“What did my employee say?” Confidentiality in Executive Coaching


When working with corporate clients contracting and particularly the challenge of confidentiality is of utmost importance. However, when starting out on your coaching career it might be easy to slip on these, or simply forget to mention them in the original pre-coaching meeting!

One word of advice from us though. Don’t!

Setting clear boundaries in relation to confidentiality is critical not only from an ethical point of view but also because if it’s not done properly it can really limit or even damage the coaching relationship. Prior to the start of any corporate coaching programme, you as the coach, need to ensure that a meeting with the parties involved in the process is conducted. Typically this would be the person being coached, the sponsor financing the coaching (usually HR or L&D) and also the line manager of the coachee.

What should this three-way conversation include?

  1. Clear boundaries in relation to how much information the coach can revert back to the organisation. Best practice of course is to ensure that the coachee understands that anything illegal must be reported back. In addition, our experience and from a best practice point of view it would be ideal if all coaching conversations were completely confidential between the coach and coachee.

  2. An overview of the role of the line manager in this process. Typically the coachee should report back to the line manager with progress. They can decide how much information they want to share with their manager.

  3. That a coaching programme can lead to both professional and personal development. This is particularly important if a coach is working in a holistic way since changes are expected to be seen not only in the individual’s working life but also in their personal one. All of our coaches work in this matter since we firmly believe that you need to tackle both aspects to see progress.

  4. The idea that coaching comes with a finite number of sessions. With our coachees we tend to work on a 6 session basis. Depending on the situation we can add a couple more sessions but anything further tends to really impact on the effectiveness of the coaching and ownership from the coachee

  5. Another element that organisations expect is a discussion of evaluation. With our clients we really drive the idea of Return on Expectations rather than Return on Investment. Understanding what the expectations of your client and stakeholders are is critical here – you need to know what they want!

Although these are just pointers to help you out with your meeting there is a lot more work that you could cover. Of course reinforcing that coaching is not mentoring is also key, however this should hopefully have been addressed at a prior stage.

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