Monthly Archives: March 2016

When you are an intercultural coach you have certainly come across an issue with having clients from cultures where high power distance is the cultural norm. Assuming you are coming from a culture with lower power distance such as Switzerland and your client used to live in the Middle East most of her life, it could be that expectations and understanding of coaching are entirely opposite.


Since the Swiss tend to value modesty and often understate their credentials you could be perceived as either lacking depth, experience or academic stringency. Your client might also expect you as the expert to be rather directive and with the cultural assumptions behind how to get a job in the Middle East expect you to establish the necessary connections and introductions for them. The client might expect you to serve them their new career step, international assignment or local job on a silver plate.
As we know in the current market situation in Switzerland and with the immigration restrictions imposed by the popular initiative of 2014 it has become rather difficult for foreign professionals to find a highly qualified job in Switzerland – unless they speak German in German-speaking Switzerland, French in the French-speaking part or Italian in the Italian part. Southern Europeans from Spain and Italy even struggle. So let alone a professional from the Middle East.
The clients I usually work with all have at least studied to Master level, often have a PhD and most of them have a resume with five to 10 years of relevant work experiences working in Pharma, Consulting or Banking. When their partners are hired into Switzerland by large pharmaceutical companies they are often led to believe that it will be a wonderful life in Switzerland and yes, most of it is true. We frequently seem to make false promises though when it comes to spouse employment. We mention that unemployment in Switzerland is below 4% and has been this low for years. What we often fail to mention though is that expat spouses, local hires and other skilled migrants are not accounted for in these statistics. We fail to manage spouse expectations in the hiring process of the partner and then you as the intercultural coach have to deal with it.
I would argue that my colleagues and I have become better at dealing with this frustration in our coaching sessions but our work is often a fight against windmills. What I have taken away from the last three years as an intercultural career advisor is that I do not connect my client’s success with my own success. In coaching we believe that the client has all the resources to tackle her or his goals. Our success is connected to them being successful and reaching their targets but we cannot make us dependent on the job market.

1) Set the right goals for your success

If I made my success dependent on the client reaching his or her coaching goals I would most certainly be depressed by now. I set five goals for each programs:
a) To give the client the best service in helping him or her achieve goals,
b) To help the client develop realistic expectations of how to find a job in Switzerland,
c) To help the client feel ready for the job market in Switzerland,
d) To make the client feel more settled from a cultural perspective.
e) To activate the client if they get stuck in culture shock or frustration.
With these goals, I am often happy to see that the clients leave each session with a feeling of strength and being in control of their fate.

2) Be aware of how you build trust

In coaching we believe in a trustworthy and eye-to-eye relationship. It could happen that you build trust in a different way than your client from another culture and again it could be that you underestimate the power distance. When you are pushing the client along you might face resistance. When you let the client decide when the right time is to get into action they might procrastinate for too long. I think you need to balance it out. You also need to be very clear about when you are advising and when you are coaching. Still, I often leave my clients a choice if they want to implement my advice. Often for example clients do not feel like networking. It seems too hard and too much time for them to find a job. In my experience, it has been the most effective way to find a job or consulting work here. So, when my client does not want to start with a good networking strategy I let them decide. I will come back to the topic later but I will not push too hard. This could weaken your effect in a relationship with high power distance expectation.

3) Find good rituals to begin and end the coaching cycle

Getting a good coaching agreement in the beginning and having a debriefing session with room for feedback are critical to the success of the program in my experience. In the first session, you can position yourself as an expert while focussing on the client’s needs. You can also tell the story of other clients who went through the program and how they benefitted from it.Explain how in your culture a job is found and what is considered good and bad etiquette in the job search process. In the final session you need to debrief the program and also show where expectations might have cultural roots.

4) Maintain your structure but accommodate your client’s needs

For productivity reasons I try to keep a strict weekly or biweekly meeting structure. While this sometimes is even hard for myself, I see that it helps when you work with more than ten coaching clients per week and run other projects and volunteer work on the side. Often clients not only underestimate the challenge of finding a job here but also the challenge of finding reliable childcare, cleaning staff and learning German. There are good reasons why I accommodate their needs as well. I treat my clients like I expected to be treated from service providers when I moved here. I was often disappointed as they do not seem to understand the idea of going an extra mile for the client. To speak with Will Smith “I go 90, you go 10.” Most of the time when I have started a coaching relationship with being nice, accommodating and giving more for free, I earned trust. When I am strict and business-like clients start to negotiate.

5) Start the relationship with the most respectful form of addressing the client

The hardest clients for me are Germans. That is because I am German and because in Germany we would never start a business relationship on a first name basis. Germany has changed since I left seven years ago and Social Media has accepted “Du” as a normal way of addressing each other. I still find “Du” wrong when I speak to persons of authority such as professors who are 20 years older than me. So I stick to the “Sie” for the start. With Americans it is also interesting. I had a French client who had been to the US for around 10 years and kept calling me by my last name even though I had used his first name in English. I admit I underestimated the US-style having lived in the UK and Australia were I felt it was usually ok amongst adults to use first names. It get’s more confusing when my clients are from Pakistan or India where I would call them by their last name such as Ali or Rajat assuming that it is their first name. And then hardly any country is so obsessed with calling people by their names as Switzerland where you are only true friends once you call each other by a nickname.


6) Invite the partner and kids along to meet and greet

Sometimes I do invite the whole family to say hello. It helps me to get a better understanding of the framework and especially in male-dominated cultures it might be helpful to meet the husband when I coach the wife. At the same time, I tell the client politely that they need to ask their partner to stay out of the coaching relationship and back off while the partner is looking for work here. The main reason is that the partner usually got a job here without looking for it. They did not have to go through the hassle of cover letters, testimonials, interviews and networking. They were made an offer based on their previous performance. So their situation is not comparable. Also, they are often in an environment that they already know. Even if they worked for a competitor earlier their job adjustment is happening faster.
These are six ways to deal with high power distance in intercultural career coaching relationships. Let me know how your experience is.
PS: If you are struggling to understand the concept of “High Power Distance” you can review the work of Geert Hofstede or review the seven intercultural dimensions by Fons Trompenaars.
3I woke up with a headache and lack of good sleep because my partner was awake at 4 am. I start to get ready thinking “I will get through this day.” My partner reminds me to get toothpaste. Toothpaste is my totem to prove that I am in the real world and not dreaming any longer.
One of the most mundane tasks for me is to buy groceries. I have tried to hand over worldly tasks to others so I can focus on my clients but still there is a small household we maintain. Let’s assume that almost everything in our day is run on autopilot. You only notice that there is toothpaste in your life when it runs out. My coffee powder ran out the same day. I almost got angry at myself for letting it run out. Not having coffee disrupts my morning routine. Coffee is on my mind a lot.
I recalled a podcast I had heard by Tim Ferris where he reads letters of Seneca. The letter discusses the practice of poverty and Tim explains how he transfers the idea into his life.  Seneca wrote that it was necessary to “practice poverty” once in a while. Through the practice, you take out the fearful element. I liked the idea.
This week, I will experiment with everything in my little household and let stuff run out. Our fridge is empty. I will re-use paper in my office. I skied in the oldest outfit and with skiing glasses that almost fall apart. It makes me feel uncomfortable. I try to go out without cash or without a credit card.
[tweetthis] We are used to the luxury of having all our needs fulfilled right away. We are instant need fulfilling junkies.[/tweetthis]
When I look deeper though I see a pattern emerge. I accept that my current state of being is enough. I accept that my life is good. I am for once not over-burdening myself and watch my resources. I give myself a chance to create. I do not know how much time I have left to live my purpose. I live now.
I enjoy my personal life. I feel that I can give more love to the ones I care for but also to people who need support in our society. My heart sees the full glass. My mind suggests that the glass is empty. I tell the mind to shut up and see why it is good to have space. Only the empty space is creative. Only the empty space allows a transition. Only the empty space gives life.

Guest Post by Jackson Hille

When I decided to make the transition into becoming a full-time freelance writer, I was filled with self-doubt. I wasn’t a journalism or communications major in college. In fact, I majored in American Studies as an undergrad. But I always had a passion for writing; it helped me blow off steam and it was something I really enjoyed. Being a people-pleaser, though, it was difficult for me to put myself out there. I was afraid of the idea that someone would hate my writing and that I could upset people.Cd2Tl91W0AAcqaB

The first couple of months was really tough, both in gaining self-confidence, as well as supporting myself financially. I had to frequently underbid my competition to land jobs. I’m not even sure if I was making minimum wage for a while. But I was dedicated to growing my client base and really establishing myself as a premium content creator in the world of digital marketing for tech startups. In doing so, my financial struggles continued and I contemplated giving up. My personal finances was a headache; my income was unpredictable, and I realized I didn’t even know how to file taxes as an independent contractor. Luckily, my freshman year roommate, who became an accountant, was really able to help me out and build me into a more effective businessperson.

I learned that there are a few, key differences between filing taxes as an independent contractor versus someone who is on a payroll. As a freelance writer, I was given a 1099 form from all of my clients. The 1099 stated my earnings from each company for which I did contract work, and essentially, my 1040 reflected all of the 1099 forms I received. I discovered that I was also entitled to a few tax deductions as a freelance worker, which helped to alleviate my financial burden. I learned to look out for myself and understand where I stood to gain.

As I became more established, I learned to stop undervaluing my work and realize how much I was worth. I was afraid of losing clients, but through it all, I discovered who was really loyal to me. Looking back, I sometimes forget how much hard work and determination it took to get to the point in my career I’m at today. It’s mostly because I was extremely passionate in what I was doing and because I had faith in myself. Your path may be very similar to mine or the exact opposite, but believe in yourself and you will get to where you want to be.

Jackson - Author PicJackson Hille is the Outreach Associate for FormSwift, a startup that focuses on providing low-cost, online solutions to entrepreneurs and business for all of their document needs. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, he has a passion for writing about public policy and sports management when he is not helping individuals and organizations find resources that will create a more efficient workspace. Upon joining FormSwift, he was able to put his full-time freelance career to the side, but he still cares tremendously about helping current freelancers find a stable footing in the Gig Economy, which is why he created the Freelancer’s Essential Guide to Business and Taxes.

purpose, preparation...

“When we are clear about our contribution to the world, we will use all channels available to make that contribution happen.”


This time of the year we easily get the flu and feel under the weather. While your body needs to accept these attacks once in while it might not always be connected to the weather only. The end of winter is also a time of transition where we often notice that we did not follow through with all the resolutions we had when we started the year. Sometimes we might still struggle with our holiday weight or the lack of exercise. Sometimes we wish we drank less alcohol or spend less money on stuff we don’t really need. Sometimes we wish our dating life was better or that we had found a companion in life.




High performance results from a mix of feeling healthy as well as being emotionally stable.

You need to work with your body as if it was a team member. Too many clients I know have physical limitations that seem to stop them from a fully satisfied life. In my personal experience I know that I could not rely on my body in a time of high-stress almost 10 years ago. Like most junior managers I thought I own the world and that nothing could stop me but in that year I changed my job, flew to New York, got married, went on honeymoon and around three weeks later my disk slipped in the lower back. I had to be in the hospital and then at home for three weeks altogether and I hated it. I was so immobile and unhappy that I never wanted to have this experience again.

This incident might be one of the reasons why I became an executive coach because many times I see colleagues as well who just seem to believe that their body will handle and tolerate everything. Until they are diagnosed with burnout or cancer or they have a heart attack or high blood pressure. Another common thread that I recognize also among highly intelligent clients is a tendency to avoid intimate relationships because they could fall apart.

Many managers do not seek help unless a doctor tells them that it is time to change behavior. Imagine you had an “oldtimer” (vintage car). Would you wait until the garage repair person told you to come for check up or would you take the car to a regular check up to make sure it does not rust? Some of us treat their cars better than their bodies. Frankly speaking, I used to to be like that until I had my three week unintentional break. Since then I have become a lot better at prioritizing health.

Your health might not feel urgent to you just yet.

Could it be that your body  gives you signs that you need to change “something” in your life?

If you read the signs correctly you have three choices:

1) You can ignore this and move on until you have a bigger issue.

2) You can take it seriously as a sign that you need to have a medical check up or

3) You can go and seek an executive coach who can help you analyze where you are overburdened and how you can work better with your existing resources.

Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions about your physical and mental health.

Thank you.


Read more about how to stay healthy and get productive by ordering Michael Hyatt‘s ebook “Shave 10 hours off your workweek.” It’s a free resource I can highly recommend.

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@angieweinberger”]Tip of the week: Take a walk every day. #manageyourenergy[/tweetthis]

Take A Walk