Kriss Akabusi is a member of the Bath Fifteen.
The Akabusi Company is an organisation of many facets representing the colourful, diverse life of this energetic and inspirational man. Kriss is a professional motivational speaker offering support and training to leaders and their organisations through conferences, award ceremonies, workshops or training programmes. He brings to the table not only his success as an athlete, TV broadcaster and presenter but his many years of experience as an entrepreneur. With his fun-loving, humorous style he brings laughter into the boardroom while being able to spot those issues in management teams which hinder success and sustainability. For more information and testimonials visit www.akabusi.com.
I was born in November 1958 in Paddington London, the son of Nigerian parents. My mum was a state registered nurse who became a matron and my father was a political student who worked in the immigration service rising to the top of his profession. We are all members of the Igbo tribe, one of the three main Nigerian tribes which number over 250. Mum and Dad left the UK in around 1962 and we were sent back to the UK about a year later because they couldn’t work and look after us at the same time. They also wanted us to have the opportunity of a better education. In 1967, there was a civil war in Nigeria and I ended up in a children’s home between 1967 and 1975 when I joined the Army. I left school with no qualifications and joined the Royal Corps of Signals and met the man who was to become my first mentor Sgt Ian Mackenzie. Later, at the age of 17, I became the Army’s Junior 400 Champion and five years later I was part of the British Olympic team which won silver in the 4 by 400m relay. I then changed from 400m to the 400 metre hurdles and in 1987 became the British record holder for that event – and I still (as I write) hold that record time of 47.82 seconds (which for the first time in 20years is seriously under threat) – I went on to win bronze medals in the world championships and the Olympics. One of the highlights of my career was being a member of the 4 by 400m relay team that beat the USA in 1991. I retired from athletics in 1992 and became a tv presenter and commentator and six years later began professional motivational speaking to FTSE 100 companies. Today, I’d describe myself as a professional speaker, facilitator, trainer and career transition coach.
I am also the executive director of my own charity in Nigeria, working with partners like Water Aid, to provide clean portable drinking water and sanitation advice and Imo Self Help Organisation where the charity provides micro-finance to people, mostly women, in rural communities to develop small businesses and therefore provide a sustainable income and prosperity for their families and communities. One area I’m very interested in looking at now is mental health – it’s easy to see how poor families in rural areas of Nigeria have issues around basic needs like water, food and shelter but less easy to identify issues around mental health which can also have a major impact on a family or a community.
What about you?
Aside from this career stuff, I’m a father with two grown-up daughters, a two-year-old son and another baby on the way – which is very, very exciting. My first wife was German and my partner is from Zimbabwe so there have been many cultural experiences throughout my life and that of my children. I’m a spiritual person and believe not just in God a supreme being but that my ancestors also have an influence upon me. In that light then I also believe that I will have an impact on my children, grand children, great grand children and so on, so I want to leave a legacy for them – that’s important to me.
I have a very laissez-faire attitude to life and I am very episodic and can have periods of intense energy and excitement. I do like routine though in that I’m always park my car in the same way outside my house and will more often than not fuel my car at the end of the day. Home is where my heart is, I love being at home so things like holidays are not something I think about – my whole life is a holiday. Any holiday therefore would be pragmatic, like going to America to see my daughter or going to a sporting event like the World Cup or on a golfing trip. I have to be doing something – I’m not the lie-around-on-the-beach type. I’m an avid reader, mainly self-help and self improvement books, philosophical texts about understanding man. There are a host of self help books I could recommend most reiterating what came before them but three classics that should be in everyone’s library especially people of Afro or Caribbean descent born living or working in the United Kingdom are: Edgar E. Knoebels volumes entitled Classics of Western Thought Published by HBJ, Peter Fryer’s Staying Power Published by Pluto Press and Martin Bernal’s work Black Athena, a Vintage publication. I have found over the last fifteen years that these works have added a positive perspective to my sojourn through this sceptre Isle that I’m proud to call home.
How did you hear about Footdown?
I met Mike Roe (CEO) of Footdown when we at the Akabusi Company were chosen independently to do some work together supporting Thames Valley Police with their potential manager development programme. Instantly the rapport was built and the calibre of training and expertise shown by Mike and his colleague Jackie Hutchings convinced me that my own leadership skills would be greatly enhanced by surrounding myself in their business ethos and culture.
What has Footdown done for you?
It has given me a sense of belonging, a connection with a range of management people from different walks of life. It has given me an opportunity, on a monthly basis, to reflect on me, in the business sense and it’s introduced me to concepts and ideas which were new. It has re-connected me to the coaching and mentoring experience that I had as an athlete. It has helped me, and keeps helping me, clarify my sense of purpose and direction both professionally and privately. It has also given me wider connections which have enriched and strengthened my business.
I have brought to the group my experience in the world of sport in that, in sport, you confront the brutal facts every day in an environment where feedback is instant. You can’t hide when you fail, you can’t pretend when you fail. Your failings are public and have to be confronted, so you can develop and continue to move forward. That experience alone allows me to cut across corporate flannel – as well as bringing in some “ah-ha” moments.
In a nutshell, Footdown is a chief executive’s, or senior managers’, networking and mentoring forum that provides a place that is safe, secure and offers sustainability.
Has it changed the way you do business?
This is still a work in progress for me as I’ve only been involved for two years. I’ve not changed the infrastructure of my business, but I’ve had a few starts at planning things (planning is not something I find easy). I have become much more of a collaborator, allowing others in my team to bolster my weaknesses, to ask me hard questions and I’m constantly looking at and reviewing my offering. I’m on a journey of transition and that journey has yet to be completed.
What can Footdown do for others?
It can alleviate a sense of loneliness. Being a Level 5 leader can be a very lonely place to be but this environment is safe to reflect on issues in the business or organisations and to seek solutions together. This can be done confidentially and safely and you can learn from how others, in different businesses, have dealt with similar situations. People come to Footdown to give and it’s that giving that makes it so valuable.