Expatriate life - a rollercoaster of a life!

Expatriate Coach Nicola McCall of Live Life Now Coaching gives her insight

“To be a stranger in somebody else’s country, learns you something about yourself.”  Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207 – 1273), Persian poet

Coaching is a personal development tool that supports learning so interfaces well with life as an expatriate, where living abroad challenge you to learn and understand yourself in unusual circumstances on a regular basis.  Coaching allows the coachee to develop skills and ways of being that make them more able to adapt to the rapid changing demands of life in general.

Central to my coaching work is the tenet of fulfilment in expatriate life and work situations. It is clear that individuals who are fulfilled in life are likely to be effective in their roles in life: be productive in their output (be it work, leisure, family) feel less stressed, have less sickness, psychological or social issues and in general feel more positive.

I believe coaching for fulfilment of an employee and spouse will enable the completion of an expatriate assignment; a success factor that international businesses desire.  The highest factor of early cessation of an assignment is spousal inability.  This is a high cost for a business using expatriates with estimates of assignments costing three times the employee’s salary per annum.

Expatriate employees want to succeed in the work environment as generally they are compensated highly and/or given an opportunity in terms of growing their careers.  Yet at exactly the same time that their input and enthusiasm is required in work the family requires it too as it adapts to the new circumstances.

For the non working spouse using coaching can aid their settlement with strategies and exercises to adapt and enter their new environment, combined with ongoing positive psychology coaching whilst on assignment with the possible addition of goal orientated coaching where they may wish to establish their own business or return to work.

Coaching I believe gives expatriates a space and appreciation, in which they feel they matter, that they are heard and accepted and in so doing so perhaps this is the ultimate fulfilment at that time – to feel you matter.

Recommendations for Organisations on offering Expatriate Coaching

  • Coaching should be used to support an expatriate, and where accompanied, their spouse and family, during the time abroad.  Coaching offers an independent, objective sounding board for all parties and time for reflection, behaviour change practice and acceptance that change is normal.  Coaching will be cost effective if it is able to prevent an early end to assignment or prevent attrition of the employee.
  • Pre-assignment coaching can assist the expatriates in gaining a reality check and developing self-awareness for the changes to come in moving and working abroad.
  • To alleviate stress of transition and enable the expatriate employee to succeed on arrival in new role, coaching is critical during the first 3 months to support their develop and reaction to new ways of thinking and acting in their host culture.
  • Using time-lines and journaling to collect Return on Investment (ROI) data and information, including anecdotal evidence will ensure the organisation understands what has been achieved through the assignment and that the expatriate feels their learning and adaptation to change is making a difference.
  • Use coaching to ascertain what an expatriate employee and where possible spouse want to achieve individually and as a couple/family from being on assignment – this can be done pre and annually to check reality, helping the organisation develop a career path or assist with home issues.
  • Supporting an expatriate (and spouse) with coaching will enhance loyalty and maximise the likeliness of the retention of the employee and their knowledge/ skills in the organisation on repatriation.
  • Where possible use a coach who has worked and/or lived abroad and gone through some of the changes and adaptations the expatriate has – the authenticity of the coach can be key working with this group.

Nicola McCall MCIPD coaches other English-speaking expatriates.  She has a Post Graduate Certificate (Distinction) University of Chester and has been based in the Netherlands since 2004.  www.livelifenowcoaching.com