In Sloan News

With 40% – 50% of all overseas assignments failing, it is clear that companies are not doing enough to prepare and support their expat employees.

According to a Harvard report, executives with international experience enjoy greater agility and adaptability over the course of their work lives. They generally deal with complex management issues more adroitly than their “domestic” peers do. They also open themselves up to a broader set of opportunities, particularly in today’s global and heavily matrixed organizations. So, the allure of an expat role is real, but what is it about an expat assignment that sees so many successful people failing?

We have found over the 20 years that we have been working with expats in the USA and Asia, that the number one characteristic that expats need to succeed is resilience.

When an expat team member is brought into a new role, either from inside or outside of the organization, they have 90 days to prove their value, establish critical relationships, assess the landscape and create their leadership plan.  On top of this they are often in an entirely new cultural environment with family pressures to get everyone acclimatised as soon as possible.

Obviously, culture and diversity training is critical, as is having a sound 90 Day plan, but it is the execution of that plan in an entirely new and unfamiliar environment that trips people up.

Before leaving, expats should undergo a change readiness assessment to identify and establish patterns in transition skills and behaviors; curiosity/inquiry, enthusiasm, optimism, flexibility and adaptability, influence without information, and relationship building.

Once on the ground, they will need help in understanding the network of power, finding opportunities for quick wins, relationship development, understanding who their key partners will be, and where the traps and hazards are.

Having an executive coach as a support and guidance resource is invaluable in expat situations and is key success factor in making international assignments work.

As a global executive development firm, we have developed a breakthrough process for optimizing leadership transitions across cultures. We leverage research into cross-cultural effectiveness and leadership as well as our proprietary assessment tools that focus on adaptation and alignment.