Author Archives: Angie Weinberger
November Colors

As I mentioned last week I am starting the year-end processes a week earlier this year. This essentially means that I am dedicating a weekend to sorting out old stuff, decluttering and preparing the apartment for cleaning. I would like to do this before I start decorating for the holidays because it is giving us a fresher spirit and as I mentioned most of us get really stressed in the last few weeks before the year end as they wish to focus more on family and friends during the holidays. What I would also like to do is finish open ends and projects and before starting too many new ideas and projects reduce the “Pendenzenliste” (It’s one of my favorite Swiss German words and can be translated into the list of open tasks). Most of my friends and I keep laughing about the tasks that never seem to get off the Pendenzenliste and keep you feeling guilty even if you are highly productive all the time. I shared with you already that I’m a bit more relaxed when it comes to my home so “Cleaning out the drawers” would definitely be on the Pendenzenliste. But before I dive into cleaning the apartment there are issues in the order of my home office that urgently need attention.

1 – Start with the Old Paper Files and Reduce your Pendenzen

For many of us it is worse than any other five-letter word.  It’s because paper can weigh you down and hold you back. Getting rid of paper will make you more productive. You might have noticed that when you don’t feel in your comfort zone you need to have something in writing to hold on to. You can reduce complexity by having a plan or calendar of events on the wall. You might reduce your stage fright by writing down and scripting speeches and conference calls.

What it means to let go is that you need to remember more but also that you focus on what’s really important. In the name of productivity I am trying to avoid tasks that do not add value to my business or my clients. In the old days we used to spend hours sorting and deleting emails or filing documents. Being a business owner now I am trying to reduce such work to a bare minimum as I have found out that if I cannot find something it is usually because I am in FRANTIC mode. In RELAXED mode I find all my documents on the laptop by working with the search function or using our elaborate system (It’s just an excel sheet with links to the respective document). 

2 – Simplify and standardize by reducing clutter.

Simplifying can also be done at home. I don’t have an extensive wardrobe. Reading articles on productivity made me standardize my clothes even more so I don’t have to make decisions about what to wear. I also place matching clothes together on the rack. I try to have all clothes “ready to wear” because if I go out in the dark I might not see certain colors or holes or stains. So anything stained, holed or old has to go into the “Altkleidersack” (old clothes bag). The art is to throw the old clothes into the bin where they belong and will be picked up for charity right after you take them out. Otherwise clothes and other clutter have a sneaky way to find their way back into your home.

 3 – Use color codes, the three-box system and laminated signs to sort your office.

In my home office I use a very clean and color-coded physical filing system. It helps me find files that I need to see printed. It also helps me to grab the right file when I am on my way to a client. Most of the time I work without paper though. I also structure my wardrobe by color and even try to sort items by color. It doesn’t always work but gives me a great sense of order and accomplishment.

The three-box system is very simple. You need to have three boxes and give them three functions: box 1: bin / recycling, box 2: donations and box 3: treasures. You need to ensure that you go to throw away the bin right away. The treasures you can put in a box and leave them there until your next cleaning exercise.

4 – Take the first step by sorting for half an hour a day.

One important tip when you start to work on this process is to limit it to half an hour a day. Set the clock and reward yourself afterwards for example by buying yourself a bunch of flowers. Letting go of clutter means to learn to rely more on your brain.

Tell us what you do to sort out your clutter and find order in your life!

HOMEWORK

Read this related blog post.

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
Angie Weinberger

“Just reinvent yourself!” 

This phrase is advice Expat Spouses (partners of expats) often hear when they cannot find a job in Switzerland. You are a typical Gen X professional in New York, London, Frankfurt, or Mumbai. You have a career image stamped on yourself. Telling you to reinvent yourself is like saying “Why don’t you just run a marathon after you just recovered from COVID-19.”

At parties, you say “I’m a Senior Consultant / Director / Lawyer / Doctor / Scientist” and with that, you talk about the pleasure of long-distance travel in times of terrorism or you mention that your partner is away too often and that the kids know the nanny better than their parents, or you explain that you never get to the city because you feel that childcare is too expensive and you rather stay at home than trusting your kids to another person.

Your professional reputation has fueled your ego and you did everything to improve it. You attended courses, webinars, conferences, networking events and you read everything you could about the topic on your commute to work. Not to mention that you had a routine of ensuring that your social media profiles reflected your success only and you ensured your name was published at least once a year.

Then out of the blue (or even because you were following a long-term idea), your spouse gets a job offer in Basel, Switzerland or your job is outsourced to Pune, India. After the initial excitement or shock, you start to consider what a career change means for you right now. You might even consult blogs and books on the matter. From one day to the next, you worry about your branding as a professional. And you might even notice that you don’t really know what you want.

It is not so easy to find out what you want so I recommend you work with a career coach to develop a vision of your next role and probably a long-term career vision too. What I personally found even harder though is to let go of my old career image. I had acquired a status in HR and in my new roles, I felt like a beginner again.

In our cultural context here in Switzerland we say “Schuster bleib bei Deinen Leisten!”. We are discouraged from changing our chosen career path.

Break in Your new Career Image

We know well that a shoe we have worn for a while is comfortable. A new shoe often feels too tight or too big for us to fill. If you imagine now you have to get out of your patent leather shoe and into a hiking boot that is comparable to the change you are going through.

You need to break your career boot in. You might know already consciously that the hiking boot is more practical, fits better to your personality, and has more value on icy mountain grounds but you still feel the burden of a heavier shoe.

Seven Steps to Let Go (of Anything)

You need to throw your old patent leather shoe into the mental “Altkleidercontainer” (the recycling bank for old clothes and shoes). 

  1. Write down all the advantages of the new hiking boot: Think of every aspect of your new career and how it will look and feel. Run a meticulous research. Interview experts and speak to friends who work in this area. Collect as many details as you can and either collate them in a diary or add them to a vision board.
  2. Work in your new career part-time: Work in your hiking boot, at least, one to two days a week by volunteering or finding a cause in this profession worth supporting. Get a consulting project before you commit full-time. Build experience and skill in your new career.
  3. Pretend you are the CEO of your own company: Pretend you are already experienced in walking with the hiking boot, attend seminars and networking events wearing a batch with your new role on it and have business cards printed.
  4. Market yourself with your new personal brand: Update all your biographies, social media profiles, and websites and show that you are wearing the boot already. Mention your new role and functional title. Be the career you want to be.
  5. Support yourself with visuals: Leave post-its in your office, in the bathroom and at home with a visual anchor. For example, if you want to become a scientist working in the pharma industry you could jot down a logo of a company that you find attractive or a picture of you with security glasses.
  6. Create your productive workspace for your new career only: Develop a space that signifies “productive work” in your new career for you. It could be an office or an area on your kitchen table. Make sure that this area is reserved for work in your new career only.
  7. Learn more about your ideal client: Write down the story of your ideal client, someone who will depend on the results or fruits of your new labor. Who is that person, what is important to that person and how does this person live?

These are seven ideas on how can let go of your old career image and start with a new business idea or career.

If you are looking for further insights you can book a consultation with our team or join one of our programs.

 

Globe and Covid19

Starting a business (and keep running it) is hard work. I mean hard! But it is all worth the time, money, and effort invested in the end for those who have a passion, a plan, and a reliable support system. It’s going to be a rollercoaster ride, though. Between the rewarding highs of seeing the spark of interest in a student’s eyes or the genuinely thankful client, you were able to help. Then, there are the lows of the stress and responsibilities that come with being an entrepreneur, and you might wonder if you did the right thing or if you are going to make it. But the freedom to focus your energy on what you have most at heart allows you to grow, live for your purpose and live from it too!

It requires a lot of discipline, physical and mental fitness, and friends who will not leave you if you have not been in touch for more than a week. You need a life partner and family who is entirely behind your decision, and you need to be prepared to work harder than ever. After almost ten years of building and running an offline and online business with freelancers in different locations and a diverse client base, I consider myself a pro.

A few years ago, the business drained of resources, savings used up, and I had invested in two additional courses. 

I was ready to give up and get a full-time job.

I even had said “yes” to a full-time job offer. But then “fate” kicked in. In a very relaxed moment during our first RockMeRetreat, I knew the answer was a clear “No.” 

I was not ready to start a full-time job in a leadership role again, where I would spend all my energy on maneuvering politics, playing the game, coaching a team, and sitting at a desk for more than six hours a day.

Yes, I was very disappointed when the company told me that they wanted to hire somebody else. I was down and scared, but at the same time, I was relieved. And I knew this feeling. It was the freedom smell. 

Deep down inside, you know that you will always fall back on your feet and have all the skills within you to make a living. 

This post is not a pep talk on how we should leap out of our comfort zone and fight for survival daily because this adrenaline level is not suitable in the long run. We only need this kind of adrenaline in an actual emergency during a tornado or a Coronavirus pandemic but not every day for years on end. 

A job is great. A paycheck is wonderful. A sick day is sensational. A sponsored coffee is amazing. A paid holiday is fantastic. A burnout isn’t. 

You probably wonder how you keep the energy drainers out of your work environment, and my advice about this is a simple one: Focus on your well-being first. Focus on that as long as you need, stop eating junk food, walk regularly, stop working after six hours and change your routine to fit your life. Most of the issues we have at work come from our fear of not being enough. We overcompensate. You might think that you need to achieve that next level, subsequent promotion, or next salary band. Then you will have a wonderful life. But let me be honest with you: There is a price you pay for that. And this price might not be what you are looking for right now.

I am in favor of abandoning many of the typical HR systems. Let us give our people the benefit of the doubt again and help them find their intrinsic motivation. We should help them work in projects where they can thrive, help them develop client relationships they will find engaging, and above all, we should change lives. Passion is a better driver than security for entrepreneurs as employees. 

And if you doubt now how you can help your team get to that level, we should have a conversation. I would say that first of all: Everybody still has a ton to learn in this world. 

Understanding that we are always learning is the first step towards growth. Many people, especially women, need help to find the confidence to move ahead. In Switzerland, many women grew up in a male-dominated environment where they learned to work more than their peers to be recognized, and when they tried to move up the ladder and had to show their teeth.

Then a manager told them that they were too aggressive and too pushy. They started to have self-doubts and fell into a complacent state where moving up was no longer an option. I know many excellent women, but they neither sell themselves nor get enough credit for their work. They run departments silently in the background, while a male colleague gets the bonus and the honors. 

I committed last year to help more people outside of the “circle of trust.” My team and I started helping more diverse women. We worked with women in and from developing countries, women with more seniority, and women from minority backgrounds. 

Whatever their backgrounds, women with young children also face obstacles and prejudice in the labor market. Managers often assume they will miss work when their children are sick or that they will leave early. 

As an HR Professional, I’m ashamed to say that, but we diligently exclude certain people from the workforce here in Switzerland, depriving them of the fundamental right to work. It’s not always intentional, but we cannot always blame unconscious bias for our decisions. Some companies forgo excellent candidates because the humans who make up that company cannot move beyond their prejudice about women (even more so if they come from developing countries, have young children, have gaps in their resume, or are LGBTQ+, or disabled). 

It is frequent for people with a refugee background who cannot produce the required papers and certificates for specific jobs to face many challenges when accessing the job market. People suffering from mental health problems such as depression and talents who might be on the autism spectrum or have schizophrenia face numerous barriers when searching for a job. 

We might not be able to create a significant groundswell today and start a revolution, BUT we can change lives, one person at a time. Join us in our mission. We’re on a mission to bring the Human Touch back into Global Mobility.

Kind regards

Angie

 

P.S. 

Do you work in Human Resources or a closely related area? I’m giving away VIP passes to the HRMSummit in Bahrain. It’s an online event and geared towards HR professionals. Respond VIP to enter our raffle. We need to have your professional email address, professional title and employer in order to forward your details to the organizers.