Multicultural and identity coaching for young women working internationally
November 30, 2020
Towards the emergence of young female managers exposed to foreign cultures as part of a professional assignment abroad.
More and more young women are being sent abroad for an internship or a project, to set up a recently acquired subsidiary, or for another professional assignment whose results will have a major impact on their future careers and will probably influence their life path.
Sometimes far from the familiar and reassuring setting of their native country, these early-career women are not always properly prepared when it comes to joining a multicultural team, maximising their resources for the benefit of a project and negotiating or speaking in public in a foreign setting often perceived as unstable or hostile.
Matching needs with support modes and processes
Supporting these young women is especially important to help create a relationship of trust with their new environment, with their manager and/or team, and with foreign partners. But these young women’s initial requirements are not necessarily about building trust.
Self-doubt, amplified by fears that they will not be able to achieve their objectives, can trigger an awakening in these young women (or their line managers), a need for support and clarification, with a coach.
Lack of knowledge of the new culture, coupled with an inaccurate perception of the role of women in the host country can often disrupt their established mindsets, and this can then become a source of anxiety, distress and fear.
The coach has to clarify the ethical rules and code of ethics of the coaching, since these concepts are not perceived in an identical way in all cultures. The same is true for a nuanced explanation of the support methods that can be used in this type of situation and the setting of clear boundaries.
Some sessions may include other coaching methods focused on:
• The transmission of information, equivalent to a training mode (explanations about the local culture, for example).
• Advice equivalent to a consultancy mode (analysing the individual’s managerial context, a focus on explaining a behavioural assessment or an individual’s cultural preferences, for example),
• An exclusively coaching mode, to offer the female coachee space for reflection and broadening her field of awareness in relation to her initial concerns associated with adapting to the new culture.
Set the objective and the framework
Lorsque l’objectif global de l’accompagnement est défini avec des micro-objectifs par type d’accompagnement, le contrat peut alors être conclu entre le/a coach et la femme coachée directement mais le plus souvent en tripartite avec l’entreprise qui emploie la femme coachée.
The language chosen is an important vehicle for creating a link with the coachee. If the coach adopts the language of the female coachee, he or she must be capable of appreciating the subtleties of the verbal and non-verbal language used by the coachee, which often have a cultural component beyond the linguistic.
It is also frequently the case that the support cannot take place in the language of the coachee, but takes place in English, for example, the company’s lingua franca, or the common language between the coach and the coachee.
Creating a relationship of confidence and intimacy
La mise en place de l’intimité de la relation coaching nécessite une réelle perception et une empathie du/de la coach pour la situation de sa coachée. Il/elle rentre dans les valeurs de sa cliente. Comprendre par son propre vécu ce que la femme coachée traverse, en termes, par exemple de sentiment d’isolement, constitue souvent un puissant vecteur de mise en confiance pour la femme coachée.
Although the coach must avoid countertransference, sharing experience can, however, provide a reassuring new perspective for the female coachee if this sharing is offered at an appropriate time.
A young woman exposed to a difficult foreign professional context can feel destabilised and vulnerable when confronted with a challenge to the values conveyed in her original environment.
Sur leur lieu de travail ou lors de négociations, le personnel local ne les perçoit pas ou affiche plus ou moins ouvertement des attentes différentes de celles qu’elles imaginaient. Ces attentes peuvent se manifester sous forme de résultats à atteindre, d’un rôle à tenir, d’un comportement à adopter en tant que femme dans l’équipe, vis-à-vis de son responsable hiérarchique.
If the company that has sent her does not enable her to benefit from a social fabric that encourages connections between expatriates, she finds herself left without the crucial access codes she needs to gain access to the local communities.
Coaching a woman in this context requires great readiness to listen, and an openness to a wide variety of emotional and cultural reactions... that might come as a surprise too!
Beyond cultural differences, these female coachees can nevertheless succeed in discovering a universality of meaning, but also find similarities with other women from other cultures and a whole new and different side to themselves.
Le questionnement se veut puissant car il doit toucher au coeur de la femme renouvelée. Le/la coach doit constamment s’assurer de la fluidité de l’échange. Il/elle doit poser des questions claires, il/elle reformule son propos, si besoin est, afin de s’assurer de la bonne compréhension de la question et de la réponse reçue dans ce contexte multiculturel à fortiori lorsque le/la coach et la cliente s’expriment tous deux dans une langue qui n’est pas leur langue maternelle.
An understanding of a foreign culture and multicultural communication facilitate the female coachee’s occupational integration abroad, while also challenging her. This support forms the gateway, the visible face of the iceberg, the breaking wave that upends received ideas and lays the foundations for adapting to others in a foreign work setting.
Creativity nurtures a woman-to-woman connection.
Within the coaching relationship, the young woman can revisit what she previously considered innately acquired, such as her values, beliefs, perception of her roles within society, her openness to change.
Inventiveness, coordination, curiosity, sociability, the creation of links, discernment, the establishment of a new living/professional space represent plentiful resources that she draws on from within herself, and energies to be captured around her as capacities to be developed that lead these young women to renew and reinvent themselves outside their habitual context.
Calling for awareness
All this calls for a meaningful awareness that the coach can facilitate.
If the coachee chooses such a path, then coaching young women internationally can form a powerful driver for personal and professional growth with high value-added for all concerned.
Measuring the impact of the change
The results achieved by the female coachee will reflect the path she has travelled in terms of cultural learning, self-awareness and her relationship with others. The indicators with which the female coachee will be able to measure the impact of her support will be revealed, for example, in the way she interacts more effectively with her foreign environment, in exchanging information during negotiations, in meetings, or in communication with her local line managers.
Contacts and outside-the-box learnings that the coachee will have been able to develop as part of her assignments abroad will enable her, if she gives herself the means, to unlock her creative potential and use it as a source of inspiration for self-discovery, and eventually make an impact on her environment.