Dealing with Global Mobility

blue city jodhpurLiving in my own culture was like being a fish in water, swimming with the flow of things. It was only when I had to live and interact with another culture that I became conscious that there were other ways of doing things, which were just as legitimate as my way! It gave me a choice about doing things.  – Rohan

Global mobility is on the increase given the backdrop of a borderless society, a global skill shortage, advances in technology, new markets opening up e.g. China, India and South America and the breakdown in the social, psychological contract between the employer and employee.

Add to this mix, Generation Y, who are keen to travel and experience the world, believing “ the world is my oyster” and Generation X who are looking to gain overseas experience and further their careers.

This mobile work force are frequently crossing country borders, doing a series of short to medium term stints, and expecting to be paid well and quickly.

Another group of mobile workers are the people who are questioning a lot about the state of the world. They are concerned about issues like the environment and poverty and are doing things abroad in the humanitarian fields.

From a career advancement perspective, completion of an overseas assignment is becoming a ‘must have’ adding not only to your breadth and depth of experience but also your marketability. It may well equip you, to take the next step up in your career.

Global mobility and trailing families are very much a part of the work force environment now. It is important that you manage this process in a way that makes your experience a rich, rewarding and successful one on many levels.

Understanding, appreciating and working with different cultures is an art and requires patience, tolerance and openness to new and different ways of doing things.

Here’s a client story:

“The telephone rang. A local recruitment company was seeking to fill a specialist role – a position the caller believed ‘would be perfect for me’.

At the time, I held a senior managerial position in a global organisation. I loved my role, thrived on the responsibilities, which came with the position, admired and respected my work colleagues and had a great team supporting me. I thanked the caller, but declined the offer.

Twelve months later, the recruiter called again. The search had been placed on hold during some organisational changes and re-scoping of the role. Would I re-consider? This time I accepted.

Accepting this position meant relocating. Having lived overseas previously and after 18 years supporting organisations and individuals navigate the complexities associated with cross border relocations, I understood the challenges my family and I would experience.

As a family unit we were prepared for:

-the various phases of ‘culture shock’

-the assimilation challenges we would need to work through

-the impact of the loss of an established social network on the family unit; and

-the challenges my children would face attending a new school in a new country.

However, leaving a work environment I thrived in together with an organisation culture, which reflected my own values and belief system, I had underestimated the preparation needed to transition from one organisational culture to another.

Transitioning to a new role has its own challenges. Add to this assimilating to a new country, adapting to a new culture and organisational structure and understanding the organisations key political drivers, you are guaranteed a growth experience of enormous proportions.

With good mentors to call on, continual persistence, technical competency, flexibility and a touch of humour, transitions of this nature can be rewarding experiences.

The key is Awareness and Preparation!”


As a leadership coach, team facilitator and speaker, I love working with managers and leaders who need to enhance their inter-cultural awareness to have greater leadership, team and cross-cultural success.

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