My wife and I were in Cairo on Valentines Day. I was not aware that the day was robustly celebrated in Egypt. There were heart decorations on trees and many other celebration displays. We were staying at the Fairmont Hotel overlooking the Nile River. The staff at the hotel were amazingly friendly and helpful.
We were having a drink as we looked at the lights reflecting off the river. One of the staff asked me to let him know ten minutes before we went to our room, which I did. When we arrived in our room, there was soft music, over 100 small candles strategically placed in the room including around the large bathtub filled with warm water. There were rose petals floating in the water, rose petals forming a heart on the bathroom floor and scattered throughout the room. Two glasses of one of our favorite sparkling drinks were on the counter. Needless to say, it was a very memorable Valentines Day.
Holidays are Important
It is amazing how significant holidays can be in creating a lasting impression. Holidays play a special role in our lives.
We were working with a professional from Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University learning about managing global relationships in business. One of his statements really stuck with me. He said, “You don’t understand another culture unless you understand the meaning behind their heroes and their holidays.”
To manage relationships globally, it is important to understand and respect holidays and customs in each country. Too often, I hear of global conference calls or meetings scheduled without respect for the holidays in other countries. It is often due to obliviousness by the organizer. The impression on those negatively impacted is seldom voiced, but often resented.
The first step is to be aware of global holidays. I know experienced global leaders who place important dates on their calendar so they can work around them. If there is an occasion where conflict is unavoidable, it is essential to acknowledge the issue, allow the person to not attend, or make other accommodations.
I strongly encourage you to use holidays to build relationships with your global team members. By respecting their holidays, and asking them to talk to the team about the significance of certain holidays, you honor their customs — and its valuable and interesting information for those who hear the stories.