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Talking about your Reintegration

Minnesota soldier returning home, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons When my brother came back after four months in Afghanistan, my parents and I didn't really know how to best support him. We didn't know what he saw over there, how he felt, if he had regrets, or how the experience made him stronger.

Being the reserved and private person he is, "fine" and "nothing" were habitual answers to most of our enquiries.

For someone like me with extraverted Feeling preferences, it took a lot of restraint not to fly home, hug him violently, and make him tell me everything. Because that's what I would do - share, in order to connect, establish harmonious partnerships, including physical and emotional support. I don't know what type preferences my brother has, but it's most certainly not ENFJ.

It took many weeks and months of intermittent contact, little chats, quick calls via Skype, and each time a little morsel of information would come out. I did my best to listen and emulate his style of narrative. He set the tone with detached analysis, logical and rational explanations. In other words, none of my Feeling vocabulary would have been received as any help at all. Instead, we kept the experience at a certain distance, and I worded my concerns in terms of potential pitfalls to watch out for.

The vet you might be talking to perhaps prefers talking about their experiences in detail. If your communication preferences are for general themes and broad strokes, try and hold back the potential connections you see until they have finished. Interruptions may send the message that you're not interested in what they have to say.

By the same token, if you prefer to receive information in detail, but the vet you're talking to only gives the bottom line, try not to push too hard. Perhaps more details will come out over time, just not in the one single conversation.

Luckily, my brother is a pretty balanced and self-reflective guy, who had already come to most of my conclusions and suggestions by himself. He had seen how other soldiers handled themselves in the field, and saw first-hand the damage denial, e.g. in the form of excessive alcohol abuse, can do.

Sadly, denial is one of those tricky things that you don't know you're in until you decide to step outside yourself and look in from a different perspective. This can be hard, especially if you're trying to find your way around your home town again, maybe even raising your family, or having to find a new job.

If you notice a change in your sleeping patterns, mood-swings, loss of appetite, more feelings of sadness or frustration than usual, please take these signs seriously and talk to someone. If you're uncomfortable sharing what you saw with your family members, because you want to protect them, you don't want them to worry about you, or you fear they wouldn't understand, please take advantage of the support available to you. Ideally, that support staff will be on a similar wave-length, perhaps they've gone through a similar experience, and they're trained to counsel.

Grace After Fire 's mission is to provide the means for women  Veterans to gain knowledge, insight and self-renewal. We serve to  protect the Veteran, connect the resources and renew the woman.

The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24/7/365.

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Extra! What You as a Manager can do to promote Women Leaders

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Extra! What You as a Manager can do to promote Women Leaders

You heard it here first!

  1. The baby boomer generation is retiring,
  2. taking much of their hard-earned knowledge and experience with them,
  3. leaving leadership holes in organizations across the world.
  4. Oh, and women have been earning more college degrees than men since 2009.

Wait, this isn't the first time you're hearing it? Well, what are you waiting for, then?

3 Things to Consider if you're a Manager looking to fill Leadership positions with Women 

1. The Bitch Factor

Many women still think they're in competition with other women in the office. Like there are only a limited number of "good jobs" out there, and if you have one of them, fight tooth and nail to defend it and not let any other women rise. I think Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In* referred to it as the "Queen Bee" effect - there can only be one, and she's often seen as dominating her worker drones.

Couple of points to note

a) I'd argue women shouldn't be promoted to fill a quota or boost your PR - promote them because they're the most qualified and capable to take your teams and projects to the next level. Saves you legal hassles in the long run. And it order to promote objectively, you have to:

b) Keep your prejudices in check. Spend some conscious cortical real-estate on questioning your opinion of the women in your office, and if those opinions might be based on cultural programming, like "men = nice cool competent dude and ambitious leader", "woman = nurturing mother or horrible iron lady". It'll be a difficult cycle to break and it'll take time, but keep at it.

c) Create an environment where there's open communication and a sense of security and opportunity for more than one woman to rise.

2. Are there enough mentors and role models?

There are tons of women to look up to and be inspired by. They span all ages and industries. Just think Mother Theresa or Indira Gandhi, Hillary Clinton or Angela Merkel, Angelina Jolie or Julia Roberts, not to mention the women listed on Forbes' Most Powerful.

Still, I don't know about you, but they seem pretty far removed. Me, I like to know someone and have a closer relationship to help with the inspiration. Someone like the "elder" at my Toastmasters club, or the women stepping into those volunteer officer roles, or the new mentee who's just rearing to go give her first speech.

Can your top women spare an hour a month to hold luncheons? Or maybe an hour a quarter speaking to your local women's group?

Can you put practices in place where the top men mentor outstanding potential male and female talent? Doesn't have to be awkward between a senior man and an up-and-coming woman if mentoring is done during breakfast meetings instead of over dinner (another one of Lean In's brilliant practical suggestions).

3. Is your organization dynamic?

I heard somewhere that the way Congress was set up to work was people would go in for two years, give their input, and then go back home to their actual jobs. I love that idea of keeping things fresh and having people from many different walks of life represented. Must have been a logistical nightmare. Nowadays, with career politicians, of course, this is no longer the case. But I can't help but wonder if this would be an effective model for innovation and leadership development in a business.

Take a team of four men and four women, each with supporting staff as necessary, and rotate them through cycles of being the leader in charge. If you knew you'd have to count on the collaboration and support of someone two years down the line, how would that impact your attitude?

Ok, that's probably a pipe dream, but the larger point remains: does your organization have an internal job board, and are women's applications equally as encouraged as men's? I'll write some more about relocation concerns tomorrow, so I'll let you think about that for now. Looking forward to your comments!

* (affiliate link)

Image by Silecyra, Flickr, Creative Commons License.

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When you have to Chart-the-Course™

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When you have to Chart-the-Course™

One of my favorite exercises in every workshop I facilitate is where participants get to share their unique viewpoint on their own preferences - what their strengths are, what their challenges are, how to best work with them, and how they're often misunderstood. During a recent workshop on Interaction Styles, here's what came out for the Chart-the-Course™ style:

Strengths:

  • We have a plan
  • We know what the goals are
  • We know where we're going

Challenges:

  • Sometimes it's difficult to get people on board and see our plans make sense
  • It can be hard to explain our vision to others

How to work with us:

  • Let us know what you need and what is expected

Common misconception:

  • We're bossy

This group of Chart-the-Course™ leaders received feedback from their colleagues in the form of appreciation of their strengths, and the advantages they bring to the team: a plan, structure, and results. We were also able to clarify that their plan isn't always set in stone: we're open to tangents and explorations, but we'll be aware of when we're deviating.

To help you clarify if this may be your Interaction Style preference, or that of someone you live or work with, here's the Chart-the-Course™ pattern description taken from Dr. Berens' book:

Interaction Style booklet
Interaction Style booklet

The theme is having a course of action to follow. People of this style focus on knowing what to do and keeping themselves, the group, or the project on track. They prefer to enter a situation having an idea of what is to happen. They identify a process to accomplish a goal and have a somewhat contained tension as they work to create and monitor a plan. The aim is not the plan itself, but to use it as a guide to move things along toward the goal. Their informed and deliberate decisions are based on analyzing, outlining, conceptualizing or foreseeing what needs to be done.

Image by mikeyskatie, Flickr, Creative Commons License.

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Working from Behind-the-Scenes™

One of my favorite exercises in every workshop I facilitate is where participants get to share their unique viewpoint on their own preferences - what their strengths are, what their challenges are, how to best work with them, and how they're often misunderstood. During a recent workshop on Interaction Styles, here's what came out for the Behind-the-Scenes™ style:

Strengths:

  • Consensus with good result

Challenges:

  • Many ideas
  • How to reconcile different views

How to work with us:

  • Communicate with Us
  • Listening but may not use input
  • Be patient

Common misconception:

  • We do not get the results needed

This group of Behind-the-Scenes™ leaders received feedback from their colleagues in the form of appreciation of their strengths, and the advantages they bring to the team: quality, considering unusual sources of input, and making connections where others may not. We were also able to clarify that their decision-making style is consultative, i.e. we'll listen but may not use your input.

To help you clarify if this may be your Interaction Style preference, or that of someone you live or work with, here's the Behind-the-Scenes™ pattern description taken from Dr. Berens' book:

The theme is getting the best result possible. People of this style focus on understanding and working with the process to create a positive outcome. They see value in many contributions and consult outside inputs to make an informed decision. They aim to integrate various information sources and accommodate differing points of view. They approach others with a quiet, calm style that may not show their strong convictions. Producing, sustaining, defining and clarifying are all ways they support a group’s process. They typically have more patience than most with the time it takes to gain support through consensus for a project or to refine the result.

 

Thanks to freedigitalphotos.net for the free pic!

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3 Tips to Get-Things-Going™

One of my favorite exercises in every workshop I facilitate is where participants get to share their unique viewpoint on their own preferences - what their strengths are, what their challenges are, how to best work with them, and how they're often misunderstood. During a recent workshop on Interaction Styles, here's what came out for the Get-Things-Going™ style:

Strengths:

  • Everyone agrees / happy

Challenges:

  • Lots of emotion
  • Want to please everyone

How to work with us:

  • Listen & breathe
  • Include everyone
  • Have buy in

Common misconception:

  • We're too soft, or too slow

This group of Get-Things-Going™ leaders received feedback from their colleagues in the form of appreciation of their strengths, and the advantages they bring to the team: harmony, motivation, and fun. We were also able to clarify that their influence is easily underrated, because it truly becomes evident only when they're not on the team, taking care of everyone. Without them, you'll miss the "glue", and projects may not run as smoothly.

To help you clarify if this may be your Interaction Style preference, or that of someone you live or work with, here's the Get-Things-Going™ pattern description taken from Dr. Berens' book:

The theme is persuading and involving others. They thrive in facilitator or catalyst roles and aim to inspire others to move to action, facilitating the process. Their focus is on interaction, often with an expressive style. They Get-Things-Going™ with upbeat energy, enthusiasm, or excitement, which can be contagious. Exploring options and possibilities, making preparations, discovering new ideas, and sharing insights are all ways they get people moving along. They want decisions to be participative and enthusiastic, with everyone involved and engaged.

 

Thanks to freedigitalphotos.net for the free pic!

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How do you know if you're In-Charge™?

One of my favorite exercises in every workshop I facilitate is where participants get to share their unique viewpoint on their own preferences - what their strengths are, what their challenges are, how to best work with them, and how they're often misunderstood. During a recent workshop on Interaction Styles, here's what came out for the In-Charge™ style:

Strengths:

  • We get things done.

Challenges:

  • Working with others
  • Push past people
  • Not getting buy-in

How to work with us:

  • Get to the point
  • Don't waste my time
  • Must have action / result

Common misconception:

  • We're pushy, impersonal, and unemotional

This group of In-Charge™ leaders received feedback from their colleagues in the form of appreciation of their strengths, and the advantages they bring to the team: results, direction, and an attention to timely delivery. We were also able to clarify that making a decision quickly does not mean that decision will have to stand forever; rather, new decisions can be made if and when new information comes to light.

To help you clarify if this may be your Interaction Style preference, or that of someone you live or work with, here's the In-Charge™ pattern description taken from Dr. Berens' book:

The theme is getting things accomplished through people. People of this style are focused on results, often taking action quickly. They often have a driving energy with an intention to lead a group to the goal. They make decisions quickly to keep themselves and others on task, on target, and on time. They hate wasting time and having to back-track. Mentoring, executing actions, supervising, and mobilizing resources are all ways they get things accomplished. They notice right away what is not working in a situation and become painfully aware of what needs to be fixed, healed, or corrected.

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Overcoming Family Concerns In Relocation

They are the number one challenge cited at every stage of an international move. Will adequate schooling be available for the kids? What about your spouse's career? What if you can't seem to adjust to the new life?

Every generation has its own sets of expat advantages, and despite growing numbers of Gen Y and empty-nest assignees, the 40 to 49 year-old age group still accounts for 40 % of candidates. These are managers who have been with the company for a while, they know the culture and are very effective at their jobs. In other words, companies can't afford to lose them. They are established in their communities, the majority are married (70 %), and many are accompanied by their kids (47 %). In other words, the deal has to be pretty sweet for them to disrupt their family's lives.

To make sure that the relocation is in the best interest for your family, you need to honestly address the pros and cons of moving for you all at this point in time. There are risks involved even if the money you are being offered is tempting. Who can take care of your elderly relatives when you're away? What if you can't fly home for a funeral, because you're in the middle of getting your Visa and can't leave the country? How is your relationship with your spouse going right now, are you happy? Contemplating a trial separation? Please know that no move is going to miraculously solve marital issues, nor is it the antidote to depression or general boredom. Changing your surroundings only changes your surroundings, not the baggage you carry inside.

What else can you do to address family concerns?

Companies' support packages vary according to

  • length of assignment,
  • seniority of the expat, as well as
  • the perceived hardship factor of the host country.

Some companies offer moving assistance, support in selling and/or renting the home, finding a new home on location, language classes, assistance with paperwork like visas and work permits. They might provide a daily living or one-time bonus relocation allowance, help with tax return preparation, private schooling for the kids, language classes and cross-cultural trainings. What you can do is be honest and talk with your spouse and family members about your expectations and concerns.

As you know, at Building the Life You Want we believe coaching is an effective way to bridge the gap between needed and already provided support. Without going into too much detail at this point, expat coaching can help your family make an informed decision before the move. Once you are on assignment, expat coaching can pick up where the cross-cultural training left off, providing effective assistance through the actual phases of culture shock as or if they occur, during the first 100 days in the new position and team, and as needed while the accompanying family adjusts to their new roles and surroundings.

Repatriation, or the end of an expatriation assignment, and its inherent challenges for the family often go overlooked. Here are a few voices on what challenges they have experienced upon repatriation:

I've repatriated before, so I'm pretty familiar with the experience. What would have helped is having someone outside the move as moral support through the entire transition (pre-during-post). Having not only support, but support from someone who knew both the 'before / after me' would have been valuable in easing the transition.

Be aware of the fact that the city/country you left behind, will not be the same city/country you will find upon your return. It is not simply slipping back into your old life, but adjusting to a, though familiar, now different life.

Missing friends you left behind. And having to build a new social circle in the city you used to live, which feels a little strange, since it feels like 'your' town.

However, the greatest concern was this:

Fitting in again.

The best way to overcome these family concerns at all stages of the relocation is to be aware of them without shying away, and to address them with a person you trust. This may be your coach, your mentor, someone from the expat organization, or your employee assistance program. As you discuss the move with your family, try to welcome every concern openly and without judgment. Family members will be going through different stages at different times, some need more support in adjusting than others. What is important - especially for accompanying children - is to know that all concerns are legitimate and can be addressed. Unspoken fears take on worse proportions, and the old adage holds true: a problem shared is a problem halved.

Your turn: what worked for you? Thank you for leaving comments!

Til next time, be well!

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Managing your repatriation

Last month, I've asked you to help me find out about your repatriation practices and concerns. So far, I have 21 responses, and am now happy to share some of the findings and your (anonymous) comments. The survey consists of seven questions, covering 1. demographic information, 2. geographic information, 3. support, 4. expectations, 5. challenges, 6. hindsight, and 7. time investment. Except for the demographic information, all questions allowed for verbatim comments.

1. Respondents' Demographic Information

  • Male - 7
  • Female - 14

1.a Occupation

  • Expat Assignee - 9 (5 female, 4 male)
  • Expat Partner - 4 (all female)
  • Expat Family member - 2 (all female)

1.b Age (non-mandatory)

  • 20-30 - 3 - 5.45 %
  • 30-40 - 7 - 12.73 %
  • 40-50 - 5 - 9.09 %
  • 50-60 - 4 - 7.27 %
  • 60+ - 0

3. Which support is / has your company been providing? (multiple answers possible)

  • Moving support - 8
  • Visas - 7
  • Tax - 5
  • House-finding - 4
  • Language Training - 3
  • Repatriation - 2
  • Career planning - 1

With respect to repatriation, no support was offered except airfare.

NONE of the respondents have received cross-cultural training, work permits or career planning assistance for the spouse.

SEVEN of the respondents have received NO repatriation support whatsoever.

4. What are you looking forward to about returning home?

American grocery stores (not necessarily the food in them, but only needing to go to one place to buy all of my food).

The top three things expats were looking forward to when returning home were family (15), friends (12), and familiar environment (8), followed by home culture (7), food (5), and neighborhood (4).

5. What challenges are you and your family facing about returning home? What are your concerns?

  • Fitting in again - 14
  • Another move - 14
  • Social Circle has changed - 12
  • International Experience isn't valued at work - 11
  • Smaller compensation package - 10
  • Lifestyle is more limited - 9
  • Another career change - 8

Missing friends you left behind. And having to build a new social circle in the city you used to live, which feels a little strange, since it feels like 'your' town.

Having to return to a country you wanted to leave feels even worse after having lived abroad, even if for only a few months.

Trying to get a mortgage was near to impossible.

6. In your own words, please share what you would want / would have wanted to know before repatriating to make your adjustment and your family's adjustment easier:

I had no idea about life in the new city and region, and no real understanding of the new industry, so it would have been nice to have that information. Also, ordinary ex-pat inquiries (how long are you here for; where will you go next, etc) would be deemed threatening in the new environment, which I did not realise. The responsibilities in the new position were more limited than in the old international one, and this did not please me. There was almost no international news in the part of the US where I was sent for the new job, which was very odd after being surrounded by it overseas. My new colleagues (and even the HR department) had no appreciation of the living and working circumstances or experiences of those from other countries (or those of us who had been living on secondment overseas). It all was very surreal sometimes.

I would like to see more appreciation for the competencies gained while working abroad and would have liked more information on career chances after the assignment abroad.

I would have wanted to know that the job I moved into was actually what the description was. Sadly, it didn't turn out to be... I also noticed old friends have much less time as they're used to not having you around.

These is nothing that comes to mind as I know the area have kept in touch with friends and have repatriated back to my home country once before and so I know what it can be like. I am looking forward to it but perhaps feel a little concerned about my children and their adaptation as they have never lived there before.

Company to be honest about when my husband could return home. They kept delaying and delaying. They even argued over who would pay the return air fare! They also have no realistic job for him -- and they've had SIX YEARS to figure that out!

Career counselling. The working world has changed since we've been away. Expectations, pay and conditions are all different. Work culture also seems different (but perhaps it's us that have changed).

Be aware of the fact that the city/country you left behind, will not be the same city/country you will find upon your return. It is not simply slipping back into your old life, but adjusting to a, though familiar, now different life.

These are just a number of the wonderful comments you shared, thank you again for your time. Many of you sounded like experienced ex- and repats, so I'm especially glad you're sharing your expertise with first-timers. Recurring themes I noticed include the perceived and perhaps actual lack of support provided by the company, as well as family concerns still topping the list of challenges. Check back next week for ideas and tips of how to bridge those gaps.

If you'd like to add your comments to the survey, please click here or leave a note below.

Til next time, have a good one!

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