One mouth and pair of ears

This post marked my first post since I’ve resigned from my role as Public Relations Manager for Lazada Indonesia. While I’m going to tell you more on this on another post (which has been kept in draft for weeks, haha), this post will be about one of many memorable moments at my new workplace.

As the cycle of a PR person keeps on going, now I’m back to the other side of the business, celebrating the joy of being on the agency side. I have been trusted to be in a (very) senior position to lead one of the multinational PR agency in town. While all of my friends congratulated me for having this position, I was very anxious. Weeks before my first day, I had trouble sleeping. I kept on over-analysing things that might happened. And one of the things that worried me the most was whether I deserve to earn the respect from my team or not.

Long story short, a month has gone by. I’m starting to find the rhythm of this new role. One of the challenges I currently have is that one of my media monitoring team can’t write in proper English (let’s disregard the part of how he ended up working here, which happened before my time). Not saying that I have perfect writing skills, but this is the kind of issue that might lead to client complaints.

Honestly I was a bit furious, not with this person, but with this issue. I have so many other things on my plate and at first I didn’t know how to solve this issue effectively. It’s definitely not an option to keep it this way because his inability is affecting other team members and my thoughts were I should be able to help my team grow.

I finally decided to had a conversation with him, just the two of us. I explained the situation carefully, because I want him to understand the urgency but at the same time not to make him feel demotivated. And the response I got shocked me:

“I know that my inability to write English properly is affecting the other team members. Honestly I didn’t like being in this position where I add burden to someone else when it’s actually my responsibility. I want to improve, I tried several things but it doesn’t seem to work. And before you came, no one talked to me about this so I didn’t know who to ask for help. But I really want to get better. At school I also had trouble with English subject. But I really want to improve. Can you please help me to improve my writing skill?”

I stood silent for like ten seconds. Seriously didn’t expect to get this kind of response. Apparently I have forgotten the basic team work rules of solving issue not by having a real conversation. This moment reminded me that to solve an issue, I need to be better at listening other people instead of just blabbering about the issue.

He told me about his struggle and we had discussion on how to effectively improve his writing skill that suits him best. I believe that everyone learn things differently. I may have started learning basic English language from songs or movies, but it might not work for him. And of course, I have never taught English to anyone before, so I have no idea where to start as well.

Then we came up with this exercise: Everyday he will choose one article that capture his interest from The Jakarta Post (an English written newspaper in Indonesia) then write a full translation without any help from Google Translate. He’s only allowed to open online dictionary when he find words that he doesn’t understand. The translation then will be sent to me by end of day, where we will go through his work so I can help him understand parts that need to be corrected. On top of that, he also need to read ten more English written articles on his spare time beside the articles that he already read for media monitoring. Once his translation from English to Bahasa Indonesia gets better, we’ll move to translating Bahasa Indonesia to English.

This afternoon was the first time we sat together to read his translation work and I even explain the simplest things like you don’t have to translate every words literally, or that one English word can have different meanings and context when it’s translated to Bahasa Indonesia. His face lit up, and he sincerely said, “Thank you, Tania, for explaining all of this to me. I’ll make sure the translation for tomorrow will be better.”

Oh, that is such a priceless moment.

You know, there’s a reason why God gave us one mouth and a pair of ears. It’s for us to listen more.


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