Ouissal Diary second part:
Dec. 2017 – Jan. 2018, Starting our work – the first cultural clash
As I was going on holiday shortly after the launch of the Ouissal Mentoring Project in Tunisia, Sarah and I agreed that she would send me the minutes of our meeting in Tunis which would further on be the basis of our collaboration containing our objectives, KPIs and code of conduct.
We had also agreed at length, that we would reply to each other within 3 days even if only to say „Sorry, I´m busy right now – coming back to you then and then“ So having not heard from Sarah after 4 days I began to feel nervous.
On the sixth day I sent a friendly reminder via WhatsApp saying that it would be better to write everything down (I had left also my notes with her) in order to not forget issues or loose content. Her answer came promptly: „You will find it in your mail when you land in Florence!“ (I had sent my message from Hamburg Airport)
I still hadn’t received anything two days later.
I started to worry that we would have to start our work right at the beginning again when I retunred from my holiday, which was stressful as I was supposed to be having a well deserved break from work rather than worrying about this project.
My next WhatsApp-message sounded a lot stricter and probably a bit Germanic. I reminded Sarah about the rules we had set, so that we could achieve results but also have fun together.
Still no answer.
The next day I really became worried about Sarah – was everything ok? What if I was thinking she was unreliable but perhaps she was actually going through some difficulties like illness? I got in touch with a fellow mentor who lives in Tunisia who contacted her on my behalf to ask if she is doing well. Finally Sarah gets in touch, saying she is terribly sorry…
This made me start to think about my own attitude and whether it was time to consider the cultural differences more and to adapt to them.
I have always thought I have two sides to me.The Mediterranean soul and the German mind. Yet as soon as it is about work, about achieving results (even in the kitchen 🙂 ), I am deeply process driven, I strive for „logical deduction“ and duty dominates.
As a mentor am I not supposed to pass on these success tools of the German Wirtschaftswunder?!
No, I am not! Mentoring means offering certain experiences and advice – not imposing – and it means also both sides learning…
For example why are people in Tunisia so highly creative and discovering new things? Because creativity needs space and intuition much more than planning.
I know that Sarah is highly creative, thinking visually and in metaphors at the same time as sharply analizing with stunning results.
I have to learn to be patient and relaxed because pushing will get me nowhere. If I can really learn this, it will benefit me in many other situations especially as I am now living in a Mediterranean country.
What a challenge!
I finally get the file when I am sitting in the garden of my Hotel in Cambodia. It turns out that Sarah has already taken a lot of decisions from the results of our discussions and has even taken some action!
I can’t divulge company secrets here but I can mention a more personal thing which nevertheless has a strong connection with „taking leadership-responsibility“ in the sense of self-leadership and being a role modell:
Sarah has managed to give up smoking for four weeks so far!
And the minutes for our first Skype-Session in 2018 came the same day!
I am proud of Sarah and now trust in our process even if it isn‘t necessarily my way.
I watched a very illuminating documentary about women´s rights in Tunisia and what has changed since the Jasmin Revolution in 2010 . Perhaps I will face another cultural clash during our further collaboration…
© Dr. Cristina Barth Frazzetta