Surviving the Macau Manager Turnstile: Counsel for Expat Managers
by Sudhir Kale

Surviving the Macau Manager Turnstile: Counsel for Expat Managers

The increasing traffic through Macau casinos’ revolving doors for managers and key executives, particularly at the foreign-owned casino properties, could make even the boldest of managers squeamish. Indeed, with massive capacity expansion, and impending signs of the VIP market stagnating, every property will actively be looking for Fall Guys. What can expat managers do to maintain their position of power and influence in Macau? In three words, learn to communicate.

Whether you spend the day talking with customers, or rallying the troops, or both, the single-most critical competency on which you are continuously being appraised is communication. The word communication derives from the Latin word “communis,” to have in common. The failure or sub-optimal performance of most executives in Macau can largely be ascribed to their inability to communicate effectively. This inability stems largely from the cultural and personality differences between the executives and the people they are interacting with.

Cultural differences also come into play when communicating with junket operators and VIP Room Operators. For the most part, these individuals tend not to be widely exposed to Western mannerisms and nuances. Their contact with Western managers, until recently, has been limited, and establishing rapport with expats becomes difficult for them. Given the fierce competition for the services of junket operators, the responsibility of developing long-lasting relationships with these individuals rests squarely on the side of the casino personnel.

Most expat casino executives drafted for Macau have minimal training in cross-cultural communication. Interactions with strategic partners (VIP Room Operators and Junket Agents), customers, as well as employees therefore become a severe challenge given the massive cultural differences. To make matters worse, most of culture operates below the level of conscious awareness. Edward T. Hall, in commenting on the enormous complexity inherent in grasping cultural influences comments, “Most of culture lies hidden and is outside voluntary control, making up the warp and weft of human existence. It penetrates to the roots of [an individual’s] nervous system and determines how he perceives the world. Even when small fragments of culture are elevated to awareness, they are difficult to change.”

If culture is one significant barrier to communication, personality is another. Our personalities determine how we perceive the world around us, how we process information, how we think, how we feel, how we communicate, and how we like to be valued. If you want to be an effective communicator, you need solid understanding of personality typing. The two frameworks I have found to be most useful are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Enneagram. Both have the potential to offer prescient insights when it comes to understanding oneself and others. These insights can then be used to fill the wide communication gaps that thwart any attempts to deliver information and build relationships.

If you are an expat in Macau, making an investment in understanding cross-cultural communication and in comprehending the impact of personality on dyadic interactions could be the best strategic decision you will ever make. It could be the magic wand that saves you from the casino guillotine. Do yourself a favour. Sign up for intensive courses in cross-cultural interactions and personality typing. Better yet, organize an in-company program for your entire work team. Use the insights gained from this pursuit in your daily communication. Observe the effects. You will be amazed. Understanding the basis of communication does indeed go a long way in creating trust, establishing rapport, and getting your point across. What’s more, it is your retrenchment insurance in the increasingly turbulent Macanese gaming environment.

Date Posted: 03-Sep-2007

Sudhir Kale, Ph.D., is the Founder of GamePlan Consultants and Professor of Marketing at Bond University in Australia. He is also Associate Director of the Centre for Globalisation and Development at Bond University. Sudhir is a world-renowned expert on the marketing aspects of casino management. He has conducted over one hundred seminars on cross-cultural interactions, use of the Myers-Briggs Type indicator in business, neurolinguistic programming, and the Enneagram. You can write to Sudhir at skale@gameplanconsultants.net or visit his Website, www.gameplanconsultants.net.

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