Global leadership and executive expat onboarding support

The way to a successful international assignment

As a global leadership development expert specialized in psychology, I provide highly professional coaching and onboarding support during the most critical three to twelve months of an assignment abroad.

I specialize in international assignments in Japan and China. Based on my knowledge of leadership styles and working cultures in Asia, I am able to tailor-make customized leadership development plans to fit into local working environments.

Global coaching for executive expats and for companies developing international assignments

My one-on-one developmental coaching is primarily created for the executive expat who is starting a life in a new country. Onboarding support services can also be developed for CEOs who are interested in developing expat executives and managers with appropriate intercultural sensitivity, and for company stakeholders in the local offices, who will host the on-boardings.

An international assignment is, without doubt, a very important step on a professional, social and individual level. There is a great deal at stake for both the company and for the employee. For the company, the costs of failing an international assignment can be enormous and for the individual it can leave permanent psychological scars.

Minimizing the risk of international assignment failure from both professional and personal perspectives

To avoid running the risk of failure and to provide preventive methods from the beginning, it is necessary to look more closely at why an international assignment might fail. The answer is: lack of intercultural competences and cultural sensibility.

Apart from the professional challenges, an executive expat also has to deal with a number of psychological and emotional factors. The expat’s social network and even family characteristics are essential for the ability to perform at work and cope with the necessary cultural translations, which demand flexibility, curiosity and, of course, adaptation.

Both the professional and personal aspects of the onboarding process, including the specific cultural context, would be taken into consideration when creating the ideal plan for how to minimize the risk of international assignment failure and prevent social, financial and psychological downturns.

How can a professional expat onboarding consultant assist in improving intercultural competence and leadership capabilities?

Throughout the process, I use cross-cultural psychology methods as well as strategies for management and evaluation of global working processes. The interrelationship between psychology and culture is crucial when analyzing behavioral-based models.

My mission is to provide necessary support for the executive expat to benefit optimally from the international assignment and life as expatriate in a new country.

The onboarding support includes:

  • Development of a tailor-made onboarding plan for enhancement of necessary cross-cultural leadership competences
  • Implementation of professional strategies, tools and guidelines for effective management and leadership abroad
  • Training in cross-cultural skills
  • Follow-up during the assignment and necessary overseas support
  • Evaluation of the onboarding process
Global leadership and executive expat onboarding support for international assignment

Case study

Rasmus’ Japan experience

It is not the first time Rasmus has started an international assignment overseas. He is going to Japan and will stay in Tokyo for the next 2 years. The company he works for is a Danish company expanding operations globally and with offices around the world.

As a good international leader, Rasmus has already been expatriated in Europe and the United States several times before. He likes working in new cultural environments and learning about different styles of thinking and doing. Furthermore, the previous international assignments have given him a great boost to his career and he wishes to continue that way. However, this assignment in Japan turned into an unexpected journey.

In the first few weeks, Rasmus was enjoying the country, its people and culture. He was especially fascinated by how tradition and innovation coexist in contemporary Japanese society. He had never lived in Asia before and the behavior and the mentality of Japanese people seemed very exotic.

The cultural codes were based on a life philosophy which was unknown to him but which he found extremely exciting. At the workplace, colleagues were polite and helpful and he was positive about his transition and integration in the new working community.

Unexpected culture shock

Suddenly, a month after his arrival, he started experiencing frustrating misunderstandings at work. The reactions from colleagues were difficult to decode, which made him feel confused and disoriented. He seemed to be cut out from the social network in the company. He did not know how to restart the relationship with his colleagues and break down the invisible barriers. He felt stifled and wanted to hide away.

The isolation at work resulted in depression, which also affected his family life at home. The chain of events reinforced themselves from day to day, developing into an unfortunate vicious circle with detrimental results. Rasmus’ professional effectiveness was diminished. He was losing his grasp of the situation and the consequences of his behavior were clashing with the cultural parameters in the company. He did not know how to deal with the self-doubt and emotional instability he was facing.

How could the onboarding problems have been prevented and what can be done to tackle them?

He was psychologically unprepared for the challenges. His crisis could have been avoided if Rasmus had had professional help from the beginning and especially during the first period of the assignment.

To get back on track, he has to re-define his competitive advantage in Japan.

He needs to improve his cultural sensitivity and cross-cultural skills. To understand the complexity of the Japanese socio-cultural context he has to start navigating not only by logic but also by emotions. Implementing tools for creativity and flexibility can help him improve his connections and communication at work.

With professional help and coaching, Rasmus can put all the steps into one strategic plan which, combined with regular follow-up sessions, can be the recipe for success and a happy ending to his Japan experience.