7 Questions with Mahmoud Awad

Name: Mahmoud Awad

Current title: Chief Operating Officer - Egypt & New Frontiers

Current organisation: SAP

A Seasonal executive with 14+ years of professional experience within the ICT & IT.
Including 10+ Years of Sales and Business management with extensive knowledge in the EMEA Market, Service Providers and channel development/management.
Building on a strong technical foundation of 4+ years in the IT Operations and Support within the Oil & Gas industry with a broad knowledge across different technologies and Applications.

1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?

One of the most important pillars and ultimately the most important asset of any organization is its people and equally it’s the most challenging part, building a robust and resilient team that genuinely push in the same direction with passion, common belief and act as multipliers is of a very high importance and almost the most important aspect for an organization success... it’s about the balance of leading the people, coach, mentor and guide them while ensuring empowerment & accountability.

Enhancing the top line and securing a healthy P&L ... overall profitability and customer satisfaction...etc are all equally important and challenging however I believe establishing the right team would always be the first priority as the cornerstone for success.

2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I’ve been super passionate about my sales career and I can say it was a super rewarding and exciting journey and even I wasn’t planning or foreseeing this move to the leadership team however it was for the years of hard work along with my leadership trust that allowed me to step in and carry this responsibility, our company was in a growing phase and had a very aggressive growth plan in the Egyptian Market hence a need for a COO to partner with the Managing Director and look after the operations and execution supporting the business growth was becoming more and more crucial for us to scale.

It just came in the right time where I was looking for a change in my career and was feeling the urge to push the boundaries and elevate my area of focus and responsibility that’s when I openly showed my interest to the move and readiness to go through the interviewing and selection process... it was a real thrilling move yet full of excitement and passion cause it carried lots of challenges starting from being a huge responsibility specially the timing where we are growing and have a very aggressive strategy coupled with the fact that it’s my first move into leadership and it’s not just to a people managing role but all the way to the top of the organization as part of the leadership team.

But the Managing Director’s trust, support and mentoring along with the very supportive team, competent and trustworthy colleagues paved the route for a very successful headstart and I was focusing from day one to prove myself and be a catalyst for a better version of who we are as an organization.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I start my day looking into our dashboards and analyzing where we are Vs the KPIs to have a clear vision on the areas that need more focus and where should I direct the focus for the rest of the day then will continue to attain to the usual daily business tasks calls, emails, team meetings, customers meetings ...etc ensuring to keep the very end of the working day for reflection and planning however I’d love to add a room for personal development at least even once a week and I believe it’s crucial not only for every leader but also for individual contributors as we all have to continue learning and developing to upscale ourselves and hence our organizations and enrich it with new learnings and ideas.

After working hours I’d consume the rest of the day between my family and friends.... and definitely I have time for sports in my daily routine and it’s one important slot in the day giving me the energy and motive to keep going and support my efforts in living healthier

4. What’s the most recent significant leadership lesson you’ve learned?

Leading with emotional courage while continuing to be empathetic and a people’s person yet there are times where leaders have to lead with an emotional courage and have the power and will to openly tell it as it is and confront the underperforming team members with the realities to take solid steps towards corrections and reformation. It’s about being fair to the rest of the team and ensuring that we are all acting as one coherent team in harmony and every one of us is carrying his fair share of the responsibility and getting rid of the extra flesh that’s not helping us as a team but even further pulling us down.

5. What one book has had the most profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

Great By Choice - Jim Collins.

It was a recommended reading by our VP who was a real inspiring leader and he encouraged us to have a look and I have to say it was one good recommendation, it mainly focuses on why some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not.

The book is insightful and actually an eye opener and shows that the best leaders were more disciplined, more empirical, and more paranoid. Following the belief that leading in a "fast world" always requires "fast decisions" and "fast action" is a good way to get killed. The great companies changed less in reaction to a radically changing world than the comparison companies.

6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?

It starts with building the foundation for a winning team in the first place and ensuring an open environment led by trust, passion & fairness.
Every individual contributor is a leader on his/her own and it’s about nurturing, upscaling and elevating our people’s competence and self awareness, leadership is not about managing people or following up on the day to day execution but rather inspiring and empowering your team.
It’s about leading the team towards a brighter and a more successful version of who we are while ensuring being part of the team as a player side to side with everyone and at every moment, people again and again would be either our biggest strength or our biggest weakness and people love to be heard, inspired, empowered & trusted ... This can be achieved only when you as a leader have the right team and trust them and accordingly hear and empower them.

7. If you had to pick just one story, what would be the most meaningful story from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?

Passion and authenticity can be felt and it’s inspiring, be authentic and be yourself and remain genuine to yourself and your team, encourage openness and empathy.
Always work for your team and empower them which will ensure a joyful and healthy working environment. Finally be empathetic and lead with empathy, stay humble, genuine and continue learning!

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