DAD.CEO had the pleasure to interview Dubai based Ziad Awad, a gifted CEO, financial advisor and a dedicated father to 3 wonderful children. We have to admit that his approach to setting an ‘ALGORITHM’ for making time-saving decisions attracted our curiosity and the answer made complete sense for today's busy DAD CEOs!
DAD.CEO: What is the best advice you have received on being a father that you use in your daily life?
ZA: When I was a young trader as Goldman Sachs I told my boss I would be leaving work early that day as my wife had just given birth. My boss, who was a very good trader and also a great family man answered me: “Remember, the most important thing with family and being a good father is managing expectations. Whether you arrive 5 minutes late or early, remember to manage expectation in the right way – that way, you will minimize disappointments.”
Another great piece of advice that I use not only in my family life but also in business came from a colleague who was quite the family man too:
“Under-promise and over-deliver”
The worst thing you can do, particularly with a child, is to break a promise. The next worst thing is to over-promise and under-deliver.
In an ideal world, you would under-promise and over-deliver. This is something that I thrive for with family as well as in business.
DAD.CEO: How do you ‘unplug’ with your family/children?
ZA: In the age of connectivity where work follows us everywhere through mobile phones, and our children who from a young age start having their own mobile phones, tablets, etc., we have become a very digitally connected society. So, I think in that regard it’s very important to “be in the moment”. To realize that time is very precious. If we are going to be together, then we need to be together in the same room, and not on the phone with other people.
Having lunch with his daughter Julie at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Spending quality time in Dubai with his sons Antony (left) and Lucas (right)
As parents, we set a rule that we will not be looking at our phones when we are with our children. With my children, we regularly carve out time together, so whether it’s having a meal, doing homework or simply relaxing time together, our time is quite short and it’s not like we are hanging out together all day long. To keep the balance and attention, we agreed that we can take a pause and check our social media for a maximum of 10 minutes. And that is OK when it’s done in a conscious way, but the rule generally has to be that when we are together, then it’s “phones down”.
Ziad and his son Antony believe in keeping a healthy lifestyle
DAD.CEO: Being in the financial and investment business, are you teaching your kids about business and money management?
ZA: All of my children have in a way been with me to meetings with clients because I often combine my time away with them with business trips. As well, I am sometimes on calls when driving and my children would be in the car with me. What I found, is that immersing children even from a very young age into a business environment can have its benefits. It’s surprising and interesting, the ability for children to absorb and learn by listening and being exposed to a variety of business situations.
I believe the key to their learning is that they ask very candid questions, and to answer them as well in a very candid manner because we should never take anything for granted in terms of things being made simple, easy or trivial to understand. So, it’s important to encourage children to ask questions. This applies as well to business or any other part of life or education when children ask questions – to answer them in a simple way. And it’s sometimes a chance to teach them more. But, children don’t like to have their questions taken advantage of to teach them about something else. They like exact answers to a precise question. And more often than not, they will bounce back with a follow-up question anyway.
Mountain hiking in Lebanon with his son Lucas
DAD.CEO: Do you feel that mothers who are CEO’s have it harder at balancing their work/life duties than DAD.CEO’s?
ZA: I believe this to be true. I have a few friends who are mothers and CEOs/business owners. Traditional society is built in a way that the expectations from mothers at home are generally higher than from fathers, almost regardless of how big their responsibilities at work are. So even if they have the most supportive husbands/partners, balancing work/life would still be an additional challenge. In addition, they often put more pressures on themselves as opposed to how men would, in terms of the time that they spend with their children vs being at work.
DAD.CEO: The word NO is a powerful word in business, but how does its meaning work with your children or do you believe in the opposite in YES with them?
ZA: I really love this question. I believe it goes to two opposing factors. The first one is that it’s important to be candid and honest with people in general and with children in particular. If the answer needs to be NO – It’s good to say NO, but it needs to come from a desire for honesty and clarity. Honesty is very reassuring for children because they don’t usually like mystery and in general, people don’t like being outright lied to.
The opposing factor is that it’s very important to be positive with children. It’s important to always highlight the positives and also when trying to correct the behavior in a child as opposed to focusing on the negative by saying things like: “It’s bad” which can lower the self-esteem of a child. But saying NO to a very factual question is actually very powerful and effective with a child. An example of this would be when your child asks you whether you will be home tomorrow for dinner – I can say, “No, unfortunately tomorrow I have a meeting with an important client. But the day after we can meet for dinner”.
"NO is a very powerful word to use and one should not be shy of using it correctly and honestly."
DAD.CEO: They say lead by example. What examples should a CEO demonstrate that adds equal value at home to his children?
ZA: You can’t have a different set of values at work versus at home. I believe the values that are most important both at work and at home are:
4- Humility – Saying things as they are because it is easy to fall in the trap of EGO – the opposite of humility. Because society has such a cult of CEOs, there is a risk of becoming engrossed into that narrative. While it’s important with certain stakeholders to maintain an aura around the CEO, it is also very important to maintain the candor, the humility which got you to this position in the first place.
DAD.CEO: What would be your top 5 tips for being a successful DAD.CEO?
ZA: My top 5 tips are:
1- Balance is the key: set your priorities and follow them - by the hour, day, week, etc.
2- Managing expectations: under-promise and over-deliver
3- Be true to your word: honesty and candor
4- Simplify your life: have a mental algorithm that automates the low-end decisions / simple ones / the repetitive ones
5- Master the art of delegation: invest in people and build trust
Family time at the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club (Left to right) Antony, Lucas, and Julie
DAD.CEO: Can you give us a ‘Time Hack’ that you use in your family/business life?
ZA: Set your priorities and follow them rigorously.
You have to realize that you cannot do everything at the same time. You cannot be all things to all people all the time. But rather, you can be all things to some people all the time. For example, if you have 1 day off, then you need to decide if this will be a family day, working day or a me-time personal day? If you are not clear with yourself and with the people around you what this day will be, then you are most likely doomed for failure because you will disappoint everybody.
On the other hand, if you set the priorities with your children such as “for the next hour I am with you and only with you”and you turn down phone calls, you don’t check emails, and clear your mind of other matters, then it will be a happy time as you have managed the expectation of the people you work with as they understand they cannot bother you and you gave 100% of your attention to your children.
Ziad cycling in the New York City with his daughter Julie
On the other side, if you need to get ready for a major presentation/board meeting, then you can tell your child that you cannot spend time on a specific day; as you need to get ready for work. It’s OK as long as this does not become the rule for every weekend. You can also tell your office that you will be working all day on Saturday so that all will be ready in time and fully prepared. This in turn also reassures your colleagues and any supporting resources can accordingly set time aside to help you be more efficient.
DAD.CEO: Sounds easier said than done. Can you elaborate?
ZA: For myself, this very tip/advice is in a sense an ‘ALGORITHM’ of setting priorities and following them.
Balance – you cannot be successful or happy without BALANCE. There might be days or weeks when you are solely focusing the balance on 1 thing which is part of the algorithm. You might be just fully focused on solving a key problem at work or you might decide that you will be fully dedicated to your family. At the end of the day, the secret is about BALANCE. If you don’t look after your family, you will simply be miserable. But of course, if you don’t focus on your work, you are going to fail; and if you don’t look after your health, you won’t be available for either your work or family. So, realizing that balance is key and deciding how to apply the algorithm becomes the key to prioritizing on how to take those decisions.
DAD.CEO: But how to approach balancing when everything is moving faster and faster and requiring us to be constantly ‘plugged-in’?
ZA: The best advice I can give is to simplify your life. Start by minimizing any decisions which need to be taken on a daily basis. Because you can only make so many decisions in a given day or hour. I try to come up with a method where the maximum number of decisions becomes automated. It can be as simple as what you wear in the morning (example: Zuckerberg’s infamous t-shirts, sweat tops, sneakers or Jobs and his jeans and black turtlenecks, etc.) This is only the tip of the iceberg on what a successful CEO can do to simplify his life and focus on the priorities.
Try to extend the list where you automate the most benign decisions. So, you don’t waste time thinking on matters such as: “Should I drive or walk?, Should I order food or go out for lunch?, Should it be a call or a meeting? Our office or the client’s office? Etc…”
Automated decisions must be made so that you can focus on the more important things such as “Should we raise equity or debt? Should we build or acquire? Should we risk the deal by negotiating an extra term or close it now?” As a CEO, strategic matters need to be your main priorities. You cannot have space in your brain for low-end decisions.
"Have an algorithm for the low-end/easy/repetitive decisions."
About Ziad Awad - Chief Executive Officer, Awad Capital
Ziad founded Awad Capital in March 2013. In response to client demand, the firm rapidly grew to offer a diversified range of financial services, operating from the DIFC with a category 4 DFSA license. Ziad is personally involved in all client engagements with a particular emphasis on connecting the best investment opportunities with the most suitable sources of capital.
From 2007 to 2012, Ziad was a Managing Director with Merrill Lynch in Dubai, then Bank of America Merrill Lynch, where he occupied a number of senior positions including Senior Executive Officer for the DIFC branch, Head of Capital markets and Financing and Head of Investment Banking for Industrials, Energy & Power. He executed numerous advisory assignments, including for TAQA, Lamprell, Dubai Holding, Qatari Diar, ACWA Power; as well as a number of financing deals.
From 1994 to 2007, Ziad was with Goldman Sachs in Paris (4 years), then London (9 years) then Dubai. He started his career as a Government bond trader then moved to the debt capital markets where he executed close to half a trillion-dollar of bond deals including for the World Bank, The Federal Republic of Germany, HBOS, The Republic of Italy, The Kingdom of Belgium, Exportfinans. He was also a board member and Executive Director of MTS Associated Markets, an Electronic Trading company.
Ziad holds a masters from ESSEC in France and is an avid sailor.