Mo Money…Mo Problems…
Pictured with the Speaker of the Nigerian National Assembly, Yakubu Dogara (center) and Women in Politics Forum President, Eberre Ifendu (left) at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria.
I have been pretty hard on Nigeria since arriving in May 2014. There are crazy drivers, periodic power outages (as many as four over the course of an hour), aggressive conversations and corruption at every turn. But as I settle into Nigeria, I have come to appreciate the people and the difficult life many Nigerians live. I have also learned to expect when someone is either asking for money or asking for a bribe. Usually when a person is asking for money, it is preceded by a sad story or a stressful situation. They will never directly ask you for money but assume the story will move you to give. When asking for a bribe, usually the conversation starts in an upbeat manner – “Bros, How Now?” or “Oga (boss), today is a holiday!”
All these things will come in handy as it looks as though I will be in Nigeria much longer than I had planned as I was promoted to Resident Country Director (RCD). It was a surprise as my short-term goals were not to spend another year in Nigeria but my superiors promoted me to be the RCD. So instead of just managing the political party program, I’m now directing the staff and representing my organization at diplomatic receptions and government meetings.
The real test will be my ability to manage the staff. My leadership skills will be put to the test as I take on this new role. I have prided myself on enhancing my leadership style and creating an environment that encourages and lifts up those I lead. I have read a lot of leadership books by John Maxwell, John MacArthur and other. I have even taken examples from the life of Moses and Paul. But leading people from a different culture will not only test our patience with each other but also a test our resolve. I was recently watching television and a woman on CNN was talking about the challenges managers face in multi-cultural settings. She told the story of an Asian woman working for an American boss. The manager had a few issues that he wanted her to address but when he called her into the office, he began by highlighting all the things she was doing well before discussing the issues she needed to correct. After the meeting, he thought he had explained the areas she needed to address and she felt like the manager was about to promote her. Both individuals perceived the meeting different and both left the meeting with different versions of what happen.
Case in point – the other day, we were losing a consultant who has been extremely effective in helping the office address some deficiencies. I told him that on his last day, I was going to bring in a cake for him. I was thinking “its your last day, so the office will celebrate you with a cake.” He was thinking, “Sentell is making me a cake for me to take home to my family.” The next day, we had to solve the differing expectations. We ate the cake in the office but I extended an invitation for his family to join me for dinner at my house. This story may seem small but it explains the cultural conundrum I face in my new position.
I am excited for the new duties, as it will give me a chance to put those leadership style on display. And, I have a good staff that is hard working and willing to put in extra time to accomplish their duties. I have no doubt that they will make me shine in my new role.