FC Barcelona and Qatar Airways; A Unique Partnership

04 Oct

When you decide, after a history of 114 years, to do something that you did not do before, then it should be something unique.

I am talking about the historical partnership between the Blaugrana, FC Barcelona, and Qatar Foundation and then Qatar Airways.

The club that was founded in 1899 by a group of Catalan, English, and Swiss sports enthusiasts has never featured a commercial brand on its shirts throughout his entire history. That is one of the many symbols that made this sports club an icon of a unique blend of culture, geography, people resistance, wealth, and sports. Barcelona’s fans are known to be die-hard, conservative, and very sensitive to anything that comes near to their favorite team. So convincing them to have a non Catalan, a commercial brand on their shirts was an adventure of its own scale.

In my opinion, Barcelona had found a good match in Qatar Airways. It is, arguably, the most famous club in the world, joining efforts with the airlines always competing for the first spot in its industry. Many factors make the two brands look in harmony beside each other, they share many  values and traditions; aiming to the top, national pride, unmatched loyalty, and simply being the best in their fields are only few examples.

The below video is what brought this whole deal under my attention; a brilliant video that reflects the partnership between the two giant brands. I find the idea of the video very unique, yet very representative.

It is Barcelona F.C. land, where everything, and everybody, is about the team. The players are the ones welcoming you at the airport, stamping your passport, decorating the streets, and who better than Messy to give dancing classes at the local gym. a fictitious land, but yet very real. An idea that touches the club’s fans very deep inside; they support a one team, they belong together. I can bet my next two months salaries on the fact that true fans of the club would leave everything behind and move to the new land if it ever exists!

Of course you would need a way of transportation to go to this wonderland, and who is better than the best airways in the word to take you there.

A very clear message, a very distinctive way to show it. Shared values and consistency are the two main themes of this partnership. A successful one indeed.

A team that unites the world.


A CEO of Two Companies; A Hero or A Narcissist?

07 Sep


Someone should be really exceptional to serve as a CEO in two companies, don’t you think?

That what came across my mind while watching this (Arabic) interview with Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of the French Renault and the Japanese Nissan, in addition to being the Chairman and CEO of Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Mr. Ghosn is an exceptional leader indeed. He boldly stepped in and led a revival operation to save Nissan of its fatal destiny of bankruptcy back in the late 90’s. He is one of a handful of CEOs who reached a level of celebrity that is rare amongst his peers. He earned many nicknames throughout his distinctive career, “le cost killer” and “Mr. Fix it,” and recently, “the ultimate rock star of the auto industry.” His story was even turned into a Japanese comic book; that in itself is a big accomplishment given how sensitive the Japanese culture is.

Still, no matter how driven, brilliant, organized, and multicultural a leader might be, I find the idea of being at the top of two organizations a bit troublesome. Mr. Ghosn is not the first one to do it, the legendary CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, did it as well when he was in the driving seat of both Apple and Pixar at the same time.

I would argue that printing your name as the “CEO of X & Y” on a business card, or printing two different business cards for all I know, is not beneficial to neither X nor Y. No matter how superman-ly a person might be, it is near impossible for the human mind to bear the huge demands on its resources to be always present on two different fronts. These are two organizations; two different sets of values and objectives.

Steve Jobs should not be taken as an example here. Actually, he was barely involved with the day to day work of Pixar. Not only that, but he even confessed to his biographer, Walter Isaacson, that his health issues started to appear during his tenure as a CEO of the two companies.

I think it takes a huge amount of narcissism to believe in oneself ability to run two huge companies. The problem is, this narcissism reflects badly on everybody else in the organization. Yes there are exceptional leaders who have certain qualities that qualify them to take their companies, and maybe their whole industries, in new directions, and Mr, Ghosn could be one of them, but under the shadows of those leaders, there are others waiting for a chance to show their abilities, to prove their talents. Under the spotlight of a one man show, those potential candidates will end up frustrated, demotivated, crawling out of the stage; and that the last thing a leader would want in his or her team.

The interviewer asked Mr. Ghosn about how it feels to be a leader of two huge organizations at once, he kept repeating that ‘circumstances dictated this situation, it was not an option!’ Even if we submitted to this ambiguous justification, we could tolerate it for a little while after the alliance was forged, but keeping the status quo for many years since then is a bit … outrageous!

Problems are starting to emerge in the realm of Mr. Ghosn anyway; few days ago, the COO of Renault decided to resign and leave the company. Before leaving, he dropped some shocking remarks about losing hope in taking the top spot in the organization because “Mr. Ghosn is here to stay,” he said.

The bottom line is … leadership is about delegation as it is about influence. Nurturing the second in line is fatal to any organization sustainability. There are some views that see narcissism as a major part of any leader’s personality, maybe a bit of it, but when it turns into a repellent factor, it becomes toxic and it threatens the future of any organization.


Saudi Protection Against Abuse Law and Sexual Harassment

31 Aug

With better late that never in mind, the Saudi cabinet has finally passed the ‘Protection Against Abuse’ law few days ago. A one cannot help but wonder, is it enough?

The law seems to encompass so many flavors in one package; it deals with domestic violence, violence against children, and sexual harassment both in public and in workplace. Covering a huge scape like that, it is no surprise that the law comes across as both vague and drowned in generalities. Reading through its articles would leave you still thirsty for more! Check out these posts for more details (this one in English, and this one in Arabic).


By Stuart Miles/

One of the law’s objectives that I want to highlight here is the protection against workplace sexual harassment; the elephant in the room that many Saudi organizations like to pretend it just does not exist.

After being marginalized for so long, Saudi women are coming to claim their rightful place in the work market. And with such  transition comes many challenges; social and organizational, and one of those challenges is sexual harassment.

One would assume that we could build on the experience of the organizations which already have a huge percentage of women in its workforce like banks and hospitals; the sad truth is, there is no much to learn. They might have nicely written policies and guidelines, but when it comes to enforcing these policies, it’s another story altogether.

The nature of sexual harassment itself makes it a very delicate crime to spot, report, and punish. Most of its victims, mostly women, find it really hard to come forward and report it; they fear publicity, company’s and coworkers’ reaction, the ability to prove it, and the lack of whistle blowing protection practices. In a recent poll by HuffPost, 13% of respondents reported being harassed by a superior, and 19% harassed by another coworker; 70% of those harassed did NOT report the incident.

And if it is hard to report sexual harassment in a socially open country, imagine how it would be for a Saudi woman who lived and raised in a segregated society, and has been asked throughout her life to keep a low profile and worry to death about her reputation.

After all that, will the new law help in preventing sexual harassment in the workplace? My answer is … not necessarily! If the organizations are not willing to deal with the responsibilities they have toward their female employees, the situation is not expected to enhance much.

The way out starts with the organizations strengthen their own internal anti harassment polices, they could  build upon and connect to this national law. Also, now it is a good opportunity, with the just law freshly out, for women to demand clearer policies against sexual harassment from their employers. And it would be also good from the Ministry of Labor to demand stricter policies against sexual harassment from all organizations employing women.

Once the rules are in place, education comes next. The workforce should be educated about sexual harassment policies and provided with safe channels to report any incidents.


Global Corruption Barometer 2013; It is Still A Long Way Ahead

12 Jul
via scottchan/

via scottchan/

Corruption is everywhere; that’s the result of the Global Corruption Barometer 2013 report published by the society of Transparency International. 114,000 respondents from 107 countries took part in this large survey to measure how corruption affects people lives around the world.

The results are truly repulsive; you would think the world would be doing much better in the days of globalization and social networks based communication, it does not. More than one out of four respondents have paid a bribe during last year; it is either you pay, or you will be prevented from getting the service you are entitled to.

Here are some of the key findings of the report:

  • Surprisingly, institutions entrusted to protect people are scoring high in bribery levels. 31% of respondents reported paying a bribe to police, 24% to judicial system.
  • Majority of people do not believe that governments are doing enough to fight corruptions.
  • Almost two out of three believe that personal connections could help you get things done when they shouldn’t (yes, you’ve guessed it right, it is Wasta).
  • 54% believe that governments are administrated in a way that favors certain powerful groups rather than all citizens.

It comes as no surprise that the Arab world is performing badly in the survey, that despite the claims that the unrest currently sweeping the region can be traced back to fighting corrupted governments and abusive use of power. All the countries affected by the so called ‘Arab Spring’ are scoring higher levels of corruption compared to two years ago, around the time most of the events started to unfold.

Let’s take examples:

-          Egypt

  • 37% believe that corruption has increased in the past two years.
  • 28% believe that the country is administrated in favor of big influencers.
  • Only 5% believe that the government is doing what it takes to fight corruption.
  • 72% believe that political parties are corrupt/extremely corrupt.
  • 80% consider the media to be corrupt/extremely corrupt.
  • 65% believe that the judicial system is corrupt/extremely corrupt.
  • 38% have paid a bribe to police.
  • 21% have paid a bribe to medical service.

-          Tunisia

  • 61% believe that corruption has increased in the past two years.
  • 20% believe that the country is administrated in favor of big influencers.
  • Only 11% believe that the government is doing what it takes to fight corruption.
  • 66% believe that political parties are corrupt/extremely corrupt.
  • 53% consider the media to be corrupt/extremely corrupt.
  • 56% believe that the judicial system is corrupt/extremely corrupt.
  • 43% have paid a bribe to police.
  • 38% have paid a bribe to medical service.


Saudi Arabia takes no part in the report; either data could not be collected, or could not be verified.


How to Deal with the Cultural Shock – Arab News

25 Jun

In my last article “The ‘culture shock’ many scholarship students face abroad,” I talked about how a person exposed to a new environment usually goes through a number of phases that start with fascination, when everything is new and shiny, to negotiation phase, when differences start to appear, and then comes the adjustment phase, when the person decides his or her attitude toward the new endeavor, and then there is final phase, coping or rejecting the new life.

Now, given that virtually everyone is vulnerable to experience the cultural shock, the question that begs to be asked is; how can we deal with it?

The first step is to get yourself familiar with the new environment. Read about it, follow its news, listen to its music, watch movies and TV shows coming from it. Be familiar with its cultural and social norms. Small things as trivial as how people tip, and what are their local dishes could make a big difference. The age of communication leaves you with no excuses to realize a comprehensive research; any country, any people, their language, customs, traditions, and lifestyle are all clicks and tweets away.

Continue …

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The ‘Culture Shock’ Many Scholarship Students Face Abroad – Arab News

11 Jun

Every time I hear a story of a scholarship student gone astray, the issue of cultural shock just pops to mind. It is a universal reality; anyone who leaves his or her usual environment to a newer and different one would go through that. The impact, however, differs from a person to another; personal traits and social background play a major role in how a person copes and interacts with their new environment.

Many Saudis, scholarship students in particular, seem to take the cultural shock very hard. It is like they were never prepared to deal with it before traveling to study abroad. They usually react in one of three ways to it: either learning to cope and reaping the benefits of being exposed to a new culture, or rejecting the new environment and submitting to feelings of alienation, loneliness and self imposed isolation, or boiled over by a new found “freedom”, they become totally over zealous, uncontrollable and end up in difficult and questionable moral and legal situations.


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Let’s Get to the Root of the Problem – Arab News

21 May

The topics of women’s rights, protection against domestic violence, abuse and sexual harassment are no longer strangers to the Saudi media. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, both international and local studies reflect a very appalling image about Saudi society in that regard.

In the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, Saudi Arabia ranked 131 out of 135 in (2012), and according to a survey by the Saudi National Family Safety Program, husbands commit 65 percent of domestic violence cases, and 88.5 percent of those surveyed believe that victims need some sort of protection by the government.


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A Message from Angels

14 May

If we make a survey about the most underappreciated professions ever, it would not surprise me to see nursing on the top of the list.

Add that to the distorted image of nurses we have in the local culture, and you should stand up and salute any Saudi, male or female, who decided to pursue nursing as a profession (check out my Arab News article about the same topic).

Hopefully, this should all disappear as the society grows more open to change, to see its own sons and daughters directly participating in its renaissance.

here is a message from them, from the Angels of mercy:


Internet Etiquette Needs to be Addressed – Arab News

11 May

My last Monday article on Arab News … Arabs and Internet, we have a long way to go.


Why You Should Consider the LASIK Operation

09 May

Yesterday marked the first week anniversary of my LASIK operation. I  still have a blurry vision and unannounced tears, but I am glad I finally done it.

Say bye bye to eyeglasses!

I have been a friend to eyeglasses for more than 20 years. It is a tough decision to let them go I have to admit. I still look for them the first thing in the morning, and I still reach to remove them whenever I bow for a pray.

The surprising thing is that I was totally against this sight correction operation few months ago. My logic was simple, I only have a pair of eyes, why should I play with them? why take the risk?

Do not ask me what happened, I just decided to go through with the whole thing. A sense of adventure was born, a need to change strived.

Maybe it was not fear all that time, maybe it was the lack of that sense of change and adventure!

Now that I did it, you can too. Let me tell you why:

- No more hunting campaigns: When you just take them off, put them down, and you totally forget where you left them? It is frustration in its purest forms. You will be bouncing around in the house, from a room to another, from a table to a stand, mostly with no luck. And that when the hunting campaign starts. The whole family is recruited to look for the missing item. I can listen to my wife and kids shouting ‘bathroom: clear, bedroom clear’ as they go on their mission. They say the first 48 hours are the most critical in the cases of missing persons, and I say the first 5 min are the most critical in the cases of missing glasses. And just when the hope of soldiers is fading away, comes the shout of relief “I found it, I found it, here in the kitchen.” So after the exhausting 5 min of glasses-hunt, no one would actually care to ask “how did the glasses reach the kitchen anyway?” As we all know, some questions are better left unanswered!

It’s fashion, stupid: if shoes are only made to keep your feet out of dirt, and watches are made to tell the time, then glasses are made to make your sight better. You and I both know that this is not true. Shoes, watches, and glasses are all fashion statements, characteristics used to define your personality. We could argue about which secret organization was behind all this fashion extravaganza, but it is a fact now, glasses are part of your brand. That’s why it takes time, efforts, and money to maintain it. So on one hand, no more worries about how fashionable your frame is, and on the other hand, a new world of sunglasses is opened for you. As you know, your choices were limited. You needed to choose a frame that can be modified. Not anymore; you can now walk in any glasses shop, pick the sunglasses you like, and walk out with your head held high. The king, with the new sunglasses, just left the building.

Before I leave you here I have to thank Dr. Mohamed Hantera for his graciousness and warm personality. It was a piece of cake, Doc. And I would also like to thank the assistant who led me through the whole check ups before the operation, and the nurses who pronounce my name in a funny way :)

Here are a couple of videos of Dr. Hantera explaining the operation; if the above points weren’t able to convience you to take it, maybe he can.


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