Coaching in Russia: Coaches, Coachees, and Coachmen

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Ward Howell hosted a conference entitled Coaching in Russia: Coaches, Coachees, and Coachmen. Read on for information about the results of the conference, and positive and negative trends in the market’s development.

In April 2013, Ward Howell hosted a conference in Moscow entitled Coaching in Russia: Coaches, Coachees, and Coachmen. The goal of the event was to talk about coaching in Russia: where it stands, what happens in the industry of business coaching in Russia, what to prepare for, what to beware, and what to think about. Participants included a few dozen professional business coaches as well as clients of business coaching (coachees) – managers and owners of companies, who systematically think about developing leaders and improving their effectiveness. The conversation was a success, and provided a comprehensive review of the developing market for coaching services. The hot topic among conference participants was how to create a coaching culture in an organization. Throughout the conference, Russian business coaches and coachees discussed current and prospective trends, and participated in practical coaching sessions led by leaders from the domestic and international coaching communities.

In Russia, things are often described as coaching, that don't qualify as such.
«Coaching, for me, is a very, very interesting topic. I am convinced that today we, in Russia, have very many talented, bright, determined, ambitious people, and that is wonderful. But the one thing I think we are lacking is a path to the international stage; from the perspective of executive maturity, represented on the international level, there are many things that we often can't do (I say “we” as Russian managers as a whole), and within this we have our constraints, constraints on an international career, constraints on how a company is presented, how companies make decisions, including, in a large corporation, or receiving investments. I think that there is great potential within our country and with our managers, and coaching enhances that. For that reason, I find the topic is interesting, and I love to discuss it. I hope that we will make great strides forward»
S. KordashenkoRosExpert

According to Stanislav Shekshnia, senior partner at Ward Howell and professor of entrepreneurial leadership at INSEAD International Business School, “The way to spread coaching throughout Russia is through a spiral. When I talk about a coaching spiral, I mean that coaches work with managers. Managers, in turn, come to appreciate coaching, and become coaches for their employees who, in turn, become interested in coaching. They become coaches for others and, accordingly, the idea of coaching disseminates throughout our business community carrying warmth, brightness, and positivity for our business.”

«Coaching is a very conducive format, because it gives you the opportunity to combine three things that I really like, but whenever I do any of these things individually, I get bored pretty quickly. The first thing that I really like is to learn: coaching gives you the opportunity to learn. The second thing that I really like is to teach: coaching gives you the opportunity to teach. The third thing, what I find interesting, is business: business coaching gives you the opportunity to do something related to business»
S. ShekshniaWard Howell

Amidst some negative trends in the development of coaching in Russia, Stanislav noted the problem of incorrect application and adaptation: “One of the dangers for the development of coaching in Russia is that it acquires features specific to Russia. Coaching is filled with completely different content, as often happens with things borrowed from abroad. Therefore coaching is often referred to as something that it has no relation to at best, and at worst, as something that directly contradicts it.”

«It’s concerning, that coaching right now is perceived purely through personality. That is to say, imagine a leader. A coach comes to him and tells him what coaching is. Then another coach comes to him, and says no, this is what coaching is. And a third, fourth, fifth. At our stage of the developing market, there will be four or five very different stories, and each one will say “My coaching is the best coaching of all the coaching»
P. BezruchkoECOPSY

However, this does not, in any way, reduce the importance of coaching in Russia for solving problems that are characteristic of both the business community, and society overall. According to Professor Shekshnia, some of those problems include: vertical management, which in practice spurs the groveling of subordinates to their superiors; rudeness from the superiors; ambivalence, which allows acceptance of unethical decisions; and widespread disrespect for others.

Barriers are growing for entering the coaching business.

Manfred Kets de Vries, leading European business coach and professor of leadership development at INSEAD Business School, presented at a conference as the keynote speaker. In his opening address, he outlined several key trends of coaching development across a global scale: “First of all, the market will grow, but not as quickly as it did ten years ago. Secondly, I think, is that coaching will be increasingly important for groupwork. And, finally, thirdly, what we can expect to see is the appearance of more strict barriers for entry into this business.” As far as mediating barriers for entry, Kets de Vries proposes standardizing certification techniques: “People ask that coaches present some sort of certificate.” Finally, a long-term trend appearing is the development of virtual coaching, which is becoming more widespread for everyone, and is lowering logistical costs for both coaches and coachees.

«Our main tool, in our line of work, is our personality. Coaching doesn't have any pills, doesn't have any equipment. We work, essentially, with ourselves – we have a dialogue. Here is the client, and here I am. There are commonplace postulates in coaching, and you can’t possibly accomplish anything without the personality of the coaching consultant being a significant part of the process. What’s required of this personality? First of all, definite self-sufficiency – only by being self-sufficient can we maintain our active positioning. Of course, just looking at this, we can see definite problems. As coaching consultants begin to become established with their clients, or, if it’s the other way around, and they’re overcompensating, when they’re talking to a billionaire, they’re in a completely different position, where you wonder “what do you desire?»
M. MeliyaMM-Class

In another vein, Professor Kets de Vries discussed evidence of development of internal and collective coaching, especially on the middle management level. “I see evidence of growing interest from our clients. What coaching does for a company, the kinds of benefits it provides, a major concern is how a coach will cooperate with a client, to what extent their expectations coincide at the beginning of their collaboration.” Therefore, due to the increase in awareness about coaching within the business community, and the development of coaches themselves, we can now talk about the increasing dissemination of “systemic coaching.” This method allows us to solve complex issues, and makes it directly possible (through the development of leaders and a propagation of coaching culture) to quickly change an organization. In essence, Manfred expects to see an upsurge of methodological coaching programs, specifically. Another important development is what one Dutch specialist calls “intercultural coaching.” “I was lucky that at INSEAD we don’t have one kind of nationality, and because of that we teach cross-cultural coaching. Amidst our population, we could have twenty different people that are representative of forty different cultures.”

Coaching is an industry that allows you to learn, teach, and participate in business.

As a continuation of the discussion about trends in the field, representatives of the Russian coaching community talk about their understanding of the meanings and conditions of coaching in Russian business. Even among the top professionals in the Russian coaching community, there exist a wide variety of perspectives on the current environment.

According to Pavel Kiryukhantsev, one of the founders of Zest Leadership, coaching is primarily a task of developing others, an understanding to which he came through teaching in general: “Coaching and teaching overall, it seems to me, developed within me as I stopped focusing so much on effectiveness.”

«Coaching, probably, for me, is about what I want to learn, what I genuinely want to learn, because there are things that could be classified as dictatorship, and there are ways that you can smoothly teach people, and they follow you»
S. SavchenkoBukyet

For me coaching is about the personal transformation, because it takes a long time, and requires a lot of effort by the coachee and the coach. At some point, I realized that. The last three years I have focused more on consulting than on coaching.

"Some of our managers are very arrogant. If you come into, I'm not going to name which enterprise, but it’s a an enterprise with participation from the government – they all act like kings, very opinionated, people follow them like lemmings and, accordingly, they're very egotistical. In this sense, coaching, if desired, can naturally develop people – it can develop these skills of self-criticism, that kind of balance, balanced assessment," saidN. Pryanishnikov, Microsoft.

«I am very glad to see what is happening with coaching in Russia, because there is a great demand – look around at this room, at how many people wanted to come here - the industry is obviously growing. But, as with any growing industry, that often changes and transforms, that helps transform business, and society overall, that influences the elite, it is experiencing an increase in cost. I think that this is organic, normal, especially considering the key concepts of the industry, the coach and coachee, and so on. It's very important now, at this stage, to harness the right momentum. There is a session on golf in the 2nd half of the program, and when you hit the golf ball, if, at the very beginning, it is just a millimeter to the left, or a millimeter to the right, after a certain distance, it will be either on one side of the course, or the other. I think that we, right now, are at that stage, where we should carry out that hit, being sure to very accurately and correctly administer that same impulse.»
S. SirotenkoPwC

This article was published as part of the fifth issue ofTalent Equity Newsletter "Coaching in Russia".

To read all other journal issues, please follow the link toTE Newsletters page.