The First Rule of Coaching Is...

You do not talk about your clients.

It's a simple rule, but all too often new coaches have a hard time adapting to this concept.

I remember when I first started coaching, I would use my client's first name when talking to another coach. It was a completely innocent thing, and I meant no harm by it. I honestly thought it was okay to use ordinary conversational rules, like using the person's name when referring to them.

Confidentiality in coaching follows the same rules as therapy. To "maintain the strictest levels of confidentiality with all client and sponsor information unless release is required by law." (ICF Code of Ethics, Part 2, Section 4)

What that means is no sharing of identifying information of any kind unless the client is going to bring harm to themselves or others.

Why is this important?

Let me illustrate this with an example. As a new coach, it's probably safe to say that you are coaching members of your family and friends. We all have to start somewhere.

One day your close friend, who is named Tina, refers to you a friend by the name of Stacy.

Stacy decides to work with you, and throughout coaching, she reveals some very personal things.

Then one day, Tina casually asks, "How the coaching is going with Stacy?"

It's a reasonable question, and you might be tempted to say something because you are friends, after all.

But think about it this way, if you saw a therapist, would you want them to tell your friend what transpired during your sessions? Would you want your doctor to share the details of your visits with your significant other? Or even your priest?

What takes place within the coaching space is not your story to tell.

And what I was doing early on in my coaching by merely sharing my client's name was a massive breach of trust.

So when you find yourself in this situation, all you need to do is tell Tina that you cannot talk about it and if she wants to know how things are going, encourage her to speak to Stacy directly. By doing this, it will give Stacy the opportunity to make her decision, it will release you from any obligation, and you get to keep your client.

Have you ever accidentiely breached your client's confidentiality? What happened?