Don Khouri Blog

What I Learned at Fidelity, Part 2 -- Build Strong Relationships

Posted by Don Khouri on Mon, Dec 21, 2009

This is the second in a series of blog entries about What-I-Learned-At-Fidelity-Investments-About-Being-a-Leader

Building strong and strategHandshake, relationships, productivityic relationships is a critical skill in furthering one's success; one that I encourage you to learn and executive effectively.  It is an especially vital and important skill for leaders to acquire.  One technology executive shared the following words of wisdom with me; I have never forgotten them.  "When you have strong relationships, big issues become small ones, and when you have weak relationships, small issues become big ones."

Being partial to small issues, I recall an instance when we were experiencing a system outage and not providing the service our customers were accustomed to receiving.  Certainly a serious issue, however, it was an easy phone call to those customers with whom I had built and fostered strong relationships.  They understood, trusted me and my team to solve the issue, and gave me the time and latitude to do that.  For those where my relationships were not as strong, the trust was not as high, and I had to spend more time explaining our action plan, providing status updates, and communicating our progress.

It takes time and planning to build relationships.  It may be easy to focus on the "work" and put relationships to the side, however it is part of your job as a leader to develop these relationships both for your benefit and your team's.  Block time on your calendar, reach out to those that are important, and spend formal and informal time building critical relationships.  In addition, fostering relationships is equally important in order to keep them strong and vibrant, and also takes planning and a commitment of time.

When I worked with a company in Paris developing payroll software, I learned that, "in the US, the work is the goal and the relationship is the tool.  In France, the relationship is the goal, and the work is the tool."  Perhaps we should consider moving a little closer to the middle of this spectrum. 

One of my managers was masterful at building strong relationships with both business partners and peers. The strength of his relationships enhanced his credibility and the respect that those individuals showed him.  It made his job easier and it made my job easier.  I try to carry this lesson with me and make time to focus on, build, and foster relationships.

Think about some of your current challenges.  Think about what is going well for you.

Don's Coaching Questions:

  • How does the strength of your relationships play a role in your challenges and in what is going well? 
  • What are three key relationships you could improve upon?
  • What can you do to begin to re-build, and/or foster those relationships?
  • What impact will these stronger relationships have on your work?

Tags: productivity, leadership, relathionships, Fidelity

Is Motivation Just for Kindergarteners?

Posted by Don Khouri on Sat, Dec 12, 2009

Motivation, technology leaders, producivity

I can't help but comment on Adalius Thomas' statement this week that "motivation is for kindergarteners" in response to Patriots' coach Bill Belichick sending him and three other players home after arriving late for practice.  I am not commenting on whether or not Belichick did the right thing, or even if this was the best way to motivate his team.

What I would like to comment on is motivation.  It is not just for kindergarteners.  We all need it. I like Zig Ziglar's quote, "People often say that motivation doesn't last.  Well, neither does bathing -- that's why we recommend it daily."

Perhaps you can motivate yourself, perhaps you use something external to get you motivated, or perhaps you use someone else like a coach to keep you motivated.  Bottom line is that we all need to be motivated on a regular basis. 

Don's Coaching Questions:

  • What motivates you?
  • When you are stuck, what tricks to you use to get unstuck?
  • What distracts you from your goals?

What do you think?

Tags: productivity, motivation

What I Learned At Fidelity Investments About Being a Leader

Posted by Don Khouri on Thu, Dec 10, 2009

Ten Strategies You Need to Excel as a Leader 

The rules of the game keep changing, and the rate of change is increasing, all being driven by the rapid pace of improving technology.  As a technology leader at Fidelity Investments for 21 years, I learned a great deal about being a leader and how to work in this fast-paced, ever-evolving industry.  Fidelity is well known for its commitment to technology and uses technology solutions to its competitive advantage. For example, Fidelity was the first to offer automated phone services, the first to allow customers to withdraw funds from Money Market accounts, and has always been on the forefront of electronic trading.  To the best of my knowledge Fidelity spends more on technology as a percentage of revenue than any other financial services firm.  

During my tenure at Fidelity I played many different leadership roles managing global software development teams from Boston to Bangalore and Dallas to Merrimack.  The teams that I was responsible for focused on a broad array of projects and products over time including the delivery of back-end systems to support Fidelity Active Trader,  B2B conversion, market data systems, payroll quality, and retirement services quality. 

From my experience, I found that there were ten key factors that directly contributed to my success as a leader.  For the next ten weeks I plan to address each of these factors individually and highlight what I believe are the necessary ingredients to excel as a leader.

1.  Build Strong Relationships
2.  Master Communication
3.  Understand the Big Picture, and Know the Details.
4.  Adapt to Change
5.  "No" is not Acceptable
6.  Have a Sense of Urgency
7.  Produce Results
8.  Improve Every Day
9.  Develop your People
10.  Develop Yourself

It is important to note that when I use the term leader, I am not referring solely to those who manage other people.  A leader is also someone who manages projects or an individual who needs to coordinate and get things done across many groups or teams which involve large numbers of people.  In my mind, a leader is someone who influences a group of people towards the achievement of a goal (  

The rules of the game keep changing, and the rate of change is increasing, all being driven by the rapid pace of improving technology.  As a leader you have to not only lead effectively, but also figure out the game-changing rules that apply at the same time.  The best leaders are the ones who actually define the rules.   Over the next ten weeks I hope to enlighten you with what I believe are the ten key factors to focus on in becoming an effective, productive, and successful leader.

Next time:  Build Strong Relationships

Tags: productivity, leadership, technology, software development