Fifteen years ago only the foreign CEOs of Hungarian subsidiaries of multinational corporations had a business coach which they commonly brought along with themselves from their own country. Hungarian business coaches are present at all sorts of companies including giant corporations as well as tiny start-ups. Top Hungarian coaches with international certification work already for clients abroad as well.

“Some eleven years ago a Hungarian company’s HR manager refused our offer saying that they had no sofa in the office to lay coachees down on. “Fortunately, such a confusion of coaching with psychoanalytic therapy would be unimaginable these days” Laura Komócsin PCC, managing director of a market-leading company Business Coach explained to the BBJ.  By now corporate executives have learned from their daily experiences what business coaching is good for. “Or at least their HR managers are well-informed enough about the success stories of Hungarian coaches,” Komócsin added.

The most recent market survey conducted by Business Coach this February shows that the biggest customers are still the Hungarian subsidiaries of the European corporations, mostly from the IT, telecommunications, and financial services sectors. Two-third of the questioned corporations have already used a coaching service before and sixty percent of the rest is planning to use it.

The dynamic growth of the market is due to three basic trends, so the market survey report goes. Firstly, smaller and smaller companies ask for business coaching services. Secondly, at major corporations a wider and wider circle of employees is receiving coaching. Finally, a growing number of internal coaches work together with external coaches in the private as well as in the public sector.

“The growth of the market at the multinational corporations is due to the fact that a growing number of people get coaching at these corporations; top executives are not the only clients any more,” Komócsin told BBJ. However, at medium-sized Hungarian companies coaching is primarily used as a first step  in organizational development; the main function of coaching is to prepare the managing director for the challenges. Lately, startup CEOs have increasingly often requested coaching as well.

As a corporate practice, coaching serves primarily the needs of the company’s top executives. “Ten years ago coaching used to be an exclusive perk that CEOs were rewarded with; nowadays, however, it is being recognized as a device for improving leadership and readiness,” Márta Miatkovics, senior coach of Human Score shared her experiences with us. Apart from the training sessions for peer executive groups, the so-called team coachings are getting popular as well. In such sessions, we coach every actor in a given business group.”

Expanding circle

“As a matter of fact, coaching is still an exclusive service,” Laura Komócsin emphasized to BBJ. Although the trend points to the growth in the number of coachees, recent research shows that 80 percent of the corporations grant coaching for no more than 5 percent of their employees. For that reason, coaching topics tend to be tailored to the needs of the top executives. “Regarding the topics, the most important thing has always been the improvement of leadership. After that comes the support related to new tasks or promotions,” Komócsin explained. A complex set of problems ranks third: time management, work life balance (see our box article) and burnout are now among the important topics. “In 2008, burnout only occupied the 8th place on the list; stress & conflict treatment and personal branding were ahead of it,” Laura Komócsin added.

Coaching for change

“Ten years ago, multinational leaders were the typical clients of coaches. If the top executive was a foreigner, he or she brought the coach from his/her country along with him. As the executive was practically left alone with his problems, the coach’s purpose was for him or her to be able to talk to someone.” Márta Miatkovics remembers. “Nowadays coaching assignments mostly come for the HR departments of corporations. And the preparation for organization is behind these orders.”

Hungarian specialties

“Last year eighty percent of my clients were from outside of Hungary: from Brazil South Korea, Belgium or Canada. We communicate via private videocall services,” Laura Komócsin told us. Most of the top executives struggle with universal problems. “Almost all multinational leaders – I supported – have problems about fitting into the matrix organization system as they have to report to their bosses and a professional as well ,” Komócsin said.

A specific problem is virtual contact. Apart from the fact that the executive is not able to see his boss, he also has problems motivating his employees without meeting them in person. There are also problems connected to cultural differences. Assertivity is a bigger problem in Asian cultures than in the American culture. Similarly, Asians have a harder time building a personal brand than Europeans and Americans. It is a common problem that the Hungarian expat leaders have difficulties maintaining their relationships in Hungary while they have to do a lot of work in the foreign country they moved to. In addition, every boss can have their personal problems. “One of my Rumanian coachees felt like he has to do double the work compared to other people to make others accept him,” Laura Komócsin told us. “Several female managers shared with me that they have no problems with their position in their personal life, but they are treated in a bad way within the company because of their gender, that they did not recognize in their home country.”

WLB – An evergreen problem

Work life balance is an omnipresent problem  in all areas of business – that is what all the coaches unanimously told to BBJ. “Earlier, it mostly used to be a problem of female executives. The work brought home from the office could only be done at the expense of taking care of the family. Today it is a problem for everyone; especially for people who are just starting a family. Klára Lapu’s experience, based on coaching CEOs and top executives, is different. “By the time someone reaches the position of CEO, the conflict between career and family is most probably solved already. On the level of middle management, however, it is a serious problem.  Middle-level executives find it much more difficult to balance their work time, partly because of having fewer financial resources for the possible solutions.

“In order to solve the problem of WLB, one needs to possess the ability to say no,” Laura Komócsin explains. Saying no is harder than it seems. The manager has to be able to say no both to their family and their boss, in the meantime handing out tasks to collagues in an assertive way. Coaches help struggling coachees by making them prioritize tasks. They make coachees think through what the consequence of not completing a certain task can be. “I have a surprising experience with overladen bosses. Quite often, the real problem is that they do not trust their colleagues. If that is the case, they must check the direct reports to see what are they capable of and how loyal they are,” Komócsin explains. In the end, a balance has to be created: what tasks are not worth to spend too much time and effort on, and which tasks can be completed equally well by other people. The real goal is not to understand the issue but to thrust people out of their routines. “One of my clients only realized the perks of having two cell phones after his divorce. Now he owns one personal cell phone and one business one. He leaves the second one in the office on weekends.”