A Research Paper By Konstantin Petrov, Executive Coach, BULGARIA
Career Coaching in Bulgaria Interview With Meglena Beneva
Konstantin: Hello, Megi. How are you today?
Meglena: Hi Konstantin. I’m doing good, thank you, busy as always. What about you?
Konstantin: I’m also doing well, thank you, and thank you for accepting to do this interview. To kick it off, where did your interest in coaching start from?
Meglena: My interest in coaching was provoked by leadership training in my company, where we were practicing coaching skills to use as leaders. I clearly remember a demo session we did during the practice in that training with a colleague – it was so simple just to listen, ask an open question to what the person was saying and ask him to come up with a solution. The person was so motivated to act and happy with the solution after that. So, it was something simple and effective for me. And later on another leadership training during a coaching session in which I was the coachee, I decided to enroll in NLP and later coaching training instead of continuing with an Executive MBA as it was the initial plan. 12 years later I am happy and content with my choice and decision.
Konstantin: Your career in Nestle was astonishing, 12 years, 5 different roles. What made you leave that behind and pursue a career in coaching?
Meglena: A few things provoked me to make that change:
One was looking for further development instead of spending the days in what seemed to be at that time business and work I know so well and has become for me a routine rather than something exciting.
I wanted to work for myself, try to build my own business, change the direction and try something new and exciting
At the moment when I left it looked like something not so much planned and thought through and as if jumping into the unknown. Looking back to that time I realize that I have been building upon that step for the last few years before I left the company. I became an NLP practitioner, a coach, I started delivering the leadership and everyday coaching training in Nestle Bulgaria and supporting leaders to adapt more coaching skills and approaches in the way they work with their teams. I also started delivering sales training as a freelance trainer.
Advancing in the career is valuable but at some point, in growing in the hierarchy I started spending more time on endless meetings and administration than actually meeting customers or working with the team and seeing tangible results. As a more active and result-oriented person, that was a change I could not and did not want to adapt to.
My division in the company went through serious transformations in the last 4 years before I left, and I put a lot of effort to make that transformation happen and work, so in the end, it felt like a good job done and time to move forward to something else.
How Is Coaching in Bulgaria (Eastern Europe) Different From Coaching in Western Europe?
Konstantin: What was it like to be doing coaching back then2012 – in a post-Communist Country like Bulgaria?
Meglena: Actually, in the Bulgarian international business environment coaching is well accepted and appreciated (by international I mean all the multinational companies having offices in Bulgaria). Gradually it became part of most of the leadership training and more top managers are working with coaches. Coaching activities in some of the Bulgarian branches are considered as best practices and communicated as such to branches in other countries. Of course, the smaller Bulgarian companies were quite behind with building coaching mindsets back in 2012 and still are. I work as a business /leadership coach and not a life coach.
Konstantin: Every beginning has its challenges and difficulties. I am sure yours was not an exception. What kept your motivation to continue, despite the obstacles you faced? What were some of the challenges you faced in your early career in coaching?
Meglena: I usually just have this stubbornness and when it is hard, I can just keep going. Some people say that I am like a warrior when it comes to work and persistence.
I faced two main obstacles: In Bulgaria, there are several good HR consultancy companies and several well-known professionals. So why would somebody work with me, I was nobody in the market when they can work with somebody/a company that offers a broader range of services and solutions. What I did, was that I kept practicing coaching, I also continued to be the trainer for Nestle for the Every Day Coaching program and I partnered with one of the top coaching and leadership trainers in Bulgaria, I became an apprentice and supported her and the program with all basic things.
Second obstacle: I was extremely tired and burnout after the busy period in the company before so I did not have a lot of energy to put into building my own business and company. How I managed – for a year I worked in the company of a friend of mine doing basic tasks and working in a car track field. As some people call it – it was kind of a going down from a lot of responsibilities and doing the simple repetitive task to have the time to pause, slow down and recharge.
Konstantin: Megi, you have the learner’s mindset and I know as we speak you are graduating with a Master’s degree in Psychology. How important are self-actualization and continuous learning for coaches?
Meglena: It’s like the water to the grass and flowers, they need watering to keep growing and so is coaching and myself
Konstantin: You have substantial international experience in Coaching. How is coaching in Bulgaria (Eastern Europe) different from coaching in Western Europe?
Meglena: From the business perspective – I believe that in Bulgaria for Executives it is even more valued than in Western Europe, or at least most leaders in Bulgaria use it and want to try it. Otherwise, people are having a similar list of topics, similar challenges. Maybe there is a bit of more individual initiative in Western Europe to try coaching that in Bulgaria, here is mainly initiated by the company, though it is widely appreciated.
Learnings From the Ultra-Marathons To Coaching
Konstantin: Megi not many people are aware, but you are also an ultra-marathonist – running 120km in one go is a piece of cake for you? How has this part of your life helped you with Coaching or has this been an obstacle?
Meglena: I use a lot of examples and learnings from the ultra-marathons to transfer and apply in my business and personal life. For example, I know that when an ultramarathon is hard and I feel that I cannot do it anymore, I know I just need to keep walking and a few minutes later it is a piece of cake again, and I keep reminding myself that sometimes. It also helps as time for self-reflection and getting to know me better in terms of strengths and sabotages. It also thought me that if I do it step by step in the end it will happen and I will get better. It also can be a barrier when I run too much, I find it hard to balance my work, personal life, and running.
Konstantin: You are currently an Executive Coach, ICF accessor, and Mentor for coaches. Which is the role you love the most and why?
Meglena: Hm, it is hard to say which one I love the most, they are all connected and different, they gave me a different perspective – of the client, the coach, the mentor, they ask me to change my perspective and enrich me and they all make me a better coach as I can find something to learn from each one of these roles.
Coaching Developing in Bulgaria
Konstantin: How do you see coaching developing in Bulgaria in the coming 10 years?
Meglena: I think it will continue growing, I believe it will reach more people daily. At the same time, I believe that coaching should partner with other professions to support people and organizations, or coaching will become a skill that a lot of other professions will use, so it will dissolve in other professions. To continue existing as coaching only each coach should find their specific need.
Konstantin: What’s that one lesson you learned along the way, that you will never forget?
Meglena: I learned to be flexible. I left the company (Nestle) with one idea and plan in mind, but when I started working day by day, it changed because the things I was doing every day were a bit different from the plan. So, I learned to trust my intuition and not only lead but follow myself and where my actions are taking me.
New Coaches Advice
Konstantin: There are many new coaches, eager to make a change in the world starting their journey (myself included). What advice can you give to them?
Meglena: Be persistent and patient, and not only stick to the plan but see where your everyday actions are taking you and believe in that path
Konstantin: If you had to do it all over again, what would you do the same way, and what would you do differently?
Meglena: I like where I am, so I guess I will repeat most of it. Maybe one thing I still struggle to manage is to work less and to take on fewer commitments and activities.
Konstantin: Thank you, Megi. It has been such a pleasure to have this conversation with you
Meglena: Thank you, as well. Till we meet again.