I’m glad to be part of a profession that has high ethics and standards. The International Coach Federation (ICF) code of ethics outlines not only how we treat our clients, but also our colleagues. And it is how we relate to each other where I see some coaches fall short.
I recently learned of an incident of someone stealing intellectual property from our company. This was a big – and bold – breach of ethics. That experience led me to reflect on how we as coaches and as leaders are called to be ethical and professional when referencing someone else’s content.
For example, we can say, “this is something I saw on the ABC coaching website, or at such-and-such workshop.” That simple, brief disclaimer instantly conveys your integrity in attributing the content to its source, rather than misrepresenting it as your own idea.
Responsible attribution is just as essential in writing as it is in conversation. Social media platforms give you the option to tag or link to the profile page of the individual or business that created the content. You can also link to the content itself, on social media, or from your own website or blog.
Why feel the need to misrepresent an idea that you’re sharing? Why not just say who said it, that you found it really helpful and why, and that you’re passing it along so your audience can benefit from it as well?
I understand, I really do. Back when I was a student coach, I worried people wouldn’t want to hire me so I was tempted to overrepresent myself. Yet I found people responded really well to me being candid about my status as a trainee. Coaching was still new, so people would be caught off guard, surprised that coaches went through training and supervision.
Leadership – solid, mature leadership – means not having to take credit for everything. A true leader does not need to be center stage; the spotlight can shift to other people.
As an employee or team member, I need to know that leaders will not be loosey-goosey with my intellectual property. If I see that happening, I’m not going to share as much or at all, and that means the leader and the organization won’t benefit from what I have to offer. Over time, that pattern will stifle innovation and creativity and inhibit trust and communication.
As solid as you may feel about your ethics as a coach in your work with clients, it’s worth asking yourself: Am I upholding my code of ethics in how I treat my colleagues and the intellectual property they’ve created?