What is Expat Coaching, and why is it important?

“An expatriate (in abbreviated form, expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing or legal residence. The word comes from the Latin ex (out of) and patria (country, fatherland)." (cf Wikipedia)

“Individuals and organizations who engage in a professional coaching relationship will experience fresh perspectives on personal challenges and opportunities, enhanced decision-making skills, greater interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence in carrying out their chosen work and life roles.” (cf International Coach Federation ICF)

International moves bring radical changes with them, both in the professional and the private field. Taking an active approach to preparing for those changes with the help of coaching, by formulating clear goals, anticipating possible obstacles as well as identifying how to work around them greatly improves the chances for a successful assignment and happy families abroad.

How do I know if I need Expat Coaching?

Only you can answer this one. This may be your first relocation that you find daunting, maybe you want to be as well prepared as possible, or your expectations are not being met, you are finding it hard to settle into your new home, you have identified a knowledge or behavioral gap, or you are ready to take action to reach your goals and improve your circumstances. Expat Coaching is for you if you are looking for confidential and professional support to address the changes you are experiencing and make the most of your international experience.

PLEASE NOTE Coaching is NOT for you if you are looking for someone who tells you what to do, if you see neither need nor reason to change or improve on anything at all, or if you are looking for  therapy.

What are some of the reasons why expats ask for coaching?

Here are some situations where coaching is beneficial:

  •     when you are offered an interesting position abroad but your partner does not want to go
  •     when you take up an interesting position abroad, your spouse accompanies you, but is not allowed to work there
  •     when you and your partner decide to relocate and your relationship takes a turn for the worse
  •     when you or your spouse find it hard to get used to the new surroundings and experience culture shock, anxiety, or depression
  •     when you are having trouble building up a social circle, feel lonely, or get homesick
  •     when you cannot seem to get your new team to work well
  •     when you find yourself off your home-company's radar and out of the loop regarding career opportunities
  •     when you want to go home (repatriate)

At Building the Life You Want LLC we are prepared for these and many more questions, because we have worked through them ourselves. We understand that the expatriate and their family might be uncomfortable discussing these issues with their employers or HR departments and are therefore happy to provide a confidential and supportive environment in our coaching sessions.

What does the coaching process look like?

Once you have made the initial contact, we will be in touch to clarify any questions you might have. This will be a getting-to-know-each other type of conversation, it is not binding and we will not ask you to sign anything. If we both decide that we can make a successful coaching relationship happen, we will set our first appointment.

What happens in that first appointment, and do I have to pay for it? I've heard a lot about free first sessions!

As described in the previous answer, our first appointment or session won't be our first conversation. We are going to establish whether we're suited for each other in those initial contact conversations. That part is free. However, in our first appointment, we define the parameters of the coaching process and enter into the official coaching agreement. As such, this first appointment plays an integral part for the coaching results we aim to achieve and will be charged at full price.

Can’t I just ask my friends to coach me?

Of course you can, but we would not recommend it. Friends have a personal stake in your situation, they are emotionally involved and therefore less objective. Lending and receiving friendly support is a beautiful, wonderful thing, but it does not substitute coaching. A good friend probably cheers you on as much if not more than a coach, but they do not ask as many or the kind of uncomfortable questions that are necessary for personal growth; that’s the coach’s job. What your friend and your coach have in common is that you trust them and are comfortable sharing your feelings with them, but essentially, coaching is a professional relationship with the mission to help you reach your goals and therefore a defined end-date.

What if my situation is really difficult or really special, how do I know if you can help me?

We won’t know ‘til we try! If you feel at any point that the coaching isn’t working anymore, the first step is to let us know. Honest feedback and constructive criticism will allow us both to move forward and reach our goals. Sometimes, coach and client simply are not "on the same wavelength," and both parties are free to communicate this and pursue other avenues. However, when the personal rapport is established, and the process still gets stuck, the coach has the option of peer supervision: In the coaching agreement it is up to you to allow us to discuss aspects of our coaching conversations with colleagues of ours. This serves to anonymously get their opinions on which alternatives we could look at.

My company said I can get some coaching as part of my relocation package. If I come to you, how much information do you have to relay to my bosses?

None at all. First of all, congratulations for having chosen to work for a company that takes such great care of you! And second, if our conscience and work-ethic weren’t enough, the coaching agreement we both sign clearly states that what we talk about remains between you, whomever you want to tell, and your coach.

How many appointments or sessions do I need?

The amount and interval of sessions will vary depending on the goals you have. We define at the very beginning what your goals are and what your life will look like once you have achieved them. In that way, we know exactly when it is time for us to part ways.

When asked for a very broad and general recommendation, we found that a minimum of twelve hours, at first roughly at a weekly interval, then every three weeks, seem to work well for most people. Twelve, because lasting changes in behavior as well as mindset take time, and leaving at least a week in between sessions because your system (body, mind, and soul) need space to assimilate the changes you are implementing. Preparation for one specific event for example may need fewer session, adaptation into a new culture may take much longer. Clients can also choose to have less frequent coaching interaction, like for example once a month, which would result in a longer commitment. Sessions can also be ad-hoc, for example, three to five times before an international move, three to five times after arrival in the new country, and another three to five after the family has arrived and settled.

What’s your coaching approach?

At Building the Life You Want LLC we believe that every person is the expert in their own life and has all the necessary resources to make their goals a reality. Our approach to coaching is therefore non-directive, systemic, and resource-oriented, which means we ask questions to support you in finding your own answers, taking your background and surroundings into account. Personality Type and cultural frameworks provide tremendous insights, as do friendly probing questions and tools like reframing.

How are we going to get together, how often, and for how long?

Our coaching sessions are an environment free of judgment and full of accountability and encouragement. They can take place online (video-conference, chat, email), over the phone, or in person (Dallas area, Texas, USA). The conversations are between 30 and 50 minutes long and at an interval that suits your needs, weekly, once a fortnight, or monthly with complimentary e-mail support in between sessions.

How much does it cost?

Coaching agreements are drawn up individually once we've identified your goals and length of commitment to the process.  We also offer group workshops or online coaching with varying rates. Once we've discussed what you would like to work on, I will send you an agreement with the terms that you can accept or reject. Both of us are free to terminate the agreement at any time prior to that when we feel it's not working anymore, so there is no risk or trap that you will pay anything you don't want to.

What is the return-on-investment, ROI?

For individuals: Coaching is an investment in yourself that offers long-lasting emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual results according to the efforts you put in. Your personal coaching achievements have only the limits you set yourself. Happier relationships, better communication skills, a broadened horizon, increased self-awareness, lowered anxiety, a successful assignment, even one ingenious idea that can start your own business; those are only a few of the usual returns-on-investment that coaching clients observe. Top it off with continued motivation, support, and accountability that keeps you going, and deciding to hire a coach is the best thing you do for yourself this year.

For organizations: I would love to engage in an ROI process with your participants. In order to do that effectively, you need to tell me which behaviors or skills you are already measuring, so we have base-line data to compare the coaching results to. Ideally, this involves a control group as well, to see how much of the ROI is based on the coaching process. Broadly speaking, an international relocation costs about five times the person’s salary. Since research has shown for over a decade that family concerns and lack of acclimatization are the leading causes in assignments ending prematurely, engaging in expat coaching potentially saves the company’s investment in the relocation, it avoids the costly return of the expat and the new recruitment process, not to mention the loss of credibility in the local market.

What’s in the coaching agreement?

The agreement we both sign covers the parameters we set up during our first session, like how many sessions we are going to have over which time period, where we will meet and for how long, which fees apply and when they have to be paid, and whether you give permission for peer supervision or not. Basically, the coaching agreement serves to remind us both of our rights and responsibilities, and clarifies administrative details that might otherwise distract us from the actual coaching process.

When is the best time to start my coaching, before I move abroad or once I’m there?

Expat Coaching is effective whenever you choose to do it. If you know about your move in advance, excellent - the number of sessions can ideally be spread out before the move for comprehensive preparation, upon arrival to lay effective groundwork, and after settling in to assess specific needs that will arise. But, we know you cannot plan for everything.

If you don’t have any questions before you go or feel like your preparation is taken care of superbly by the support you are already given, our coaching conversations would be very quiet affairs. Coaching is most effective for when you have already identified that you have a need, something to change, or something specific to prepare for, as mentioned above.

OK, I think I could do with some support. How do I get started?

Choose Coaching or send us an email at doris(at)buildingthelifeyouwant(dot)com and tell us a little bit about your situation, what you would like to work on, and we can take it from there. The same is true if you are the HR specialist taking care of expats in your company - ask me about free talks or workshops I can give at your offices to prepare potential expats for what's ahead.

Where else can I find information?

We publish relevant articles dealing with coaching, communication, change, and expat life every week on our blog.

If your international relocation is something you are doing privately, all of the preparation, research, organization, and related expenses will be covered by your good self. In this case, the internet should be your best friend. You will find information about your country of choice, visa requirements, health care, banking, housing, schooling, etc. at your fingertips. Let me suggest you start by looking at your own country's embassies and consulates in the region you want to move to, and take it from there. If you get stuck, contact us and we can talk about further resources.

If you are relocating as part of your company's expatriation assignments program, your employer will help out with some if not most of the organization, planning, and expenses. For instance, it is common practice for the company to hire professional movers for you to ship your belongings into the host country, and most Human Resources and/or legal departments also help the family with obtaining work permits, finding accommodation, and funding language classes. Everything else is pretty much up to the company's budget and your expat-package negotiation skills. I strongly suggest you take your company up on all the support made available to you, actively approach them and ask for what you need, while still doing your own research, so you have something to compare the information you are being given with.

We encourage communication and feedback exchange for non-sensitive issues between the expat and the employer at all times, but only talking to an Expat Coach will give you 100 % tailor-made support based on your unique personal situation. Remember, even if our services are part of a relocation package organized and paid for by your employer, everything that is discussed during the coaching sessions remains completely confidential.

 

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