Have you ever tried out Coaching or Counselling services?

I have! Long before I became a professional coach myself and when I was still living in Canada, I had the pleasure of closely working with an excellent coach, who helped me quite a lot on my professional path, navigating the stormy waters of life in an international organization. Jenny Ebermann | Coaching

As a matter of fact, I decided to become a coach myself back in 2007 as I had been constantly training and mentoring people in global settings across the globe. Then living in Zurich, I began looking out for an adequate and professional school as already back then many people called themselves ‘coach’ without really having followed a thorough education (even without having ever coached anybody)!).

Two years, many coachings, supervisions, sessions and a dissertation plus Swiss level exam later, I finally had my credentials in hand. Naturally, being myself and international chameleon and speaking/writing many languages, my specialty became coaching/counselling in intercultural and global settings. Expatriates, foreigners living in or planning to move to a certain country, professionals working in an international environment and their spouses have since then been a main focus of interest.

In addition, practicing mindfulness, and related techniques since many years, I am bringing this knowledge into my day-to-day work. It really is amazing how self-awareness, openness and non-judgment enable you to deal with differences in a very effective way. Especially, as uncertainty is a more or less persistent companion nowadays, leading to stress and ambiguity, mindfulness techniques brought into coaching and linked to dealing with intercultural issues and situations of difference are a powerful tool that everybody can learn.

If you are:

  • Dealing with a challenging situation in your career or at home
  • Settling into a new environment, be it a different culture or other
  • Working in an international environment
  • Planning to move abroad or to another region soon
  • Dealing with uncertainty, stress, ambiguity
  • Looking for help and guidance on your way forward
  • Looking for personal growth and development

Coaching/Counselling can support you on your journey. You are not alone and nobody knows better than yourself how you are feeling and which way to go. You might simply need some clarity in your thoughts and insights as well as a fresh look at your issues. Everybody can grow and you might learn things about yourself that you would not have expected. Coaching really is for everybody and the various tools and resources can have incredible results. Be it face-to-face or online, you are the architect of your own life!

Register today and get 50% off your first 1 hour trial coaching session (online or face-to-face if you live in the French-speaking part of Switzerland)! Prices usually start at 150 CHF/hour and can be adapted if you are a student, unemployed, with an NGO or still in training and the offer is valid until the 11th of May 2014. Once registered you will receive all details by email and will then be able to decide if you want to take advantage of the offer or not (the offer is valid for the first 20 subscribers).


Looking forward to hearing from you!



Did you know that you actually have two brains?

Human brainOn my way to Tallinn where I am attending the 2013 SIETAR Congress, I read some interesting articles related to intercultural research, mindfulness and leadership. It always strikes me, how much everything is interrelated!

For example I read that leadership is not about controlling others and the environment we live/work in but to accept and treat others as ‘human beings’ who as such are capable of compassion, creativity and generosity. All it needs is somebody to bring out these qualities and skills, hence to work with collective emotional intelligence rather than with individual intellects only.

Whereas this would appear obvious to a mindful leader, another article expanding these thoughts by Amnon Buchbinder on Philip Shepherd’s ‘Out of our heads’ retained my attention. The latter explores the implications of the fact that there are two brains (yes!) within us: the cranial one which we know and the so-called ‘enteric brain’ located in our bellies (in the gut).

From my understanding of neuroscience, I know that there is a web of neurons in the belly allowing us to listen to the outside world through our bodies; what I did not know though, was how we as humans in our Western culture historically ended up putting so much emphasis on our ‘cranial brain’ and the intellect thus moving our ‘thinking’ self to the head.

We live in a ‘head-centered’ society and of course this has multiple consequences in our lives, on our organisational cultures, our education etc.etc. Interestingly, the idea of an integrated mind and body (i.e. the harmony we need to achieve in order to align our ‘two brains’), “the embodied feeling and lived experience” (Bennett, Castiglioni) also lies at the center of intercultural adaptation: the intuitive feeling of a culture is as important as cultural awareness and knowledge of a foreign culture to be able to effectively deal with difference.

Food for thought! During the next days here in Tallinn, I will certainly be learning many more new aspects of intercultural research, training and education. I can only say that listening to my gut feeling has brought me here and the practice of mindfulness is certainly one way of being in touch with myself again.

If you haven’t done so already, please follow my blog to learn more about Mindful Leadership & Intercultural Communications. I will be offering some free 20 minutes coaching sessions very soon for those of you who don’t really know what it is, want to try it out or simply are in need of coaching. Sign up here!


Foreign assigments and what it could feel like – a real life example

ImageToday I want to give you a real life example of how intercultural misunderstandings can happen and what the result can be. In order not to offend anybody, let’s call the person Marie.

Marie, of French origin, lives and works since a couple of months in the US. She had been offered the opportunity to move there as an expat working for the same multinational company that she already worked for in Belgium. With enthusiasm she accepted the offer, being with the company over 5 years and knowing – as she thought – how the company ‘ticks’ and how the corporate culture functions.

As a matter of fact, working life in the company was not exactly how she had expected. To start with, instead of having an office, she suddenly has to share her workspace with many people, a lot of them being North Americans. Her little cubicle is dark, very impersonal but most importantly there is absolutely no privacy. Whenever she has to make a private call, for example for making a dentist appointment, others around her would comment on it, even if she would not ask them to. How was she supposed to work in such an environment, especially in strategic marketing where she had to frequently analyze figures as well as markets and write appropriate strategies?

On top of this she is not really used to walk around and engage in what she calls ‘small talk’ with people. She finds it irritating when people ask her ‘how do you do’ all the time and then don’t really care when she tries to explain how she is actually settling in. What’s the point in having ‘on the surface’ discussions, she thinks, if nobody really takes note of what she is saying.

Finally, something even more strange happened, the General Manager of the branch, actually being from Australia called for a social hour at the end of the afternoon every Friday, inviting all employees around to come by, have a soft drink and chat. How strange was that? Wasn’t she supposed to work in the afternoon? After all, the company paid her a lot of money to get her work done and not to sit around and talk….

Marie did not understand how things could be so different in the company she thought she knew and wondered whether she should not have stayed at home in Europe. She did not feel valued, had constant headaches as the noise in the open space would really get to her and she was not really willing to share her private life with co-workers who, in her sense, did not care about her as a person anyways.

How do you think Marie was perceived on the other hand by the people surrounding her? Well, people knew that she had a very good reputation and excellent results. But they thought that she was very negative, never smiled and only sat by herself at her desk. They did not understand why she did not want to talk about sports and other things which they’d normally talk about and found her reactions during conversations rather strange and awkward. They preferred to leave her alone and did not look for her company. After all, she was only a well-paid expat receiving and having access to a lot of things that they would not have for themselves.

To tell you the end of this true story, Marie in the end accepted and understood that she had to learn how to cope with these new and different aspects of her working life and that there might be different paths leading to successful outcomes, without her as a person feeling hurt or upset. Her colleagues subsequently became to know her in a different light and accepted her being ‘different’ from what they would call ‘the norm’. They found a way to effectively collaborate and to avoid misunderstandings.

This short real life case shows you, how important intercultural competence is and how valuable on one hand the preparation to a foreign assignment but also on the other hand, the on-the-job training/coaching in a different culture is.

Walking towards intercultural competence

Today I would like to take some time to talk about the so-called “Bennett scale” also
known as the DMIS, the “Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity“. This model, developed by Dr. Milton Bennett in the late 80s, serves as a framework to explain the reactions of people to cultural

As shown above, the experience of difference as a function of your own perception moves through different stages, from “ethnocentrism” to “ethnorelativism“. The first term simply means that you experience your own culture as central and the second that you actually experience your culture in the context of other cultures. The more interculturally competent you are, the more you would find yourself on the right side of the diagram.

The six distinct kinds of experiences on the continuum of development are called (following Dr. Bennett’s explanations which can be found here):

  • Denial: one’s own culture is experienced as the only real one. Other cultures are either not noticed at all, or they are perceived as rather vague associated with a kind of undifferentiated other such as “foreigner”.
  • Defence: one’s own culture (or an adopted culture) is experienced as the only viable one. Cultural differences experienced by people in this perspective are stereotypical.
  • Minimalization: one’s own cultural worldview is experienced as universal. The threat associated with cultural differences experienced in Defense is neutralized by subsuming the differences into familiar categories. Somebody in this position would for example assume that typologies (personality, learning style, etc.) apply equally well in all cultures.
  • Acceptance: one’s own culture is experienced as just one of a number of equally complex worldviews. People with this worldview are able to experience others as different from themselves, but equally human.
  • Adaptation: one’s worldview is expanded to include relevant constructs from other cultural worldviews. People here can engage in empathy and are able to express their alternative cultural experience in culturally appropriate feelings and behavior.
  • Integration: one’s experience of self is expanded to include the movement in and out of different cultural worldviews. Here, people construe their identities at the margins of two or more cultures and central to none.

    After reading this you might want to challenge yourself and find out where you would be in this model. Which perception of yourself and others around you do you have and how competent do you deal with cultural difference?

    When I was in Milano with Dr. Bennett a couple of weeks ago, it struck me that this model allowed me to finally understand what I had experienced during the course of my life and why I had felt the way I did. I actually went through all of the different perspectives myself, learning and changing views, to finally aquire competence and by that a kind of “peace” and acceptance within myself.
    If you are reading my blog since a while you might know that I grew up in Belgium with German parents and wthin a completely European and multilingal environment as I went to the European School. Subsequently I then chose a European study path and an international career which now make me to a sellf-declared “chameleon“.
    As it did for me, maybe this model can help you too, on your path to understanding who you are and where you want to be! The good news is that intercultural competence can be learned. As an intercultural coach and a mindful leader I can accompany you on that path if you want to….
    Looking forward to reading your comments and/or to hearing from you! Jenny

  • “Chineasy”

    If as a leader, interculturalist or communications professional you ever wanted to learn Chinese in an easy way, you should check out the Facebook page of ShaoLan Hsueh, a Taiwanese entrepreneur living in London. She has developed a visual system for learning to read Chinese, called “Chineasy”. To start with, you might want to read the related article on Forbes by Bruce Upbin, which can be found here. Have fun!

    On another journey into intercultural communications

    This afternoon when stepping into the train to Italy, I thought: “let the journey begin”. In fact, upon recommendation from Dianne from culturaldetective.com, I registered for a three day course about the constructivist foundations of intercultural communications. I thought that “some brain food” would do me a lot of good… so here I am now eager to begin my course tomorrow!


    Well, in fact, my cultural “deep-dive” already started: I am usually having dinner very early as is normal in the French speaking part of Switzerland where I live. Now, going out with an Italian friend, the restaurant has been booked for 21h00 only… well, different country, different habits and behaviors. I actually feel lucky as 21h00 is not so bad; in countries like Spain, you would eat much later than that (I am trying to convince my stomach here).

    So, stay tuned for new findings and interesting facts from the intercultural front! I am sure that the next days will bring a lot of interesting theory but also new views and acquaintances.

    Ciao tutti,


    How to effectively survive global ‘calls’

    Global callI guess at least some of you have already spent parts or even most of their day glued to a telephone or other device trying to participate in ‘global’ calls, brainstormings or discussions with various others. Being a virtual team member is far from being easy, even if you don’t have to lead a session in a particular moment, that is for sure.

    The hardest thing to follow is actually when you have a group of people sitting together in a room and others participating on the phone in different locations. The team sharing a physical location has definitely an advantage over the other participants as its members can visually interact and see each others faces and gestures. It gets especially difficult, when not everybody can be clearly understood through the phone. Another tricky thing is that you might not even know who is speaking as you don’t know all the people on the line and hence cannot recognize the voices. Very few people actually state their name when they speak as they tend to forget that not all the participants can see them.

    How do you make the most out of such sessions without giving in to the temptation of doing other things while your phone continues to speak, on mute?

    As a participant you should look at the agenda right from the start, before the call has even started and identify the areas of interest to you. Write down a couple of points that you want to touch upon, or simply note some thoughts. This will help you to stay focused during the call especially for the parts that are important for you.

    Remember: nobody can listen for hours in a row! If an agenda is set up in a right way, it will leave enough breaks to allow for the participants to re-focus. It will also take into account the different periods of the day the participants are in and hence move the parts where solid input is expected to reasonable times so that the people are still awake.

    As an organizer, this website provides a helpful oversight over time zones and lets you easily schedule global meetings.

    If you need participants from all over the world, I would also highly recommend scheduling various meetings having the same topic, even if it means that you have to repeat yourself. You will ensure that nobody will be expected to attend at an unusual hour, which makes people happier and hopefully they will contribute more actively. You could for example structure your meeting like a World Café, where every contribution actually builds up on the contributions of the previous sessions. By doing so, you ensure that even for you, it doesn’t get boring and the outcome will definitely be there.

    Apart from that, if you can, try to make the sessions as short as possible. The shorter you time your meeting, the more attention you will get and the more focused your participants will be. Oh, and avoid lengthy power point shows, you will loose your audience in minutes. Write down bullet points of what is being said or accompany the discussion in a way that makes it more interesting to the participants, even those not being physically there!

    If you have any more insights to share or tipps and tricks on how to ‘survive’ long calls, let me know!

    Have an excellent morning, afternoon, evening, night! Jenny

    Further reading:

    Illustrating how cultural faux pas happen

    This little video really illustrates quite impressively how we function as human beings, taking only one little example (holding hands). Imagine how many other gestures, words, behaviours etc. can be misinterpreted and misunderstood in the intercultural context and what consequences this might have… you might want to remember this next time you meet with or work with somebody from a different culture. Being mindful, open and non-judging is a first step to train your brain to react differently! Enjoy!

    Mark Twain Quote on travel (interculture)

    Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
    Thanks to Mark Twain Quotes

    Addendum – About cultural types, European culture and intercultural competence

    As an addendum to my last post on cultural types, European culture and intercultural competence I have at least to say a word about languages. With a smile I have to admit that thankfully nobody ever made me learn Esperanto[1]… what a funny thought that is: having one European common language. But: could a language really exist without having a cultural background? Interesting question indeed as in the common theories[2], language is determined by culture but culture also by language. It is true though that the more languages you speak the easier it gets when we speak about my particular domains of expertise at least which are communications, leadership and coaching. When being able to talk to your international team members in their language or to coach people in their language of origin, it truly makes a difference. Not only will you find that people open up easier but you are also not confronted to the barriers of communicating in a foreign language, as non-natives very often have difficulties to formulate their inner thoughts, worries or motivations in another language.

    So, not only does a multicultural and multi-facet background give me access to intercultural skills but also the ability of speaking and thus being able to communicate in a variety of languages. This becomes very relevant when looking into emphatic listening[3] or mindful conversation[4] for example. If the ‘receiver’ of your message doesn’t understand what you actually mean and doesn’t ask (depending on the culture your interlocutor actually comes from, it might even be considered as rude to ask questions), the communication process will not function adequately resulting in misunderstandings and more.


    If you now apply this to digital means of communication like e-mail and such where it is even harder to communicate what you want to say – as you only have words and the tone of these to express yourself – plus you communicate in a language which is not your main one, you can imagine how difficult transmitting any message gets. From my experience, I honestly have to say that most of the problems arising in multicultural leadership/working teams stem from misunderstandings or misinterpretations from what has been originally said or demanded. In such an environment it is thus of crucial importance to pay particular attention to the original culture, language and behaviors of people so that a common ground for discussion and exchange can be found! And: I don’t think that Esperanto would have solved these problems J

    [1] Please see Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esperanto for reading more about what Esperanto is!

    [2] See for example this excellent article in the Wall Street Journal “Lost in translation”: http://tinyurl.com/2bmmtfd or this link on language and culture: http://tinyurl.com/9pt2ldz

    [3] As explained in my blog entry on ‘the power of listening’ for example.

    [4] According to Chade-Meng Tan, mindful conversation consits of three components : listening, looping and dipping. See his book “Search Inside Yourself” p. 60-62.