Interview with Evgeny Romashchin, Director of Coal Production and Enrichment, DTEK

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Evgeny Romashchin graduated from Tula State University, where he also finished his graduate studies in economics and economic management. As part of the presidential program for management personnel preparation, he studied at the LINK International Institute of Management in 2000 and at the Open University of Britain. He has worked at Stroimateriali- Tulachermet and Severstal. He was appointed Economics and Finance Director at Karelsky Okatish in 2001, and in 2005 he was the Finance Director at DTEK. He has been the Director of Coal Production and Enrichment at DTEK since August 2007.

TEI: How did you decide to use a coach?

Evgeny Romashchin: Our company has a regular 360 degree assessment that has colleagues, managers and subordinates rate an employee, his strengths and his weaknesses. My results clearly showed that anything having to do with communication was not one of my strengths. My manager and I were discussing my development plan for the coming year, he asked if I wanted to give coaching a shot, partly for developing my communication skills. At that time he had been working with a personal coach for about a year, and during that time I had noticed many positive changes in his personal efficiency, so it did not take him long to convince me. I was in favor of the idea.

«By the end of the first session, I understood that I had made some pretty hasty conclusions. Two or three sessions later I drastically changed my view of coaching»

TEI: How did you choose a coach?

Evgeny Romashchin: A coach was recommended to me and I set up a meeting to get to know him. I noticed that my coach was a rather young man, the same age as me. I checked up on his background, and it turned out that before becoming a coach, he was a financial director for a considerably long time. I should say that at that time I did not understand what coaching was too well. I figured that this is a fashionable new word that HR specialists had thought up to replace the word training. The word coaching at that time made me smirk. And when I saw that my coach’s professional experience was at least no worse than mine, I thought, “Just what can he teach me?” I very delicately, but directly told him this. He attentively heard me out without any emotional reaction to any of my words and then calmly asked me to think about things for a bit. I also explained this to my manager, saying that I do not see the point in working with a coach. He suggested I have one trial coaching session with this person, take a look at the results and then make a final decision. I agreed, although I was confident that this undertaking would fall flat on its face. Oddly enough, by the end of the first session, I understood that I had made some pretty hasty conclusions. Two or three sessions later I drastically changed my view of coaching and its effectiveness in development.

TEI: What changed in your attitude toward coaching?

Evgeny Romashchin: First, I understood what coachingis and that it definitely works. Coaching does not give you packaged answers, rather it helps you concentrate and make the correct decision yourself, which is very effective. I had not come across this type of work method before. Second, I realized that a finance director’s professional qualities were not needed: the coach and I talked about issues completely unrelated to calculation methods for returning investment capital. Third, my coach pleasantly surprised me by being a very solid guy. Someone who was calm and very level-headed. I understood that he was further advanced than I in terms of his personal development. So I had something to strive for and learn, not as a former CFO, but as a solid, integral person. Somethings that he and I discussed cannot be heard or read in very many places. I used to think that I understood somethings about psychology, but after working with a coach, I realized that I knew almost nothing about it at all.

TEI: What were the main issues dealt with during your coaching sessions?

Evgeny Romashchin: The main focus was on things concerning interaction with people and understanding what drives them. This really helped me: I looked at this differently and saw how you can predict a person’s behavior with a high rate of accuracy and model the development of the situation. Another thing that the coach helped me master was a method that involved putting yourself in another person’s shoes, be it your colleague’s, employee’s or partner’s, when you are trying to react the way they would.

«We discussed topics that were relevant at that moment, and not hypothetical ones that could come in handy someday»

TEI: Could you give us some examples of goals that were achieved with a coach's help?

Evgeny Romashchin: For example, before having had coaching, if I would see a significant issue in the company, I would do the following: I would ask to have a word with the board of directors, talk about the problem, try to measure its consequences in tons and monetary wise, then propose solutions and give my thoughts on which of these solutions is the best. I used to think that this was enough. I would make my proposal, and someone on the board of directors would say, “There are no problems, we already took care of everything.” Then the conversation would turn into an argument, one that sometimes included insults and conflicts. Now I understand that I had acted incorrectly. People can choose to not support an idea for various different reasons, sometimes objective and sometimes subjective. You need to think beforehand about how you are going to make this decision intriguing for them, how you are going to recruit people into your corner and hit on their demands, while voicing this idea in the type of language they understand. What is important for me may be in significant formy colleague. For example, it might be important for me to have a project have a certain amount of savings involved, while someone else sees this same project as one that can be used for expanding the company’s reputation, image and becoming popular in the press. Understanding this definitely has helped me. There was an area of work that I was able to recruit internal partners for by using this approach. This is not the type of work that can be built once and for all over a year, but we made a lot of serious, tangible process. 

«I began to have a better understanding in life for what comes first and what comes second. Do you really need to be working as hard as you can whatever it takes? I cannot say that I know a fail-safe answer to this, but coaching helped me to have a conscious attitude in this respect»

Here is another example. It became obvious to me that making decisions for someone is an “act of violence” and a violation of their personal boundaries. I might have a great relationship with someone who, in fact, might fully agree with me regarding a certain decision, but if he feels that this decision was made without his participation, then he carries it out much less effectively: he sabotages it or fulfills it with little zeal. You do not have to tell a person what to do - in most cases, he is able to make an effective decision. When I understood this and tried it out myself, I realized that it works. Now I am ready from within to agree with a reasonable decision, even if it is one that I would not have made myself. If this is an important issue, one of life or death, I will make an argument to defend my option, but if I can tell that my option is only a bit better, then I try to agree with another person’s proposal. This has really helped me with my effectiveness in interacting with fellow colleagues. If you ask people the right questions, then most of the time they are able to answer them and make an effective decision. Every time I agreed with a decision that differed from my own, I felt satisfied and gave myself a point for this. I did not expect this kind of result from coaching –what I received has surpassed my expectations.

TEI: Were you put off by having to invest a lot of time and energy in coaching?

Evgeny Romashchin: I did not have to choose between spending time on coaching or doing something useful concerning work. We discussed topics that were relevant at that moment, and not hypothetical ones that could come in handy someday. These were specific issues that I really needed to take care of, so I did not see doing this as additional time expenditure. Even without coaching, I would still have to tackle these goals. Our sessions let us find answers really quickly and the solutions were often more creative. Plus, I got a lot more job satisfaction.

For example, we had some difficulties with the work efficiency of one of our factories. The corporate center employees' relationship with those at the factory was very strained. When they spoke with each other without upper management present, things would get really nasty. We did not know what the root cause of this was. My coach and I thought up some ways to solve the problem, and I implemented them, but in the end, after checking all possible hypotheses, we understood that the real problem was the factory's director, or to be more exact, his base motive was his affiliation motive (this topic is talked about in detail in psychology, especially Carl Jung). It was very difficult for this person to fulfil his duties as an administrator. Any type of decision was very hard for him to make, which made him uncomfortable. He had a manipulative way of affiliating with people and he did not feel responsibility for his actions. It probably would have been better if this story had a happy ending, but we had to remove him and appoint another person to this position. After that we saw changes in the factory’s work immediately: the management team and workers’ attitude had changed, and was seen rather quickly in an increase in production and financial efficiency at the factory. Working with a coach helped me uncover the root cause of inefficiency at the factory, and gain the confidence to make such a drastic decision like replacing a large factory’s manager. Thanks to my coach, I was able to get a grasp of all the details and comprehend the situation in full.

TEI: Did you discuss only work issues, or non-work issues as well?

Evgeny Romashchin: Both. For example, we talked about correctly balancing a manager's work with private life, nature and the meaning of stresses, managers and employees being overworked, etc. I began to have a better understanding in life for what comes first and what comes second. Do you really need to be working as hard as you can whatever it takes? I cannot say that I know a fail-safe answer to this, but coaching helped me to have a conscious attitude in this respect. Or when you are unable to give your kids enough attention, how can you try to solve this problem when your time is severely limited? Coaching's ability to find answers to these types of problems makes it very attractive.

TEI: Did you set any limits as to how many times you should meet and how long the coaching should last?

Evgeny Romashchin: Over the course of a year we met roughly every two months, which is pretty rare by coaching theory standards. Each time we met, we worked for the entire day, or even day and a half, which is also pretty unusual (I should point out that the coach and I are pretty far away from each other). I felt the practical results from coaching after about three months. I did not have a tight budget, the limit was rather my time.

«In working as a mentor, I use many elements that my coach had used with me»

TEI: What is the secret to effective coaching?

Evgeny Romashchin: First and foremost, getting a sense for yourself. Second, having a better understanding for others, what motivates them and why they act the way they do. Understanding yourself is hardest of all. Understanding others is easier, but not exactly simple to do either. I believe that I have made progress in both areas: I have begun to get a better feel for others, myself and how I look at life. I have learned how to divide up my time in a way that does not negatively affect my other life values. I learned how to compensate for not having sufficient time to spend with my family and how to be a father figure for my children. Ina certain sense I can say without any exaggeration that coaching has helped me become a happier and more complete person.

TEI: Could you yourself become a coach?

Evgeny Romashchin: Our company has a system to prepare successors for key manager positions, and this program's participants have the option to work with a mentor. The mentors are company executives that help the successor stand out from the managers that he is not a subordinate of. Successors do not open up completely to their managers, thus they will not work as efficiently. We do not call mentors coaches, because we do not believe that, from a professional point of view, our mentors are prepared to take this step. I have three people that I am currently working with as a mentor. We meet on a regular basis, discuss their growth plansand professional progress, and I help them find answers to questions that are of interest to them. Although we do not call this coaching, I use many elements that my coach had used with me. This work without a doubt brings satisfaction, especially when you see how it helps a successor gain a practical result. This increases my self-esteem, plus it is interesting work that helps in studying other people, while helping to develop yourself. For example, I have one person with whom, before I became his mentor, it was very difficult to find common ground (we had worked with each other on several multifunctional projects). Now we are almost friends. I felt responsible for him and am concerned about the difficulties he goes through and his career progress.

This article was published as part of the third issue of Talent Equity Newsletter "Coaching as a Management Development Tool".

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

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