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3 Tips to Consider Before Taking International Assignments

By Debbie Nicol (1070 words)
Posted in International Management on January 16, 2013

There are (2) comments permalink

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By Debbie Nicol, Managing Director, 'business en motion'

Your current company has just offered you a most exciting corporate challenge indeed!  It’s one that will certainly stretch you and move you one step closer to your ultimate goal.  The opportunities that are likely to stem from this are beyond your wildest dreams!  Yet, it IS in the newest and most remote corner of the globe!  Here are three tips to ensure you make a well-informed decision about this employment opportunity – will the most remote corner of the corporate world be your corporate downfall from grace, or another string in your bow?


1: Be Aware of the Corporate Approach


Many of these types of roles are linked to a global corporation, and many of the remote posts are offered to those keen to progress quickly ‘after doing time’.  Ensure you are clear on what the organization will and will not provide if you were to accept; this goes well beyond the compensation package.  Be clear on whether the organization is decentralized or centralized, and understand what each option means to you.


Centralized Organization

Centralization offers comfort and support of the ‘known’.  You know the products and services, the corporate mindset, values and priorities.  You have the corporate support services and team leaders ready, willing and able to be on your side.  You have the connections that will simply remain strong wherever you are!  Sounds fabulous?  Well yes it can be, and it also may not be!  With remote locations come unique challenges, unusual circumstances, country cultures and laws that may value independent decision-making well beyond the framework of the centralized system.


Have you thought of how you may be ‘in the middle’, appreciating the on-ground reality better than the corporate office?  How will you handle the likely ‘push-me pull-you’ situation?  Could it strengthen you through learning to improve your influence, enhance you through educating a corporate entity or drain you through locking horns?  How much time will be dedicated to awaiting approvals and how much time will be too much time for the local arena?  Will balancing priorities of both be all-encompassing at the expense of on-ground relationships? Is it worth finding out anyway?


Decentralized Organization

Decentralization offers freedom and independence to ‘make things work’. Most likely a decentralized approach will gain strength from a few succinct corporate values, services, or beliefs, which may act as apple seeds, spurring sustainability into business activity.  Yet once the apple seeds are engrained, there’s room for the business to be any type of ‘apple’, lumpy or bumpy, red or green, fat or slim – with the decision being wholly and solely in your hands!


Have you explored if you are ready for that?  With the corporate seeds being non-negotiable, and all else up to you, what skills will hold you strong in the face of making unknown decisions?  What other resources might you need to call upon and do you have those in place? Are the credible relationships you’ll need to rely on already in place, simply awaiting your long-distance ‘hoi’?


2: Network, Network, Network


You’ll never be alone if you are willing to network.  Networking is quite the art, the art that will surround you with ‘on the ground’ knowledge, advice, reality check and general social support also.  Networking is not about handing out business cards by the truckload!  Rather networking is about forming strong, serving and two-way relationships.


When in those remote areas, the strongest relationship can come from the most unexpected corner!  Be open, be prepared and be on the lookout.  Will the most valuable link-up come through the husband of your next door neighbour, the cousin of the industry association representative, the local police officer, the satisfied client’s referral or a myriad of other places?  Either way, open into and unto networking – go to those dinners, accept those invitations, venture to the group meetings and watch the coincidences unravel – even all those miles away!


Networking is as much about giving as it is taking!  What value can you bring to the people of the new location and how ready may they be for it?


3: Nurture Current Ties – It’s Great When They Visit!


It’s tough being miles away from those you love in life and those you trust in business.  Whilst they are all eyes on you, awaiting news of your next big adventure or amazing story, you may fall into the trap of being all eyes only on the new remote location.


You will never be alone if you keep one eye in front of you and one looking back.  Don’t forget your roots, those who have been there for you in tough times elsewhere – now more than ever is the time you may just need them again!


In essence, business is about inputs and outputs. Unity and success are rooted in balance and win-wins. Will these three tips prepare you for remote win-wins, ensuring corporate downfall does not occur? This article should ensure that it will not be a case of ‘time will tell’!  Do your homework as true due diligence.  How does the challenge of working in a remote location, coupled with the above tips weigh up in your books?


Written by Debbie Nicol,

International Management Expert for ManagingAmericans.com & Managing Director, 'business en motion'

Do you have a question for Debbie?  Post it in our Ask an Expert Forum.


Here are some related articles you may be interested in:

Lost In translation: Survival Tips for International Managers

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Training vs Change Management

Working With Other Cultures



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Comments (2)

Dr. Austin Tam-George posted on: January 16, 2013

One of the key features of globalization is the constant movement of workers from place to place. Here are 3 tips on how to work effectively in a new location:
1. Respect and accept diversity of culture, people. etc, rather than fear it.
2. Do not prejudge. Keep an open mind and listen to those on the ground.
3. Do what you can to add value to your new environment. People will always appreciate that.

Jackie Arnold posted on: January 19, 2013

My tips in addition to those great ones above would be to :
Avoid assumptions, listen deeply and respectfully, take one step to understanding others world views as you learn so much.

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