A Year in Review 2017
Lessons Learned and Protocol Pointers
Happy New Year! The shock of time passing is slowly fading, and while I still find myself dating documents 2016, I know that it has happened again: another year has zipped by in a blink of an eye. As many of you have probably done, I have been reading, hearing, and seeing endless ‘year in review’ articles and television and radio stories.
One year in review list that appeared in my inbox even listed these by category! If you’re tired of these, then skip this month’s newsletter. But I thought I would join the crowd, and do my own list of trends and events that shaped our lives in 2016 with a twist–sharing some lessons learned and protocol pointers.
- 1. Breakups–Brexit. Bigger than Brangelina, “Brexit” may well be the best moniker in the news since the concept of assigning nicknames to celebrity couples began with Bennifer (according to my extensive research and the Huffington Post). Commanding nearly as much attention as the breakup of Brad and Angelina, but with consequences that are much more far-reaching, Britain broke up with the European Union and is in the process of exiting. There were many lessons learned, but I’ll address just one.
- Protocol Pointer: The name “Brexit” made a complex news story more accessible and understandable to the general public, demonstrating that what we call events, places, and most of all, people, is fundamental to how we understand and relate to them. Names are critically important, so when hosting international guests, triple check to get them right. Spell correctly: is it Kazakhstan or Kazakstan (trick question, both are correct, so choose one, and then be consistent). Know the structure of naming systems in your visitor’s country or culture: which is the family name in Zhang Ziyi? Is this person male or female? That would be Ms. Zhang. Some Asian, Latin, and Middle Eastern names can be confusing to the uninformed, so know the rules. Pronounce a name as the individual does, because that person is the only one whose opinion matters, in an era when even experts don’t always agree on pronunciations. Watch this video on the proper pronunciation of Qatar.
- 2. Business & Tech: from fires in the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, to Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn, the tech world continued to make headlines. Electronic devices take up more and more of our time (watch out for text neck!), while better applications and software give us new ways to market our skills, be productive, and have fun. There’s no hiding from change, so I am trying to become a reformed troglodyte and learn new skills.
- Lessons Learned: Whatever your field, a key goal should be continuing education. By conquering my reluctance to try to new technology, I learned you can teach an old dog new tricks. In 2016, I learned to use Zoom, a free video conferencing program that is incredibly user friendly. Evernote has changed my life; its organizational tools are invaluable. I keep all my lists here, from project to-do’s to books to read. Thanks to my colleagues who shared their knowledge and introduced me to these tools. Kathy, I’ll let you know how I do with Doodle.
- 3. New Doors Open: Thanks to President Obama’s initiative and his historic trip to Cuba in March 2016, marking the normalization process between the United States and Cuba, more and more people are traveling between these two neighbors. In the fall of 2016, the Rice University baseball team, the Owls, visited Cuba for a series of baseball games against the Cuban Baseball Federation. However, after just one game, the rest were cancelled, as Cuba mourned the death of Fidel Castro. The student athletes continued with their class schedule and sports diplomacy as they toured the country, meeting and interacting with the Cuban people, including a pick-up baseball game with local children.
- Protocol Pointer: Flexibility is key in international travel, diplomacy, and business. Things happen that can ruin the best well-laid plans if you let them. You must be able to adapt to changing situations, especially abroad. It helps if you can do as the Owls did, and turn challenge and adversity into a positive learning experience. Background: the team learned a bit about protocol and diplomacy before the trip. Advance preparation included a study on the politics, history, and culture of Cuba; research; careful planning; gifts of baseball equipment; and the translation of some key words, including calling themselves “Los Búhos.”
- 4. Books & Culture: I read many good books in 2016. I tend to read more non-fiction, especially books that tie into my work, so books on protocol, diplomacy, cross-cultural issues, and business etiquette line my walls. But these subjects are universal and can be found in all kinds of literature, too. One of my favorite examples was in The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, by Dominic Smith. There was a scene at a benefit dinner and auction, that describes the seating chart kept by the host, Marty. ‘He puts the wealthiest guests nearest the silent auction table and instructs the catering staff to replenish their wineglasses every fifteen minutes. This strategy has made a decade of hosting these dinners for the Aid Society the most profitable on record.”
- Protocol Pointer: Details matter, and protocol elements like seating and working closely with the catering team, are essential to the success of any event. Be strategic and considerate when putting your seating chart together, whether you’re trying to: encourage bidding, get two senior officials together, include guests who speak the visitor’s language, or accommodate the person who can only hear out of his left ear.
- 5. Conflict & Tragedy: Orlando, Dallas, Istanbul, Nice, Brussels, the refugee crisis, an EgyptAir flight breaks up in midair, the Isis threat… These were just some of the places, events, and issues in the headlines when conflict occurred and tragedy struck again and again. Each incident gave us pause and cause to wonder what is wrong with the world. Yet there were also many stories of triumph, of good people helping and reaching out to those in need, of people doing good things to make a difference and change the world. It’s important to look for and pay attention to these stories, too, even though they may be harder to find. You may have to search for them since the media and we tend to focus on the negative. Here are a few feel-good stories that may inspire you as you begin 2017.
Lesson Learned: When all seems lost you can overcome, survive, and thrive.
Regardless of our backgrounds, where we come from, what language we speak, what music we listen to, how we dress, where we pray, or who we vote for, I believe there are some fundamental unbreakable threads that tie us together. Things like hope for a better tomorrow, a world of peace, a good education for our children, enough food to eat, good health, shelter to keep us warm or cool, the opportunity to improve our lives, and the ability to love and be loved. If we can see these threads in each other and seek to understand each other, we can build a better world for all together.
Be the change you want to see in the world.Mahatma Gandhi
Wishing you all that is good in 2017,
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