conflict with or interfere with my coaching performance or my professional coaching relationships. I will reach out for support to determine the action to be taken and, if necessary, promptly seek relevant professional guidance. This may include suspending or terminating my coaching relationship(s).

Ha! A great excuse for good self-care! I am joking, you should not need an excuse for self-care. However, if you don’t think you are in a good enough space to coach longer term, cancelling your engagements is the professional thing to do.

If your bias does not allow you to see the client with unconditional positive regard:

3.5 Members will be cognisant of the potential for unconscious bias and seek to ensure that they take a respectful and inclusive approach, which embraces and explores individual difference.

25. Avoid discrimination by maintaining fairness and equality in all activities and operations, while respecting local rules and cultural practices. This includes, but is not limited to, discrimination on the basis of age, race, gender expression, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability or military status.

We are not saints. At least last time I looked in the mirror, I could not find a halo. So, yes. There will be people, groups, even just mannerism or other things that make it hard for you to be supportive of a client. If you feel yourself cringe before a meeting — you are not the right coach. Respectfully communicate that you don’t want to continue the coaching contract, without adding insult to injury by mentioning your bias.

So when do you “fire” a client? Actually, never. You don’t “fire” them, you have a respectful conversation about the sense and non-sense of continuing the coaching relationship. But “fire” makes for a much more clickable headline :-), so please forgive me :-).

When writing this, I was reminded again how useful the EMCC global code of ethics and the ICF code of ethics are. Have a look at the EMCC and ICF websites if you are interested. There is a lot of interesting material.

For confidential discussions with your colleagues, information on our programs, demo-coachings and actually any topic that you would like to discuss, why not join one of our free coaching meetups and exchanges:

Have you ever “fired” a client? Can you “fire” a client? We discussed this in our SF Coaching Masterclass the other day when we were speaking about Coaching Ethics. Here is what the ICF and EMCC codes of ethics say about this:

ICF: italics / EMCC: straight

When the client is aiming at something dishonest, unlawful, unprofessional, discriminatory, illegal or of harm for self and others

2.12 Members will act within applicable law and not in any way encourage, assist or collude with conduct which is dishonest, unlawful, unprofessional or discriminatory.

2.14 Members will have a clear agreement with clients and sponsors about the conditions under which confidentiality will not be maintained (e.g. illegal activity, danger to self or others) and gain agreement to that limit of confidentiality where possible unless the release of information is required by law.

5. Have a clear understanding with both Clients and Sponsors or interested parties about the conditions under which information will not be kept confidential (e.g., illegal activity, if required by law, pursuant to valid court order or subpoena; imminent or likely risk of danger to self or to others; etc.). Where I reasonably believe one of the above circumstances is applicable, I may need to inform appropriate authorities

In my view, this is a tough one, as “dishonest, unprofessional, discriminatory and harm” are very stretchable terms which may be different for each coach. “Unlawful and illegal” are a bit easier, but then coaches are most often not lawyers, so it is not always easy to gauge. I like the old image of the coach as a “coach”, a bus or horse-drawn carriage. As a driver of such a vehicle, you can decide if there are areas of the city that you would rather not drive into. So when you are not comfortable with the ethical choices of the client, in my view, it would be best to mention these differences respectfully and discover together with the client if a continuation of the engagement makes sense.

If you fall in love with a client:

2.19 Members will avoid any romantic or sexual relationship with current clients or sponsors. Further, members will be alert to the possibility of any potential sexual intimacy with the aforementioned parties and take appropriate action to avoid the intimacy or cancel the engagement in order to provide a safe environment.

24. Do not participate in any sexual or romantic engagement with Client(s) or Sponsor(s). I will be ever mindful of the level of intimacy appropriate for the relationship. I take the appropriate action to address the issue or cancel the coaching engagement.

Ok. This should not happen. But it does. We are all human and have human hearts. The one thing that is necessary if you start feeling romantic toward a client is to end the coaching relationship. Does this mean you cannot coach your spouse? Actually, no. But no-one can forbid you asking a good question.

If there are conflicts of interest:

2.24 Members will disclose any conflict (of interest) openly with the client and agree to withdraw from the relationship if a conflict arises which cannot be managed effectively

Of course — if we notice that a conflict of interest gets in the way of the coaching agreement, discuss the conflict of interest with your client and when in doubt, terminate the areement.

If the client wants to fire you:

2.25 Members will respect a client’s right to terminate an engagement at any point in the process, subject to the provisions of the coaching, mentoring or supervision service agreement.

9. Respect all parties’ right to terminate the coaching relationship at any point for any reason during the coaching process subject to the provisions of the agreement.

I don’t think I need to say anything about this – of course, we can only coach those who give us a mandate.

If the client is not perceiving a value from the coaching process or the need another professional:

8. Remain alert to indications that there might be a shift in the value received from the coaching relationship. If so, make a change in the relationship or encourage the Client(s)/Sponsor(s) to seek another coach, seek another professional or use a different resource.

2.26 Members will encourage the client or sponsor to terminate the coaching, mentoring or supervision engagement if it is believed that the client would be better served by another practising member or a different form of professional help.

In my view, exploring the best resource for a client is really important. Coaches need to be aware that coaching is not a panacea: we need to be able to refer to psychotherapists, doctors, family therapists, lawyers when we are realizing that our coaching is not what the client needs first and formost.

If you are dead or incapacitated:

2.28 Members are required to have a provision for transfer of current clients and dissemination of records in the event of the member’s incapacitation, or termination of practice.

This is a bit morbid, but yes, it does make sense to think about what will happen to your clients should you fall off the face of the planet.

If you are not fit, healthy or there are other limitations or circumstances which do not allow you to practice safely and helpfully:

4.2 Members will be fit and healthy enough to practice. If they are not, or are unsure if they are able to practice safely for health reasons, they will seek professional guidance or support. Where necessary or appropriate, the practising member should manage the termination of their work with the client and refer the client to an alternative practising member.

17. Recognize my personal limitations or circumstances that may impair, conflict with or interfere with my coaching performance or my professional coaching relationships. I will reach out for support to determine the action to be taken and, if necessary, promptly seek relevant professional guidance. This may include suspending or terminating my coaching relationship(s).

Ha! A great excuse for good self-care! I am joking, you should not need an excuse for self-care. However, if you don’t think you are in a good enough space to coach longer term, cancelling your engagements is the professional thing to do.

If your bias does not allow you to see the client with unconditional positive regard:

3.5 Members will be cognisant of the potential for unconscious bias and seek to ensure that they take a respectful and inclusive approach, which embraces and explores individual difference.

25. Avoid discrimination by maintaining fairness and equality in all activities and operations, while respecting local rules and cultural practices. This includes, but is not limited to, discrimination on the basis of age, race, gender expression, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability or military status.

We are not saints. At least last time I looked in the mirror, I could not find a halo. So, yes. There will be people, groups, even just mannerism or other things that make it hard for you to be supportive of a client. If you feel yourself cringe before a meeting — you are not the right coach. Respectfully communicate that you don’t want to continue the coaching contract, without adding insult to injury by mentioning your bias.

So when do you “fire” a client? Actually, never. You don’t “fire” them, you have a respectful conversation about the sense and non-sense of continuing the coaching relationship. But “fire” makes for a much more clickable headline :-), so please forgive me :-).

When writing this, I was reminded again how useful the EMCC global code of ethics and the ICF code of ethics are. Have a look at the EMCC and ICF websites if you are interested. There is a lot of interesting material.

For confidential discussions with your colleagues, information on our programs, demo-coachings and actually any topic that you would like to discuss, why not join one of our free coaching meetups and exchanges:

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