Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

One major lesson life has taught me -Kemi Ogunkoya, founder, Rellies Works, a leadership consultancy firm

Kemi Ogunkoya is the Founder, Rellies Works, a leadership consultancy firm and co-founder, SpeakersHQ; Chairman of board of trustees, The PowerWoman Network and The Lead Africa Now Initiative. She is also the convener of the Business Edge Workshop, Leadership Guardian Summit and the Aspire Conference; a mentor at The Cherie Blair Foundation and author of three books—The Leadership Guardian, Goal Mastery Book and Magical Pills.

Ogunkoya is renowned as a leadership development strategist, management consultant and author and has been a leading facilitator of high-impact leadership development workshops across Africa, North America and Asia in the last decade.

Her rich experience in industries, including the downstream sector of oil and gas, aviation, financial services, educational sector, SMEs and the public sectors, has come in handy in helping to effect remarkable transformations for organisations that have engaged her services.

The Said Business School, University of Oxford alumna and recipient of multiple awards including the Role Model of the Year 2020 and The Eloy Awards Female Entrepreneur of The Year 2020, among other recognitions, was recently invited to join The Forbes Business Council.

In this interview with The Nigerian Xpress, she reflected on the Covid-19 disruption of 2020, how it has changed the way of the world, and key leadership lessons, drawing from her own rich experience as one of Africa’s leading leadership transformation facilitators.

COVID-19 affected a lot of people last year, what was your experience?

The Covid-19 pandemic was quite an unexpected turn. We had to shut our office and start engaging all stakeholders virtually- employees, clients and prospects. We had to adapt to the new normal and adapt quickly to the new changes. Learning to wear a face mask for long hours, using sanitisers, staying away from social gatherings, conducting our leadership training online, helping organisations equip their leaders on dealing with change, was quite a challenge, but as we know the only constant thing is change.

What were your most memorable moments of 2020?

One of the freshest memories was launching my new book, The Leadership Guardian in the middle of the pandemic, and pulling off a great summit in the same year, The Leadership Guardian Virtual Summit, themed ’Preserving the Future of Humanity through Effective Leadership’, which was termed the best online event of the year 2020. A week rarely passes without reference being made to the event, and I honestly do not take such commendations for granted. I received calls from all over the world with people asking “Kemi, you guys didn’t pull that up in Nigeria.” Some have compared the event to a CNN production.⁣

⁣Together with my team, we set out to raise a higher level of consciousness for the importance of visionary and effective leadership. I was privileged to have a great array of exemplary leaders at the event, some of whom include The Honourable Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN; our keynote speaker, Chairman of Heirs Holdings and founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, Mr Tony Elumelu; Senior Economic Advisor, Africa Economic Development Policy Initiative (AEDPI), Dr Obiageli “Oby” Ezekwesili; Managing Director, Gal Parenting Place, Mrs Abimbola Olayinka; Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer, Sterling Bank, Mr Abubakar Suleiman; certified leadership trainer and coach, Mrs Dupe Akinsiun; Dr Layi Fatona, MD, ND Western and Group MD/CEO Brandlife Nigeria and Brandlife Kenya, Mr Julius Agenmonmen. The event was a great success and huge transformation for attendees; that is truly one of my fondest memories.

 What should we expect from you in 2021?

2020 was quite an interesting year that forced us all to think out of the box and think of creative and innovative ways of living and serving our clients. One of the ways, which we evolved in my organisation, Rellies Works was through the delivery of virtual programmes and services. Currently, we are working on consolidating our in-depth e-learning leadership development programme for our clients. Also, another big project we are working on is on consolidating a project very close to my heart, The Lead Africa Now Initiative, where we raise visionary leaders across the African continent, through capacity building, mentorship, fellowship and much more. Also, I just got accepted into The Forbes Business Council, where I join phenomenal leaders like Dr Sam Adeyemi, Olakunle Soriyan, Lanre Olusola, Janet Adetu and Remi Duyile on the council. I am honoured to have been invited to such an exclusive group of global leaders.

How do you garner inspirations for the things you do?

I am driven by impact; that process of taking people from what they never thought possible towards achieving the greatest and grandest vision of themselves gets me out of bed every day. I always say that you cannot become better at what you do unless you become better at who you are. So, getting people to that point, where they understand the place of self, appreciate who they are, realise what their purpose is, getting them to that point of 360 degrees transformation in their personal lives, career or business, that ignites me.

What was the turning point in your career?

I remember those days when I had to jump out of bed with a bang in my chest. My alarm will go off, but I still wanted more sleep. I wanted more sleep not because I didn’t sleep at night, but because I wished my night was prolonged and I didn’t have to spend another day on my desk. I have been privileged to work in the banking industry, oil and gas, professional services to mention a few, but at some point, I realised I wanted more than what my job experiences offered. I felt that strong urge of enhanced transformation. I started to give an ear to my inclinations: transformation from the core, something that I had done so effortlessly. I realised I could apply myself more. I cast my mind back to a time where I felt at my creative best and it was as during my days as an intern in a top finishing school, where I trained teenagers and some executives on personal transformation. I began to put the pieces together, and the light bulb came when I attended a seminar by Jack Canfield, a leading transformation coach in America, I knew that helping people achieve life-long transformation through leadership development was what I wanted to do, and then the journey began. It has been a phenomenal journey ever since. I have worked with over 90 organisations and close to 5,000 executives, with hundreds of individuals across various industries in Africa, North America and The Middle East.

Have you ever felt like quitting?

At the initial point quitting crossed my mind a couple of times, you know, how as an entrepreneur you are excited about starting, and the real knocks begin to rear its ugly head; but as I continued to develop the requisite skills and knowledge of managing and growing a business, moving beyond just passion towards understanding the fundamentals of business development and consolidating on my purpose and vision, the journey becomes clearer, more exciting and rewarding.

What are you looking forward to in the next few years?

Quite a lot is in the offing, My PhD is one of the many things I look forward to over the next few years. I also look to creating a viral footprint in the adoption of lifestyle leadership principles through the various expressions of what I do.

Your advice for young people who want to come into the sector?

The human capital development space is quite challenging and most people will fall at some point and that is normal, just ensure that you fall forward. Only those with the biggest ambition, motivation, and grit will stay and excel. Beyond a high aspiration, anyone who wants to be successful in this space must be able to communicate value and results, rather than merely selling services. People care about the results, not just your accomplishments. You also have to be a thirsty learner. You cannot be a casual or passive learner, we live in a VUCA world where everything is changing by the minute, if you are not learning and adapting on the go, you will be left for dead. Success in this space is also hinged on how you can build and maintain relationships, not just revenues. Therefore, proficiency in relationship management is a vital skill for success in the human capital development space. Also, the ability to manage and deploy resources effectively; time, money, people, tools, and materials are one that every successful trainer cannot be without.

What are the key lessons of life you have learnt from your experiences?

One major lesson life has taught me is, opportunities will come to you sometimes draped in challenges; but if you are unprepared or unable to spot opportunities when they arrive, you will lose out on them. Therefore, it is important to keep investing in self-development and enhancing competence.

Who has been your greatest influence in life?

My mum,  Mrs Fiyinfoluwa Adenike Ogunbanke has been the greatest influence in my life, she taught me life principles of faith, love, fairness, discipline, courage, resilience and so much more. My mum has been a great reflection of strength, and beyond teaching me how, she has been a living example of all the principles she taught me. I am always grateful and she always will be a great source of motivation for me.

What is your view of the Nigerian women of today?

The Nigerian Woman of today is more enlightened, fearless and unafraid to take her place in the world. Patriarchy has eaten deep into the world systems, unfortunately, otherwise, we should not have so much agitation for gender parity, however, the Nigerian Woman of today is riding her strides, more self-aware and financially independent, breaking the glass ceiling and carving the way for other women to follow.