Running a family is akin to running a company. You need to lead by example, instil values, build personalities, promote quality, encourage teamwork and foster creativity.
For 16 years, Zubair Ahmed, the head of IT and business innovation at Emirates Islamic Bank, has been applying such management approaches to raising his children.
He has compiled his positive results in a parenting book that will be launched this week.
Power to Kids stems from Ahmed's 21 years' experience of leading and motivating teams at his workplace to gain a competitive edge coupled with caring for and educating four boys using a similar yardstick.
"Right from my early days I had been combining my work with home," says Ahmed, 43, who then began jotting it down for a book in 2008.
"I was knowingly bringing concepts learnt at work and college back home. I knew I had to engage my kids early on, in the first five years of their life when they are learning the most."
At the same time, Ahmed was engaging audiences at conferences on how to improve productivity and bring innovation to work. He noticed the same rules worked at home. "The thought was, what are we raising our children for? At some level we want them to be better citizens of the world with the right competencies to become successful. The medium is through organisation.
"You start off with core values in the way that a company defines them. After researching some of the most well-known companies in the world, I laid down a set of five values. One of them is teamwork."
There are eight chapters describing and providing strategies, with examples of his trials and errors; on how to set goals and achieve them; techniques to maintain a positive outlook, strengthen character, enhance quality, breed novel ideas and become leaders.
Fuelling ambitions and promoting well-rounded achievement at a young age is critical because of the growing dissatisfaction of employers with the new crop of graduates. Unemployment in the Mena region exceeds 25 per cent according to a 2013 report by the International Labour Organisation. Recruiters blame job seekers being unprepared for a corporate environment, a lack of soft skills such as communication and teamwork, and a lack of education. The 2013 Arab World Competitiveness Report, by the education consultants Pearson, notes that while graduates possess the qualifications, bosses surveyed said they struggle to find employees with critical thinking skills, written and oral communication and an attitude that allows for success in a competitive work environment.
But the task of readying them cannot be left to schools and universities alone. According to Ahmed, parents and high-school kids need to get proactive about their future. The book also serves as a self-help guide for teenagers to take ownership in matters that affect them. "Organisations are built like families," says Ahmed. "Under one roof you have different minds who come together to create value. I started looking at organisations and what they wanted from young graduates. When I got involved in the process, I realised that I would have a brilliant person sitting in front of me but we couldn't hire him. Why? Because he did not fit into my family at work. He prefers working alone. An organisation needs team players and that became the basis of how I wanted the kids to learn."
He began developing principles that would make children more viable for corporations in the future. This summer, his 16- and 14-year-old sons, Mustafa and Mujtaba, are interning at different companies to gain work experience before they move on to college. Ahmed believes parenting involves being assertive without being bossy. "Kids need to see value in their actions. This is where the big picture, mentioned in the book, comes to use," he says. "I faced this issue with my son, Murtaza, who I spent weeks on end trying to get to brush his teeth at night. He wouldn't do it because for him it was a task. He would do it out of respect or fear, but that wouldn't be a sustainable routine."
However, once he explained the pros and cons of adopting the habit, it became easier. On teaching focus, Ahmed narrates an incident with Muqtada, his 5-year-old son. "For sports he has the speed, but initially he did not have the focus to win races," says his father. "So I recorded the first race he participated in, when he was 3. We both worked on getting him ready. But what we did is we created these small physical acts where he would have to focus his mind and complete a small task. We then began translating that into his sports goals."
The author says there is a benefit of creating coursework around the contents of the book, something he has started discussing with an education provider in Dubai. "I plan to take workshops on the root cause analysis and devise solutions with the teachers to improve children's opportunities," says Ahmed. "We have to change the language of talking to children. It isn't by threatening them into doing things, but with logical reasoning. This is what can move mountains."
Power to Kids is available at Kinokuniya in The Dubai Mall for Dh80