Going Global – The Benefits of Coaching Across Geographic Boundaries

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Here at WorkJoy, we love everything about coaching. And we love inviting colleagues to share their own perspectives on coaching. For our inaugural guest interview, we are pleased to welcome Gabor Varjasi, Chief Human Resources Officer at Hungarian Post (Magyar Posta), one of Hungary’s largest corporations with 30,000+ employees. Gabor has coached leaders (and hired coaches for leaders) in multiple countries, and we were curious to hear his observations on how coaching transcends – and is influenced by – lines on a map.

Gabor, welcome to WorkJoy’s Musings. You have worked in multiple countries within Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas. In which countries have you worked most closely with coaches?

I have worked with coaches mostly in Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine, France and UK (10+ other countries occasionally). At the global HQ of MOL Group (Budapest, Hungary) we created an internal coaching network with certified leaders in this profession in 2010.

You lead HR for a large corporation in Hungary. How do leaders in Eastern Europe feel about coaching?

We have been using coaching within organizations for the past 10 to 15 years, but still leaders who grew up and took their first managerial roles at the end of communist regimes in the late 1980s have difficulties accepting the concept.

What holds these leaders back from working with coaches?

 Mainly these managers from the “baby boomer” generation have difficulty admitting that even a leader needs support. This level of openness and vulnerability is a challenge and goes against the style they have felt they have to maintain to be successful. These leaders see asking for support to continue their development as a sign of weakness – which makes them wary of accepting coaching as a valid process.

This is a fascinating perspective and an opportunity for cultural evolution. How are things changing in Hungary as our business world continues to globalize?

Thanks to significant investments by multinational corporations in Eastern Europe (implementing new ways of working and leading) and the obviously tremendous changes in the education systems and societies since the 1990s, a new generation of leaders has emerged.  As a result, there are multiple generations working together now. And the newer, more global generation of leaders has embraced coaching.

When do you consider hiring coaches for your leaders?

From my point of view, we should consider coaching when we promote a leader to become a manager of managers (director level). This is a new dimension for these leaders, having to lead a team of experts. Coaching also can support leaders given especially challenging tasks, like transforming an entire department. The more I manage change myself, the more I believe the necessity of coaching for leaders who are in charge of the change process.

Agreed – those of us in human resources often “test drive” the use of coaches on ourselves. Having coached and hired coaches across multiple countries, what are the benefits that transcend boundaries – things about coaching that work well regardless of location?

Coaching mobilizes the inner drive and capabilities of the person being coached, moving her closer to achieving all desired goals and even beyond. Once there is a perfect fit between the coach and coachee the magic happens and energize both parties. Coaching provides a different level of self-awareness during and after the process. The most benefit comes once the coachee has started to act, to make the changes necessary to move toward the desired aim, and to start overcoming the fears that have held her back in the past.

 What are the qualities you look for in coaches for your leaders?

While a coach doesn’t need to come from the same country as the coachee, the coach should be aware of and respect unique cultural qualities and differences. Let me share a personal example with you. I had a senior leader who needed to drive significant change across organizations and multiple countries but was having difficult inspiring people to follow him. However, we (the corporate team) were certain that he was the right one to invest in and trust, as he was a high potential leader with an impressive professional track record within the company. So we hired a coach for this leader. Unfortunately the coaching process failed due to a cultural misfit between the coach and coachee. While I thought a coach from a different culture would help expand the diversity mindset of the leader, it instead caused the leader to pull back from coaching all together.  Fortunately, the second coach was a better interpersonal and cultural fit with the leader, and together they produced the desired business results.

Professor Geert Hofstede, a Dutch social psychologist and professor, describes national cultures along six dimensions and highlights the importance of considering these dimensions in interpersonal relationships. Naturally, beside country differences there are many other key coaching qualities to evaluate when matching a coach to a coachee, including personal values, attitudes, experiences, and the organizational culture where the coachee works. It is a common mistake not to focus on these predispositions more critically.

Coaches must see through the eyes of their coaches and heed the warning of Anais Nin: “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

Thank you for your insights, Gabor! 

Photo by Slava Bowman on Unsplash


Tina Robinson is CEO of WorkJoy. A former corporate leader gone rogue, she’s now a workplace futurist and culture disrupter on a mission to save the world by transforming how we think and feel about “work.” We all want to bring our “whole selves” to work – and be cheered and rewarded for it. Tina’s imperative is to make this a reality, as a business leader, consultant, coach, facilitator, and teacher. When not steering the WorkJoy ship, Tina meditates on the beach, camps in the desert, and teaches undergraduate business students about the future of work. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two crazy pet parrots.

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