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Watch Out The Thin Line Between NO-BUT Verses YES-AND To Grow Businesses, Says David Nour

David Nour talks about his humble beginnings and how he learnt at a very young age the incredible power and the promise of identifying, building, and nurturing strategic relationships

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David Nour, a relationship coach, a growth strategist, a thought-provoking leader and the author of many best-selling books, who has demonstrated through his writings and corporate coaching programs, the power of building strategic relationships, the greatest off-balance assets, which an organisation possesses. CEO of The Nour Group, Inc, Nour talks about his humble beginnings and a journey that gave him incredible power to transform individuals, corporations, associations, global leaders and academic forums with his disruptive and innovative thoughts that transmits through his books, his latest being ‘Co-Create’ in an interesting conversation with Priyaankaa Mathur of BW Businessworld.


Tell us about your childhood and initial journey?

Nour talks about his humble beginnings and how he learnt at a very young age the incredible power and the promise of identifying, building, and nurturing strategic relationships. He said, “My journey so far has been really blessed. I was born in Iran in a middle-class family to my parents, who were both teachers. I remember travelling with my parents to Kuwait in 1972 and across various middle-east countries for the next couple of years, during the old regime era in Iran. On Friday errands I used to walk through the bazaars of Iran with my father and thus at a very young age I learnt to get things done through relationships, whether they needed a plumber at the house or an access to an influential politician.”

“Eventually I grew up, studied and also learnt to speak fluent Arabic. After the regime ended, looking at the then conditions in Iran my parents decided to send me to the US. I landed at the JFK Airport in Network with mere 100 dollars in my pocket, a suitcase and a band around my neck saying flight to Atlanta, since I neither knew anybody in the city nor how to speak fluent English. My parents had sent me to my uncles in Atlanta, whom I had never seen in my life, but were ready to support my education. My parents even gave me to them for adoption, so that I could study there and earn a handsome lively hood!”


Tell us about your Education and how did your inclination towards management develop?

Nour gave interesting insights about his early education and career in sales and business management that helped him reinforce the value of internal and external relationships. He said, “After earning an Eagle Scout and graduating from high school, I went for an undergraduate engineering program and doing a Business degree from Georgia State University, where I studied computer science and Business. I further went to Emory University's Goizueta Business School in Atlanta, where I studied strategy and management. So, the early part of my career included sales, marketing, and Business development. As long as I remember since my early days, I was very passionate about growth and really helping individuals, teams and organisations grow personally and professionally!


As time passed Nour became the president of a consulting company where under his portfolio he identified market opportunities, raised capital and retained exceptional talent to gain his clients' confidence, “Eventually I was able to raise enough funding to start my business in New York. After few years I joined a private equity firm, Pequot Capital, a 14 billion US dollar company, where I learnt about leadership styles and dramatically diverse business models and best and worst practices under a broad spectrum of relationship development. In a span of 6 years, we bought and sold around 110 different companies. It was a great company that had top management on the front row seats, which had taken mediocre ideas to new heights, while the functional management teams that had taken amazing ideas off the cliff. That’s where I learnt about the dynamics of the management teams really working closer. After a few years, I moved to Atlanta where I started my new firm. My focus became on three things: Speak to companies and give consultation for technically building a culture of innovation, driving new work strategies and help them in making lasting changes.

What is your modus operandi? How do you study the organisations to derive ideas that help in bringing in change?

Nour shared his experience, how he became a business relationships advisor that helped many world-class managers, individuals, and leaders to excel. He shared, “Looking at some basic concepts that I studied in engineering, it said, ‘You can possibly improve something that you can measure'. So firstly, I looked at the critical matrix and levels in a company. Secondly, what is the vision of the company which is driven by the top and thirdly, how the organisation culture brings that vision to flourish? I have observed that if you talk to 20 people in an organisation about the vision of the company, you get 15 different answers! So my work is similar to tightening the aperture of your camera to have a clear picture. First, it’s important to create a clear vision of the company and a path towards reaching it. Second, is to create the strategy visualization to achieve the best possible outcomes, and the third is the executive coaching. I am the part of ‘Marshall Goldsmith 100 Global Coaches Program’, where I work with the CEOs, the leadership and management committees, to align them all to the same vision. Then, it’s formulated how to cascade it down the organisation. Thus, by communicating it across the organisation it becomes very easy to bring in the required change!


You work as a relationship coach to the organisations. So what are the challenges that the organisations face and how do they benefit from your relationship regime?

Talking about the challenges that organisations face, Nour says, “For example, if I have to coach a Senior Executive of a global Bank, there is nothing that I can coach him about how the Bank works, but about making him understand what is he trying to get done and how? So it’s about building on relationships that are critical to their success, because without them he will be unable to finger on the poles of the businesses, neither inside nor outside the organisation. So I get him to focus on top 10-15 executives who count, not 50 or 500 employees, because each of these individuals can in-turn manage 100 or 1000 geographical relationships, if groomed well!


Which are the key brands you have worked with who have been benefited from your advice and have grown over the years?

I have worked with clients like Disney, Siemens, KPMG, ThyssenKrupp, Cipla and most recently attended their leadership summit in India. Also, there are a lot of companies that you must have not have heard of, but what is common in all of these, is a visionary leader who gets them to the vision, where they are trying to go!


How do you help organisations in building on Investor Relations?

It’s important for the organisations to have a clear vision on the projects, so that they make sense to the investors, hence I coach them the bits to deal with the investors. I do help investors in a combination to evaluate companies and executives. I serve on a lot of advisory boards to help the investors to understand what they are looking for.


Being an author of several best-selling books, tell us about the genesis of your latest book ‘Co-Create’. What is the inspiration behind it and what message it brings to its readers this time?

It takes a lot of thought process behind every book to percolate. It took me 3-6 months, since I did a lot of social science research, I took interviews and read client case studies and then started putting together the idea. 'Co-Create' is a leadership book that talks about evolution and has already sold 50,000 copies globally. The question for ‘Co-Create’ this time was-How do you compete for the future? For example, if you see the same problems and challenges across very different companies, individuals, leaders, teams and none of those problems were isolated to them, it becomes a much greater issue. So, with the digital disruption all around us, what I thought of particularly mature industries be it Pharmaceutical, FMCG, Manufacturing companies, they were unable to manoeuvre their growth, as they were behaving like an old tanker that can’t turn very easily, whereas the digital market today requires speedboats to work quickly and pass obstacles and reach out to opportunities!

So, the question was ‘How companies would behave in certain scenarios, which needs adaptation to changing customer demands, changing markets and a constant battle for talent? The answers that ‘Co-Create’ gave was- ‘You need to constantly evolve and reinvent yourself, your team and your organisation’. This evolution often comes from the co-creation of very strategic and innovative collaborations with your customers, employees, or supply partners, who help you thrive your businesses. The key that we need to understand is that, these people too demonstrate their vested interests in your success!


How did Marshal Gold Smith 100 coaches work?

What I like about marshals is, its stakeholder style of coaching. If you think about executives none of them function in an isolated environment. They all need to be motivated, inspired, mentored from those around them and so we call those others the stakeholders. The stakeholders know ourselves better than we know ourselves because they know about our phenomenal strengths, but also see our raw edges, behavior, wherein people trying to win at any cost, or try to improve ideas that others bring to them. We train individuals to think of NO-BUT verses YES-AND. So during marshal coaching’s we have exercises wherein if you say NO_BUT it ends the possibilities to explore an idea or solve a problem, while if you say YES- AND you build on that idea and make things happen irrespective of various factors. Marshal is a 3-6 months program, which is about a behavioral change not only in self, but what others experience in you while you are changing. We have an online tool where the stakeholders rate an executive from a scale of -3 to +3. It is a very efficient program and when you do a baseline it is very negative initially. We intentionally work on modifying the behavior of executives. We do the rating again in 6 months, that’s when you see a very specific change in the executives.


Tell us about Executive Educational Programs at Emory Goizueta Business School.

I started that last year and teaching with a heart of giving, not just delivering the content but deliver with passion. It is a 2-4 day program and I teach 4 courses namely Strategy Visualization, Forward thinking mode and governance, Co-Create, intersection of health care and hospitality and I love doing it.


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