You don’t have to be everyone’s cup of tea : Leading in a multicultural environment with Victoria Pester, Egg Agency
An entrepreneurial plan hatched only over year ago, Egg is now already a leading player in growth hacking world, juggling flagship contract like Scott Dunn or Remote Lands. Started out as an entrepreneurial ambition for growth hacking, Egg is now talking global with offices located in Dubai, Singapore and London. But here in Vietnam where it all first started, the human dynamics is just as “global” as any international digital agency you could find in Dubai or London. I joined Ms. Victoria Pester, Egg’s acting COO on a sunny day in Saigon to find out her secret of leading a multicultural team.
Figure 1: Reproduced from https://www.cci.utk.edu/sites/default/files/docs/diversity.png
At Egg, Victoria is primarily responsible for overseeing the agency’s operation. However, it has not been the smoothest ride for the female COO, having just settled in Vietnam for over a year herself. Apparently, managing a mix of international young blood and finding a working framework that could be applicable to any characters has been challenging. “We have got some blended DNAs, we have got Singaporean, German, British, Canadian, lots of different cultures coming together’’. According to Victoria, each of these unique individuals complement the organic structure of the agency with their own attributes. However, communication can be tricky given the diversity of cultural backgrounds and language barriers. “The British has a certain sense of humor, sometimes we like to sort of what we call ‘’banter at work” and that can be misinterpreted by other cultures…’’. Laughing matter aside, Victoria shared what has been the key to neutralize cultural differences as a leader. “I mean socially you don’t have to be everyone’s friend, they don’t have to laugh at your jokes but as long you respect each other at work and each other’s privacy and cultures.” She also insisted on keeping an open-mind, being able to laugh at yourself and take a load of with each other to relieve the tension while being considerate of others, whether it is their cultural or individual personalities. Her mindset is actually in line with Doug Stuart’s article about intercultural competence, which mentions openness as the first and foremost quality to achieve success in multicultural leadership. He stated that being open-minded and healthily curious lead one to new insights which consequently inform the leader’s decision-making, negotiation processing, contradictions management and ultimately developmental change within the organization.
Another Victoria’s other secret (no pun intended) for multicultural leadership is debate, debate, debate. “It’s actually very healthy to challenge each other”. Victoria believes having different point of views allows the team to look at multiple facets of an issue, which yields exhaustive resolution. According to Jaussi and Dionne (2003), exchange of ideas between leader and team members correlates positively with creative output and solution disclosures. Seldomly dictating her ideas, Victoria urges her team to challenge her thinking, even prove her wrong. When asked about if things ever get too heated, Victoria said “We get angry, frustrated. But we work such long hours together that we become something like a family”. It was then that I sensed behind that buoyant yet asserting manner of her was her growing love for her team and the agency.
Her journey and the agency’s in Vietnam have only just begun. But Victoria is still fervent in her search for the working recipe of running this one of a kind agency. “It’s a forever learning process, we are very young and organic, and we are still learning. We are still evolving.” For now, it is all about finding the right balance, the right dynamics, putting people in the positions and roles that will compliment their strengths, making sure that everyone is clear about their responsibilities and learn to appreciate the qualities the other possess that we do not. Last but not least, in a culturally diverse working environment, it is not only English but also mutual respect should be made the shared tongue. And that, is Victoria’s golden compass of leadership.
Interviewed by Ngoc Phan
Proof of life taken by Nhan Nguyen
Word count: 650
Jaussi, KS & Dionne, SD 2003, ‘Leading for creativity: The role of unconventional leader behavior’, The Leadership Quarterly, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 475-98.
Stuart, D 2011, ‘Leading successfully in the global multicultural environment: developing intercultural competence’, Diversity MBA Magazine, 16 March, viewed 18 January 2014, <http://diversitymbamagazine.com/leading-successfully-in-the-global-multicultural-environment-developing-intercultural-competence>.