The powerful coaching questions at this stage could be:
- Which decisions will initiate the biggest change in each of the client’s life areas?
- What is the desired level the client wishes to get to?
- At what level does he see himself now?
- What are the decisions he has to make to move to the desired level?
- What are the actions he has to take to move to the desired level?
Being in the driver’s seat is the key to managing frequent changes successfully and to grow. Any experience of success – moving forward in the right direction – is hugely empowering. It can be very helpful to base one’s vision of success to one’s reality and to use scaling questions to make a miracle and vision come true (Szabo & Berg, 2005).
This stage of the coaching process can be challenging and the client may fall back into old disempowering beliefs of not being able to shape his own future. The coach needs to help the coachee to take small steps, acknowledge the time it takes for changes to materialize and to appreciate achievements. A coach can help expatriates to realize that just like successful businesses are innovators not laggards, expatriates, too, must know what they want and initiate communication. They cannot allow gaps in life satisfaction to linger but have to be proactive in closing them. This often takes the courage to ask for what is needed.
Just like a business plan, an expatriate’s life plan and vision is work in progress and needs a constant performance review. It serves as a satisfaction monitor at any given moment.
A Virtuous Cycle of Thriving
Happiness is the real sense of fulfilment that comes from hard work. Joseph Barbara
Just as being in a survival mode can be self-fulfilling and create a vicious cycle for the client, the client can be empowered to create a virtuous cyle of thriving. Moving to a virtuous cyle of thriving includes moving into trust, experiencing a sense of belonging, knowing one’s life purpose, but also keeping an open eye for new opportunities. Moving from struggling and surviving into thriving enables the client to look at change as being normal and a partner in the client’s personal development.
Change and even crisis can be positive in the sense that they push the client to develop a new perspective and to grow. Change is always an opportunity to edit or rewrite the book of life.
Taking charge of one’s life based on personal values and a strong life vision, making strong decisions and taking appropriate action will allow the client to live life to the fullest and to experience happiness in a foreign country. Being back in the driver’s seat brings a sense of fulfillment, empowerment and peace knowing that the challenges of an expatriate life can now be turned into a powerful opportunity.
Demands on the Coach
Since an ideal coaching intervention would cover the length of a whole expatriate assignment, the fit between coach and coachee is particularly important (Miser, 2009).
A coach working successfully with an assignee must fulfill several criteria. The coach must have cultural expertise and a transcultural attitude as cultural issues will constantly impact the professional and personal adjustment (Krämer & Nazarkiewics, 2009; Abbott & Stening). The coach must have extensive cross cultural experience, a high degree of cultural sensitivity and a thorough understanding of cultural differences. Only then can the coach relate to the complex and demanding life situation of an expatriate.
The expatriate’s company may well recognize the need for coaching. However, expatriates who are undergoinging culture shock may either think that they do not require coaching when they are in the so-called ‘honeymoon phase’ or their energy level may be too low to coach them effectively.
A coach working with expatriates has to demonstrate a high degree of patience. As the company expects the client to perform at a top level within a short amount of time, the client may have the strong wish to move on as quickly as possible into a more pleasant state. However, it is crucial to go through a phase of confusion, stress and experience disorientation to be ready for a new beginning (Bridges,1980).
Time constraints and a lack of time are ongoing issues for an international assignee who may be travelling or preparing a next move. This may make it demanding to get an expatriate to commit to an ongoing coaching process. A high degree of flexibility is required from a coach. An expatriate coach should be able to comfortably coach face to face as well on the phone or via skype to accommodate the expatriate’s busy schedule.
Coaching can be a valuable and powerful element of support for expatriates who are living and acting in a high complexity world and are caught in a world of thousand demands. It can reduce culture shock at a time when they are struggling with the reality of their new life and move them back into the driver’s seat of their life. Developing an empowering life vision will enable the expatriate to remain focused and highly committed while experiencing change as manageable, positive and enriching.
Abbott, G. & Stening, B. (2009). Coaching expatriate executives: Working in context across the affective, behavioral and cognitive domains.
Bennett, M.J. (1993). Towards a Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity: in R.
Michael Page (Ed): Education for the International Experience, Yarmouth: ME: Intercultural Press.
Berg I. & Szabo P. (2005). W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
Bridges, W. (1980). Transitions. Making sense of life’s changes. Reading: Perseus Books.
Brookfield Global Relocation Services (2011). Global relocation trends. 2011 Survey Report.
Copeland, A. (2004).Many women, many voices. Study of accompanying spouses around the world. Brookline: Interchange Institute.
Heinzer, J. A. (2009). Living Your Best Life Abroad, Summertime Publishing.
Krämer, G. & Nazarkiewicz, K. (2009). Gibt es „interkulturelles Coaching“?
Kulturreflexive Überlegungen zu einem schillernden Begriff, Organisationsberatung, Supervision, Coaching.
Miser, A. (2009). Couples coaching for expatriate couples: A sound investment for international business. In M. Moral, G.
Abbott (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to International Business Coaching (pp. 203-217). Abbington, New York: Routledge.
Oberg, K. (1960) Practical Anthropology, Culture Shock – Adjustment to New Cultural Environments.
Urry, J.(2006) Complexity, Theory Culture Society, Sage Publications.
Whitworth, L., Kimsey-House, K., Kimsey-House, H, Sandahl, P. (2007). Co-active coaching. New skills for coaching people toward success in work and life. Mountain View, CA: Davies-Black Publishing.