Whenever I was thinking of the biggest challenge I had to face in Cambodia, I always came up with a list. By now - 10 months in the field - this list does not exist. I let go off the items I cannot change (eg. weather conditions) and only one item is left, which I know is a life-long learning project for myself: being patient. Being patient at work.
When I accepted the opportunity for deployment for a senior communication role I had a lot of things on my mind, except for this job to be the biggest challenge on my patience at work.
I have nearly 20 years of work experience, worked at a few very different companies, had worked on my own, as a team member, managed teams and had managers. Obviously always had to deliver results, achievements, strategies, manage events, media, online sites, CSR, and a lot of different tasks and areas. I always wanted to work in this field, learnt very quickly and became confident with myself with time.
I arrived to Cambodia with pretty good feelings on being able to do the job I signed up for easily, timely, with my personality and style. Well......now my experience says it is not so easy, had to forget about deadlines and my working style needed a lot of adjustment. I manage a team of 12-14 people, am part of the local management team, have to work with the whole organization. Do not get me wrong, I enjoy it, however what we were speaking about during the pre-deployment training: culture, culture, culture, is so much real! The cultural difference! With all my respect from the buttom of my heart - the Cambodian working style is so-so different from the European, that I was used to.
What did I learn?
Do not run, it is ok when it is done. It is the same result next week or next month.
Check, double-check and triple-check, otherwise it might not be finished/done.
Explain again and again. They will never say they do not understand you.
Check understanding. Explain in three different ways if necessary.
Speak much slower and use basic English.
Ask them to say it back, never finish a discussion (when you give a new task to work on) with a yes or no question.
Do not set deadlines for the same week, sometimes not even for the same month. Everything takes much more time.
Do not just write it down, or send an email, discuss it in person.
Honestly, it was difficult to slow down and not seeing results for weeks. I had to take a few deep breaths to accept that if the team does not deliver I will not be able to deliver results either. Seeing the same items on my to do list for weeks and weeks was frustraiting, but I let go off. I learnt that this is how it is, and at the end of the day all are happy. We deliver the results when the team and the individuals are ready, we cooperate, encourage, appreciate and support within the scope of the local culture, local working style, ethics and manner.
I am sure we are a good team, changing and developing constantly, and even if I try to go a bit further, it is appreciated. It was good to see that the team wants to go further, too, happy to learn, happy to see different attitudes, style, thinking. They are happy to do more. We teach a lot to eachother!
My deployment is over in 2 months, and I was already asked several times if I can stay longer. Love you, my team :)