Career transfer to another country?

Picture of Anna Letitia Cook
Anna Letitia Cook

Energising International Executives for more successful, productive, fulfilling leadership
International Executive and Holistic Success Coach | Author | Podcast Presenter | 30+ years working internationally

My client was transferred to lead another country. Young, dynamic and already aware of different cultures. Simple you would think? And pigs might fly… 

John, (let’s call him John), John had come to me to help him with navigating the cultural differences and ways of working of the new country he was leading, particularly knowing that it is one of the countries I had lived, worked and led a business in for several years. He also had already worked in other countries so was fairly confident that he could adapt quickly and well.

John found himself mulling over his experience so far. What initially seemed like a promising opportunity to expand into another European country turned into an unexpected  lesson in navigating around false assumptions, particularly regarding the group board of directors back home.

🔑 Recognizing the importance of understanding his team’s motivations, we worked together on John making it a priority to connect with his European colleagues. He quickly realised that their work ethos and values differed from those he was accustomed to. 

He already knew that in some countries, like Sweden, consensus-building was highly valued, while in others, like Italy, relationships were paramount. In Germany, for example, precision and punctuality were prized, while in Spain, flexibility and spontaneity were more valued. 

🔄 At the beginning, as expected, John had to constantly adjust his approach, but he followed the plan we had set out together and successfully learnt to navigate the intricacies of the new culture to effectively lead his team.

After a few months, John was happy overall – he had smoothly adapted his leadership style to his new country, fostering trust and collaboration among his diverse team members.

❌ However, the greatest hurdle John faced was with the group board of directors back home. Despite his attempts to convey the importance of embracing the culture and market dynamics of this new country, of being flexible regarding group systems and procedures, the Board remained resistant to change. Their reluctance to embrace new perspectives hindered expansion and stifled innovation.

Undeterred, John sought to bridge the gap between headquarters and his new country. This was an ongoing challenge, but due to his persistence, (and some cogent input from yours truly), the board became more aware of the difficulties their blinkered approach was causing for future expansion in several other regions.

Reflecting on the experience, John recognised that unexpected challenges were plentiful, but none more so than the resistance from the board of directors. 

💡 It highlighted that the biggest issues can arise from the most unexpected direction and we often make false assumptions about how people think, what their priorities are and where our difficulties really lie.


❓ What unexpected issues have you seen working internationally? How did they solve them?

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