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Reintegration 101

Merriam-Webster online

The concept of home

Home can be a concrete notion, e.g. a soldier returning from war, or a repatriate returning after an international assignment, or a student returning from university or boarding school.

Coming home may have different time values attached to it. You can come home for the holidays, for a visit, or indefinitely.

Home can also be something intangible, in a sense that you may be returning to find yourself after a period of not being who you wanted to be or who you were meant to be. For example, you might be redefining yourself after a divorce, or a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Are you ever the same again after life-changing events?

Well, by that definition, no. A life-changing event changes your life.

Either way, I don't think staying the same is the point of living.

I believe all of us continually forge a "new normal," integrating our experiences from what came before. With a little introspection, we can learn to recognize how those experiences have impacted us. This will help us acknowledge and accept the change. Some changes are harder to accept than others, and some we may reject altogether.

But when we're ready to step into our new normal, we have to learn how to reestablish connections with people we knew from before.

Home-coming challenges

One of the challenges is reestablishing connections with people we knew from before if they have not gone through a similar transition. Someone who has never lived abroad or who has never been sent into battle has little concept of what that's like.

For repatriates, it can be difficult not sounding like a spoiled brat when recounting exciting exotic vacations or international adventures and mishaps to the folks who stayed back home.

For veterans, it can be difficult putting words to the things they have seen and done. More than that, you may not be allowed to talk about any of it to your family or friends. If that is the case, I hope you take advantage of mental health support that should be available to you. According to this Forbes articles, 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Don't be a statistic, call the Veteran Crisis Line.

Either way, the challenges of returning into a supposedly familiar environment after having broadened one's horizons are often underestimated. Consider the example of a disaster relief worker, who spent 12 months helping people on the other side of the globe survive. Upon returning home, none of her interactions had the same urgency or life-or-death aspect. This is also the case for many soldiers - once you get used to having adrenaline-filled days, standing in line at the local groceries store can be underwhelming, and disconcerting.

How can you deal with these challenges?

Approach your reintegration process the same as you did that of moving out. They are not called a process for nothing: it will take time and practice to feel at home again. If you like to plan, make a list. If you like to learn from others, contact your local vets center, or other repatriates from your company. If you like to read, consider any of the books (affiliate links).

Forging a new normal takes conscious awareness. You can only work on what you're aware of. If you don't think you need support in reintegrating, fine. But if you're the only one who feels that way, and you're receiving consistent feedback telling you otherwise (either directly in the form of verbal suggestions, or indirectly in the form of nobody's calling to hang out anymore) - maybe it's time to take a deep breath and think this through.

More on how to do that tomorrow.

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Reductionism and Type

reductionist worldview elephant doodle Wikipedia says:

Reductionism can mean either (a) an approach to understanding the nature of complex things by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental things or (b) a philosophical position that a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts, and that an account of it can be reduced to accounts of individual constituents. This can be said of objects, phenomena, explanation, theories, and meanings.

Do you know the story of the blind people feeling up an elephant? Depending on who tells it, a varying number of blind or blind-folded or stand-in-the-dark people each explored different body parts of an elephant. The person touching the leg was convinced he's touching a tree. The person touching he tusk thought it was a pipe. The guy with the tail thought he had a rope, and so on.

Only putting the pieces together did they figure out they were all touching parts of an elephant. holistic worldview doodle

The Holistic world view, on the other hand, says the whole influences functions of the part. Again, thank you Wikipedia:

Holism (from ὅλος holos, a Greek word meaning allwholeentiretotal), is the idea that natural systems (physical, biological, chemical, social, economic, mental, linguistic, etc.) and their properties, should be viewed as wholes, not as collections of parts. This often includes the view that systems somehow function as wholes and that their functioning cannot be fully understood solely in terms of their component parts

Type experts like Linda Berens make a point to underline that Type preferences show up in a pattern. The pattern is more than the sum of its parts. Looking at the whole and understanding the dynamics behind the four-letter code provides a richness that looking at individual functions simply doesn't supply.

More than that, it gets real problematic when we take the four-letter code apart and start talking about "Thinkers" or "Judgers". No wonder many people still believe Type preferences put them in a box. Unless our language gets more precise in reflecting that the functions describe the process of how we use our brain, it'll be hard to convey that Type knowledge is helpful to promote growth, not stifle it.

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8 Steps Through Expat Change Using Personality Type

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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

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MBTI® Process and Samples

 

So you're ready to find out more about your Type preferences - congratulations!

Here's how the process works:

 

    1. Tell us which questionnaire you want to take (Step I=basic 93 items, or Step II=more detail 144 items)
    2. Tell us how you want to see your result (see below for sample reports)
    3. Tell us which accompanying manual you would like (see below for sample manuals)
    4. Agree on our terms of delivery and payment
    5. Follow instructions to complete the questionnaire online and you’re done!

On our side,

  1. We will give you access to our online questionnaire page
  2. Once you complete the questionnaire, we will receive a notification
  3. We will download the report you chose, and
  4. Fix a date with you to go over the result with you and answer any questions.

Sample Reports, choose one:

MBTI® Step I Basic Profile

The MBTI® Step I Basic Profile provides a summary of MBTI results, allowing for basic feedback. It provides reported type, explanations of the preferences, characteristics frequently associated with the type, and an easy-to-read graph displaying the preference clarity index.

Recommended in conjunction with specialized booklet exploring the area of interest.

Sample report provided by www.cpp.com

Step II™ Interpretive Report

Developed by Naomi L. Quenk and Jean M. Kummerow, the Step II™ Interpretive Report is a highly personalized narrative and graphic report that helps clients understand and apply their MBTI® results. It describes in detail the client's four-letter personality type as well as the results of another 20 facets, giving a more detailed insight into and adding understanding of the personality preference. These results are applied to four components of professional development inherent to national and international relocation: communication, change management, decision making, and conflict management. The report describes the client's style in these four areas and suggests ways of using that style more effectively.

Highly recommended for expats and executive coaching.

Sample Report provided by www.cpp.com

Career Report

Developed by Allen L. Hammer, the revised MBTI® Career Report shows how type affects career exploration and discusses the benefits of choosing a job that is a good fit for type. It explores preferred work tasks and work environments, most and least popular occupations, and offers strategies for improving job satisfaction. The report includes expanded coverage of popular fields, such as business, health care, computer technology, and high-level executive and management occupations.

Recommended for expat spouses in career transition.

Sample report provided by www.cpp.com

Communication Style Report

Effective communication is a core competency in today's global, fast-paced, team-oriented organizations, and absolutely essential when crossing cultures. Developed by Donna Dunning, the MBTI® Communication Style Report uses type preferences as a framework for understanding natural communication styles. This report can help increase understanding of communication strengths, offers practical tips for communicating with others and suggests steps for development.

Recommended in conjunction with Introduction to Type® and Communication booklet for team building, leadership development and conflict management initiatives, as well as with cross-cultural training for added insight during international relocation.

Sample report provided by www.cpp.com

Stress Management Report

Developed by Naomi L. Quenk, the MBTI® Stress Management Report helps individuals recognize the circumstances or events that are likely to trigger stress reactions and provides information and tips on how to deal most effectively with the challenges they present.

Recommended in conjunction with In the Grip booklet and accompanying coaching process, particularly during preparation and settling in phase of international relocation.

Sample Manuals, choose one:

(Providing information about all 16 Types)

Introduction to Type and Career

Written by Allen L. Hammer, the updated Introduction to Type® and Careers booklet provides interactive exercises and realistic descriptions to explore personality type and career matching. The guide also provides tips on goal setting and decision making, and lists potential obstacles in the career development process for all 16 MBTI types.

Recommended in conjunction with the MBTI(r) Career Report.

Sample content provided by www.cpp.com

Introduction to Type and Communication

Written by Donna Dunning, the Introduction to Type and Communication booklet provides a concise overview of communication skills and strategies, practical tips for communicating with others, and developmental tips for each of the 16 MBTI® types, as well as an introduction to differences in communication styles.

Recommended in conjunction with MBTI(r) and Communication Report, as well as cross-cultural training, particularly during international relocation.

Sample content provided by www.cpp.com.

Introduction to Type and Emotional Intelligence

Written by Roger R. Pearman, this new Introduction to Type and Emotional Intelligence booklet explores the connections between personality and EQ, and provides specific actions for EQ development for each of the 16 types. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a term used to describe a person's ability to control impulses, show empathy, and persist in the face of obstacles with resilience and flexibility. Developing EQ can enhance leadership ability, enrich relationships, and extend influence.

Recommended in conjunction with coaching throughout international relocation.

Sample content provided by www.cpp.com

Introduction to Type and Teams

Written by Elizabeth Hirsh, Katherine W. Hirsh, and Sandra Krebs Hirsh, this second edition Introduction to Type® and Teams helps individuals understand how their MBTI® results relate to their contributions on a team. It features new descriptions of the eight Jungian preferences and their effects at work, along with an in-depth exploration of six issues at the core of every successful organization: communication, team culture, leadership, change, problem solving/conflict resolution, and stress.

Recommended exclusively in conjunction with a team workshop.

Sample content provided by www.cpp.com

Introduction to Type and Leadership

Written by Sharon Lebovitz Richmond, the Introduction to Type® and Leadership booklet helps leaders to identify individual leadership potential and create a plan tailored to specific leadership challenges while staying true to each leader's true nature.

It focuses on the three main activities of leaders:

  • Setting direction for an organization
  • Inspiring others to work toward that direction
  • Mobilizing the effective accomplishment of goals

Recommended in conjunction with follow-up coaching, as well as cross-cultural training particularly for leaders relocating internationally.

Sample content provided by www.cpp.com.

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MBTI® for You

The power of self knowledge

The MBTI® instrument has many possible applications for individuals, teams, and in organizations. If you are unfamiliar with its background, please read these posts on Type Theory and MBTI(r) Background.

Why you should know your personality type

Millions of people world-wide use this greater self knowledge to support e.g. change processes like an international relocation or a career transition. Many also find it useful during the process of redefining their life's purpose and goals, clarifying their relationship needs, or working on their Emotional Intelligence skills.

For executives, the MBTI® instrument is often used in conjunction with 360 degree feedback and other tools to provide a framework for executive coaching and leadership development.

Does this sound like you?

  • I heard about the MBTI(r) instrument and want to find out what my Type is.
  • I’m entering / changing my career and wonder which job makes the best use of my skills.
  • I’ve been quite stressed lately and want to come back to my normal self.
  • I’ve been having some tough conversations and want to improve my relationships.
  • My company is offering Executive Coaching to develop my leadership skills. How can type help me with that?
When you're ready to go, choose Individual MBTI® or visit our Process & Samples page for next steps!

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Coaching FAQ

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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Expatriate candidate selection

Odd One OutAlthough it is widely recognized that one should not assume a good performer at home would be a good performer abroad, many multi-national companies (MNCs) still select their expatriates on these merits. Other reasons for using expatriates include to develop their potential and preparing them for higher positions within the company, or to transfer know-how during special projects.

Solomon (1998) identified that effective expatriate management seems to follow three general practices. First, instead of promoting someone "out of the way" or only focusing on their technical skills, successful MNCs look for expatriates to "generate and transfer knowledge" as well as "develop their global leadership skills." Surveys have shown that expatriates are likely to leave the company after repatriation if they do not feel their newly acquired skills are used to their full potential. They will question the sense of their assignment if the home country management is not interested in learning about the situation in the subsidiary and what the expatriate is contributing to headquarters after his or her experience abroad.

The second practice stresses that cross-cultural abilities should at least be as impressive as the technical skills. Some companies use tests or interviews to see how the candidate reacts when exposed to different cultural behaviors and habits to make sure he or she will be able to adapt. In order to rule out any problems once the assignment is under way, similar tests are taken by the candidate's family to see whether the spouse and children are comfortable living in foreign surroundings. Language and cross-cultural trainings have also become close to the norm.

The third practice is a "deliberate repatriation process." It is a widely held belief that repatriation is as, if not more, difficult than the initial expatriation.

Sanchez et al (2000) also mention technical skills, family situation, relational skills and the motivational state of an expatriate to be important factors at the selection stage. They suggest that in order to minimize assignment failure due to family adjustment problems, the company needs to give a realistic preview of what the assignment will be like and then encourage the family members to carry out a self-evaluation whether they feel up for the challenge or not.

At this point I'd like to mention that MNCs are still highly limiting their expatriate candidate pool by not really considering women. Solomon (1998) found that as of 1996, only 14 per cent of the total expatriate population were female. According to her opinion, women are not as likely to even be offered an international assignment, because the top management assumes they would not want to disrupt their family life and because they would face cultural biases abroad. More recent research by Dr. Nina Cole seems to confirm these numbers, as she worked with male expat spouses representing only 10 % of the expat spouse population.

Unfortunately, it is still typically women who are more likely to take care of the family, even though they might be working. Sanchez et al (2000) are of the opinion that female expatriates "need not necessarily experience more frustration than their male counterparts," which top management should take into account when selecting candidates. Another element stopping women from going abroad is the fact that they are not often found in upper management ranks, from where most expatriates are drawn. Solomon (1998) and Wah (1998) agree that MNCs need to stop assuming women are not interested in going abroad because of their families, but provide the necessary training and cater for specific needs that might occur.

This is exactly the point I would like to stress. When it comes to expatriate candidate selection, aptitude tests can only ever give an incomplete picture. Testing a candidate and their families for personality type or cultural preferences may give an indication of their adaptation predisposition, yes, but they cannot foresee how the person will react in the actual situation, the foreign country, the actual assignment.

Encouraging candidate self-selection is a laudable practice, yet I can't help but wonder at the inherent absurdity of the concept. "I'll warn you about everything that can go wrong and tease you with an equal amount of success stories so you can decide whether you want to take the chance or prefer staying at home"? Yes, I'm being sarcastic on purpose here. I know it's not that simple, for some families a move abroad simply isn't the best choice. What I mean is, candidate selection and support don't have to end with aptitude tests.

They don't even have to end at language or cross-cultural training. If you have a candidate that would be perfect or indeed indispensable for an international assignment, let him or her make the choice under the premise that you the company will support them and their family every step of the way.

After the relocation and destination services are delivered, THAT's when expats and their families get hit by real life issues, and that's when they need support the most. Which is where expatriate coaching comes in. There is a coaching solution to every problem, including spousal adjustment, career management, or identity crisis. If you're worried about your budget, consider the numbers: an assignment that needs to be terminated early can incur costs of up to $1,000,000. A comprehensive coaching process will set you back approximately $5,000.

We're celebrating Thanksgiving weekend in the States right now, so I'd love for you to leave a comment about what you are thankful for when it comes to your international assignment. Thank you for your input, and here's wishing you and your families successful and happy times.

Resources:

Sanchez, Juan I., Spector, Paul E. and Cooper, Cary L. (2000) Adapting to a boundary-less world: A developmental expatriate model, The academy of management executive, p96

Solomon, Charlene Marmer (1998) Today's global mobility: short-term assignments and other solutions, Workforce, p12

Wah, Louisa (1998) Surfing the rough sea, Management Review, p25

Til next week, have a good one! Thanks to Daniel for the free pic.

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About Coaching

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