Meet the Trents

 Meet Janice & Tom Trent*, a modern assignee couple who just completed their 3-year assignment from Austin Texas to Hong Kong.  Janice works as a Manager of Technology Transfer for a multinational product engineering firm.  Prior to accepting a first-time global assignment to Hong Kong, she had spent significant time working with German colleagues on multiple business trips to Europe.  While it took Janice and her husband some time to settle into life in Hong Kong, once they did, they embraced the new adventure and even became reluctant to return!

The assignment is now complete and even though Janice has been back in Texas for a couple of weeks, she is not sure of what role she will be in.  During their reintegration session, she and her husband, Tom, had an opportunity to fully recount their experience and put a structure around the transferable skills they had gained. They practiced articulating these skills so that Janice could help her manager understand the role that would most benefit her and the company, after the company had invested so much in the assignment.

Tom, a consultant for a US-based accounting firm, made some important connections while in Hong Kong as well.  The reintegration workshop helped him develop strategies for maintaining those contacts, and both partners benefited from understanding that 1) struggling a bit through reintegration was a normal process; and 2) building personal strategies for recreating their lives in Austin would be key to moving forward.  While they had never fully fit in while in Hong Kong, now they felt they didn’t fully fit in in Austin – leaving them both wondering where in the world they belong!

Janice and Tom both admitted that they knew they would not become fluent in Mandarin or Cantonese. But the opportunity to study the language had offered important insights into Hong Kong culture and demonstrated a longer-term commitment that helped their colleagues to take them more seriously.

For Janice, it was difficult to assess whether her colleagues in Hong Kong were fully understanding the new systems she was onboarding.  Ongoing cultural coachingprovided her with “real time” input she could use to adjust her approach as she went along. “Once it clicked, I got it.”  Janice says. “But it took a while and a lot of effort for me to adjust.”

At first, Janice was skeptical that intercultural training could benefit her and Tom, but she agreed to participate in a one-day session.  Upon completing the session she said, “I really didn’t know how much I didn’t know! I thought working in Germany would somehow prepare me for working in Hong Kong. What I realized is that it was the other way around! Intercultural training helped me to see the skills I’d developed in Germany and how I’d have to adapt those for Hong Kong.  As I got started, I knew I didn’t have time to repeat mistakes, so I knew I had to take advantage of the ongoing coaching.”

In fact, working extensively across cultures likely did help prepare Janice for this assignment. After weathering a few unsuccessful assignments, Janice’s company required her to complete a pre-selection assessment and debrief that would highlight areas for development and point out any “red flags.”  Janice’s overall profile showed a commitment to working globally as well as a foundation for further developing her intercultural skills.  According to her report, she exhibited high Inquisitiveness, Self-Confidence and Stress Management skills. Medium-range scores in Relationship Management, Emotional Sensitivity and Self-Awareness demonstrated that she would need to learn to adapt her style to the more relationship-focused environment in Hong Kong.

Janice’s assessment debrief, cultural training and coaching ensured that she focused on these areas. By using an assessment, her company could document that they had chosen a solid candidate, and perhaps more importantly, identify areas for growth. In this way, investing in an international assignment should also be considered an investment in a future global leader.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Charisse Kosova cropped-smallWritten by: Charisse Kosova, M.Ad.Ed., Director, Intercultural Training and Development.  Contact her here.