Coaching Assignees to Global Success

It is a situation that has led many global mobility managers scratching their heads. They have done everything by the book and yet their assignee still seems to be faltering. They had invested in these foreign hires’ training, time in family counseling, and the learning courses in skills they need to deliver an excellent job.

But, while the assignees are certainly far from failing, they are not showing the exemplary performance that is expected from them. It is like they are race car drivers who are just running on acceptable risk-free speed instead of pulling out all thrusters to hit the finish line ahead of everybody else.

What the assignees need at this point may be one-on-one coaching, which can cut through the external barriers and usual obstacles that seem to blocking their progress, down to the actual problem that is hindering their motivation or slowing down their drive.

Some global mobility managers tend to think of this individual time spent with the assignee as professional hand-holding which would disappear after the assignee has acclimatized to their new environment after an average period of three months.

However, professional coaching goes beyond the weekly pep talk or taking the assignee and their family to dinner in the hope of dining and wining their current blues away.

Professional coaching may be needed because global mobility managers have to recognize that individual assignees are unique individuals with their own aspirations, dreams, fears, flaws, and ways of coping.

Too often, global mobility managers unconsciously tend to lump the behavior of ethnic assignees together and classify them as one group. For example, if an Asian expat shows reluctance in speaking their mind, the global mobility manager might immediately write off that situation as a classic case of a hierarchy-respecting Asian who would rather listen to their elders first before making their case.

At the same time, according to ICF, however, professional coaching can educate the assignee about the country they are currently living in, to a degree that will help them acclimatize and adjust easily. For example, saying that punctuality is one core value that is emphasized in Western companies may make the Asian assignee come early or on time.

However, while the assignee may comply with the required external behavior, they can still  underperform if they do not totally understand why this particular value is embraced in the host country. Some cultures do prioritize interpersonal relations over punctuality — and an assignee with that kind of perspective may subconsciously feel that they are sacrificing valuable personal time with clients they can nurture, just because they have to follow an impersonal clock.

Unless addressed, that dichotomy can erode their mindset and emotions, and eventually affect their performance.

Another thing that individualized coaching does is to actually assess the capabilities of the assignee at that point in time, especially if they have been regarded as high performers.

As pointed out by The Chief Learning Officer, global mobility managers and their executives tend to think that star assignees who had excelled in one region may automatically excel in the next one.

That is one reason why they are constantly being assigned, after all. However, this logic may not hold true all the time. What works in one part of the world may actually be detrimental to another — and the assignee in charge would have to unlearn what they learned. What makes it worse is that this star performer, who is suddenly overwhelmed by their new environment, may stifle the cry of help that they need the most.

It is true that the more culturally accepting a region is — such as Northern California — the more the assignee can develop their confidence in their new workplace. However, it still behooves the global mobility manager to actually assess whether their progress is genuine or superficial. This can be accomplished only with a regular more personal interaction.