…Need people that are skilled at managing & coping with change?

goldfish jumping out of the waterLast year, The Institute for Corporate Productivity released a study listing the Top 10 Critical Human Capital Issues for 2013.  Numero Uno on that list was Managing and Coping with Change.  

One of the big reasons for this blog series about “The Real Housewives of Expat Men” is to share stories and lessons from real people that have become highly skilled at doing just that!

  • If your organization needs help Managing and Coping with Change – try hiring one!
  • And if your organization hires expats, please take a few minutes and consider the families that serve you and how they in turn serve your customers.

If you don’t know any – you’ll still love their stories. And if you spend any time thinking about them, you will discover ways to help the people in your organization and your neighbors at a higher level.

New Paradigm AheadImagine making your first international move, while your husband travels ALL of the time, without much support from the organization he works for.  (The family in the example below moved from the U.S. to France with a toddler and a pre-teen.)

Imagine moving from a large home:

  • Into a tiny apartment.
  • That is 10 stories off the ground.
  • With a tiny elevator that is barely big enough to hold an adult and a toddler.  (Let alone a stroller or the older child!)
  • The apartment has a tiny washing machine and no dryer. (To dry clothes you have to go back down 10 flights, and down a couple of blocks or hang them!)

Imagine that you no longer shop in a mega grocery stores but in tiny local markets:

  • So you have to go to multiple store to purchase all of your groceries.
  • You can’t identify many of the items in the stores.
  • And everything is written in a language you can’t read.

Imagine no longer driving a car and suddenly using public transportation instead:

  • You have to learn the routes to school and to the stores.
  • Each day involves extra planning considering all of the errands you need to run and the routes you need to take to determine the amount of the time you will be gone.  (Then figuring in naps, meals, snacks and the amount of walking for the little man that has always had a car seat!)
  • And just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, an announcement comes in a language you don’t speak, and the others passengers let out a collective sigh…

Imagine returning to your 10th story apartment at night, after a long day.  (It is nearly empty, as you wait for months for your household shipment to arrive.)

  • Imagine entertaining children (before the iPad) and before their toys arrive…
  • It’s amazing what kinds of entertainment you can create with the vacuum, a calculator, and plastic bowls!

Time To Adapt Now that you’ve imagined a bit of what life is like for an expat wife, consider two possible scenarios during THE TRANSITION:

1.  Some of our transitions have gone like this: 

  • HR did not responded to our questions. (Any of them!)
  • We’ve arrived in new countries in the middle of the night, and were not allowed into the compound we will eventually call home.
  • We were given no cultural training, no orientation, no information about grocery stores, schools, or medical facilities.
  • Absolutely no one in a titled position helped us make any connections.
  • We’ve moved into dirty places.
  • We’ve done medical triage in a new country on Christmas Eve.
  • We’ve been publicly and enthusiastically congratulated that we are expecting in medical triage – when we had no idea there would be another baby.
  • We survived in a new land for several weeks with no home phone, no cable, no Internet, no cell phone, and glimpses of the outside world only at night.

If you are running an organization and have employee/member retention or customer service issues:

  • Do you know how your employees/members (and their families) were transitioned into your organization?  
  • Do you know how they are communicated with or how they are supported during organizational change?

BIG Note:  Don’t describe what your process is supposed to be.  Have you actually had conversations WITH them?  Do you know what they need?  And do you know what REALLY happens?

2.  Others have gone like this:

  • HR was responsive.
  • We’ve had cultural training.
  • Our companies paid extra for relocation specialists to help us get familiar with the area.
  • We’ve been met at the airport and immediately given SIM cards for our cell phones.
  • We’ve been helped with customs and immigration paperwork and brought to a hotel.
  • We’ve shared coffee, had tours of the office, the school, shopping areas and the compound.
  • We’ve been invited to welcome lunches and quickly introduced to other families.

If you are running an organization that consistently provides this kind of support for your employees (and their families), we applaud you and bet that your customers or members and your bottom line are applauding you too! 

Agents of Change iStockSpecial thanks to Mendy Brady, Andrea Garcia, Rama Saragoussi, Lana Simko, Kristy Burns and others for sharing their stories.    

This is the 3rd post in this series.  

President, Giana Consulting

Chery Gegelman is an adventurer that loves to learn. ...Deep conversations, books, travel, and daily living are all food for growth.

As a speaker, facilitator and workshop leader she creates energizing environments that reflect God's grace, tear down walls, help people to consider new perspectives, and inspire change.

Chery is the Founder of Giana Consulting and Conversation Safari's, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two leadership books.

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3 thoughts on “…Need people that are skilled at managing & coping with change?

  1. Great post, Chery. As I read this, I felt as though you’ve accurately captured the confusion and chaos that transition brings to every life, in every situation. The bottom line: transition is hard!

    • I agree LaRae! EVERY Transition is hard! This week I’ve been focused on how much energy and focus it takes for people to shift life’s gears. Just like driving it requires learning when to apply the gas and when to shift!