WHILE coaching is still not widely used in Slovakia as a tool for staff development, the economic crisis has provided an impetus for its greater usage, with managers as well as companies now looking for new ways and approaches to face the challenges brought by the economic downturn. An increasing interest in the services of coaches, as well as growing sales, suggest that Slovakia is following the global trend towards wider use of the technique.
“The current economic situation is precisely when coaching can be an effective way to support managers to find new, creative and unique solutions suitable for unpredictable situations,” Zlatica Mária Stubbs, a member of the presidium of the Slovak Association of Coaches (SAKO) and the Slovak Chartered Chapter of the International Coach Federation (ICF), told The Slovak Spectator.
Coaching is a practice that helps people identify and achieve personal goals. Stubbs explained that coaching is not training but a means of personal development for individuals or teams in handling the unique situations in which they find themselves.
“These situations cannot be predicted; they are addressed as they happen,” said Stubbs. “During the current economic situation this approach is very effective.”
Dagmar Kéryová, an internationally certified coach who works in Slovakia, pointed out that the current turbulent and uncertain environment, with its wide range of possibilities and information, presents managers with different kinds of challenges compared to the past. There is not a single, well-tested solution any more and each company and each manager needs to find a specific solution.
“More than 20 years after the revolution, we have in Slovakia managers and company owners with long experience,” said Kéryová. “They already have so much knowledge that they just need to distil from it the most effective essence and also to have a look at approaches they have not used so far. And here a coach, by questioning and challenging, can help.”
Companies in Slovakia take an interest
Coaching still belongs among the practices which are seeking to establish themselves in the minds of Slovak companies and businesspeople. Coaches here see interest especially from large companies, which hire them to coach top managers, as these companies are aware of the benefits coaching can bring. But smaller companies remain cautious partly because of mistrust, but also by a lack of information and money. But practitioners see an upward trend.
“In general we can say that foreign companies [when coming to Slovakia] bring with them something of their own culture, in which coaching is a common tool and so foreign companies are using coaching more than Slovak ones,” Martin Prodaj, chairman of SAKO, told The Slovak Spectator.
Jarmila Kurhajcová, deputy chair of SAKO, confirmed that large international companies in particular are interested in coaching in Slovakia, either because the approach has been transferred from parent companies or because it is being provided as a benefit to top managers. She named Slovak Telekom, Orange, VÚB or ČSOB as some of the companies using the services of coaches.
When comparing the situation in Slovakia with that found abroad, Prodaj points to the higher number of life coaches found elsewhere. In Slovakia, he says, coaching occurs mainly in the business sphere.
“This is also because coaching is relatively costly and life coaches are hired especially by private clients,” said Prodaj, who sees coaching as an above-average personal development tool which not everyone can afford.
Stubbs sees big differences when comparing the situation, for example, in England, noting that top managers there have an opportunity to develop and grow when their company helps them to find a coach. In Slovakia coaching is used more often when a manager needs to improve in some specific area. Slovakia is far behind in the life coaching field compared to other countries, according to Stubbs.
According to Kéryová, there is a marked difference in the goals of coaching.
“Sometimes I see in Slovakia that the goal is to reach some targeted economic results or improvement in some kinds of behaviour,” said Kéryová. “Firms that are more developed focus more on their sense of work and long-term solutions.”
But Kéryová added that coaching is not a cure-all and that it should be used in a sensitive way so that people do not feel manipulated.
In Slovakia, the most in-demand services by coaches focus on the business sector and clients hire coaches to boost their performance, improve managerial skills, and motivate people. Kurhajcová as well as Stubbs said individual coaching is one of the most sought-after services coaches provide in Slovakia, while Kurhajcová added coaching in communicating with clients.
Sales up by 35 percent
A recent survey among members of SAKO and the ICF in Slovakia showed an increase of more than 35 percent in sales of coaching services. The experience of individual coaches confirms this upward trend.
“During a period of crisis companies often reach for new tools with the hope that they will help them, and coaching is meeting this task better than most,” said Prodaj. He added that as firms’ first experience of coaching is typically good they tend to widen their use of the approach thereafter.
The experience of Kurhajcová confirms the upward trend. She sees more extensive and targeted promotion, and the growing community of coaches, as lying behind this trend.
“There is a lot of information about coaching available on the market,” Kurhajcová said, adding that conveying information about results achieved from one company to another is working very well. “Firms are realising that classical forms of education are not the most effective any more. They are looking for other forms for the effective development of their employees under existing conditions. On the other hand, employees feel re-trained.”
Stubbs believes that this increase also indicates that coaching is becoming more respected as an effective means of personal development.
“Companies are beginning to realise that during the current rushed times they need to find an effective way to support managers in order for them to handle better and faster the challenges they face,” said Stubbs.
Kéryová believes that coaching is an approach which reflects the current situation.
“It helps people to return back to the essence, the sense of things and via self-reflection be able to choose better from all the available opportunities and life values about which we often do not even have time to think.”
Coaches expect the increase in interest in their services to continue.
“I believe that the upward trend that has begun will continue,” said Prodaj. “Coaching is something new, with huge potential for companies and thus they will continue to use it more and more.”
Kurhajcová points out that coaching brings new ways of solving tasks and situations, plus creativity and uniqueness.
“Coaching can start a change in the approach and the way of thinking of people, creating space for new solutions – how to survive or move forward and develop,” said Kurhajcová. “It is a managerial method that secures long-term development of human resources.”
According to Kéryová, coaching helps to decode events and their meaning for leaders and thus also for their companies.
“It is said that change is [characteristic of] life,” said Kéryová. “Coaching is especially about accepting this and working with change. And this is what current leaders need.”
17. Oct 2011 at 0:00 | Jana Liptáková