Having been working with expatriates both in coaching and in cross-cultural training I’ve seen that the quest for leadership when working overseas is likely to require more patience and effort.
In general the basic tenets of being a leader: deep understanding of people, good communication skills, ability to impact, etc are true wherever your job takes you. However, when you move to work overseas some of these tenets take on a whole different meaning. Here are seven tips to help you succeed in your leadership journey in expatriation:
Tip 1: Before you expatriate, take the time to read at least one work of fiction written by a writer from a country that you are going to (and set in that country). Even though works of fiction are fiction, they will still help you understand the value systems of the country and of people that populate it.
Tip 2: Research some proverbs that come from that country. Proverbs have a wonderful way of telling the outsiders about the belief systems of the country.
Tip 3: Go through a cross-cultural training that will help you compare your cultural variables with those of the country. Make sure you come out with tools that will help you bridge the gaps you may discover.
Tip 4: Leave your assumptions and judgments at home. Many of us have clichés about different countries and arriving with those clichés will make it that much harder for you to adjust and excel. Keeping an open mind is essential when you work with people from another culture.
Tip 5: Observe the dynamics around you. Take the time to notice how people in your office interact, what feels important to them, how they communicate, and what “cultural habits” exist in your place of work/business. Whether or not those “cultural habits of working” agree with yours is irrelevant here. Your job is to first notice and then to create changes (see Tip 7).
Tip 6: Remember “I don’t know what I said until I know what you heard”. This is especially true when communicating across cultures.
Tip 7: Create an impact by bringing about change (if it doesn’t destroy the fundamental fabric of the society’s values). Once you have observed enough, you’ll know which behaviors are the result of cultural habits and which ones are the result of cultural values. Behaviors will be easier to change and impact, if they are simply habits, but harder if they are rooted as part of the value system.
Becoming a leader while on expatriate post and making a difference in the lives of people in other countries can be a very rewarding experience. If your leadership journey can use help and support, I always recommend working with a cross-cultural coach.
Margarita Gokun Silver is an Expatriate and Cross-Cultural Coach and Consultant. She works with executives and individuals to help them become more successful and effective in other countries/cultures. For more information, please visit the Global Coach Center website at www.GlobalCoachCenter.com
In summary since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 6,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them achieve career success and become better leaders and presenters. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.