Building a successful Global Mobility team

Expat Academy Building a successful Global Mobility team

Recently I was discussing with a previous Global Mobility (GM) colleague of mine about the ‘good ol’ days’ and how we had worked so well together as a team. But like all good things, it had come to an end as people moved on in their careers. The conversation did make me ponder why it had worked so well and question what had made it so successful. Was it just that I was looking back through rose tinted glasses? It wasn’t until a recent car service, some poor repair advice and a long email to the dealership expressing my disappointment and detailing their employee core values, that I revisited my thoughts on what makes a successful GM team. The car manufacturer’s employee core values relate very nicely to a good GM team. Let me explain.

The 5 core values:


Every successful GM professional I have met is passionate about what they do. In dealing with the assignees and their families they often go the extra mile. It’s not like dealing with any other task where you can change service delivery dates and everyone just waits for the following day or following week for the new delivery date. A change or an issue for an assignee not only affects the assignee themselves but can affect their family too. It may involve where they choose to live, the schooling for their children, shipment of their personal possessions etc. The GM team recognise when the issue is personal and often go far above and beyond to help rectify a situation as quickly as possible.


This is vital within a good GM team. Every member comes with their opinions, knowledge, values, past work experience, prior team experiences, life and work goals and different communication skills. It is important to recognise differences and learn to use each other’s skillsets to the team’s advantage. Whether someone has a more formal or informal approach or whether someone is dominant or easy going, there will be times, in all the challenges you face as a team, that different team member’s behavioural attributes come to the fore. As Richard Branson once said ‘Everyone has something valuable to bring to the table. Looking at the world in a different way to everyone else is a strength that should be praised and encouraged’.


This can be a little subjective and can be hard in the middle of pay review when the deadline is looming and the team are up against it. But the hard-working teams I have worked in, also let off steam together. With the pull of family life there isn’t always the opportunity to let off steam after work but there should always be the chance for a catch up at the coffee machine or a few minutes at the end of a team meeting where the funny side of a situation is laughed at together or a particular tough issue shared. We had one such moment when a graduate assignee repatriated and gave the GM team a particularly difficult time about his new employment contract (which was an HR / line manager issue and nothing to do with GM). Throughout the tantrum throwing, the team remained calm and professional especially when it was pointed out that the reason he hadn’t been paid upon his return from assignment was due to the fact he had not signed his new contract so nothing could be notified to payroll. When he had finished throwing his toys out the pram and realised the effort the GM team had put in to help him during his repatriation, and his payroll issues were of his making, he bought the GM team cakes to say thank you!


This is such an important part of working in GM. Assignees will try every trick under the sun to get their own way whether it be emotionally (‘I’ll leave my dog in the desert then if you won’t pay for him to be shipped home’), by throwing their weight around (‘I’ll escalate your name to the HR Director if you don’t agree to this’) or trying another colleague with a slightly different twist to the story so they can get approval. If the team works honestly, transparently and fairly then they can all cover for each other knowing full well no-one would have agreed something outside the policy. Over time this builds respect from the rest of the business and these diva-ish demands begin to reduce (they never go completely as there’s always a new one that’s recently joined the organisation that thinks they’re the exception to every rule!!) One thing I took away from a culture shaping course about integrity a couple of years ago where three simple words ‘be here now’. When someone is raising an issue or you’re in a team meeting it’s good to put your phone down, forget other distractions and give 100% attention to what is going on. Nothing diminishes integrity quicker than nodding in agreement with your team whilst smiling at something that has appeared on your phone.


A solid ethos of teamwork and collaboration is fundamental and empowers the individuals within the team. It’s important that roles are clear and each role is valued. Mistakes can still happen (we are all only human) but if the team use them as a learning experience rather than a blame game then it can only make the team more cohesive. I had a great first GM Manager. She told me it was fine to make a mistake……… once. After that you learned from it and you didn’t make the same mistake again. It’s important as a team to celebrate success and learn quickly from mistakes. At a recent Global Heads meeting I was discussing with some of the Global Heads what makes for a great team and the two words that came up a number of times were ‘trust’ and ‘respect’. Trust within the team and respect for each other as well as the assignees and the business. In addition, a couple of Global Heads agreed that if there was one bad apple in the group it must be dealt with quickly before it becomes toxic and brings the team down.

The best teams work together and play off each other’s strengths effectively to reach a common goal. It takes hard work and commitment from all but the reward is a positive working atmosphere and achievements that are greater than the sum of individual efforts.

Have you thought of nominating someone you know in the Expat Academy Network for the Expat Academy Player’s Player for 2018? Not sure who to nominate? Here are some thoughts from the Expat Academy team:

  • Has someone inspired you in your career?
  • Have they helped you approach your challenges in a different way and challenged you to think strategically?
  • Do you know of someone who is a team player – they put aside their personal goals, work well with others, listen and contribute to help the Expat Academy network?
  • Has someone in your network been friendly and made coming to Expat Academy events fun and worthwhile? Did they have gone out of their way to help you build your network.
  • Or have they done an amazing job from what you can tell and are always ready to share their knowledge and experience with their Expat Academy Network?

If so, drop me an email with your nomination and the reason.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies from this website. Close