Interview with Kirill Kravchenko, General Director, NIS (Petroleum Industry of Serbia)

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Kirill Kravchenko graduated from Lomonosov Moscow State University, Open British University and IMD Business School. He is a professor with a Ph. D in economics who worked in consulting, and then at various positions at Yukos, Schlumberger and EuroChem Mining and Chemical Company. In various years he has been elected to the boards of large companies. He was appointed Vice-President of Gazprom Neft in 2007. He has been the Vice-Chairman of the Board and Deputy General Director for Organizational Issues at JSC Gazprom Neft since 2008. He was appointed General Director and a member of the Board of Directors at NIS (Petroleum Industry of Serbia) in 2009, in addition to being named the Deputy General Director at JSC Gazprom Neft for managing foreign assets.

TEI: When and why did you decide to use coaching? What arguments are there for and against coaching?

Kirill Kravchenko: I have had a few experiences in working with external and internal coaches who helped me both make some certain improvements in how I work and learn more about myself and others. Therefore when I was appointed General Director at NIS, I found it natural to think about taking on a coaching program, especially since my immediate supervisor had been thinking the same thing.

«I continue to understand that I am to work as the General Director, not the coach... at that, it is great to get an outside view and hear the opinion of an experienced person who is committed to your being successful»

I found myself dealing with a fairly difficult field of work. First, NIS is a Serbian company. Second, it is the country's largest company and provides up to a fourth of the state's revenue. Third, it is a joint company between Gazprom Neft and the Republic of Serbia, plus in the near future all adult-aged Serbian citizens are to be come shareholders in the company. Fourth, when we took control of NIS, the company was in a very dire financial state. In addition to all of that, this is my first time as a general director.

TEI: How did you search for a coach? What criteria did you use to choose him? Was this decision hard to make?

Kirill Kravchenko: I have known my coach for a pretty long time – he was my manager's coach and worked with Gazprom Neft's management team, although I myself didnot have a chance to work with him before. Fitting in with my new position, my coach's managerial experience, his record in fulfilling similar project in the past, academic knowledge and reputation are what drew me to him.

TEI: Give an example of a goal that a coach helped you achieve. How was this done? When did you feel coaching's initial results?

Kirill Kravchenko: I do not expect coaching to deliver any ready-made answers. I talk through my problems, actions, doubts and potential solutions with my coach. Through using his own experience, contextual knowledge and leading questions, he helps me evaluate myself better, see new perspectives and account for additional risks. Since we trust each other, I can discuss any issue of importance with him, including those that I will not discuss with my vices or managers. I believe that since our trust in many ways was already there before my formal coaching began, the results came very quickly.

In working with a coach, I determined my priorities and thought carefully about who I want to be in the eyes of the employees and shareholders of NIS, the local authorities, what I need to learn to achieve this and how to do this. The coach helped me in putting together a management team. I think that three or four months later I began to feel more confident as the company's General Director, which probably helped us turn the company around and put it in the black.

TEI: How did you evaluate coaching's effectiveness? What barriers do you see to a coach's effectiveness?

Kirill Kravchenko: I found coaching to be very effective since I approached it with the right expectations – I did not look at it as being a magic wand. I continue to understand that I am to work as the General Director, not the coach. I have to develop a strategy, make decisions, explain them to people, meet with partners and run meetings. At that, it is great to get an outside view and hear the opinion of an experienced person who is committed to your being successful.

My main problem is having limited time to interact with the coach, and his having limited opportunities to get a better understanding of our organizations and to study the details, because the context here is exceedingly important.

TEI: Do you use coaching for other employees in your organization? If yes, then what category of employees do you use it for and for what kinds of goals?

Kirill Kravchenko: Unfortunately, Serbia has pretty limited opportunities for coaching, although we are planning to use it for our key employees.

TEI: Could you be a coach? Would you want to be acoach?

Kirill Kravchenko: I am trying to be one. A manager today is required to be a coach for his employees. I believe that you need to judge a manager's success by what he has left behind him. If this is something you find important, you need to take on coaching.

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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