The first people our students or graduates are likely to coach will most likely be willing friends and family who want to support you as you venture into your new profession. While this may prove challenging – to let go of your agenda for a loved one, to resist giving advice, or direction and to release judgment and trust the wisdom of your “client” – there is no better way to practice your coaching competencies. If you can be fully present and objective with someone you know and love, imagine how much easier it will be to do this with someone you just met?
Some may ask, “But is it ethical to coach a friend or family member?” According to the International Coaching Federation it is as long as you explain in advance how your role as a coach is different than your role as a friend or family member and you are conscious of any conflict or potential conflict of interest, openly disclose any such conflict and offer to remove yourself if a conflict arises.
Aside from the ethical considerations, there are some practical questions to ask yourself when taking on a friend or family member as a client:
- Am I differentiating this friendship from a client-coach relationship?
- Am I less objective in sessions because I want to preserve a friendship?
- Am I less less likely to ask provocative questions?
- Am I more likely to empathize rather than ask a question to move the client beyond their comfort zone?
- Am I willing to push for accountability?
- What is my tendency to get over-involved or have a vested interest in a family member or friend "doing the right thing?"
Keep in mind that our friendships and family relationships are very important to us. Take time to consider what you are risking if you coach friends or family. Perhaps write down your personal guidelines and ethics for such clients to include:
- What boundaries do you need to set and enforce?
- In what circumstances will you be comfortable or uncomfortable with such dual roles?
- What perimeters or expectations do you want to set when a friend or family member asks you to coach them?
You’ll want to be clear that coaching is more than a friendly chat. It is a creative partnership, focusing on designing and implementing specific, meaningful changes in a personal or professional life.
This of course requires a heighten level of self awareness and reflection on your part. You must be rigorously honest about your intentions in the coaching and what obstacles or challenges could prohibit your best coaching. And then do the right thing by you and your client.