So far in these columns we have discussed mainly methodological issues in research such as identifying your own perspective and engaging your community. While musing this week on where to go next, I found myself faced with a number of my own research challenges and realized that all of them revolved around research ethics. So I thought it was high time we opened up that can of worms!

As practitioners, we all aspire to work ethically with our clients. We make ourselves aware of codes of ethics and breathe a sigh of relief that we have a clear framework to steer us out of some of coaching’s trickier situations! So, as practitioner researchers, is that enough or do we need a separate ethical framework specific to research?

After all, we do a number of similar things as researchers and as coaches—we uncover an individual’s truth through question and challenge, explore meaning through analysis and synthesis, and may even experiment with new behaviors and design alternatives. In short, the initial stages of most coaching models mirror those of the research cycle, and the skills the coach and researcher bring to interventions are very similar. Surely we can use the same ethical framework for research as for coaching!

The answer to my mind is no—we need to go further for a number of reasons. The main one is the care of your participants. When you undertake any research, you are hoping that your participants will give you their time and engagement to provide you with their perspectives, thoughts, and feelings on the research topic. In return, they get the opportunity to have their voice heard. That’s it! Nothing more.

So the balance of “gifts” between researcher and participants is rather one-sided. You are getting a wealth of information and knowledge from your participants; they are giving you their hopes, considerations, and reflections. They are prompting your thinking, shining a light on issues hitherto uncovered, and generally exposing their opinions/thoughts/feelings to your scrutiny and trusting you with it all. Your participants are going to provide you with the building blocks of the entire study. You are simply asking the questions. As a researcher I am left feeling profoundly grateful!

I owe my participants a debt: to take care of what they have given me and what I do with it. I need to make sure that it is kept secure and, when reporting my study, I need to keep my participants’ safety uppermost in my mind. It is not just putting a tick in a box, but a sincere undertaking that acknowledges the debt of gratitude I owe to my participants, placing the burden of care squarely on my shoulders as the researcher.

Poorly run practitioner research can have devastating effects if we do not keep to a tight ethical framework. One veterinary surgeon I knew, interested in the development of diagnostic skills in young practitioners, designed an inquiry that would have resulted in his sharing his opinion of the skills of a small group of four vets with their boss. It would have been interesting to see who would have been the first vet to sue after being dismissed from their post. A quick rugby tackle by his research supervisor (me!) stopped that design going live, but it threw light on how ethical dilemmas emerge as soon as we start looking.

But it is not all bad news—there is a range of research ethical codes available from the major professional bodies. Best practice, such as a clear contract between you and your participants at the beginning, is also out there in the many books on research practice. But we also need to develop good internal ethical awareness, as no standardized code will cover all eventualities.

One rule of thumb that helps inform me is to consider the information given by a participant (in whatever form) as remaining their property. It is not something the researcher can use as he or she sees fit, but is, instead, a prized possession such as a work of art. An artist remains the spiritual owner of his/her art and the collector simply a custodian of the work. Its value comes from who created it. In a similar way, the participants continue to “own” their data and must give their permission for whatever happens to it. This will mean that we need to check back with our participants to ensure that we are correct in what we have heard from them, that they are amenable to their information being included, and that they give us explicit permission when we want to use quotes from them—even when these are unattributed.

This stance also stops us “giving” our data away to others, even fellow researchers, and this is not a bad thing. Data is bespoke to the study within which it was collected—a product of the question, design, methodology, and instrument used. Rarely is it transferable in its raw form. The outputs of the data analysis can be transferable and of general use, but not the raw data itself.

So keep ethically aware and you are not only taking your participants’ gifts to you seriously, but you are taking your own research and work seriously!

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2009, Volume 5, Issue 2).

Worth a Look

The British Psychological Society code of research ethics.

Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis

Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis is a senior researcher and education coach with the Professional Development Foundation. The author of more than 60 research articles and studies, her recent book The Case for Coaching, presenting a literature review with research case studies and interviews from over 20 organizations on coaching efficacy, was published in 2006 by CIPD, UK.

The objective is simple: Better decision making. The only issue is that there are so many different views on what we mean by “better.” At the core of all decision making is the need to balance power with responsibility as the vehicle for resolving the ‘better’ question. This article explores why that is so difficult. It also argues that exploring the concept of wisdom can provide invaluable insights into how to achieve the most effective balance between power and responsibility, which is central to what our values mean in practice, as well as about how we incorporate ethics into our decision making.

Wise decision making, inevitably, involves moral/ethical choices. It is not surprising that comments we might define as wisdom are essentially comments about the relationship between people, or their relationship with society and the universe as a whole. These statements are generally globally recognized as relatively timeless and are insights that help us provide meaning to the world about us. Yet how often do they seem to be almost totally ignored in futurist, strategy, knowledge management, coaching, and even ethics literature? We appear to spend more and more time focused on learning knowledge, or facts—which have a relatively short shelf life-and less and less time on knowledge that overlaps with wisdom, which has a long shelf life. Why is that? What can we do about it?

Western sociological and management/leadership literature is full of references to power. How to get it? How to keep it? And how to prevent it being taken away? In parallel, but rarely in the same studies, there is also an enormous amount of literature on the concept of responsibility.

While power is the ability to make things happen, responsibility is driven by attempting to answer the question: In whose interest is the power being used? Yet the two concepts of power and responsibility are simply different sides of the same coin; they are the yin and yang of our behavior; they are how we balance our relations with ourselves with the interests of others, which is at the core of what we mean by our values. Power makes things happen, but it is the exercise of an appropriate balance between power and responsibility that helps ensure that as many ‘good’ things happen as possible.

Leadership is nothing more than the well-informed, responsible use of power. The more that leadership-related decisions are responsibility-driven (i.e., the more they are genuinely concerned with the wider interest), not only will they be better informed decisions, but the results are much more likely to genuinely reflect the long-term interests of all concerned, which also happens to be a sound foundation for improving their ethical quality and sustainability.

In essence, the above leadership definition is exactly what could also be called ‘Wise Leadership.’ In this context, the concepts of leader, leading, and leadership are used interchangeably, although it could be argued that ‘leaders’ are individuals (including their intentions, beliefs, assumptions, etc.), while ‘leading’ entails their actions in relation to others, and ‘leadership’ is the whole system of individual and social relationships that result in efforts to create change/progress. However, the above definition can be used to cover the integrated interrelationship of those three dimensions.

Briefly, wisdom can be considered as: “Making the best use of knowledge…by exercising good judgment…the capacity to realize what is of value in life for oneself and others….” Or as “the end point of a process that encompasses the idea of making sound judgments in the face of uncertainty.”

Of course, wisdom is one thing and ‘being wise’ is quite another. Being wise is certainly more than the ability to recycle wisdom. In essence, ‘being wise’ involves the ability to apply wisdom effectively in practice.

Wisdom is by far the most sustainable dimension of the information/knowledge industry. But is it teachable? It is learned somehow, and as far as I know, there is no values/wisdom gene. Consequently, there are things that we can all do to help manage the learning processes more effectively, although detailed consideration of these are outside the scope of this article.

In the end, the quality of our decisions depends on the quality of our conversations/dialogue; not only dialogue about information but, perhaps even more important, about the best way to use that information. In other words, it is about how our values influence the decision-making process. Dialogue both facilitates the transfer of technical knowledge and is an invaluable part of personal development. Having a quality dialogue about values is not only the most important issue we need to address, but it is often the most difficult.

We need to recognize that the more change that is going on in society, the more important it is that we make sure that our learning is as effective as possible. That is the only way we have any chance of being able to equate change with progress. If we want to have a better future, the first—and most important—thing that we have to do is improve the quality and effectiveness of our learning.

In recent years we have seen considerable effort to move people from the idea of ‘working harder’ to ‘working smarter.’ But what is really needed is to move beyond ‘working smarter’ to ‘working wiser.’ We need to move from being the ‘Knowledge Society’ to the ‘Wise Society.’ And, the more we move along that progression, the more we need to recognize that we are moving to a situation where the important issues primarily reflect the quality of our values rather than the quantity of our physical effort. If we want to improve the quality of our decision making, the focus needs not only to be on the quality of our information but, even more importantly, on the ‘right’ use of that information; hence the importance of improving the dialogue-related issues mentioned earlier.

Why are we interested in ethics and the future? The answer is, simply, that we are concerned with trying to make the world a ‘better’ place. But for whom? And how? To answer both questions we need to re-ask fundamental questions: Why do we not spend more time to ensure that the important messages that we have learned in the past (‘wisdom’) can be passed on to future generations? How do we ensure these messages are learned more effectively? These are critical strategy questions, and lie at the very foundation of anything we might want to call the ‘Knowledge Economy,’ although what is really needed is to focus on trying to move toward a concept closer to the ‘Wise Economy.’ This focus naturally overlaps with the greater attention now being given to values and ethical-related issues and ‘the search for meaning’ in management/leadership literature.

Overall, wisdom is a very practical body of sustainable knowledge (/information) that has an incredibly useful contribution to our understanding of our world. Such an approach would enable us all to make ‘better’ (wiser) decisions, lead ‘better’ lives, and experience wiser leadership, particularly in areas that involve (either explicit or implicit) ethics- and values-related issues. This is also closely linked to establishing more appropriate relationships between power and responsibility.

If we cannot take wisdom seriously, we will pay a very high price for this neglect. We need to foster greater respect for other people, particularly those who have views or reflect values that we do not agree with. This requires us to develop our capacity to have constructive conversations about the issues that divide us; that, in itself, would go a long way toward ensuring that we improve the quality of our decision making for the benefit of all in the long term. So help us move toward a ‘Wiser Society.’

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2009, Volume 5, Issue 2).

Dr Bruce Lloyd

Dr Bruce Lloyd is Emeritus Professor of Strategic Management at London South Bank University.

Research Partnerships

We invite experts and researchers worldwide to apply their expertise to the subjects impacting business coaching, which integrates the work of many adjacent disciplines, including neuroscience, psychology, behavioral science, ethnography, among others.


Committed to the Highest Possible Standards

WABC applies the highest possible standards to business coaching. Extensive research on the topics currently shaping both coaching and business more broadly enhances our knowledge on subjects influencing business coaching standards, programs and practices.

As part of our goal to apply the highest standards, WABC constantly seeks robust research to enhance our evidence base on “what works” or “what is promising” in contemporary business coaching worldwide, while also considering the professional expertise/expert opinion of business coaching professionals.


Contribute to the Renewal, Innovation and High Quality of our Profession

We invite experts and researchers worldwide to apply their expertise to the subjects impacting business coaching, which integrates the work of many adjacent disciplines, including neuroscience, psychology, behavioral science, ethnography, among others.


Let’s get in touch.

Who We Are

The Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC) drives business coaching excellence as the global leader in robust, evidence-based practices. We support leaders, coaches, clients and companies with the knowledge, skills and resources to successfully navigate complexity and improve individual and operational performance alike. Our global community elevates all types of organizations, industries, and sectors using business coaching to achieve their strategic organizational and business objectives.

Leading Business Excellence

Building Our Distinct Profession

WABC is a self-regulating body that behaves as though it is regulated. We set professional standards, a code of ethics and integrity, definitions and competencies that our organization, representatives, members and providers are committed to upholding. 

A consistent global standard for business coaching as a distinct discipline is critical to the evolution of our profession and industry.

As the first organization to create evidence-based business coaching standards, we strive to build public trust in WABC business coaches as a reliable and ethical community, committed to upholding rigorous standards and acting in our clients’ best interests.


To Unify Business Leadership Throughout the World

Our purpose is the ambition underpinning why we exist. As the core philosophy to who we are and why our work matters, our purpose is the foundation that grounds and guides the broader impact we strive to achieve. 

WABC understands that to lead is not simply to act, but that the intention of our actions matters most. Leaders must be accountable to those we serve, and our values, ethics and integrity must align with the impact we want to create—for people, for the planet and for the common good.

At WABC, we are committed to unifying business leadership by establishing the highest global standards for business coaches and business coaching training providers available today.


Focused on What Matters Most

Our purpose is brought to life through our values, which guide how we remain actively committed and accountable to our clients, to one another and to ourselves.

Practical responsiveness

We adapt to key stakeholder and market demands by developing great business coaching services and products. We stay on the leading edge by continually seeking feedback and improving practical value to business coaches, clients, members, providers and other key stakeholders.

Relentless self-improvement

We lead the business coaching market with new services and products by actively experimenting and researching new approaches. We continually set bold, new goals that are both strategic and evolutionary to nurture renewal, innovation and high quality.

Diverse perspectives

We celebrate the diverse skills, talents, experiences and cultures of our global community, including business coaches, clients, members, program providers, committees, partners, alliances, executives, advisers and support team. We nurture, develop and grow socially responsible leaders at every level of our association to help realize our purpose in action. 

Exemplary service

We believe that our business coaching community can achieve anything with the right support behind them. We challenge ourselves to deliver service that is:

  • High-quality touch (personalized and individualized)
  • High-quality inform (timely and relevant), and
  • High-quality active (participation and leadership opportunities).

Intention and integrity

We believe that business is a potent force for solving social problems, and that leading with intention demands broad and deep corporate integrity. We strive to conduct our business in ethically, socially and environmentally responsible ways.

Courageous spirit

Our achievements are only possible when we commit to see them through together. We are loyal partners who commit with respect and gratitude. We stay true to our purpose and values, and do what is right to uphold these values as we navigate both adversity and success.


Realizing Our Philosophies  

At WABC, our mission and vision focus our core philosophies of purpose and values into what we aim to achieve, for the business coaches we serve and the distinct industry we represent.

Our mission is to develop, advance and promote the business coaching profession worldwide.

We are committed to enhancing business coaching as a distinct discipline and building awareness, credibility and trust in business coaches everywhere.

We envision a world with a business coach working within every organization, business and government worldwide.  

We believe business coaching makes for better leadership, strategic thinking and organizational management. Our goal is to raise the profile of business coaching to become standard best practice for high-performing businesses and organizations.


Ethics and Integrity in Action

At WABC, we believe that business is a potent force for solving social problems, and we are committed to building public trust and credibility in business coaching as a global industry.

Business coaches often work with those in a position of leadership, who can greatly influence the business decisions and culture of the organizations they represent. Especially when facing complex dilemmas, business coaches must have the courage to challenge their clients’ perspective and guide them towards ethical choices. Business coaches also need to know when they themselves may be encountering ethical dilemmas and how to reconcile competing interests and agendas.

The unique nature of our role makes it clear that each of us needs to possess a strong ethical orientation as we carry out this important work. It is for this very reason that WABC invested in developing a Code that could match to the challenges we, and our clients, can sometimes face.

The current WABC Code of Business Coaching Ethics and Integrity embodies the highest ethical standards and includes our Principles and our Safe Harbor Conciliation and Adjudication Process. It’s one of the most advanced and comprehensive codes of its kind in the world today, and is one of the key differences that set WABC business coaches apart from other kinds of coaches.

Our Code is reviewed regularly to be relevant to the latest in best practice. It serves to guide not only our day-to-day business interactions and decision making, but also provides direction during uncertain times to help us think deeply about how to conduct all our coaching across business contexts and cultures.


Together We Grow

WABC is committed to unifying continued excellence—of bringing business coaches, members, providers, and partners together to share expertise and support colleagues, clients and organizations across the world.

We work alongside businesses and organizations both big and small, and WABC business coaches are united by the principles, philosophies and ideas that give us a common foundation and elevate our practice

Our Members

Our members represent everything from Fortune 100s to not-for-profits, entrepreneurs and enterprises, start-ups and small businesses. WABC business coaches drive transformations, both big and small, in organizations across sectors, industries and business size, and can support the success of your business too.

Our WABC Accredited® Program Providers

Our WABC Accredited program providers voluntarily hold themselves up for ongoing scrutiny against the highest business coaching standards in the world. Fewer than 1% of the world’s business coaching programs have met our standard of accreditation.


inception as a
global leader


countries in our
global community


of credential
holders globally


Meet Our Leadership

At the heart of WABC is a team of passionate individuals who commit their breadth and depth of their experience and expertise to supporting this vibrant association. We are also supported by committees, task forces and other working groups as needed to further our organizational goals and objectives.

Wendy Johnson

Wendy Johnson

Founder &
Doug Abrahamson

Doug Abrahamson

Chief Strategy
David Kincaid

David Kincaid

Global Brand
Strategy Adviser
Michele Ann Jenkins

Michele Ann Jenkins

Architecture Specialist

Leading from the Start

Steve Lanning and Hal Wright of the United States founded the National Association of Business Coaches (NABC) in 1997. NABC experienced steady growth within the first five years while the business coaching industry became one of the fastest growing professions in North America. NABC was positioned as “the association of choice” for business-focused coaches and the international business market. 

To further global growth, NABC sought out a visionary leader to elevate the organization into a prestigious international association. Wendy Johnson of Canada shared the same vision—of an organization who could elevate excellence in business coaching, and unify business leadership throughout the world.

On May 31, 2002, Wendy Johnson transformed NABC into a new privately held federal corporation in Canada, and became WABC Coaches Inc. 

WABC Coaches Inc. conducts business as the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC), and serves and develops business coaching markets around the world.


Let’s explore how we can help you.