For more than a decade, Donna Steffey has facilitated around the globe. At last count, she has landed in 17 different countries. Along the way, she has picked up some tips and techniques to help make these international sessions a success.
- Do Your Research. Before every trip, Steffey spends a couple of weeks either getting familiar or reacquainting herself with the country she is going to work in. “Each culture is so different, and their cultures are changing all the time, “ says Steffey. In addition to using Google to read some articles about the culture of the country she is scheduled to visit, Steffey also relies on movies and books from that country. “I’ll search Netflix for documentaries or movies from that country. It’s a great way to get a feel for the culture before you arrive there.”
For resources about working abroad, Steffey recommends “Kiss, Bow and Shake Hands,” which is both a robust website and a reference book as well as John Wiley and Son’s, “The Essential Guide To Training Global Audiences” – Steffey is one of 65 contributors to this resource guide.
2. Take the time to be introspective. Even though it’s now very easy to stay connected with friends and family on social media sites and by Skyping or using Facetime, Steffey recommends keeping those connections to a minimum. “If you are spending all your free time catching up with folks at home you are missing the opportunity to be present in the moment with another culture.“ Steffey says there’s an added benefit to ‘forced loneliness.’ “When I limit the amount of contact I have with everyone back home, it forces me to be introspective. I do a lot of self-examination asking myself how did that go?” Was I respectful to others? How did I build rapport with the people in the room? “ By having this reflection time when she was abroad, says she Steffey realized that she needed to be more reflective when she was working at home.
3. Savor Your Meals. The food will be completely different. “One of the things that I love to do is take pictures of the food that I am eating in the different country. Often it’s very healthy and colorful and makes a great picture,” recommends Steffey. “What I am finding now is that my clients usually host a couple of ‘western meals’ while I am there. I find that mealtime is a great way to bond with participants. People love to talk about food so, it’s a great bridge builder regardless of the country you are visiting.”
4. Breaks may be longer or shorter. What Steffey has observed in her years as an international facilitator, is that participants don’t use breaks to answer phone calls or respond to emails. Particularly in Asian cultures, participants may turn down the lights, put their heads on the desk and have a quiet break.
5. Load some comedies on your computer or iPad. While Steffey works hard to embrace the culture of the county she is visiting, she does recommend ending your evening by viewing some favorite television programs from home. “Watching some of my favorite sitcoms before I go to sleep gets me laughing and takes away some of the homesickness that you tend to have late at night,” says Steffey. “Working in another culture can be intense, so going to sleep with my own culture seems to be a good tool for me.”
Help us build our list of advice for international facilitation. What advice would you give?