Former athlete and now motivational speaker Kriss Akabusi MBE gave a highly inspirational talk at the Synaxon 2015 conference yesterday – here are the best bits from the keynote.
Akabusi was not what I was expecting. I thought he would be loud, proud and positive with a natural air of confidence. But while he was all of those things, he also had a fantastic sense of humour during the talk and a serious, more solemn side that really captured the audience.
A lot of the lessons he learnt as a gold medal-winning relay runner for Great Britain were also surprisingly relevant to the IT channel and especially sales teams.
So here are the top seven points or pieces of advice I took away from the talk:
1. What does your brand stand for?
Akabusi started by saying his birthname was Kezie Uche Chuckwu Duru Akabusi, and talking through the different meanings for each name that he felt he had to live up to.
He asked the audience to think about what their company or brand stands for, and made the point that "your brand is not what you say it is – it’s what we (your customers) say it is when you’re not there."
2. Take a different perspective
Akabusi took the time to highlight the phrase: Opportunityisnowhere.
He asked the audience whether they read it as ‘opportunity is nowhere’ or ‘opportunity is now here’, emphasising the fact that different people can have very different thoughts on the same task or thing.
He also advised delegates to look at their business "from the balcony", from another perspective. "Understand where you are," Akabusi said. "And look at it from the shop floor – find out what’s happening at that level."
3. Don’t dwell on the past
"The past is reference – not for residence," Akabusi said. "But there are jewels there in the past. What do I need to let go of? And what do I need to hold onto – what’s my USP (unique selling point)?" he asked the crowd.
4. Identify potential
He highlighted the importance of spotting talent and bringing it to the fore. For example, encouraging a young salesperson in your team, identifying their strengths and encouraging them to use them in a certain way. He also asked the audience to identify the potential within themselves.
Akabusi spoke about the man who first identified his athletic ability during his time in the British Army back in the ’70s, and was clearly grateful for this.
5. Work as a team
One of the core themes Akabusi spoke about was teamwork, and having trust in your team, citing his gold medal-winning team from the 1991 Olympics where he helped Great Britain beat the USA in the 4x400m relay race.
In relay races, a team usually let the best runner go last, so they can overtake the other runners and finish the race strongly. However, in the days leading up to the final, Akabusi’s team decided that putting their best runner first would give them a great start in this case, and make their opponents question themselves.
But they had to convince management first (something I’m sure many of you may be familiar with).
"One of the managers said no," Akabusi explained. "He said: ‘I’ve picked the team.’ But the other manager said: ‘Hold on. If they believe in this system we should support them.’"
This change – and trust in the team – ultimately helped Great Britain take the gold medal. Akabusi also spoke about helping your customers to get across the line. He also referenced Aristotle by saying: "The team as a whole is greater than the sum of its equal parts."
He also stressed the importance of using partner language, e.g. "We can make it", not "you can make it".
6. Don’t get complacent
Akabusi made the point that there’s a fine line between condidence and complacency.
"If you’re a market leader, don’t get complacent like team USA did," he said.
7. Leave a legacy
Akabusi ended by asking the audience to think about "the life you lead, the lessons you learn and the legacy you leave.
"What’s your legacy going to be?" he said.