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In 2005, while living in California, I had been a consultant for decades, travelling every week around the country. One morning I received an email requesting my help on a proposal for my firm in Australia. I didn’t know much about the Australian system but was happy to provide my input and ideas to help the bid. The competition was intense and prolonged. On a June morning I got another email that said we might get some work from the proposal. I asked what my role would be and how often, if ever, I would be expected in Sydney. The Australian partner and I discussed possibilities such as two weeks in Sydney, two weeks home; a month in Sydney and a week home; etc. My wife was listening and when I hung up, she said, “Why don’t we just move there?” We were empty nesters with a daughter away at university; so why not?
I sent a quick email asking if moving to Sydney would be possible and helpful. The response was very enthusiastic. My commitment to move was relayed to the client and we won a large contract. One month later, I found myself in Sydney. We sold our cars, rented out our condo, stored everything else and started a 5 years adventure in Sydney followed by a year in London. Our daughter joined us in Sydney and never left. She has a promising career and last year became an Australian citizen. We now have friends, lifelong friends from all over the world: Australia, England, Spain, South Africa, New Zealand, Turkey, etc. Our expat experience has greatly enriched our lives.
During my expat assignments I was fortunate enough to have executive coaches help me make the most of the experience. When I first arrived in Australia I had no coach; I wish I had a coach to help me integrate into the business culture and achieve better results as I built a new practice. Later in the assignment, my executive team changed, the direction of the organization changed, and the global economic crisis caught hold. At the end of 5 years I accepted an assignment in London. Change was constant, and I needed to be agile.
I was lucky enough to have several coaches that I worked with and the curiosity and creativity they unlocked for me helped me through some difficult transitions. While in London, I lost my coach and friend from Sydney to cancer. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss his insights, probing questions, and empathy.