Measuring the Immeasurable?


A constant challenge for companies and their leaders is how they can improve efficiency, performance and, eventually, the bottom line. When traditional methods are exhausted or something already in practice doesn’t seem to work as it used to, many turn to less tangible aids that may have an indirect impact on the above. One of these is coaching.

Márta Holló.

Coaching aims to target the person, oftentimes the leaders of a firm, to help them find new ways to tackle a problem. It does so mostly by exploring alternatives with which a CEO can approach a subject by opening them up the new methods or strengthening certain skills that will result in better leadership.

“Given my background in television, my focus is on communication”, says Márta Holló, coach, editor and television news anchor. “I also did an MBA to get a better understanding of what skills and knowledge a good expert needs to move ahead.”

“People generally reach out to me when they get stuck, in the field of communication,” she says. It is not necessarily day-to-day communication, but when, for example, a leader realizes that in order to move ahead and be able to manage a bigger team, they need to make some changes.

Coaching helps us to see ourselves from the outside. “During our consultations, we are going through situations – sometimes current issues – and put some of these on the table allowing the coachee to find a solution,” Holló explains.

“I may help them in preparing for presentations, or with daily communications skills, but overall, in what ways one can become a more successful leader.”

There are many branches of coaching, some of which might give specific recommendations on a subject, but in general it aims aimed at enhancing the qualities and thinking of a person such that they would translate into better performance.  

Hard to Quantify

Because of this, the success of coaching is not easy to quantify. And, despite what many might assume, measurement may not be necessary any way. There are certain elements that could only be assigned a figure forcibly.

“You would see examples for it in Hungary as well but I don’t think it is right,” coach Edit Wiesner, tells the Budapest Business Journal.  

“Trying to assign a figure to every point would require massive follow-up, surveying, etc. and it would not even be possible,” she says. If a coachee learns to look at an issue in a different way, it might be translated into figures but the mayor impact is happening on the “sidelines”, Wiesner says.  

According to the expert, who is one of the pioneers of the profession in Hungary and has coached top executives of OTP Bank, Heineken Hungária and DM Hungária, a significant part of the world has already moved away from this measurement mindset and treats coaching rather as a means to improve corporate culture.

In the past 20 years, during which coaching has been developing more intensely, this mindset of cultural development has gained traction.

“It is not the balance sheet alone that counts, but factors such employee branding or retention are also ‘side-products’ of executive coaching.”

Generation Gaps

Mindset varies by generation as well. An older-generation leader’s response to bad figures may be the dismissal of employees. On paper this works, as the balance is redressed, but in the longer run the workers who stayed may decide to leave as well.

Gen X leaders like to work independently and improve their skills by involving outside help/coaches. Gen Z employees get informed and cooperate differently; they might have more demand for thinking together and a more agile way of working.

Leaders with experience abroad tend to be more open-minded than those who were trained in the more traditional Hungarian corporate environment and would not give feedback or would dismiss an employee when there is a problem, Wiesner says.

“I always tell my clients I am willing to give some advice as long as I have insight into the problem, that is, I can talk from my own experience. But it is they who see what is going on inside a company and are faced with colleagues,” Wiesner says.

“One can give advice, but it is the person being coached who is faced with the corporate culture and in-built practices and can take action as much as the culture allows for it.”

Holló adds: “Clients arrive with a variety of primary goals – but there is no case when only business issues are laid on the table.” Private life issues also arise even if the session starts with a business problem, and vice versa, she explains.

“At the end of the day, the aim is to have positive changes regardless of what aspect we are talking about.”

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