Can I coach friends and family members?

Some coaches leave executive or higher-level positions that brought with them impressive contact lists and leads; other new coaches, who are possibly recent graduates of coaching schools or who may never have created a funnel before, may be willing to entertain the idea of starting with onboarding friends and family members as their first clients. 

Here are some things to consider if that’s the direction you’re considering.

This might be a professional challenge. You’ve recently completed your certification. You have an agenda. You have a specific process you’d like to follow. But your family member is a tough cookie, and they’re asking you to let go of your process and procedures. They’re resistant to your advice. They’re refusing to take direction. They feel you’re being judgmental and unsupportive of their path.

What do you do?

Take this lesson and welcome it with open arms. Family member or not, you’re bound to come across clients in your coaching career who are unwilling to embrace your guidance. This is when you can practice your coaching competencies, your patience, your compassion, your understanding. This is when you can learn how good you really can be at being present, objective and open with another human being, no matter who they are. 

Could this be unethical? Although an unregulated industry, many coaches turn to the Internal Coaching Federation for support and guidance. According to the ICF, so long as you explain clearly — and in advance — that you have responsibilities as their coach that differ from what you offer as a friend or family member, it is not unethical for you to take them on as a client. Having said this, be cognizant and aware of any conflicts there may be, and take care to be exceedingly respectful of their privacy. Unless required by law, you must not disclose any information they share with you in your sessions. Your friends and family deserve as much respect and privacy as any other paying client. 

What other things should I think about if I take on a friend or family member as a coachee?

  • Can I ensure I’m being objective?
  • Am I trying to preserve the friendship or am I keeping their best interests at heart?
  • Am I still asking thought-provoking questions?
  • Am I still pushing for accountability without judgement?
  • Am I able to push them out of their comfort zone or am I being more empathetic because I know them?
  • Can I set healthy boundaries?

Taking on anyone as a client is a major responsibility; perhaps more so when that client happens to be someone you already know and love. Although some may start with friends and family to get their feet wet in coaching, other coaches decide to take professional clients on first — those with whom they have zero history — before they take on people they know. 

Share on linkedin
Share on facebook
Share on twitter