From the very start of his six years in Thailand, Francesco Diomaiuta decided he was going to ignore the preconceived notions he was told about how one should work with Thai people.
Instead, he believes that the foundation for communication should start here: “I think the secret is that you need to treat everybody with respect no matter what. You need to be aware of their upbringing and cultural background. That's done by building a certain level of acceptance.”
Francesco’s journey has allowed him to work with people across Asia. He’s even picked up the Thai language, being able to write and speak fluently among many other languages. His ability to understand motivations and find creative solutions has led him to Omise as its Head of People Operations.
In this edition of Middle Matters, we sat down with him to learn how he bridges cultural differences to build successful teams in the hypergrowth world.
Finding Common Ground
While Francesco is able to immerse himself in Thai culture, he accepts that he will never truly understand what it means to be Thai. But in that same vein, he doesn’t expect anyone to completely understand his cultural background either.
Because of that, he makes sure to build common ground with his team. “I set principles and ground rules with my team,” he explains.
“I tell them what is important to me and I tell them what I am expecting. I also ask them to tell me what they expect from me too, so we can build this rapport.”
With a diverse team of people from different parts of Asia, even from Africa and Canada, cross-cultural communication has to happen in every aspect of their work at Omise.
While this takes time, he emphasises the need for them to get used to the fact that they can freely give each other feedback: “After a while, I find that it [will] make absolutely no difference where people are coming from.”
To keep up with the task of scaling Omise, Francesco had to bring in specialists to fill in the gaps in his expertise. “It’s something where I had to notice that I’m at the end of my capabilities,” he explained.
“When it comes to solving problems or finding creative solutions and new initiatives for compensation and benefits, I can do it on a very high level, but when it comes to the implementation, I'm fairly useless.”
His vulnerability is how he leads by example in creating a culture where the ego is kept out of the equation.
“I'm very honest about what my capabilities are and what I can do and what I can't do,” he expresses. “It's important for me, not only to my peers but to my team, to show them it's okay not to know everything. What I need you to do is to ask for help when you reach that point.”
Building your Successor
Jack Welch once said that “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
According to Francesco, this is especially true at Omise where the code of conduct, “developing and growing people to the point where they succeed you” is part of their DNA: “Just by having that mindset, you think about not stealing the limelight from somebody. [You] make sure that your people have the opportunity to grow and lead and become like what you are currently doing on a very basic level.”
What can you do as a group, rather than as an individual? Who are the A-players that work for you? Those questions are what aspiring leaders need to ask themselves if they want to lead an organisation they can be proud of.
- What is the culture that you are helping to build in your organisation?
- What did you learn about yourself from the last time a team member gave you feedback?
- The next time you delegate something to your direct report, how might the challenge of this delegation help them overcome any fears or weaknesses?
Who is NewCampus?
Like Francesco, a growing number of leaders from Asia’s fastest-growing companies are working with NewCampus to make business education accessible to emerging leaders. Find out more.