If you have been to a formal business dinner in Italy, you know the importance of the correct seating arrangements. I have seen a caucus break called during the actual business meeting for our Italian hosts to work on the correct and appropriate dinner arrangements. Cultural traditions and formalities such as this keeps me interested and learning.
A couple years ago, my Italian business partners did a "piccolo atto di rispetto" (Italian for “small act of respect”) that truly impressed me. My wife, Barbara, was traveling with me on business to Italy for the first time and was invited to join the dinner event. While she did not know at the start of dinner, but she was seated at the top guest table position (that would be the seat to the right of the highest ranking leader from the host company). This sent a clear message to all those attending the dinner that she was the guest of honor. My hosts took the time to consider that I had been working with them for many years and had my time in that seat. For that evening, I was in the number two guest position (to the left of the host). Barbara was served first, approved the vino and was treated with great respect.
Upon returning to the states from that trip, I have always considered the importance of the small things we can do as leaders to demonstrate respect to our teams, customers and suppliers.
Have you experienced small lessons such as this that changed the way you act in the future?