The story of a British Olympian’s long road to athletics stardom both motivated and inspired the north-east’s human resources professionals at the first cHeRries conference.
Kriss Akabusi was keynote speaker at the free virtual networking and exhibition event specially arranged for those working in human resource, training and recruitment.
And leading the final of those sessions, the 62-year-old athlete-turned-motivational speaker, used the story of his children’s home upbringing, troublesome education and eventual “salvation” in the British Army as examples of multiple “resets” that took place in his life before his athletics career.
“Our lives are very different and yet our motives are the same,” he said.
“As I tell my story, we will look at the intersections or my life and your life and how, when you reflect, we have actually reset our lives on many occasions.”
“I had to be enough”
His first such reset came when his mother decided he should use his UK birthright to gain a British education while she returned home to Nigeria.
His second came when he landed in a children’s home and came to the stark realisation he had to make his own path in life.
He said: “I realised mummy wasn’t coming. I had to be enough. There’s no chariots coming from out of nowhere for me or for you.”
His next reset came age 16 when he left school and his home, and joined the British Army.
“That’s the time I reset my mind to make the most of myself,” he added.
“I took the new name Kriss and, for me, the Army was transformational.
“I went from being the school class joker to fighting to be the British Army champion.”
He credited his sergeant, Ian MacKenzie, for seeing his potential, coaching, nurturing him and providing for him a sudden “sense of pride and purpose”.
Five years on, he was an Olympic medalist with the Team GB Olympic relay team.
Using that experience to inspire professionals, he added: “The past is for reference, not for residence. It’s alluring to hold on to the past and the old ways of doing stuff.
“You know how to be that person in the past but we, as human resources professionals, must take the best elements of the past and reconfigure them in the here and now for our preferred and better future.”
Time to recover and reflect
Earlier in the day, the panel focused on how companies are innovating and adapting to give more focus to flexible and collaborative remote working both during and after lockdown.
Lee Ann Panglea, head of CIPD Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: “If 2020 has taught us anything it’s that the way we work, how we focus on our people and support their wellbeing, and innovate and adapt, can change for the better. This pandemic is a catalyst for that change.”
The second panel, looking at reflection, focused on wellbeing and mental health.
Panelist Louise Jenkins-Lang, one of the directors of Lindsay and Lang, added: “We’ve had to be reactive to the pandemic and reflection is key to moving forward.
“It’s really important that we develop resilience not only personally but within our organisation.”
Attendees also witnessed the unveiling of this year’s finalists for the 13th annual cHeRries awards which take place virtually on Thursday, March 4, at 6pm.