Conversations, the must have for any leader

I share here the English translation of an interview I did a few weeks ago on the blog Leading People:

Today we interview Rafael Ortiz, AFTD Sales & Marketing Director at Graco EMEA. In his team there are people from three continents and in his meetings rarely coincide two people of the same nationality. He also writes regularly in his blog about innovation, marketing and people management.

How do you face the challenge of multiculturalism?

Quite naturally and with common sense. Diversity is always rewarding if you're willing to manage it properly. Although I have a great and very committed team, we must always be willing to listen a lot and be very flexible. This is essential when your collaborators are in twelve different countries and you have a really ambitious business challenge ahead.

What would you say is the secret of success of a team like this?

I think we can not speak of a single ingredient. As with any team you need a lot of communication, emotional intelligence, empathy and above all a shared vision. We spent a lot of time talking each other. As we have very few opportunities to be together, we try to take advantage of every ocassion to have conversations and address the problems and challenges that lie ahead. No effort should be spared in talking with your people. This is a maxim that I always apply.

In addition to communication, a great amount of passion is required. There is nothing more powerful than a team committed to a goal. But you have to make sure that the commitment is maintained over time and the objective is not blurred by the way. For that reason  we must also add perseverance and very much consistency.

Tell us a little bit more about the shared vision that you mentioned before ...

In my opinion it is essential that the team knows where we are going, what moves us and what the business keys and expected behaviors are. It is not only about having clear objectives or action plan to develop. It is also about building together all the conditions for things to move ahead and do it naturally. My mission is to inspire the team and give some guidelines so we do not lose on the road. For  this, as I said before, communication and perseverance are very important. And let me tell you that it works ...

What is your model of leadership?

Although I confess I do not think too much on academic models I must say that the concept “Leading by example” really inspires me. I think the leader should be a model of integrity, commitment and demonstrate this behaviour every single day. It is hardly difficult to get the complicity of a team if you do not put yourself in front of it and get fully involved.

What tools do you use to manage talent in your team?

As a global organization, we use all the usual tools. In our case, the selection process is critical. It is very important that the person who will incorporate lace with our team values​​.

On the other hand I personally believe very much in the dynamics of coaching and I try to apply them both individually and with the team. A curious example that worked very well was the development of a team motto. With this exercise we get further establish ourselves as a high performance team. It helped us make explicit the core values ​​that we have as a group and express them in a very creative way.

How important is traning for you and for your team?

It is fundamental. Throughout the year, coinciding with our team meetings, we often develop technical, product and skills training programs. We try to apply innovative formats. For example, a few weeks ago we had the opportunity to participate in a very interesting training on assertive communication in multicultural enviroments with several role-plays with professional actors.