The magnetic and true bearings for Ethics and Morals
The magnetic and true bearings for Ethics and Morals

The magnetic and true bearings for Ethics and Morals

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Ethics are the rules you abide by in order to remain within a community or profession. Morals are your personal values that run to the core of your very being. Depending on your profession, it’s possible for your morals regarding a certain matter to be stricter than the code of ethics for the same issue


The role of ethics adviser exists because a series of scandals in the early 1990s led then Prime Minister John Major to appoint the committee on standards in public life. The committee identified seven standards – selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership – that the public should expect their ministers to abide by.

These, known as the Nolan priniciples after the committee’s first chair, were enshrined in the ministerial code. This code had existed in various arrangements since the 1970s, before being formalised in 1992 and published under its current title five years later. It is updated periodically by the prime minister of the day.

Of the four ethics advisers there have been, two have resigned under Boris Johnson.

Sir Alex Allan, had resigned in protest at Mr Johnson’s refusal to sack Priti Patel, despite Sir Alex finding her guilty of bullying and in breach of the ministerial code. Lord Geidt – who served with distinction as the Queen’s private secretary for 10 years – apparently believed he could help restore confidence in the role. With Mr Johnson in charge, this aspiration proved – to put it mildly – naive. Within months, Lord Geidt was being grievously misled by the prime minister over the procurement of funds for the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.


It does seem ethics can be pretty flexible as a set of rules: indeed laws are prone to be changeable over time with many things once illegal now being legal and vice-versa it might be confusing to an impartial alien observer to understand the context and motives behind the shifting somewhat like a ‘magnetic north’ that is somewhat askew from ‘true north’ and the impact upon people’s moral compass.

What is truth? Sure there is the scientific truth that we can refute with evidence, but what about the truth that guides us in our opinions and decisions. Roger Ailes of Fox News has said “the truth is whatever people will believe”

Certainly the truth written in history by the victors may differ in detail and perspective from those on the battlefield or in the opposite trenches. The assertions at the Board of Directors may be similarly adrift from the experience of customers and colleagues.


I find this topic area interesting. I am a reader of philosophy and psychology, including Hobbes, Kant, Jung and Nietzsche. What I find most interesting and rewarding is examining very different views, examining the discrepancies and deviations, the exceptions that indicate this is all far more complex that may immediately be apparent.

In Hobbes’ memorable description, life outside society would be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’. ‘ But Hobbes’ theory did not end there: he wanted to find a way out of such an undesirable situation. ‘The solution, Hobbes argued, was to put some powerful individual or parliament in charge.

Kant defines categorical imperatives as commands or moral laws all persons must follow, regardless of their desires or extenuating circumstances. As morals, these imperatives are binding on everyone. According to this you would never lie, not to protect yourself or others from harm, indeed it would demand that you betray confidences if asked.

Nietzsche’s moral philosophy is primarily critical in orientation: he attacks morality both for its commitment to untenable descriptive (metaphysical and empirical) claims about human agency, as well as for the deleterious impact of its distinctive norms and values on the flourishing of the highest types of human. Nietzsche aims at freeing higher human beings from their false consciousness about morality (their false belief that this morality is good for them), not at a transformation of society at large.


Equality, Diversity and Inclusion seems therefore to be an evolution on this complex thinking.

A definition suggests: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion ensures fair treatment and opportunity for all. It aims to eradicate prejudice and discrimination on the basis of an individual or group of individual’s protected characteristics.

I attended a talk hosted by The Guilt with expert speakers on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and was surprised that the focus was limited to compliance with the law. It was repeatedly said for each scenario discussed that employers (generally the topic of discussion) must follow the law, which I wholly accept and understand but what about circumstances not covered by legislation?

What about when legislation changes, as indeed it often does, like a pendulum swinging backwards and forwards. Can an individual be ethical and moral in March and un-ethical and immoral in April simply by the passing of statute?

I don’t think anyone would say all laws are just, and a quick look at the history books will give you a long list of injustices imposed by law.

I found the subject and the speakers interesting, particularly of points of disagreement.

I suspect one of the challenges is that DE&I means different things to different people: In over simplistic terms some people want to be treated the same, some want to celebrate and be treated as different.

I know some people who love a diagnosis, label, pronoun, category, type or group to belong to. I know others who do not want this and simply be “me” “myself” “I” . At one extreme we are 7 billion different people, at the other we are 1 human race. How many ways do we want to divide, segregate, separate or define us? How do such divisions and classifications serve us?

It is interesting to talk about DE&I and ‘belonging” because if someone is part of the in-group there must be, by definition others that are in the out-group. If you are a member of a tribe, community, team or group then by definition someone must be outside, excluded, unwelcome for it to be a “group”. How does that fit with DE&I ?

I think it also opens an interesting conversation around culture and compliance. Do we welcome people who do not fit in? Do we like challenge or dissent? Or do we prefer people who are like us, have our mission, vision, values, methods, behaviours ways of thinking and working.


As a coach, mentor and mediator it is incumbent upon me to understand but at the same time suspend judgement. The International Coaching Federation ICF set competencies that include…

Definition: Understands and consistently applies coaching ethics and standards of coaching

ICF-C1-1.Demonstrates personal integrity and honesty in interactions with clients, sponsors and relevant stakeholders.
ICF-C1-2.Is sensitive to client’s identity, environment, experiences, values and beliefs.
ICF-C1-3.Uses language appropriate and respectful to clients, sponsors and relevant stakeholders.
ICF-C1-4.Abides by the ICF code of Ethics and upholds the Core Values.

Definition: Develops and maintains a mindset that is open, curious, flexible and client centered.

ICF-C2-1.Acknowledges that clients are responsible for their own choices
ICF-C2-4.Remains aware of and open to the influence of context and culture on self and others
ICF-C2-5.Uses awareness of self and one’s intuition to benefit clients.Develops and maintains the ability to regulate one’s emotions

Definition: Partners with client to create a safe, supportive environment that allows the client to share freely. Maintains a relationship of mutual respect and trust.

ICF-C4-1.Seeks to understand the client within their context which may include their identity, environment, experiences, values and beliefs.
ICF-C4-2.Demonstrates respect for the client’s identity, perceptions, style and language and adapts one’s coaching to the client.
ICF-C4-3.Acknowledges and respects the client’s unique talents, insights and work in the coaching process.
ICF-C4-4.Show support, empathy and concern for the client.
ICF-C4-5.Acknowledges and supports the client’s expression of feelings, perceptions, concerns, beliefs and suggestions.
ICF-C4-6.Demonstrates openness and transparency as a way to display vulnerability and build trust with the client.

The ICF also has guidance on Ethics which includes the following.

Avoid discrimination by maintaining fairness and equality in all activities and operations, while respecting local rules and cultural practices. This includes, but is not limited to, discrimination on the basis of age, race, gender expression, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability or military status.

Am aware of my and my clients’ impact on society. I adhere to the philosophy of “doing good,” versus “avoiding bad.”


The International Coaching Federation rules are clear and useful and important to a coach, mentor and mediator because people often define themselves by their perception of others norms. The obligations of colleagues, community, culture or expectations of friends, family, faith and themselves.

Whilst many seek to “belong” I am reminded of Groucho Marx quote: I Don’t Want to Belong to Any Club That Will Accept Me as a Member.

The role of coach, mentor and mediator is not to impose a truth or solve a problem, but to facilitate resolution, support thinking, and nurture growth. In this context an understanding of societies ‘magnetic north’ and the personal ‘true north’ and the impact upon people’s compass can be useful to helping them find direction.

I only hope that our leaders get the same support by appointing and consulting a new ethics advisor.

Tim Rogers
Ex-Athlete, now Change Practitioner, ICF Coach, IoD Mentor, Mediation Practitioner
Mob 447797762051

Helping people and organisations achieve their goals: We #facilitate and #support the #thinking, #feeling and #action needed to #resolve and move forward.

#timhjrogers #coach #mentor #mediation #jersey


Comment: Liz Truss may not appoint an ethics adviser, does it matter?

What does equality, diversity, and inclusion mean?

International Coaching Federation Competencies

ICF Core Competencies

International Coaching Federation Ethics

Ethics Resources


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