WHAT IS COACHING?
The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as a partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. (ICF website, 2013).
Coaching is the practice of supporting an individual through the process of achieving a specific professional or personal result. In my own personal experience, any expatriate assignment will be much more likely to succeed if the assignee, and partner if there is one, is given two things; training in the cultural values of the new country and assistance with making their new country their new home. Without this support, no expat assignment will fulfil its potential and is much more likely to terminate early.
Through coaching, the expatriate will receive support in areas such as business culture, etiquette, interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, staff management and other key areas that will help them communicate and work effectively with their new team. A family or spouse will receive guidance of cultural issues relating to their new environment such as schooling, lifestyle, local culture, etc. This aims at familiarising the family with their new destination.
Some of the benefits of facilitating coaching for the expatriate family are:
- Mentally preparing the individual or family for the move.
- Exploring and learning some of the “unknown” factors that may build doubt and fear prior to the relocation.
- Providing cross cultural learning opportunities and understanding of cultural differences.
- Providing the opportunity to ask any questions, or address any anxieties in a non judgemental and supportive environment.
- Motivating and encouraging the family to explore any potential opportunities that may arise as a result of the move.
- Reducing stress and creating coping strategies to better handle adversity.
- Making the transition and settling-in process an easier and smoother one.
- Establishing the creation of new goals in line with their own values within their new environmental and cultural circumstances.
- Creating an understanding about expectations surrounding change, adaptation and integration issues in their new location.
- Minimising “culture shock”.
- Overall reducing the chances of relocation failure.
Expatriate assignees and their families can greatly benefit from coaching services conducted by a professionally trained certified coach who has experience working with expatriates, their spouses and their families. In most cases, the coach is also someone with cross-cultural expertise and international experience who can understand the real life issues and challenges that the expatriate assignees and their families are experiencing.
Coaching provides expatriates with a rich opportunity to explore their values and what is important to them, what they are passionate about, what they are concerned about, and what kind of a life they envision together in their new host country. Through a conversation with a professional coach, expatriates are able to enhance the quality of their lives, achieve their personal and career goals and be supported in living passionate, balanced and fulfilling lives, despite new environmental or cultural circumstances.
A comprehensive coaching plan would be one that addresses all aspects regarding the international assignment in these three segments:
Let’s look at how coaching can help throughout the entire expatriate assignment cycle:
STAGE 1: PRIOR TO INTERNATIONAL ASSIGNMENT
At this initial stage, one of the most crucial decisions would be to assess the readiness of the potential assignee and his/her family. Assigning the right candidate to the expatriate assignment can be critical to a company’s return on investment. A coach can assist the potential expatriate assignee understand the role and scope of the international assignment and consider the individual’s personal motivation for taking the assignment. A coach can also help to clarify all initial queries and concerns that may come up at the time.
The most important choice at this stage is to decide whether to pursue the international assignment or not, and a coach can help with the assignee and his/her family to confidently come to terms with their choice to either pursue or deny the opportunity.
In this phase it is also instrumental to create an understanding by all family members on how they intend to live their life in their new host country, and how they would go about creating a life for themselves, aligned with what they feel is important and what they value most. Considering all “pros” and “cons” will also ensure that the family is better equipped to deal with any logistical, financial and emotional aspects of the assignment as they arise.