Companies getting more interested in organizational coaching in Romania

Newsroom 12/04/2016 | 11:06

Professional coaching brings many benefits: fresh perspectives on personal challenges, enhanced decision-making skills, greater interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence.

By Romanita Oprea

And, the list doesn’t end there. Those who undertake coaching can also expect noticeable improvement in productivity, satisfaction with life and work and the attainment of relevant goals. Professional coaching could maximize potential and, therefore, unlock latent sources of productivity. According to the numbers provided by the International Coach Federation, one of the organisations that standardize this profession, in Romania, there are a total of 32 accredited coaches – 2 MCC (Master Certified Coaches), 8 PCC (Professional Certified Coaches) and 22 ACC (Accredited Certified Coaches).

But how is the organizational coaching industry in Romania? How big or small is it compared to this industry in other CEE countries? What about compared to the Western Europe?

According to Daiana Stoicescu, Executive Coaching (PCC) Coach, mentor coach & coach trainer and board chair & director of communication at the International Coach Federation-ICF Romania, more and more organizations have

Daiana Stoicescu coaching
Daiana Stoicescu coaching

recognized the value in building a culture of coaching that offers employees at all levels—not just executives and managers—the opportunity to cultivate their skills, enhance their value and reach their professional goals. But not all coaching is equal. To ensure successful results that go beyond skills training and truly enable the company to increase employee engagement and retention, the organization must develop a comprehensive coaching plan that addresses both current and future needs. “The challenge arises not only in determining the types of coaching that will be most impactful, but also in attaining the internal buy-in and support for such a program.

Organizations continue to seek coaches who exude necessary qualities, such as listening actively, establishing trust and maintaining high professional standards. Additionally, organizations must ensure that internal and external coach practitioners, as well as managers/leaders using coaching skills, have received the appropriate amount of training,” explained Stoicescu further. More than that, the company must also actively evaluate the coaching program to determine its effectiveness and return on investment (ROI) in order to maintain continued support and investment.

Therefore, on the Romanian business market, organizations are increasingly discovering the benefits of training managers and leaders in coaching skills. Used at the right time and in the right way, organizational coaching is an effective approach for managers and leaders to develop their employees, increase engagement, and create a culture of leadership and success.

“This new trend emphasizes performance, accountability, and results – all in the context of developing employees and managers for the future. That way, companies continue to develop a pipeline of leaders in the organization while also setting higher and higher standards for improved performance,” said Stoicescu.

“The organizational coaching market in Romania is growing. In the last 7 years, more and more companies have opened up to a development process like coaching. The leadership and team development process through coaching is becoming more widely used, even in different ways. Middle managers are learning how to do coaching with their teams, while at Senior Management level, managers are helped to strengthen their capacity and prepare for bigger and more complex roles,” also considers Mihaela Reese, coach & team developer.

On her turn, Alis Anagnostakis, owner Mind Leaders, sees a constant growth over the past 10 years. “It is still a fragmented market and, to the best of my knowledge, there is as yet no formal study of the precise dimension of the market in Romania, nor comparisons with other countries. According to the numbers in the largest worldwide study of the coaching market undertaken by the International Coaching Federation and Price Waterhouse Coopers, the global number of coaches worldwide was around 41,000, with the largest numbers working in North America and Western Europe. Presently, in Romania I believe there might be a few hundred practicing coaches – some formally trained, some not. What I know for sure is that there are only around 40 accredited by the International Coaching Federation – the largest global community of professionally trained coaches,” added Anagnostakis.

“In some European countries, the market is more crowded.  I heard from a colleague that Romania has the highest number of coaches after the US (relative to the population,) though I cannot imagine this. It is still a very young profession and more and more people are starting to discover the power of coaching. It gets out of the corner of therapy. It is more about personal development.

When I came to Romania about 20 years ago, I was impressed with people’s interest to learn, be it languages, new concepts etc. I met many people who speak 3 – 5 languages, do a study beside their full time job. Now, more and more people have discovered the possibilities of personal development and coaching is one of the good roads to take,” expressed her point of view Petra Müller-Demary, accredited senior coach & founder Solution Surfers Romania.

Almost all executive coaching that Anagnostakis is contracted to deliver is addressed to top managers or those preparing to make a position jump in the company. Companies are recognizing the value of coaching as a tool for developing key people in the organisation (there are worldwide studies on the return on investment on coaching which suggest that the ROI might be as high as 500% – making coaching one of the most profitable investments in people development.) “Also, I have more clients who ask for coaching as a tool to develop teams – I have done a lot of team coaching, particularly over the past two years.

Finally, coaching is seen by more companies as a way to shift culture from passive-aggressive patterns towards more constructive ones. There are more and more internal coach training programs aimed at preparing internal coaches on one hand and also at training managers in the company to use coaching to develop their teams. I have seen properly trained managers practicing coaching in their organisations with outstanding results – both for their teams and for the company,” added the Mind Leaders’ Owner.

Daiana Stoicescu also sees a flow in the “system.” Unfortunately, despite multiple studies proving that coaching provides important career and organizational benefits, many leaders still do not want a coach. According to her, they will sometimes point to members of their team and tell the coach to fix them, not seeing the benefits of coaching for themselves – at least until something negative happens in their careers, and by then, it is often too late.

“There is a different feeling towards leaders who are not open to coaching, at least from my-admittedly biased-perspective. They come across as a bit more closed down, unwilling to explore new possibilities, and perhaps even stagnant. They don’t like asking for or listening to advice and feedback from others, and tend to get defensive when constructive advice is offered. Sometimes they seem more concerned with other priorities than getting results, like looking good, being the smartest person in the room, dominating others, or winning some sort of popularity contest,” added Stoicescu.

“They often have some sort of behavioral blind spot, for instance, getting angry too quickly, avoiding appropriate conflict, or letting their egos get in the way of getting results and building positive business relationships. Like the villagers in the story about the emperor who had no clothes, no one in the organization dares to give them a hint that they have opportunities to improve – and they don’t believe the messenger, usually from Human Resources, when he or she comes with bad news. Eventually, they get pushed out, never reach the next level, or burn out. This situation is a tragedy, because, with a little bit of coaching and a mind-set of being coachable, they could find new ways to get results and thrive.”

“There is one other category of leader that is relevant to the Romanian business market: the leader who has a coach but never does anything despite the coach’s best efforts. These leaders like the status of having a coach, but aren’t really interested in making positive change. A coach is more like a status symbol to them, a way of saying, “Hey, I’m on the leading edge of the coaching trend. I have a coach with amazing credentials. I’m getting enlightened as we speak. Now leave me alone,” explains the executive coach.

It’s important to know that, while managers and leaders complete a coaching training and learn to coach their own people, they also develop their own leadership abilities. They look at their own leadership style and opportunities for improvement. “In that way, we observe a triple benefit: the leader/coach develops new skills, the people whom the leader coaches improve their skills and performance, and the organization as a whole gets stronger. The bottom line is that leaders who have coaches in Romania have a different quality about them and, to me, are better., “concluded Daiana Stoicescu.

On her turn, Lilia Dicu, executive coach & founder of the LS Institute, believes that the situation in the rest of the Eastern Europe is quite similar to ours, mostly due to the fact that multinational companies take organizational decisions at HQ. So, often, their choice of coaching is reflected everywhere, in Eastern Europe local branches as well.

“In Romania, sometimes, coaching is still a debate – what is this domain really about? How  can it really serve a person? Does it really work? How is it different from other practices? This happens for a number of reasons – there was a time when a huge number of self-proclaimed coaches invaded the industry, without having the educational background, experience and certifications needed in order to practice this profession at the international standards brought under regulation by international organisations. Thus, a certain handicap and prejudice towards this profession was created. In this context, we, as professionals, strive to explain to people, clients and coaching passionates that coaching is a profession that is based on deontological standards, has clear objectives, is based on a structured process and achieves real results,” considers Lilia Dicu.

 

Clients’ openness

During the past few years, most of her clients were from Western Europe, but the situation changes according to the assignments she is working for, right now being a moment when she works mostly for Romanian clients. „It’s a matter of what the organization I am working for needs, and about what the situation looks like in the organization and what it really needs to achieve. For some of the organizations, there comes a proper moment for the local leaders to step into a higher leadership position. For other companies, there are leaders who come with extensive experience and who want to take the team to the next level. In situations like these, differences concerning the culture or the way the market works can appear, or even challenges in clicking together, in building the trust. This is the moment when the coach is present to support the executive to facilitate this accommodation faster and with greater results. Sometimes, it’s not a matter of capability, it’s a matter of speed and accuracy. And it’s not a matter of foreign or local, but a matter of the need for change,” explained Dicu.

Sometimes, there are executives appointed for new assignments, for new positions. Other times, there are clients who have reached a senior level and are thinking about how they can expand their expertise, asking themselves „what’s next” or how can they reshape or serve the company in a different way. Generally speaking, they are people who want to drive the change – for them and for others, as well.

With the Master Certified Coach (MCC) accreditation, the highest level of competence in this domain, she can now train other people to becoming coaches. So, in this case, her „clients” have now become  people who are fond of this profession and who want to build competence and strength at an international level, here, in Romania.

Mihaela Reese works mostly with Romanian clients, 32 to 42 years old, currently at a C-level position or aspiring to one, working for a medium sized or multinational company, usually married, with children and having a human touch. “I receive more requests comparing to the previous years for this profile. Besides this, there is a constant need for the coaching for special situations, for example managers who have difficulties in certain situations or with certain teams. There are more and more Romanians in senior roles, replacing the expats, which is a sign that the Romanian leadership is maturing. Coaching sustains this process,” considers Reese.

Alis Anagnostakis works with both Romanian and foreign clients and, according to her, the number of Romanian leaders seeking coaching has been steadily increasing over the past few years and they now make up the majority of her clients. A typical executive coaching client is usually a middle or top manager, preoccupied by personal and professional development and sometimes preparing for the next leadership position in his or her company. Often Anagnostakis’s clients are young high potential employees whom the company would like to help grow or they might be seasoned leaders who use coaching as a tool to develop themselves and the coach as that outside, objective, non-judgemental voice – a mirror they can look into and someone with whom they can bounce back and forth ideas.

“There is one particular type of executive coaching client – the top manager, board member and particularly the CEO. As one of my clients once told me – the higher up you climb on the corporate ladder, the lonelier it gets. It might sometimes be the case that nobody dares to give honest, straightforward feedback to the CEO. He or she is expected to know it all, to always be in control, to not show vulnerability. But CEOs are people too – they have emotions, doubts, need a good, honest talk with somebody they can trust just as much as any of us do,” said Anagnostakis. And there is the moment where the coach – trained to listen and reflect back, in a direct and non-judgemental way, can be a fantastic help. “As a coach, I regard the CEO in front of me just as I regard any other human being – that aura of authority that might prevent his own team from disagreeing with him or calling out behaviors he might need to change doesn’t exist in a coaching conversation. We are two people on a journey – he leads the way, I follow along and point out things we encounter on the way. The coaching conversation is that space of trust and openness where even the mightiest CEO can open up, be vulnerable and meet his own shadow. Thus it is a space where leaders whom others look up to can allow themselves to be imperfect and find new ways to grow – not only as leaders, but as human beings,” concluded Anagnostakis.

Petra Müller-Demary also works mostly with Romanian clients from various industries, offering executive coaching and senior management coaching. There are also people who come from their own initiative, either paid for by the company or by them. They see they are in a special situation in their life where they need some support. Be it to make a decision, find some new orientation, manage special challenges, going through a crisis or transformation process. “The solution-focused approach I use is also called ‘brief coaching’. It focuses on what works already instead of fixing or changing a person. Instead of analyzing the problem and what causes it, we look in detail at the preferred future and what already works well. We don’t have to change,” said Demary.

To work with an external coach is quite a high investment, therefore only a limited number of people from the company will benefit from their expertize. “Sometimes a person is new in a job, but needs to adapt fast and a coach can support in this transition phase. It might also be that a person will develop into a new position and the coaching can help here. There are also programs when a company offers coaching to a group of high potentials.  It can also support a cultural change and helps managers in developing a new leadership style. Sometimes there are also requests to ’fix the person’. At this point it is very important to have a 3 angular meeting with the sponsor /line manager. A coach can never ‘fix’ anybody. But I often see that coaching can help to make the communication and collaboration better. And then people also change their behavior,” explained Müller-Demary.

 

 

2016-2017 trends

 

While Alis Anagnostakis is expecting to see an increased demand for coaching from both companies and individuals, Mihaela Reese believes this occupation will become more professional. Also on the demand side, companies will increasingly choose more on the basis of solid criteria, including accreditation by the ICF. Last but not least, Reese foresees that clients will become more educated in choosing the right coach to work with.

“This goes hand in hand with an increased interest in self-awareness and an understanding that personal and professional development often go hand in hand and cannot be separated. “At corporate level, I am seeing more clients who prefer to replace the classical skills training with more facilitative, coaching style workshops and sometimes give up group training in favour of individual coaching for key people in the company. I also expect to see the team coaching trend that has started over the past two years growing,” concluded the Mind Leaders’ Owner.

“I also hope it will influence the education system more. I see this as a trend in other neighbor countries like Hungary. I am not sure if this is a trend or just a wish, but in the last years, I was involved in 2 projects where coaching was introduced in schools,” added Petra Muller-Demary.

Daiana Stoicescu sees one trend on the Romanian business market: the convergence of a variety of professional services – training, consulting, facilitation, and coaching – to serve client needs. “While I can be successful as a pure coach, I am even more successful when I position myself as a complete advisor to my clients, willing and able to combine a variety of approaches. Clients want solutions to their pressing problems. Coaching is a profession with clear boundaries and competencies. However, in the “real world,” clients want complete solutions to their problems. I believe a savvy coach is prepared to offer a range of solutions and wear multiple hats,” established Stoicescu.

According to Lilia Dicu, coaching is currently heading more to the things that people run away or usually hide from. “I’m refering to our emotions, intuition, spirituality, questions such as what is the „bigger meaning”, what makes sense for us and what doesn’t. No matter the method, coaching nowadays is about who we are as people, how we respond to the world around us and how we can make changes more than the need to have a strict plan and making things fit into a certain shape. So this is the future of coaching –harmoniuos blend of science and art- who we are, what shapes us, what triggers us to act at our best, how to mold ourselves in the best possible way, how to have different mindsets.”

 

Where to study

 

Professional coaching flourishes all over the globe, and in turn, so is the field of coach training. To ensure quality training, the International Coach Federation accredits coach-training programs that meet its high standards. This accreditation provides coach-training programs, and those who complete them, with a competitive edge both in their content and stature. Coaches worldwide recognize ICF as an industry leader and turn to the Association for training and continuing education.

Potential benefits of coaching to the employee include: better decisions, clearer goals and roles, increased self-awareness, more ideas and options, better relationships, better teamwork, reduced conflict, and renewed organizational commitment. Potential benefits to the organization include: improvements in productivity, quality, organizational strength, customer service, and shareholder value. Moreover, when coaching produces better alignment between personal and organizational values and goals, the results often include increased job satisfaction and organizational commitment and improved performance.

“The International Coaching Federation remains the point of reference when we talk about professionalism in the coaching profession. They are the ones who provide accreditation to coach training programs and to individual coaches. To get accredited, a coach needs to complete (depending on the level of accreditation) tens, sometimes hundreds of hours of training and prove they have a minimum of 100 hours of practice (the requirement for hours of practice can go as high as 2500 for the highest levels of coach accreditation).

Abroad there are already coaching masters programs from respected universities (showing that coach education is being taken more and more seriously at formal academic level). In Romania there are several coach training programs accredited by the ICF, So fortunately there are more and more opportunities for coaches to get properly trained,” concluded Alis Anagnostasis.

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