Myles Downey, one of Europe's most prominent business coaches and founder of the School of Coaching, travelled to Russia in early November to participate in several seminars and conferences.

The business coaching market in Russia is still very unfocused, he wrote after his trip. There are various associations and federations of couches looking to set up common standards. Some coaches provide quality services while others misuse the term as a label for other types of work.

However, Downey also added that companies in Russia are becoming more interested in using business coaches to make their management more effective.

“Coaching is obviously at a different stage of development here than in the United Kingdom,” Downey wrote. “It was like looking at the past because all the strengths and instruments that came together and created the profession and market [in the UK] are now in operation in Moscow.”

Coaching target audience

Main clients for business coaches in Russia are top and middle mangers. Coaching of the lower ranked workers is usually done for cosmetic effect and the results are correspondingly felt on the surface level, said Andrey Korolikhin, director of the Russian School of Coaching and leader of the Professional Association of Russian-language Coaches.

Experts agree that coaching is becoming more mainstream in Russia, but also caution that demand in the service is outpacing the number of good-quality coaches that can be recruited.

Coaching schools offer the market graduate an excessive amount of coaches who either have no experience of working in commercial structures or have no intention to become coaches, Korolikhin said. These students usually take up the studies simply to move up the ranks in another job.

“There are a lot of many “freshly cooked” coaches on the market who do not have experience of working in an organizational context,” Korolikhin said. “If they still manage to sell their services, they are practically training on the clients.”

As a result, there are multiple options available for those looking for business coaches in Russia, but the quality of what is on offer is questionable. “Coaching” has a trendy ring to it and some companies are using the term without actually providing the services expected of business coaches.

“Pseudo-coaches are ready to fulfill almost any customer's whim without thinking about the long-term effects of such a strategy on the market or their professional career,” Korolikhin said. “In-demand professional coaches feel great pressure from the corporate market to lower their prices or serve corporate fantasies about business coaching that have nothing to do with business coaching.”

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Korolikhin said that these different business practices carve a greater role for professional coaching communities, which would provide a “professional compass” for people in the industry. Russia still has few such official mechanisms, but their number is growing. Coaching providers and clients are also starting to pay more attention to their coaches' memberships in such organizations rather than just formal certificates about their education.

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Yelena Belugina, managing partner of Coach-management and general director of Coaching Technologies in Rostov-on-Don, noted that there has been a surge in demand for education in corporate management in the south of Russia. She expects that the offers on the coaching market will continue to expand in the regions. As part of this, clients are bound to become more selective when picking coaching programs and will try to get into sessions that focus on specific skill sets.

Other coaches also have a good forecast for the development of business coaching in Russia.

Andrey Korolikhin predicted that pseudo-coaches will be expelled from the market as it balances itself out. There will be fewer corporate victims of mislabeled coach offers and the criteria for selecting coaches will be clearer, he said.

He estimated that 70 percent of the target audience for business coaching have not yet tried to implement the practice in their organization. About 20 percent have tried it and will continue to use the services of business coaches in the future, while only about 10 percent of the organizations have already lost interest in the practice after negative experiences with pseudo-coaches.

Korolikhin added that the market share of internal coaches within organizations is likely to increase while the pool of expats coaches that target their services to foreign managers will become more diluted by local coaches that have a good grasp of foreign languages and experience of working in transnational corporations.