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Tri-Lingual Triumphs: 3 Essential Tips for Leading Multicultural Teams Effectively

Featuring: Wanor França, the Chief Revenue Officer of Casino Cash Trac

November 17, 2023


Embrace the challenge and reap the rewards: mastering the art of multicultural team leadership is a journey worth embarking on. Wanor França, the Chief Revenue Officer of Casino Cash Trac, brings a unique perspective to this challenge, particularly in recruiting and training tri-lingual resources. Drawing directly from França's insights, we’ve drilled down five key tips for managing such teams, focusing on cultural sensitivity, effective communication, and fostering inclusivity.

1. Cultivate Cultural Sensitivity and Intelligence

Cultural sensitivity forms the foundation of effective multicultural team management. It is crucial to take the time to understand nuances within languages and cultures to understand better and connect with your multicultural teams. When cultural differences arise that result in misunderstandings, set aside time to talk with your team to better understand their perceptions and how you can proceed in the future. França discussed a time while working in Brazil when bringing in a new coffee machine as a gift to the staff caused his team to become upset. “They felt my bringing the coffee machine and being able to make coffee at the office impacted their ability to take a break, go downstairs and get their espressos every day. That was small but a critical piece in trying to understand the culture better.”

Considering França’s experience, this approach goes beyond mere acknowledgment of differences. Instead, it requires leaders to engage and appreciate their team's diverse cultural identities actively. Such sensitivity helps prevent further misunderstandings and fosters a cohesive and productive work environment.

Take Action: Allocate time each week to learn about a specific culture represented in your team. This could involve reading about cultural norms, trying out traditional cuisine or even learning basic phrases in a team member's language. This effort shows respect and interest in your team's diverse backgrounds, fostering a more inclusive environment.

2. Evolve Your Linguistic Understanding to Foster Connection

One of the most impactful ways to lead a multilingual team effectively is by evolving your linguistic skills to foster deeper connections. Wanor França's experience is a testament to the power of this approach. He emphasizes the importance of not relying solely on translators but making a personal effort to bridge the language gap. "I didn't want to depend on a translator the whole time," França explains, "so I would take notes every single day and try to make sure that I connected with the people I was working with."

This commitment to learning and using key phrases in the languages of his team members wasn't just about practical communication; it was about building trust and rapport. França noticed the immediate impact of this effort: "Being able to say hello, for example, in their language... Somebody will smile because you spoke it in their language." This simple yet powerful gesture can open doors to more meaningful interactions and demonstrates respect and appreciation for the cultural and linguistic diversity of the team.

Take Action: Start with small, daily efforts to learn key phrases in the languages of your team members. Use these phrases in your interactions to show your commitment to understanding and connecting with them more personally. This can be as simple as greeting them in their language or expressing gratitude. Over time, these efforts accumulate, significantly enhancing the team's cohesion and sense of belonging.

3. Invest in Team Building and Trust

Building trust and fostering cohesion are essential in managing multicultural teams. Wanor França's approach underscores the importance of relating to team members within their cultural contexts and finding common ground. He shares his experiences in Asia, where establishing trust was initially challenging due to cultural differences. However, by engaging in a shared interest like tennis with the organization's President and Vice President, França broke down barriers. "Playing tennis with them opened up a whole level of trust," he recalls. This extended beyond the executives, as employees also began to join in, creating a more inclusive and trusting environment.

França's experiences highlight the significance of finding everyday activities that resonate across cultures. In South America, he discovered that informal gatherings, such as happy hours, effectively built rapport. "Just one drink after work with the employees started building that trust," he notes. These moments outside the formal work setting allowed for more relaxed and genuine interactions, fostering stronger bonds among team members.

Take Action: Identify activities and settings that resonate with your team's diverse cultural backgrounds. This could range from sports and recreational activities to informal social gatherings. The key is to create opportunities for team members to interact in a relaxed environment where they can share more about themselves and their cultures. Such activities build trust and encourage team members to appreciate and celebrate their differences, leading to a more cohesive and understanding team dynamic.

Final Thoughts

Leading a multicultural, multilingual team is an enriching journey transcending mere management. It's about creating a harmonious synergy from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, turning diversity into a formidable strength. From Wanor França's experiences, effective leadership in such environments hinges on cultivating cultural sensitivity, actively bridging language gaps, and investing in trust-building activities. These practices foster a deeper understanding and respect among team members and unlock the team's full innovative potential. In our increasingly interconnected world, such empathetic and inclusive leadership is beneficial and essential for thriving in a globalized business landscape.

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