Author Archives: Angie Weinberger

More than a year ago, I held a talk at the Forum for Expatriate Management event in Rotterdam. Every word is true in 2017. I am nowadays more involved in operational global mobility topics than I ever was and while the constant filling of payroll instructions, hypo tax calculations, and balance sheet updates reminds me of the Sysiphus tasks I mentioned in the talk, I have learned a great deal over the last few weeks.

I am contemplating that even expatriate payroll is so much more interesting than normal payroll and that we need professionals with intercultural competence to ensure that the expats get paid correctly. You would think this is easy but believe me in 2017 with all the technology, processes sometimes seem more complicated than in 1999. At that time we used to calculate net payments on paper.

In the last few weeks, I used a calculator every day and excel became my second best friend. On a few occasions, we don’t seem to get it right in the first attempt. The bonus is wrong, the expat unhappy and we get a new calculation. Then we start again. The third time it’s easier.

In a case from the UK, I notice that the pension contribution has changed from the previous year. In one from Madagascar, a figure was not transferred automatically into the next record of the assignee. A lot of checking and cross-checking is needed.

Once you think that you finally have created the right balance sheet you send it to the assignee and they tell you that it is a joke. They challenge your figures and you need to go back to the provider and explain why the tax system in the UK reduces your personal allowance once your salary reaches 100k GBP so that your bonus is taxed at an unimaginable tax rate. Or why the INR has devalued against the EUR and how that is reflected in the Cost of Living Adjustment. Then they ask why the COLA is calculated on spendable income only and how we came up with that figure.

You need to see every step along the way as learning towards what you can contribute to the world. If you don’t enjoy this process, tell yourself that it is only once a year and it pays your rent. I see exciting challenges for the GM Professionals but even if you are in a different field you might relate to these topics too. Here are seven current issues that seem to be examples for GM Professionals around the world

  1. We solve issues with manual workarounds that we cannot seem to handle with technology.

  2. We need good working relationships with our colleagues and the expats around the world to solve those dilemmas.

  3. We need superior technical skills in tax, social security and immigration and other subject matter areas so we don’t lose oversight of the full process.

  4. Without the experience of at least 200 cases, it is really hard to see patterns in your problem-solving approach as every case poses a different country combination and needs to be tackled individually.

  5. We need high levels of focus and productivity to deliver excellent solutions.

  6. We work too many hours and it is hard for us to keep healthy.

  7. Many of us are women and at a career and pay level that is way below our background, competence, and qualification.

One of the reasons why I started my company Global People Transitions was to help Global Mobility Professionals develop further. I would like to encourage you and support you with advice on how to get your develop your global competency further. You can check out the Global Mobility Workbook for further explanation, apply to become a tester of our Global Career App and you can book coaching sessions with me under the FlyMe! Program. You can also find Global Mobility job offers here and if you follow me on LinkedIn.

Let me know if you see yourself in the issues I mentioned and what you will do as a next step to move forward.

In the TGV Lyria the French train running between Paris and Zurich all seats are normally taken. Like on a plane you need to sit in your reserved seat. In Switzerland there are no reservations. When a train gets too full and extra train is implemented during high times. Switzerland deals with this issue by adding more trains.

On Saturday, I entered the train in Dijon (France – the city of mustard) and placed my suitcase at the beginning of the compartment but could not find me seat in the lower deck. First I thought that there was an error on my ticket. Then I noticed the upper deck. I walked back, went up the stairs and thought “I must remember where I placed my suitcase.”

When I found my assigned seat 106 it was taken by a young girl. I experienced how my “Germanic” sense and preference for structure and order immediately was challenged. My stomach gave me messages “Out of order, not right, what is happening here?”

I tried my best French to state that I had a reservation. The girl showed me her ticket and explained in French that there was a mix up as the young couple in the seat in front of her had taken their seats. No one showed signs of getting up for a middle-aged woman. (My brain said “These younglings…no respect for age.”)

I saw no point in getting angry at the girl and her cute little sister who explained again the same.

I was thinking about approaching the couple directly but for a few minutes I did not know what to say and how to stay polite in French. Then a veiled lady told me to wait for the conductor. I felt out of place as people were trying to pass by. I thought about sitting out the problem and felt a frog creeping in my throat as I tried to say in French that I was standing here like an idiot because of a mix up of seats. I was also getting hot in my winter jacket and worried about fainting.

I felt tired and wanted to sit and work. I don’t like it when my plans get interrupted. I waited in silence and looked at my ticket to decide how long I could stand here. The girl (who was in the wrong seat) became nervous. She urged her boyfriend to handle this embarrassing situation. Then another young man got up and showed him something on his phone. The boy turned to me and said in English “You can take my seat. It’s number 64.“

I went back to the lower deck where I had left my suitcase, could not find 64, then went back up, passed by the boy and smiled. “It’s probably over there”. Then I asked the passenger in seat 64 if he had a reservation. He said yes. I apologized, went back to the boy and said “Did you say 64 or 46?”. He smiled “I said 54.”

I smiled, finally found seat 54 and ended up near where I had originally placed my suitcase.

Why am I telling you this?

I thought this is one of the situations that you experience in a new country all the time during your cultural adjustment.

I was proud of myself that I did not get too angry and tried to use humor in an awkward social situation in a language I did not feel 100% comfortable in. It also showed me again that your inner state is important when handling intercultural issues. You can solve problems better when you stay calm and composed even if a situation upsets you.

This situation gave me a good chance to apply my seven principles for intercultural effectiveness and I learnt once again

I could have reacted differently but by being quiet and patient the younglings came up with a solutions that was a win-win for all of us.

Other lessons learnt that help in intercultural settings.

1) Communicate your Needs

I should have said that I need to sit and work. Everything else did not matter to me. I should have said that I did not sleep well and that my back hurts when I stand to long but I did not. Maybe I could have arranged the new seat faster with better communication and checking in about the seat number. How often does it happen in intercultural communication that we do not really understand each other?

2) Forget Powerplay, Authority and Assumptions about Social Hierarchy

It’s not always necessary to play a power game when you can solve problems together. In order to do that you need to keep an open mind and accept a bit of chaos (which is hard with a Germanic mindset). I admit I felt a bit entitled and was going to pull an arrogant move, about how I had paid for my seat etc…but something stopped me from doing that. Maybe I am not that kind of person anymore.

3) Religion means nothing – Love is everything

The boyfriend’s argument “I wanted to be close to my girlfriend…” convinced me and I really did not question that I could take his seat instead. I loved that everyone seemed to sympathize with me and engaged in my “problem”. I expected the least support from the veiled lady but she immediately provided a solution. My heart went out to her as I thought she does not need to help a stranger.

 

4) Small issues can create big emotions

Although this was such a small dilemma it almost made me cry. I felt awkward and out of place, someone who does not fit in and this probably triggered old childhood memories of being new in class with a funny accent when I was showing up in second grade after our big family move. Watch your feelings and emotions. They might be triggered by old memories.

One of my clients asked me why I did not spend more time explaining tests and preparing you for tests. One of the reasons is that tests are out of my radar a bit. Yesterday I forced myself through a psychometric test. As you know I sometimes go through interviews too. First of all, going through the process helps me sympathize with you. Secondly, I constantly look for new projects and sometimes a new projects means to apply for a full-time position.

What I did not know is that nowadays application processes are designed to test your patience and perseverance more than your work experience or actual knowledge of the subject matter at hand. It starts with all the duplication of data you have to enter in the applicant tracking system and ends with the surprise of being invited to an online test that is supposed to last two hours…and then takes up almost your whole Sunday.

I followed the advice of the recruiter and went through all trial tests on my couch in my PJ first thing Sunday morning. I felt like I was not in my right mind and that I could not do most of the math tasks without pen, paper and a calculator. Then I was disturbed by an alarm clock. I had to get up and lost time. I also felt it took me very long to understand the English texts which made me think that the tests are biased against non-native speakers. I did not know how elaborate this system was. My the time I finally started the real test I only had one wish: Get through this and see it as a self-experiment.

I understood that there was no deduction for giving the wrong answer and sometimes the last questions were the easier ones. I knew I wanted to finish all questions (even by guessing) and I tried to keep an open attitude even though my ego had been hurt already a fair bit.

I started with the personality test as I figured this would be easiest. Then I did the hardest one for me which was the inductive reasoning test, next the numerical analysis test and then a test where you had to read a paragraph and answer questions to it.

What I found strange is that there was no communication on when and whether I will see the result of my efforts and my lost Sunday. Companies should tell you such stuff. Also, they should tell you that these tests are made for people with Einstein’s IQ. I wrote down a few first tips for you when you are invited to psychometric tests:

1) Go through all the sample and practice test the same company offers.
2) Sign up to their mailing list for future challenges and new test questions.
3) Read all the instructions carefully and check if they have a version in your native language.
4) Make sure you block about three hours and have ZERO disturbance.
5) Take short breaks between the tests and drink water.
6) Make sure you actually have a simple calculator.*
7) If you expect more tests it might be worthwhile buying preparatory tests or books especially if you are a dinosaur like me who has not been to school for more than 20 years.

Here are also two links that might help you. I am not affiliated with those companies but they look genuine.

If you have further links and tips to share please let me know.

http://www.psychometricinstitute.com.au/Psychometric-Test-Guide/Psychometric-Test-Tips.html

http://career-advice.careerone.com.au/job-interview-tips/psychometric-testing/top-10-tips-to-prepare-for-a-psychometric-test/article.aspx

This week, I would like you to challenge yourself by running a self-experiment on a topic that feels like a challenge for you. Please share your experience with me. Thank you.

Angie

PS: I thought I had a calculator, but this one is one of my oldest belongings. I think I already used it at uni and the buttons did not really work anymore. I used the one on my phone but it made me lose time as it would sign out.

The dictionary definition of agility is “the ability to be quick and graceful.” Sounds like a must for dancers, but agility is also one of the crucial requirements for global leaders today.

Agile leaders deliver various benefits for their organizations – among them, worker satisfaction, loyalty, stronger motivation and (perhaps best of all) business longevity. But agility doesn’t come naturally for a lot of people, even for talented leaders. The natural tendency for many is to have a myopic perspective of situations, preventing them from taking into account the different variables that impact both process and results.

For example, you’re the boss of a growing enterprise and you’re focused on productivity in order to satisfy your demanding clients. So, you constantly tell your employees to uphold high standards in everything they do – perhaps, you even request them to work overtime to easily meet deadlines and solve issues that arise when conditions get stressful. They deliver for the company, but as a leader, do you recognize the value of their output?

Do you understand that in order to keep your operations afloat and save the good reputation of the company, they have given up part of their personal time, and made other sacrifices?

As a leader, what has been your expression of appreciation for their effort? A “thank you” or “good job”? Did you even bother at all?

If you have leadership agility, acting with great consideration is a must. You don’t want to ever appear like you’re taking your workers for granted. You don’t want your workers to feel like you don’t notice their hard work because this will snuff out their drive. Most of them will perhaps not say anything and stay on board (for some time). They will continue to work because that’s expected of them.

But eventually it will be apparent that you cannot count on them to dish out the goods. With low morale and inspiration, mediocre will rise to be the norm. Needless to say, if you have dreams of globalizing your business, that’s going to be difficult to achieve.

The enemy of progress is being average. And this is usually the result of a leader’s lack of agility. Therefore, if you’re resolved to keep your organization growing, supercharging your leadership ability is a must.

4 Ways to Boost Leadership Agility

1.     Continue learning

Being an eternal student can shape and prepare you better for the changes that can happen in your organization. Harness the benefits of executive coaching and other learning programs. You’ll have a bigger trove of solutions that can be used for issues that may arise along the way. If you have solutions ready, this will not only strengthen the confidence your followers have in you, it will also inspire them to do as you do.

2.     Come up with ways to improve the people working with you

Average is the enemy, right? Well, you need to make sure that your people have no reason to be average and the best thing to do that is by investing in opportunities that can either develop new skills or boost their strengths. But before you do that, carefully assess their weaknesses and strengths. This way, you’ll be able to match them with the most appropriate or suitable programs for their improvement.

Want to know the best advantage to doing this? It clearly shows that they are valuable to you and you want to continue working with them. This can boost their confidence and their drive in delivering more value for you and the organization.

3.     Establish a feedback and monitoring mechanism

Gaining information on the sentiments of workers will provide you a better understanding of how employees feel about your leadership and the efficacy of whatever leadership methods you utilize.

4.     Make brainstorming sessions a norm in your operations

Encouraging this activity will grow the idea bank of your organization and likewise, it presents the opportunity to identify members that serve as movers and shakers so you can have a more effective and efficient leadership and take the organization to greater heights.

Leadership agility is a vital component to success – it’s leadership done right. Therefore, focus on this and make sure that as a leader you demonstrate it at all times.

 

Salma El-Shurafa is an experienced Executive Coach and founder of The Pathway Project. She is a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach from The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and a graduate of CTI’s Co-Active Leadership program.

 

 

 

How do you look for a new role? Do you rely on what is posted out there or are you getting ahead of the competition by sourcing a role that potentially does not even exist yet? And when you identify a “dream role” do you get all disappointed if you cannot have it or once you have it, the role turns out to be less of a paradise than expected?

Have you considered that there is a lot of work for you in the Swiss market but that you will never be matched to the perfect role profile?

Stop waiting for the perfect dream role and start to source work for yourself.

1) Use a new source for job alerts
Forget jobs.ch and indeed.ch. Start looking on XING and LinkedIn. Check out Facebook groups and Twitter. Recruiters are getting increasingly creative and pitch jobs on LinkedIn and Twitter. Maybe there is even a youtube channel where you can look for jobs. Please let me know if you find one. We mention a Facebook group that could be interesting for you.

2) Support your network
You want to find out if your skill set would be useful to your contacts by meeting for coffee but your contacts never take up the offer? In Switzerland, “coffees” are considered break time and in break time you want to discuss fun stuff. Try to meet your contacts when they need to unwind or take a break but not during their “productive” time. Offer to take them for a walk or run during lunch. Ask your buddies if you can organize a hiking or wellness trip for them. Buy them a ticket to the Schauspielhaus or Opera. Help them enjoy life and you will win their hearts.

3) Improve your Elevator Pitch
Practice your offering to the world so you can share it in your sleep and learn to rephrase your pitch into good questions. Ask the question that will catapult you right into the front of mind of your contacts the next time an opening comes up.

4) Brand yourself in a recognizable way
We use a lot of visual clues today to recognize faces. You can make it easier for people if you dare to be a little weird so that people will remember you. Wear a hat, show your curls, feature a man bun or a special color that you will be recognized with. Wear the same look on public occasions. (The same look does not mean the same clothes…). Have a business card that is recognizable.

5) Volunteer
A lot of work in Switzerland comes out of your network, association, and your local soccer club. Volunteer for a cause, support others on a pro-bono basis and paid work might come along in the process.

I hope these tips are helpful and please let me know what you will do next.

Have an inspired week ahead!

Angie