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Who are you listening to?

The final story is about how one of the main sovereign wealth funds in Abu Dhabi has gone on a significant investment streak despite uncertainty due to COVID-19. It’s a nice piece about the head of the fund and how he’s built his career from the early days when the leader of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi tapped him to manage a gas line expansion project, and he did such a good job that they asked him to manage the sovereign wealth fund.

I want to talk about the position this article takes. The majority of interviews in that article are with people who benefit from the sovereign wealth fund choosing to loosen their purse strings and make investments. The comments are obviously congratulatory. They only have amazing things to say about this leader because he has the vision, boldness and courage to make investments when no one else is. To me, the article is surprisingly one-sided. The article should be interviewing people who wouldn’t benefit from the sovereign wealth fund making investments—and getting their views on whether the sovereign wealth fund is doing the right thing or doing something that might hurt them in the future.

Now, we don’t know if the investment portfolio expansion is going to be the best or worst decision they’ve made. I hope it’s a good decision, and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is transformed—we always want people to succeed. But it would have been nice to see an opinion from someone who wouldn’t benefit from these investments. There are many insights to take from this—how to manage a sovereign wealth fund, how to manage investment decisions, and what investments to make.

I think the deeper insight here is: How do you know if you are doing the right thing? Who are you listening to? If you’re only listening to people who benefit from you doing X, don’t ask them if X is right. You have to speak to people who aren’t going to benefit from your decision. In our one-on-one coaching program, I see this problem a lot—clients make terrible career decisions and need a career turnaround because of the type of counsel they have.

This is an excerpt from Monday Morning 8 a.m. newsletter, issue #8.