Ten professional networking principles
Keep the Swiss etiquette
Keep the Swiss etiquette

Building a long-term professional relationship requires time and trust. We often do not have time or we perceive time as lacking. We also might think of ourselves as trustworthy but we do not really trust people with an open heart as we might believe. I have learnt over the last few years as a professional that we all have a „trust account“. We grant another person trust when they have „earned“ our trust. It is similar to a bank. Once they have made a „withdrawal“ or asked us for an overdraft of favors we lower our trust in them or we even close the account. We also need to understand that matters of trust and relationships are culturally different so my bias on this topic is based on a German or Swiss-German culture.

In order to network effectively I recently came up with these ten professional networking principles. I would like to share them with you as I believe this could be helpful. You might want to develop your own principles accordingly.

No. 1: Define your networking purpose.

You should think about and write down what you are networking for. I would  define three goals such as „Creating a sustainable fan-base for my products and services.“ Or „Helping my clients to build better relationships in Switzerland in a shorter time frame.“ Or „Supporting young people in developing countries.“

No. 2: Build up your trust account

Before you ask someone in your network for a favor build up  your „trust account“ by helping them with a real need they have. I often read that you should send people articles or topics they could be interested in. It would be even better to find out a topic they struggle with and help them organize it.

No. 3:  Be genuine on LinkedIn / Xing

When you build up your network on LinkedIn (or Xing) you need to ensure that the other person either really knows you in person or online or has a keen interest in being connected to you. I sometimes have contact requests that I simply have to deny because I do not know the person and they do not tell my why they would like to be connected with me.

No. 4: Protect your network and their personal data.

This has become an issue over the last years. When you sign up for certain network and on certain platforms it easily happens that your contacts get spammed with emails not related to your networking purpose. Try to cut out people and platforms, which do not treat your data safely. If you share anyone’s email ID ask them for approval before you do so.

No. 5: Work on your attitude towards altruism

Networking is first of all about helping one another. If you do not intend to genuinely help other people, please do not call it „networking“. Be honest and tell yourself that you are selling through using professional relationships.

No. 6 Build your subscriber lists with voluntary members

If you are building your subscriber list it is best to have your clients and fans subscribe without pressure. This is not easy as there is a vast selection of blogs and other material that wants to be read. I find it ok if I am asked to join a Facebook fan page (and usually I like my friends pages without even looking at them). I also think it is acceptable to repeatedly invite people to subscribe to newsletters and blog posts. I do not think that you should „force“ people to subscribe or trick them into a subscription when they order one of your products. In the long run they will just ignore your emails or filter them out. Or like I just did use unroll.me to get rid of all the newsletters and updates you never read anyway.

No. 7 Follow your followers on Twitter

If you are on Twitter you should follow your followers back unless you are Kim Kardashian or Shah Rukh Khan. Stars have fans and followers. People like you and me use Twitter to network with a larger audience and globally around topics of interests such as #GlobalMobility. Define your hashtags, mention them in your bio and give people a reason to follow you.

No. 8 The best conversations are face-to-face (F2F) and 1:1

It might sound old fashioned and I really am a big fan of Skype, video-conferencing, telephone conferences etc. for work but in order to network effectively my advice is that you meet in person at least once a year.  Psychologically speaking, I believe you will only be on top of a list in a contact’s head when they see your face once in a while. In 1:1 conversations you also have a chance to talk about personal matters better than over email or chat.

No. 9 It is legitimate to ask more senior people for lunch

We sometimes struggle with asking a more senior person for lunch or coffee but it is absolutely legitimate. I also sometimes do not know how men take it if I ask them for a lunch as a woman. In these cases it might be best to name a topic you wish to go through. General rule: When you invite for lunch you pay. (Sometimes I get invited but I usually accept an invite only if I feel I have enough balance in my trust account).

No.10 Define your boundaries

If you would like to network like a Pro you should not have to apologize if you want to connect with someone. This probably means that the person is not right for your network. If making appointments becomes a hassle then it is a bit like dating. You might seem too desperate to achieve a target. I’d rather not meet then and wait until the person comes back to me with an offer.

 

Speaking to expats – Ten secrets GM Professionals wish they could tell you.
working together takes time...
working together takes time…

Global Mobility (GM) Professionals cannot always speak their mind. Here are a few secrets we wish we could tell you sometimes**…

1) “We are sure you can live in the same lifestyle as at home.” (But we have never lived in the country ourselves).

2) „Our relocation service is very reliable.“ (The fact that your furniture is late or drowned in the ocean is just an exception.)

3) „We have all your insurance needs covered.“ (But we never had a really disastrous situation that we needed to discuss with our insurer).

4) „Your spouse will eventually get used to the idea of living in the host country.“ (Or you will get divorced within the time frame of your assignment.)

5) „We have heard from other expats that they really liked the location.“ (They got married, resigned from our company and stayed their for good.)

6) „We know the market in the host location.“ (and that you will talk to all the other expats about your package.)

7) „We have calculated your salary based on expat cost of living data from our provider.“ (We hardly understand them either.)

8) „Sorry for not responding to you sooner. We had to clarify the process internally. (And we are underpaid and overworked being online most of the time of the day.)

9) Our policy does not foresee this case. („And it costs me too much time to claim an exception for you.)

10) „Our vendor contract does not clarify if this service is included.“ (And actually you might be able to handle this easily by googling.)

 

Legal notice: **This blog post is to be taken with a grain of salt. I know: German humor is hard to understand.

You need to develop your Global Competency

Why it is so difficult to come up with a good curriculum for Global Mobility

As you probably understood already the arena of Global Mobility is vast and no Global Mobility Manager will have all the answers. If you enjoy constant challenges and a day that never looks the same Global Mobility could be right for you. However, you also need to be very structured, focussed and analytical. For Global Mobility Educators, it is a constant challenge to provide a curriculum that is based on the right career level and also deep enough. Most courses you will find about Global Mobility in your home country will assume the home approach and all the special legal areas will mainly be presented based on “home” legislation and in the home language. If you are managing a global population and wish to implement a host approach you will need to go through a lot of learning by doing and you probably have to invent the wheel.

The Expatise Academy in Holland

I recommend the Expatise Academy program in Global Mobility because I am a lecturer at the Academy and have seen how they ensure the high-quality standards in teaching. The program has a modular approach and follows your career development as a Global Mobility Professional. You should consider learning the basics at least for the home country of labor and employment law, immigration, personal and corporate tax and you need to understand your Global Mobility policy and compensation approaches.

Global Competency

A factor that is often underestimated in Global Mobility is the critical importance of developing global competency. As long as we do not see cultural differences, we do not know why men and women from other cultures behave and think differently than we do. We just assume that they are “strange”. Also, we might think we treat the other person with respect but the concept of respect is defined differently in other culture. Even if we consider ourselves open-minded, we might not have developed the skills that we need in order to be more effective in other cultures.

Our brains today still work in a similar way to that of the cavewoman. We often decide only about fight or flight. We hardly ever step back in stressful situations and think “Why is that person behaving like this?”.  We rarely sit down, take a deep breath, smile and then write a polite email to say that our judgment of the situation might have been guided by our own values and assumptions. No. Normally we jump to conclusions first and put other people’s behavior in a box (Like / Not Like). Facebook does not help.

We rely on our mental images and can become prejudiced because this is the way our gut decides if we are safe or in danger. Our mental images are influenced by our inner landscapes but also largely by the pictures we see on the news channels every day.  When some Westerners hear “Pakistan” they think “terrorism”, “Islamists”, “oppression of women” and “Osama bin Laden” instead of  “IT professionals”, “tourism” or even “Benazir Bhutto”.

A holistic Global Competency model

For the development of global competency, I have developed a simplified model with five elements: knowledge,  attitude, skills, experience and body learning. I first explained this model in an article in the German-speaking HR magazine Persorama (Weinberger, 2013). I work with this model in executive coaching and it also helps junior professionals start developing their effectiveness in a global context.

What is Global Competency?

Global Competency is the ability to work effectively in a global, complex environment with a high level of stress while achieving goals sustainably and in accordance with your own resources. It is a combination of knowledge, attitude, skills, reflected experiences and body learning.

Let’s look at the different elements of Global Competency.

Knowledge

You can gain knowledge of a country’s history,  politics, economy, and religion.  It is helpful not to focus only on factual information but to prioritize all the topics you enjoy reading about. As mentioned previously, start with the home country and move on to the knowledge areas of other legislation. Areas of knowledge you need to study are the tax, social security, immigration, local employment law, business terms, compensation and benefits, country-specific history and processes.

Attitude

It is very important that you develop openness for ambiguity, the potential to accept new experiences and the questioning of your own cultural minting. Through making yourself aware of and verifying your own cultural beliefs, you develop a more open attitude. Once you understand and are aware of your own cultural attitude and behaviors you are able to change your behavior to be more effective. You want to develop a global mindset and become more open towards ambiguity and not knowing. You want to practice curiosity and learn to be humble and serving.

Skills

Through developing your foreign language skills, active listening and empathy you can gain better access to people of other cultures. In today’s technology-driven times I believe it is also important for a globally active professional to have media competency. It’s important to be effective in telephone and video-conferences, but also to be able to build connections via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. If you are working in Global Mobility you will have to develop your analytical problem- solving skills, you need a feel for numbers. You want to develop your language skills (especially English). You might need consulting and communication skills. You need to improve the way you build relationships.  You need to work with information and communication technology effectively and have a grasp of Social Media.

Reflected Experience

When dealing with other cultures it is helpful to analyze critical situations and incidents. One option is the „search for the proof of the opposite. You could, for example, have an assumption about a person’s cultural behavior and then assume that it’s the opposite of your assumption and find proof for this theory. You can start to write an intercultural diary and reflect your assignee cases by applying systemic thinking. You need the ability to record cases, decisions, and exceptions. You need to able to note the details while not losing focus of the overall process. You could debrief challenging assignees with an external coach.

Body Learning

By learning dances or practicing martial arts, and relaxation methods you learn to focus and you will feel better in your body. Thereby you will be able to handle the stress and global complexity a lot better. A good physical constitution is helpful to remain globally competent and effective.  Other creative tasks such as painting, playing the piano and photography are also helpful. You want to develop a good routine for processing information. You can increase your presence in meetings and with your clients by following our advice on learning a dance, martial art or relaxation method.

Test your Intercultural Sensitivity

A lot of scientific work has been written on intercultural sensitivity. My favorite model is Milton Bennett’s developmental model of intercultural sensitivity (DMIS). This model is the basis for the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) by  Hammer and Bennett (2001).
Would you like to test your intercultural sensitivity with the IDI and see if you estimated your competence correctly?
If you would like to go through the test you can email me. The cost is CHF 97 including a debriefing.

Why building professional relationships is harder for Expats and their spouses in Zurich

I have this tendency to not want to work with Germans who have just arrived in Switzerland. I end up seeing too many of my own mishaps and small failures back when I was a newbie in Switzerland. Instead of reminiscing about my failures however, l would like you to meet Dr. Rainer Schulz.

This German leader from one of the cases from The Global Mobility Workbook (2019) has never done any intercultural training. He manages a global team which is mainly based in Switzerland exactly like he manages everybody in Frankfurt. Tom Jones, the main character in this case study challenges a lot of his assumptions about hierarchy and collaboration.

At the age of 55, Dr. Schulz cannot get over the fact that everyone in Switzerland goes to first name and “Du” in no time. Even his children call him stuck up and old-fashioned. Dr. Schulz is a typical example of someone stuck in their own cultural preferences. He could have made an effort and offered Tom the first name basis. He could have tried to build trust when they began working together. Instead, he just cannot get out of his comfort zone, hides behind his intellectual competence, relationship to the Management Board and his assistant. 

Tom on the other hand, is a little naive and not even aware of intercultural differences. He made an effort to learn German but he is still depressed. He attributes his issues to others. His weakness in this situation is that he does not take responsibility for his learning and progress. Tom also limits himself and could have done more to work better with Rainer. Tom quits the company, an assignment failed, the retention score is down and people are even more convinced that working with people from other cultures is just too hard. No happily ever after.

Having lived here in Zurich for over 10 years now, I also prefer to run my life Swiss-style. Despite considering myself open and tolerant, I still mess up intercultural communication. I’m not always understood and sometimes I’m just wrong. I recently got into a long discussion about left and right and I know that I have a weakness there. At the end I had to find out that I muddled up left and right (again!).

Communication across Cultures is a Challenge

My team members sometimes don’t do what I thought I had asked them to do. Then there is the occasional issue where I thought I had sent an email with a spreadsheet attachment but the person at the other end never received it. We hop on a conference call to discuss a topic with the assumption that the other person has the spreadsheet in front of them but IT Security blocked it. The whole conversation goes in circles. (Remind me to explain the “Asian Loop” to you sometime.) 

And yes, there could be plenty of reasons behind these issues. Maybe it’s “not my fault” or “not my responsibility”. However, if we don’t achieve our goals as leaders, then we are not good enough as leaders. 

Do you also in such situations then tend to take control and do everything yourself?

And does that then lead you to burnout, depression or anger?

Does your partnership or family life suffer?

I have had to learn to accept the fact that people are as diverse as sand corns or snow flakes. You can learn to improve your leadership style but it is a never ending story of continued failures. Eventually you’ll get the swing and then you are asked to retire from the working world…

(Isn’t it crazy that our society doesn’t value the experience of our elders? Personally I intend to work until the day I die… hopefully with a nicely branded fountain pen in my hand.)

With this post I would like to give you an intercultural explanation to these phenomena and help you get out of your cultural comfort zone.

What is Global Competency in Global Mobility?

Global Competency is the ability to work effectively in a global, complex environment with a high level of stress, while achieving goals sustainably and in accordance with your own resources”. (Weinberger, 2019)

One of the major themes in my work with clients is on how they can improve their relationships at work. In order to find a new role in the Swiss market a number of trusted relationships are required. Relationships are usually built through a third-party introduction, at events and through long-lasting cooperation. And while this is similar in Germany, the German approach to building relationships always has a hierarchical component. Usually, the younger or newer members of the crew are treated with a little less respect. Globally competent leaders know how to gauge the hierarchy level and address the person according to status and seniority. However, in Switzerland where 70% of your interactions are with other expats it is trickier than in Germany.

You can almost assume that everyone is on your experience and intellectual level. And most locals are modest, so they could easily be underestimated.

I’m trying to summarize the reasons why Expats and their Spouses have a hard time building professional relationships in Switzerland:

  1. They are shy, introverted or not convinced that they are good enough to deserve success. Many partners suffer from the “impostor syndrome”, a psychological state of mind where people doubt their own accomplishments or consider themselves frauds just about to be exposed, especially if their career-driving partner just got another promotion in another country.
  2. They are embarrassed and ashamed of being “unemployed” in a society where most of your self-worth is driven by your career and how busy you are.
  3. They come from a culture where achievement is overly emphasized and ascription is considered an unfair privilege while at the same time they are blindsided by the fact that they had an ascribed status in their home turf. Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner used to associate the achievement dimension with mainly protestant work ethic and belief. However, even if Switzerland is the home of Zwingli and Calvin, we have catholic cantons as well and status is often equal with family name, wealth and also how many generations you have already been a member of this society. So, there is still a strong ascription component that is not so obvious to outsiders. you don’t recognize that you have been in the out-group until you join the “Circle of Trust”.
  4. They are not aware of how they come across in person and assume that their style and behavior is “normal”. However, they have not yet learned to read the cultural cues that would indicate to them that they might be too pushy or even rude. A common example in Switzerland is that expats tend to overstretch a time commitment. For a society that runs on the clock and is a role model of the sequential time approach according to E.T. Hall’s time dimensions, this is often creating a lot of stress for the other person.
  5. They are sending messages with which in their home turf they would mark their status such as the “Dr.” title in Germany or a certain seniority by name-dropping the influential VIP’s they used to hang out with but in Switzerland for example this is either not understood or considered boasting, egocentric and merely annoying. 

When I started my business I created these ten professional networking principles for myself. Over the years of running my own business and projects I often noticed that all the tools I tested to maintain a strategic approach to networking failed miserably with the extensive network that I’ve built over my professional life. 

So, I decided to let go of “strategy” and follow my gut and memory. I realized that the best idea is not to worry too much about “contact segmentation”. We Germans love the word “Begriffsabgrenzung”, so we also do this to our social life (“Bekannter, Kollege, Freund, Verwandter, Familie, Partner, Ehepartner…”). It’s a step-by-step approach showing how much you trust the other person. The same segmentation exists in Switzerland, but there are “false friends”, e.g. the word “Kollege” means “Work Colleague” in High German and “Friend” in Swiss German. The meaning of the informal way of addressing a person with “Du” has a different meaning in Switzerland than in Germany. Without intercultural training a German manager will behave like a bull in a China shop in Switzerland – completely unintentionally. Hence, working with German managers in the “honeymoon phase” is a lot of work for the trainer or coach.

My approach after 10 years in Zurich

Some of my colleagues in the #GlobalMobility world have become friends over the years and some of my best friends from the university days or early career are colleagues or clients now. Some of my team members have almost become family and some of my family members work in the same field or closely related ones. 

While saying this, I don’t want to imply that you have to like everybody you work with and everybody you network with. However, it’s another atmosphere for collaboration and innovation when you can fully trust the other person without a doubt.

When you know in your head and in your heart, that this person would never talk badly about you behind your back and would not spill your secrets with your competitors. I thrive in safe and collaborative environments but these require “relationship work”. We can’t stay on the task-level (the “Sachebene”, one of my favorite German words).

I’m aware that it takes “advance-trust”, but it also requires globally competent managers, Global Mobility Leaders and Expats.

We’ll continue with this topic next week.

Have a great week ahead!

Angie

PS: During the RockMeRetreat! I will support clients to overcome these challenges by applying the 4 P’s of building professional relationships (Purpose, Preparation, Presence and Promises). 

The Expat Experience (XX): Walking alone at the shores of lake Zurich on a rainy Sunday morning.

Lack of Digital Competence Affecting Your Productivity? Here’s How You Escape That Rut

I’m sure you have been told countless times in recent years that in this driven, fast-changing world, the agile will reign supreme. I’m sure you have also wondered, what exactly does that mean?

I think the simplest answer to that is: Professionals who can keep up to date with their skill set are the ones who will find sustained success. Keeping your skills and knowledge in tip-top condition is something I’ve touched on in a previous Club Sandwich too, but today I’d like to focus on the aspect of digital competency. For many professionals, maintaining a current skill set as this new world gets more digital-centric is the real challenge. This means asking yourself, are you someone with a robust IT skill set or do you ‘just get by’?

If your answer is the latter, perhaps it is time to consider ramping up the attention you give to this aspect. Being able to work with a few basic apps and systems will no longer take you the distance. I understand that getting to grips with this rapid change can be too much for some professionals, who feel that their learning progress has hit a brick wall, or become a slow crawl. This can naturally lead to a feeling of frustration and impatience for ‘not getting it’, which may directly affect your productivity and self esteem.

What I’d like to do today is to help you boost your productivity in ways that may also bolster your digital competence. The following are a few methods I’ve used personally and have assisted clients as well. Let’s do this!

Have a read through of Jane Piper’s excellent book Focus in the Age of Distraction
Jane Piper is a digital wellbeing expert who draws on her experience in Focus, highlight key consequences of living in the digital age that can impact productivity. There have been several studies on how digital apps, especially networking ones have affected our ability to focus and engage – something that is now visible in workplaces around the world. For those among us who find themselves struggling to focus and perform at their peak, this book is a must read!

Start using a productivity app
Now, don’t get scared! Most productivity apps on the market can appear daunting, and hide most features behind a paywall, that is, they let you use their basic version for free but require you to pay a one-time or recurring cost for premium features. That means you never know if the money spent will be worth it. Instead, I’ll focus you towards the best apps that offer these features for free, allowing you to find your own groove.

A productivity or task management app can be something as simple as Gmail’s Tasks list, or something more elaborate like Microsoft To-Do and Todoist. What is similar about these apps and what you will learn is this: lists help your mind declutter and refocus. These apps provide additional help by providing reminders, categorization options and cross-system(platform) support.

The unique thing each app brings is what will determine if they are something you will wish to use long-term. People who enjoy the satisfaction of making lists will prefer Todoist, while those who may require organizational options will go for Microsoft To-Do.

Find the app that works for you and start planning your day better!

Are You More of a Visual Thinker? Then Play to Your Strength! 
Productivity apps are great but only if you can harness their power effectively. For those among us who are more visual thinkers, or work with visuals and design, will definitely find themselves flocking to Trello and its card-based approach. It’s like having a digital corkboard to map out your tasks, and definitely worth trying out.

Experiment with Global Virtual Team Collaboration Apps
For those among us who run teams, there are group productivity and task management/collaboration tools such as Slack and Asana that are worth looking into. A note on Slack usage: It is primarily a team collaboration tool but its productivity boosting capabilities come from its ability to integrate with Google Drive/Dropbox and Salesforce. I find it important that you experiment with your team and review after a few months what worked well and what didn’t work well. You might notice generational differences in app usage and effectiveness.

Simplify and find tools that work for your team or collective
Yesterday, I listed all the tools we are using in one of our collectives on a flipchart paper. I tried to paint the icons without looking at my iphone and had to smile later because they actually look slightly different. However, I realized that we often use many tools already but we haven’t agreed on simple communication principles. So the work only starts when you have identified the right tools. (The hammer alone doesn’t help. You also need to bring in energy to slam in the nail.) We will continue to discuss global virtual team collaboration in the upcoming issues.

Unplug and keep a have-done diary
One aspect (that is also addressed in Jane Piper’s book) is how the pressure and stress of work combined with the always-on digital aspects can put us in a state of mind where we are unable to focus on anything, much fewer deliverables and time management. 

Here’s what you do: List down your completed daily tasks. I recommend a notebook and handwriting for this exercise. Not only will this give you a break from the screen but help you analyze your productivity cycle, its peaks and low points. I’ve learned this method from my coach educator Boudewijn Vermeulen and it served me well during hectic times.

I talk about more productivity hacks that can help you reclaim your diary here. Practice one of these hacks per week and let me know how your experience went in the RockMeApp! You can add them to your “weekly practices”.

On the subject of productivity and keeping yourself on top of the career ladder, we offer a few more seats at the RockMeRetreat from the 21st November to the 28th November 2019.

The RockMeRetreat is a seven-day leadership retreat in Southern Germany where you will get to network with other Expat Leaders and Professionals and develop your global leader competency. We invite you to amplify your success on your chosen career ladder and get closer towards the breakthrough you need to become a Rockstar in your chosen field!

Modern professionals are required to keep pace with a rapidly changing work ecosystem, so let us all focus on finding that sweet spot where we perform consistently and confidently.