Monthly Archives: August 2014

To Be or Not to Be an Expatriate?

Expatriate

The USA has approximately 6.32 million expatriates overseas.*  The term “expatriate” (or “expat” for short) refers to an individual who is living outside of his/her own country.  Typically, this term is used for professional workers sent by their companies to regional offices, or to their headquarters – such as Americans going to Japan for Toyota or to Switzerland for Nestlé.

Every now and then, I get the following question:

I’m 29, 5 years into my career (in a global corporate company), and received an offer for an expat assignment for at least a year in Europe (currently work in the US).  How good of a career opportunity is this?  Why?

Here is my answer:

This is an excellent career opportunity, especially at your age – which leads me to believe you are with PwC.  The keys to advancement 10 years for you from now will be:

  • Have you had any P&L experience?
  • Have you had Budget responsibilities?
  • How many direct reports have you managed?
  • Do you have international experience?

What all these areas have in common is risk.  If you have not had the opportunity to delve into risk, then your successful track-record in a fairly safe arena is not sufficient enough to promote you to a higher level of management – YOU would be too much of a risk, if you have never placed yourself into risk.

Advantages:
Timing.  It is better that you go now when you are (presumably) single, because then you don’t have to do with the assimilation issues of a spouse.  I’ve had some of my expatriates divorce because of the strain of “surrendering” their identity and network for the sake the other’s career.  You, on the other hand, are widening your professional network, which is a strategic move.

Discovery.  Some of my expatriates never repatriate (i.e. return to their country of origin) because they are SO happy with their new home environment.  (This made it hard for me to conduct my live action research on the ROI of Repatriation).  I would recommend that you take an assessment, or engage a cross-cultural coach, who can help you find a cultural (i.e. country) match for you.  You are more likely to thrive in some int’l environments much more so than in others.

Intrinsic Rewards.  In the short run, this opportunity is not about money.  However, int’l experience usually offers “secondary returns” (i.e. rewards that are not monetary).  Deciding on whether to go or not depending on whether you will be offered more compensation is an immature strategy.  You gain wisdom, open your mind, learn new skills, and… a handful of my expatriates have gotten married overseas.

Bon Voyage!

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass – a diverse consultancy of OD experts who align processes with the Mission Statement.  Visit us at CorporateLookingGlass.com.

©Rossina Gil, 2014

Resource:

*US Department of State, 2011

 

Flow at Work

Mihályi Csíkszentmihályi (pronounced: Me-HIGH Cheek-SENT-me-high) is a professor of Positive Psychology at Claremont Graduate University (Claremont, CA).  He has made a name for himself with the concept of “Flow.” This flow theory holds that when a person has a challenge which completely engages his/her attention and the skillsets exist to meet the challenge, then s/he can reach a state of flow.  The immediate feedback one gets from performing at a level that meets the challenge successfully is the reinforcement loop, which psychologically propels the individual to continue to perform well and enjoy what s/he is doing.  In other words:

Task + Skill = Gratification

Some people refer to this concept as “being in the zone.”  Csíkszentmihályi chose the word “flow” because it often feels like effortless movement.  The challenge (task) is met by natural or well-honed ability (skill).  If the task is higher than the skill, then the task becomes overwhelming and anxiety increases.  This is how organizations set up employees for failure

Task > Skill = Anxiety

If the task is lower than the skill, then the employee is left underutilized and bored.  This is how organizations experience turnover — by employees leaving, “goofing off” and/or distracting other productive employees. 

Task < Skill = Boredom

 

The Mozart Effect

Many Boomers are irritated with Millennials who wear their headphones at work.  Boomers think that their younger colleagues are “goofing off,” while Millennials feel that music helps them get into flow.  Studies indicate that, yes, flow is aided by music.  According to a report in the journal Neuroscience of Behavior and Physiology, a person’s ability to recognize visual images, including letters and numbers, is faster when classical music is playing in the background.

Productivity increased by music has been termed the “Mozart effect.”  The term got its name after a study showed that college students had performed better solving mathematical problems when listening to classical music. The Mozart effect also seems to apply well with other mammals…cows produce more milk if Mozart is played, for example.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Experiential. Give direct reports the opportunity to rise to the occasion in a safe environment, to keep them challenged, engaged, and learning.
  • Interpersonal. Provide employees with growth opportunities, such as Executive Coaching &/or Leadership Development workshops.
  • Private. Hold conversations 1:1 (one-on-one) with employees on which skill sets they would like to strengthen.
  • Support. Engage Human Resources, Organization Development, &/or external consultants to advise the employee on reaching his/her flow.
  • Leadership / Accountability. Refuse resignations &/or self-demotions, if the employee does not feel adequate for his/her position.  This is a sign of failure on management for not prepping and supporting the employee well enough.
  • Environmental Priming. Experiment with replacing the “white noise” with a nearly imperceptible low-level classical music.

Moo.

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.  They find their flow developing leaders and integrating organizational cultures.  Visit us at CorporateLookingGlass.com.

©Rossina Gil, 2014

Resources:

Jon Haidt. The Happiness Hypothesis. Basic Books: Philadelphia, PA. 2006

Mike Seddon. http://www.articlesbase.com. Oct 30, 2006