Management styles are something that affect everyone with a job anywhere in the world. During my MBA programme, we talked about styles defined by colours: red (top-down info and orders), green (discuss previously drafted projects with the team in a structured way) or blue (co-creating a project with the team from scratch). Each of these styles has its advantages and disadvantages. And there are big differences depending on cultures and backgrounds. The way you are brought up influences the way you lead or the way you work as a team.
As in many Asian societies, it is very important for Indonesians not to «lose their face» in front of others. This means, that e.g. admitting a mistake is very difficult for them, which is very contrary to the way Swiss people behave. Back home, we expect everybody to be direct and say what they did and what they think. This sometimes leads to difficult situations over here because either side expects the other to react in the way they are used to, which of course the other side doesn’t know. As a western manager working in Indonesia, it takes a lot of diplomatic expertise to explain to your employees that certain rules need to be respected, even though they may appear strange to them, because they were brought up differently.
Every morning at 8am, there is a staff meeting with everybody working here. On the one hand, it’s a moment for everybody to be together as one team and the possibility for management to inform the staff about news and decisions, as well as talk about the daily tasks for every team. On the other hand, all departments are also invited to share their info and issues with the others. The meeting is meant to be a platform for inputs and discussions from everybody. As anywhere in the world, there are people who talk more and some who never say a word. I am still one of the latter because of my lack of Indonesian, even though I usually don’t hold back with my opinion. It’s bound to change, as my Indonesian is finally (but very slowly) improving…
It always strikes me how Maya manages to keep the balance between respecting various inputs - and thus sometimes long discussions - and communicating clearly what she wants and what she doesn’t approve of. Many of our employees are not used to being given the opportunity to speak up because they didn’t learn this at school or at home. You can see that they feel uncomfortable about having to give feedback. They would rather just receive an order and execute it, like they are used to.
But Maya regularly invites everybody to comment and make suggestions and she will always take into consideration any suggestion suited to improve a workflow or solve a problem. I’d say, she applies a mixture between a green and a blue management style, involving the team as much as possible. But sometimes, as in all businesses, it just takes a clear decision by the boss, and that’s when she does just that and reacts very «red».
Today, I witnessed something interesting. We’ve been having rather heated discussions about an important issue that is still unresolved. Taking advantage of the fact that without guests, we don’t have to stick to our normal daily schedule, our staff meetings currently have a tendency to take longer and discussions are more intense. As we were not going to find a solution to our problem right away and the discussion was turning around the same people and topics, resulting in some of us getting fed up, Ibu Maya decided to put an end to it and call the issue closed, yet unresolved for now. At the end of the meeting, everybody shook hands or hugged (yes, we still hug over here!), apologizing for the things they had said and asking for forgiveness. And with that, the issue was closed, but not forgotten, so we can all take a fresh start at working as one team again. It felt strange for me to simply say «sorry» to everyone even though they may have said things during the past few days that I completely disagree with and the issue as such is still unresolved. But for them, it’s over now and forgiven, by the simple gesture of shaking hand or hugging and apologizing.
I was told that this is very common practice here in order to go on with daily business and not linger on over something that you’re stuck with. Quite handy, actually – just say «sorry» and continue. It still feels a little superficial to me, but for them, I think, it’s genuine and they really mean it. Why not. Sometimes a symbolic gesture helps to overcome a problem. The aim is to focus on the future and the positive side of things, to take away learnings in order to avoid repeating mistakes and to find our motivation and team spirit again.
Mission hopefully accomplished!
I never even dreamt of working on a remote island in Indonesia, but life has a way of taking care of itself…