Tag Archives: global rockstars

The present war in Ukraine has reminded us how our world’s stability is all but relative and fragile. Just another sign of this BANI (Brittle, Anxious, Non-Linear, Incomprehensible) World. As if the humanitarian situation in Ukraine was not enough in itself, the rest of Europe and the world will definitely feel the earthquake aftershocks because of our ever growing interconnectedness that condemns us all to food and energy security failures and negative impact on general trade. 

The sheer size of the catastrophe is a major factor that contributes to the prevailing anxiety and adds to the confusing complexity of our nonlinear world: the multiple causes and impacts (even the yet unforeseen consequences that will or could  eventually occur). The overflow of information (information, disinformation, as well as misinformation) and the growing complexity of our world renders this situation and the whole world more difficult to comprehend, predict and control.

Jamais Cascio, the author who coined “BANI world” wrote “[a] sizable share of those of us who work in the field of imagining the future often struggle with […] a difficulty in seeing our world in anything other than an apocalyptic frame. It’s not because we want it this way, but because other framings seem inadequate or false. The danger of this urge is that it can easily become a trigger for surrender, a slipstream into despair. Through all this, we believe that we can do something to improve the situation, and if not the whole wide world’s situation, at least our own.”

According to Cascio, “for each problematic aspect of our BANI world, there is maybe not so much a solution, but a way to react, that might help us and others better manage the situation itself and our emotions and stress that ensue from it. When something is brittle, it requires capacity, and resilience. When we feel anxious, we need empathy and mindfulness. Non-linear circumstances need context and adaptivity. And what is incomprehensible calls for transparency and intuition. Everyone can do their share and extend empathy and mindfulness. As for context and transparency, we believe it is everyone’s responsibility to verify the veracity of the information they share (may it be in person or on social media). This contributes to limiting the misinformation impacting our confusion and anxiety.”

A year ago, the concept of BANI was just that. A concept. Today, it’s a reality that we all feel in our bodies. You might have woken up last week with a taste of iron in your mouth. The earth might have felt a bit shaky when you went out after you heard about the invasion in Ukraine. And now, a few days later you might be lying in your bed crying, feeling like you can’t face another day in this world. You went through all the phases of grief described by Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross in her famous book “On Death and Dying (1969).

If you have never seen a difference between something that you understand with your mind, but not with your body then this is your next leadership lesson. For example: I was able to explain “intercultural leadership” or “transactional analysis” in my late 20ies but I only experienced body sensations in my late 30ies. 

I knew for a long time that there are people who are relationship-oriented, rather than task-oriented, but I only experienced this when I went to India back in 2006. 

Last week I went from shocked to angry to crisis mode. My German default took over. I gave (friendly) orders, advice and pushed an agenda for providing psychological safety in this situation. Today I’m ready to grief and process. For most of last week I felt pain in my back and my shoulders. This is a trigger, body sensation I know too well. It’s a mix of feeling overwhelmed and anxious, feeling left alone with the burden of responsibility and having to stand up and do it anyway. Even if your voice is shaking, even if you are criticized, even if you are told to keep in your lane and despite your inner critic that tells you: “This will not end well.” and the inner Gollum (your worry monster) who also tells you “We’re all gonna die anyway, so why bother”. 

And this my friend, is when we rise.

Here are five ways to provide psychological safety and help your people stand up for what they believe in, have a voice and be heard. 

1 – The Daily Fail

My great friend Inge Nitsche, CEO and Chair of Expatise Academy is using a “memotrainer” and the way it works is that you are continuously asked questions until you get them right. The retention of this kind of training is exponentially higher than other training methods as people are told that their MISTAKES ARE GOOD

The more you get wrong, the faster you fail, the higher your improvement score and learning curve. Yes, this is frustrating, but it works. And I believe that I would like to practice that now. Because: As I recently told one of you “We’re not in high school anymore.”

I admit that I failed at giving psychological safety and it made me consider what I could do to role model the behavior behind it and how I could approach this topic with a growth mindset. I am working on an experiment I would like to share with you: Every day, I am allowing myself to admit one fail by saying or writing it down. Then I correct the mistake or I try to understand where I was wrong or on the wrong path. This is hard, because I’m used to being in an “Expert” role and it is very unusual behavior in a FEAR CULTURE but I will try it anyway, because if I allow myself to make mistakes and to correct mistakes, then others will see that it is okay to show that you are not perfect and that learning only happens in an environment where it is okay to fail even if it is just in small doses.

2 – The Broken Record 

Another experiment is the “Broken Record”. If I identify an issue that needs change, I will address the issue again and again, especially when I feel that I had not been heard in the past. This way, through repetition, I will either learn that I was wrong about my assumptions OR if I was right that maybe other people learn in a different way and that I need to give them the time to catch up. 

It’s also helpful to address the issues that you wish to flag at various angles and find friends that you trust who will help you spread the message.

3 – The Daily Agile

You probably know that this is one of my principles and for a long time one of my priorities because I am also a fan of the Agile Manifesto. So, I usually prioritize my clients over anyone else, but I also prioritize people over processes and tasks. This principle helps to focus on what is important in the moment. If you are unsure whether you should draft a contract, update your HR System or listen to an anxious colleague or team member and you apply the agile manifesto you never doubt yourself. Follow your inner guidance here.

4 – The ZEN Workspace

Without order outside there is no order within. Working from home a lot we now keep our home even cleaner than before and maintain a few ZEN practices to ensure that order is maintained on a daily basis. You can apply ZEN practices to your workspace, your desktop, your data, your filing system and your KANBAN. If you get overwhelmed by chaos, you can always work on your system and find a system or backup plan that supports you. It could even be a paper binder or a laminated checklist. Make it a habit to clean up every day. Keep order outside and clear your clutter regularly. I find this usually gives me peace and calm. Even folding the laundry or cleaning my shoes can help there.

5 – The Rollercoaster

When I get up in the morning thinking “this will be a quiet day and I can finally get a bit of admin done” there’s a high probability that the day will end up with laser swords, magic wands, and fighting the dark force. We can handle many things when we are centered and calm, but it’s better to be prepared at any time that the next crisis is just around the corner. Charge your smartphone. Pack a backpack. Wear comfortable clothes. Get fit. Be ready to run.

“Do or do not. There is no try.” 

YODA

PS: 

Join us on our journey towards becoming Jedi and sign up to get invited to the upcoming RockMeRetreat

Further Resources:

https://medium.com/@cascio/facing-the-age-of-chaos-b00687b1f51d

https://stephangrabmeier.de/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/BANI-vs-VUCA_Infographic_Stephan-Grabmeier.png

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacobmorgan8/

Zuerichhorn "Heureka"

Despite what is happening in the world I have been keeping myself really busy. Honestly, getting stuff done gives me deep satisfaction, and having a lot of great client conversations raises my energy level to the max. So, I personally feel that I work on my mission to bring the Human Touch back into Global Mobility and my team is helping me along.

However, many of you work in corporations and don’t have the luxury that I have where I can choose how I spend my time and with whom I am talking. Many of you still feel the pressure of having a boss or someone to report to and their demands sometimes drive you crazy.

However, being “busy” is not the same as being “effective” so I wanted to share a method that has helped me over the last few years to feel a sense of accomplishment over the holidays. You probably will notice that this year the annual Christmas rush and madness will be different. Not only because we work from home a lot more. 

Our common anxiety and fatigue level is a lot higher this year than in the past and working towards the year-end might even seem less stressful this year because your adrenaline has been high the whole year. 

I wanted to list a few topics that I am observing in projects and coaching conversations and give you a method on how you can deal with it in a playful way. This is also an activity where you can involve your family because

Family Success is a Team Sport”.

Perpetual Machine

What I am observing inside corporations and what increasingly frustrates me is the lack of accountability and constant waste of resources and time. It reminds me of Jean Tingeluy’s artwork “Heureka” at my favorite spot in Zurich. Often it seems that many functions and positions are just there to maintain a well-oiled machine but the value they add to the client or company they serve is minimal. 

Data Squash

We also use a lot of time correcting or searching for data because the original source does not contain the data or the data is flawed. We have to rely on our brains to remember specific scenarios so we can cover all exceptional circumstances. We hire more consultants to help us administer a workflow tool that does not deliver the data we need instead of training the data entry specialist in the Philippines or in India so that the data is entered correctly. We implement three levels of controls instead of helping the first handler of the data to deliver a zero error quality report.

Process Porcelain

Do you often chase someone because they forgot to take action on an item they were supposed to deliver so you can continue your process? You might be correcting processes and mending broken process porcelain because the decision-makers do not understand the process and just run around like a headless chicken. Sometimes you might feel like a mother at work trying to collect the toys that the children left lying around all over the floor. You pick them up so that nobody trips but you are also not really noticed as you do your work quietly in the background.

Digitalization Babies

Many digital processes still are in the baby’s shoes so they often need someone to check them and make sure that they are completed. I have been in arguments with my bank because they don’t offer a draft function so that I can enter payments right when I receive the invoice and execute them later when I have enough funds in the account. My payments regularly get stuck because of cash flow issues. Then I need to build an administration around the digital process. And the funny thing is that here they always blame the customer. They hardly ever say: “This is an interesting idea and if we can help you with that we will consider it.”. 

Lego Fail

The more digital you work the more you miss the link between systems. Be it through platforms or API’s. However, often you work with many different tools and providers, and then it is your responsibility to link them all and like LEGO build a castle or a spaceship from scratch. Don’t get me wrong, I like IKEA approaches too, but sometimes I wish I had a more detailed understanding of programming languages so I could focus on important deep work rather than fixing the lego fail of my collaborative networks.

We lost all of our ideals of Total Quality Management from the good old nineties. At the end of a day, we often feel exhausted but haven’t achieved anything meaningful. 

What I have noticed is that I can live with certain flaws in my personal space. I can accept a less than perfect light in the bathroom but I cannot accept it in my work. 

One of the reasons why my apartment almost looks the same as five years ago is that my energy goes more into my profession. Now that we are spending more time at home it has become more of a priority for me so I clean up regularly and try to keep the recycling piles low. I also have a few home improvement projects to work on. 

As the paid work usually takes over and that leads to me not speaking to good friends forever, I have come up with a solution for you and me. Let me know how it works for you.

The 25 Priorities Kanban Board

In our team, we have developed a visualization method (The 25 Priorities Kanban Board) to help us prioritize work before we add tasks to Slack, Trello, and the number of G-Sheets that I use for planning. 

I am a big fan of planning and consistency, so this method helps me keep track of my priorities and get stuff done.

You need 

  • A stack of colorful post-it notes.
  • A few big pens
  • A flipchart size (A1) poster or a blank wall.

Here is how it goes:

  • Five Pink Post-It Notes (Work Projects)- Here, you write down your five most important work projects to complete until Mid-December.
  • Five Green Post-It Notes (Home Improvement) – Write down five projects you wish to complete at home before the holidays. 
  • Five Yellow Post-It Notes (People) – Write down five people you wish to connect with before the year-end.  
  • Five Orange Post-It Notes (Love Tasks) – Write down five requests of your partner or children that you would like to fulfill until the year-end.
  • Five White Post-It Notes (Self-Care) – Here, you write down five wishes that you will grant yourself before the year-end.

Homework: Send me a photo of your Kanban Board.

Performance

A study by Learnlight shows that four in ten international assignments are judged to be a failure. And yet the number of overseas assignments continues to rise. Global companies are under considerable pressure to determine what makes a successful overseas assignment and to understand why they so often fail. However, what has been so often overlooked is why it is difficult to measure expatriate performance. Since both assignment failure and success depends on how expats perform on the job, it becomes pertinent to consider how expats perform and why it is difficult to measure their performance. In the following points, I will highlight and elaborate on five reasons why it is difficult to measure expatriate performance.

  • Goals for Expats are often not clearly defined. They are often conflicting as they have to take into account the interests of the home and host company, or headquarters and subsidiaries. It becomes difficult to work effectively when expats are trying to achieve the home company goals while simultaneously trying to fit in the expectations of the host company. More expats would perform well if the goals of the host company align with the objectives of the home company.
  • Performance ratings have been calibrated for years. However, we know that there is an unconscious bias in the data. The first rater is usually a direct manager.  This person potentially judges their own weaknesses less and thinks that the expat is responsible for failure alone. However, often the manager in the host country does not help the expat to solve dilemmas. The home country manager should consider it a responsibility to make it seamless for the expatriate to integrate well into the system. One of the biggest factors that determine whether or not an assignee would be successful is who his or her line manager is. 
  • Cultural concepts of performance are biased. Definitions of “high performance” have been largely influenced by Western values and did not take team performance into account. The gig economy will need stronger team collaboration and fewer individual players. Eastern values and approaches might have an advantage now.
  • Management by Objectives is outdated. We need a new conceptual framework of performance. Even in the past setting annual targets was not always the best method of judging performance (irrespective of expat or local).
  • Expat managers usually lack the informal network and access to the host culture so it is not surprising if their performance drops in Y1. It is quite impossible to know how to navigate in a terrain that you are not familiar with. Also, they are busy adjusting and have a family to integrate into the new life abroad. One might think that we can accelerate the cultural adjustment and then just go “back to the normal way of judging performance” but I would advise against such thinking. It takes time to fit into the system and culture of a new location. Hence, the whole process of cultural adjustment takes its tolls on expat performance.

Expatriate Performance and Potential Assessment

Scullion, Collings (2011) describe the performance assessment system at Novartis which will be used as a generic example for global companies. The system “…grades employees on (a) business results (the “what”) and (b) values and behaviors (the “how”). While the business results are unique to each business area, the values and behaviors (ten in all) are common across the entire firm.” Together with the potential assessment talents are assessed in a nine-box matrix. (Scullion, Collings, 2011, p. 29)

Basing expats’ performance solely on business results may not give the overall picture of all that transpires to make an assignment either a success or a failure. There should be a holistic overview of all the processes that go into cultural adjustment and family acculturation. 

Expat adjustment as a success factor – The Term “Expat Failure” and what it commonly refers to

When discussing the success of an international assignment or project a common way to measure “success” is expat adjustment which in contradiction to “expat failure” is often equalized with completing an assignment for the planned assignment period.

“The authors leave open how long it may take an expatriate to attain the same level of applicability and clarity abroad as at home, stressing that one or two years may not suffice. To reach higher levels, the person may very well have experienced an identity transformation far more profound than passing through a cycle of adjustment.” Hippler, Haslberger, Brewster (2017, p.85)

“A “comprehensive model of success is missing” and Caligiuri’s (1997) suggestion that future studies should clarify what is meant by adjustment, as opposed to performance, indicated the need for definitional and discriminant clarity when examining performance.” Care and Donuhue (2017, p.107)

Talent management approaches in Germany and Switzerland and most of Europe are driven by the U.S.-based ideas about talent identification and definitions and use the “nine-box grid” to select key talents with a halo-effect towards white males. 

Influence of psychological contract on expatriate retention

An issue in expatriation is often the lack of clarity around the role after repatriation. A psychological contract exists between the expat and the company but there is no written agreement or clear understanding of the next role or roles in the process. Expectations are not properly managed and often expats are disappointed with their title, pay or role content in the next role when returning from an assignment.

Two years after repatriation there are several factors influencing retention significantly. 

  1. a) re-entry cultural adjustment, another 
  2. b) role expectation mismatch and 
  3. c) the lack of applicability of the learning from the previous assignment.

The Integration of Global Mobility and Global Talent Management

One of the reasons for this lack of synchronization is the missing integration of global mobility and global talent management activities and functions in today’s organizations. The only guidance focuses on academic concepts of expatriate return on investment.

A Holistic Competency Model is Needed

I claim that we not only need a better integration of Talent Management and Global Mobility (hence the term Talent Mobility) but we also need to look at our performance management systems, global competency models, recruiting and talent identification process under a new light. We finally need to advance HR to an interculturally competent function and reduce the inherent bias in all of our processes, tools and leaders. This will be a major task in a post-colonial BANI World.

My Global Competency Model has been an attempt to integrate Eastern and Western mindsets into a model. Our coaching approach builds on Eastern and Western coaching practices. We included the ethics by the International Coaching Federation (ICF). The holistic approach of my coach, educator Drs. Boudewijn Vermeulen, further developed by Dr. Eva Kinast into a holistic, body-oriented and intercultural coaching method. This method focuses on building and maintaining effective trust-based relationships, the body-mind-heart connection and is linked to the psychology of Carl Gustav Jung. 

The model also assumes weekly reflection, regular practices, which originate from Eastern mindsets and concepts such as ZEN. We integrated body learning which was taught to me by Dr. Jay Muneo Jay Yoshikawa in a course of Eastern Mindscapes (back in 2005 at the Summer Institute of Intercultural Communication in Portland, Oregon). Reflected experiences are based on the single-loop and double-loop learning theory of Argyris and Schoen. Also, experiential learning that I first learned from Thiaggi about 20 years ago and have further developed into all of my programs.

Trust and Relationships are Collaboration Glue

In almost every coaching session right now leaders talk to me about the need to get better at building trust (also in a virtual setting) and relationships. Relationships in my view are the glue to working well together within a monocultural but also multicultural environment. Collaboration (as opposed to Cooperation) requires a higher level of trust among project team members. Agile needs it. And Diversity, Equity and Inclusion demand it. 

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR GLOBAL MOBILITY?

“Better alignment between global mobility and companies’ global talent agenda is a precondition for making mobility truly strategic and helping companies achieve a significant return on investment with their international assignments.”

  • Widening the scope of Global Mobility to include international hires, cross-border commuters, international transfers, lifestyle assignments, global digital nomads and other groups of internationally mobile professionals.
  • Reviewing all HR models and processes to reduce bias and White Supremacy should be on the priority list of every HR leader but you can also make it your personal mission. Help us create a world where everyone has a chance and invite those to the table that are often overlooked.
  • Defining assignment objectives up front and tracking progress throughout assignment. You must ensure that not only the home company or headquarters have clear cut objectives for the expat  but also that the host company’s objectives are in sync and align with that of the headquarters. Coach the expat or send them to me for coaching. Help them be a success rather than a failure.
  • Improving productivity by addressing development areas such as communication, process and culture barriers. Key problem areas should be identified. Oftentimes, expats complain about loss of connection to the home company. Nobody from the headquarters or home company is interested in how they fare in the new environment. If expats feel deserted, it could adversely affect their performance output. Proffering viable solutions to pain points of expats, such as cultural roadblocks would help improve expats performance. Give them the vocabulary to speak about their blockers, send them to intercultural awareness training. 
  • Helping coordinate annual talent review of all expatriates. Reviews like this give expats the opportunity to express their perception of the international assignment. 
  • Increase the expat’s self-awareness. Let expats learn more about themselves. We use the IDI (Intercultural Development Inventory) and ICBI™ (Individual Cultural Blueprint Indicator) for example for self-awareness assessment and the outcomes can be a great conversation starter in a coaching session.

You already know that I am on a mission to bring the Human Touch back into Global Mobility and therefore we would also like to contribute to research in the growing body of knowledge around Global Mobility. Our Academic Intern Monica Kim Kuoy is running a research project and I hope you would like to support us by being an interview partner or sounding board for our ideas.

We look forward to hearing from you.

 

RESOURCES

Who is an Expatriate Employee?

https://expatfinancial.com/who-is-an-expatriate-employee/ 

https://feibv.nl/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Master-Thesis_Weinberger-Angela_Jan-2019_Final.pdf

Performance
Expat Performance

As our workplaces rapidly embrace international professionals and multiculturalism and become more diverse, an interesting development has come to light that I feel needs to be addressed at the earliest: the process of feedback in an intercultural context and how to tackle its many flaws.

These days there is this idea made common in several industries, particularly the tech sector, that abrasive, instant feedback is a way to stop beating about the bush and giving it straight to the recipient, sometimes even in public spaces. The idea being that the pressure created by the ‘tough love’ will motivate employees into bringing out their best, something that even Hollywood has glamorized with films like The Devil Wears Prada.

The reality is that there are issues with providing instant feedback, the most frequent one being that you fail to realize if the issue you are raising is concerning a person’s individual personality, or a cultural trait or was purely situational.

The second common issue is that feedback works differently in different cultures. Basically, your attempt at it may not even register, or come across in a negative manner. Americans, for instance, generally pepper in several positive comments before raising a negative one, while most Europeans are straightforward and critical about the whole thing. In a lot of Asian countries, feedback is discussed implicitly, and only provided in private settings and not in the public workspace. Do you see now how instant feedback could be misconstrued in an intercultural context? In fact, a lot of the latest discussions talk about ending the ‘traditional’ concept of feedback altogether, as it has shown time and again to not help improve performance. You can read about it here.

An important bit from the last paragraph was how feedback was culturally handled in Asian countries, in a one-on-one setting. It is actually now considered a preferable alternative to traditional feedback sheets. Combining that with the continuous feedback style is key to fostering a better relationship between employee and manager. It boosts the turnover rate for improvement as managers no longer have to wait for an arbitrary amount of time to discuss and motivate an employee, then wait another arbitrary amount of time before iterating on that previous session. Any undesirable behaviour or poor performance is not given time to grow as it could evolve into something worse.

One-on-one meetings further help this regular improvement along – these sessions allow for a more candid and diverse discussion that isn’t restricted to whatever rubric was set up on a feedback form. Combined, these two techniques can help managers bring out the best in their employees and build a more positive and constructive feedback cycle that is morale and productivity boosting. It is essential that this entire process be made a conversation, a two-way interaction rather than a session where a manager shares their rating of their employee’s skills. This is especially important as recent research and studies are showing what has been a constant point of discussion: that human beings are incapable of reliably rating themselves or other humans. You can read the thorough breakdown over at the Harvard Business Review, who make a strong case against the current practices of ‘feedback culture’.

Finally, I’d like to build on the concept of feedback but in a slightly tangential way: the idea behind ratings. Specifically, students rating their lecturers or teachers. Ratings have become an integral part of modern culture, we rate everything from food to places to car rides to memes. However, the entire concept is highly reductive and strips context and depth from any situation. For instance, giving an Uber driver driving dangerously a 1-star is not enough of a response, while a 1-star for a shoddy car will not fix whatever was broken in the vehicle. These rating systems are gamifying a complex thing and are fundamentally broken.

Coming back to students rating lecturers, I’m sure you can now easily spot the possibilities of exploiting the system to the detriment of the lecturer. Is a lecturer bad because he gave your essay a poor grade? Does that one poor grade negate an entire teaching period’s efforts? And is the student able to rate the knowledge areas she doesn’t even know existed?

All that nuance is lost when reduced to a rating system. Additionally, most lecturers are working in a gig-based economy, just like those Uber drivers, and they are at the mercy of these broken ratings system. So often those who entertain and let you pass easily will receive good feedback but those who challenge you and make you work harder will get negative feedback. And where do you think you learned more?

Given that we don’t know what we don’t know and our multi-facetted intercultural contexts, don’t you think feedback is overrated and an outdated concept?

Unless there’s an extenuating circumstance, don’t dignify these ratings systems by assuming they’re real feedback.

Let’s work towards reworking the ratings and feedback biases that drive so many of modern workplaces.

In our RockMeRetreat you will learn more about our bias in decision making and how we are less rational than we would like to think.

You will also learn methods that are more effective in helping yourself and others grow to your full potential.