Are your ethical standards based on guesswork?

“Am I doing it right?” is a question that I often recognize as swimming in the subtext of what my clients bring into my coaching and especially supervision spaces. But what’s right and wrong is often a complex landscape, and not at all black and white.

I grew up with children’s tales and Hollywood stories of good and evil, neatly and obviously in distinct categories.

When I got older though I really resonated with the stories that would explore the “bad guy’s” good intentions, and highlight the “good guys” moral flaws and blind spots.

I remember vividly reading Ken Follet’s The Pillars of the Earth and finding myself empathising with the evil prince as I understood his drive and trauma. Of course he’s going to do evil things. To him they’re not even evil, they’re just what you do.

What we’re talking about when we try to figure out what’s right and wrong – is ethics.

Sounds boring to some, but once you ask some real life question and invite people to broaden their awareness around the impact of their actions – not so boring afterall, to say the least.

I was teaching ethics yesterday to a cohort of highly experienced coaches at the International Centre for Coaching Supervision, and we offer them a question that never fails to elicit an experience, and it’s a formidable “test” for checking into the ethical groundedness of any choice you’re making, whether that’s as a coach working with a client, or in any other situation, really:

Imagine, the thing you’re about to do will make the headlines in tomorrow’s news. Everybody you care about will find out what you’ve done, and why.

How do you feel? Is there a part of you that’s protesting? Why? Listen to that part? What does it have to say? How would you justify that this was indeed the right thing to do? What guided your decision making process? How easy or hard would it be to argue your case and defend your position against any criticism?

If you pass the headline test, you will have reflected more deeply on your choices than most people.

Though please try to resist any people pleasing tendencies that might turn up. The aim is not to make everybody else happy, it’s about doing the right thing, and we all know that “people” have a complicated relationship with ethical behaviour.

What other “tests” do you have to check your actions against ethical principles? Let me know by replying to this email.

With Love Yannick

P.S : Don’t Leave Ethics to Chance – Get expert coaching supervision so you can consistently make ethical decisions that benefit your clients and your practice. Schedule your FREE supervision consultation today!