8 Steps Through Expat Change Using Personality Type

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." That's one of my favorite John Maxwell quotes, and if you've ever gone through an international transition or other kind of change, you know it's true. At our local APTi Chapter this week, we heard Ravi Verma talk about his experiences leading a change process at a billion-dollar company not too long ago. He applied personality type knowledge and the positive results speak for themselves. He used Kotter's 8 step model for change as a framework to highlight the different phases. As you read through them, I invite you to think of your work or your family system and see how you can facilitate the change process for others and for yourself.

8-Step Change Model according to Kotter www.kotterinternational.com

1. Urgency

Knowing that change is inevitable, different types have different reactions to the prospect of change. If you want to effect change, you have to create a sense of urgency. For people with a Sensing preference, for example, this can be achieved by explaining the details with data. Why is the change necessary? Who's going to do what, when, and where? What's a realistic picture of the future? To convince Intuiting teenagers of the advantages of your impending international relocation, it may be helpful to point out the general plan and direction, and come up with lots of re-frames and alternative ways to seeing things.

2. Coalition

Leading effective change means you have to have people on your team. You need to have at least one person who sees the bigger picture, one who's analytical, one to make it happen, one who is credible and liked, and one who's creative. If this reminds you of the Z-Model, you're on the right track: any kind of problem-solving or decision-making ideally goes through all four functions of Sensing, Intuiting, Thinking, and Feeling, to ensure alignment, purpose, and results. For your expat assignment, this means knowing details, facts, and figures about your relocation and destination, as well as opportunities to exploring new ideas and hobbies, taking into consideration the money and logical aspects just as much as the feelings, values, and preferences of everyone in the family.

3. Vision

When defining a vision, personality type is a helpful factor to communicate it in a way that the vision is bought into by all parties. In particular, consider the Thinking and Feeling function - does your goal only make sense for the bottom line? Ignoring the personal dimension would be like trying to balance a square table on only two legs. Underestimate people's values at your own peril.

4. Communicate

For people with Introversion preferences on your team, you may want to provide written information in advance to allow time for reflection. People with Extraversion preferences may appreciate a discussion forum, and the opportunity to bounce ideas off of one another face to face. In any case, everyone appreciates the feeling of being heard and having a voice. If you're the expat deciding whether to go or not, this means asking your HR department and every other contact who's involved in your relocation every single question you may have, and not giving up until you have a satisfactory answer.

5. Empower

For change to be successful, barriers have to be removed. You want to make sure to provide everyone the tools they need to do their parts, as well as manage any conflicts that may arise. The Thomas-Kilman Instrument may come in handy. For more information, see my post on conflict styles.

6. Short-Term Wins

To persevere over the long haul, you have to celebrate intermediate steps. This creates a feeling of accomplishment particularly important for people with a preference for Judging. Equally important for those with a preference for Perceiving, acknowledging short-term wins shows progress towards the goal. Mothers, yes, this means some days are a success if you got out of bed and folded some laundry. Especially during the first few months of your expat assignment, everything is going to take a lot longer than you're used to. That's normal. Your system is getting used to a new country. Stay positive, and cut yourself some slack.

7. Never let up

There will come a time where you feel like giving in and slowing down. To see a change process through to perfection, however, it is important not to lose momentum. To guard against change fatigue and help your team members deal with stress, consider applying the knowledge from the Introduction to Type and Stress - In the Grip manual. This is particularly relevant for international assignees, because your change process is so overwhelmingly all inclusive that moments where you feel in control might be few and far between. Stick with it. Don't give up. Know that going through culture shock is part of the process. This, too, shall pass.

8. Culture

To make any change stick, it has to change the culture. Follow up with assessments, and agree on a minimum maintenance level of the introduced change. Again, knowledge of type helps support everyone in effective ways. Once you're adapted to the new culture, you'll be able to move around more confidently, find nuances within the new country's culture, and have fun with it. Remember, adapting doesn't mean adopting, so you're still going to be yourself - only with added behaviors and perhaps even new language skills on top.

Image by Albireo2006, Flickr, Creative Commons License