Charles Ajayi- Khiran (CAK) is known in the many countries he has worked in around the world as an inspirational keynote speaker, leadership consultant, and a master motivator. His unique gift and passion is coaching people on the intrinsic value of personal effectiveness through leadership and motivation. An advsior to governments and businesses, Charles is a high-level results oriented executive coach whose services are sought after by entrepreneurs, senior executives and royalty. The African Diaspora magazine had a chat with Charles to learn a bit more about the man and his world.
ADM: Let’s start off by asking, who is the man behind the household name Charles Khiran, and where were you born?
CAK: My name is Charles Ajayi-Khiran, the man behind the Charles Khiran International & 3cj Global brands. I was born in Benin City, Nigeria in 1964.
ADM: What are the experiences and values that stand out in your life from your early years?
CAK: I would truthfully say the values and experiences that stand out for me from my early years were the following: The all-encompassing love of my mother. I grew up with a lot of love and I was never made to feel inferior by anybody even though we were not wealthy. My father was a senior officer in the police force and was always away with work. We were a close-knit family; I was the second child in a family of seven children, made up of five boys and two girls. I remember a lot of love and fun growing up mostly centred around my mother who was a very powerful matriarch.
My mother sent me during my holidays to spend time with priests in my early teens, and I would serve the priests and accompany them to mass very early in the mornings.
ADM: How important was your family and community environment in shaping the person you have become today?
CAK: My mother was a godly woman who fought tirelessly to teach me and my siblings the ways of God, but I was a very difficult child and brought too much tears to my parents. Nobody believed I would ever turn out good, even to this day it is a mystery as well as a miracle to see how my life has evolved from a very turbulent and problematic child to an influential leader today transforming so many lives. God clearly had His hand on me and intervened in my life without any doubt. One of the very important things that still stand out to this day, is respect for people. I was taught to show real respect especially to my elders. I was also taught to help and serve people, these are some of the lasting values I learnt from home that still guide me today.
ADM: You are widely regarded as a guru in corporate leadership and personal development coaching; what led you to become an inspirational speaker and leadership coach?
CAK: Before I ventured into the profession of public (professional) speaking and corporate training/coaching, I spent 12 years initially, building a highly successful multi-level marketing business. I succeeded in getting to the very top of a five-billion-dollar American nutrition and wellness company. I successfully developed thousands of entrepreneurs in my business turning over millions of dollars for the company I was affiliated with. I travelled extensively 10 days every month from my base in London to many countries across Europe building my leadership teams and teaching them how to employ themselves.
When that business failed after 12 years, I spent another 6 years consulting in the City of London, where I was responsible for assisting and coaching middle to senior level executives in managing their careers on a one to one basis. In that role I interviewed over 3000 of some of the brightest and most dynamic senior executives from both the UK and across Europe who were attracted to the dynamic London jobs market.
I was over to work with over 400 of these senior leaders on a one to one basis. In my role I coached these senior players how to write an achievement orientated marketing directed resume and reduced their CVs from 8-9 pages to 1-3 depending on experience. I taught them how to create high visibility in the jobs market by utilising the power of networking to uncover the unadvertised jobs. I coached them on how to interview for success. Many of these senior people were quite rusty in selling themselves as they had spent many years interviewing other people across their desk, and now they had to get in front of the CEOs, chairmen or the board to be interviewed.
It was while I was in this role that I set up my professional speaking and training business in 2003. The natural progression for me was clearly in the speaking and training business as I had spent many years developing people, and teaching people how to succeed. My speciality in leadership and high-performance strategy was based entirely on my experiential knowledge of building and developing tens of thousands of people from all cultures in my business and working with senior leaders for many years.
ADM: Having worked with all manner of people and institutions of varying status in different continents, cultures and political and economic systems, what would you say is the stand-out personal quality that enables you to be effective across such diversity?
CAK: I have been very privileged to have facilitated extremely high level corporate events over many years now. Some of these events have attracted top policy makers and government ministers from across the world. Some of the events have Heads of State in attendance, captains of industry, true royalty, High Commissioners and Ambassadors, senior spiritual leaders, and so on.
My brand has been associated for over 12 years with the highest quality and precision of delivery. I have built a very strong and enviable brand as the ‘go to’ person in public speaking, electrifying delivery and lasting transformation of people when it comes to corporate training. This has been primarily due to the grace God has given me in these areas, and extremely hard work in the perfecting of my craft.
I would also say the lasting quality that has created our success is without question, what I call diligence. Diligence will allow anyone to be attractive to kings, queens and powerful people. Powerful and very senior people have a low tolerance for mediocrity, poor and average performance; they are only truly attracted to brilliance. By diligence I mean conscientiousness, thoroughness, meticulousness or purity of work. In other words, the ability to do or deliver pure work is diligence!
ADM: The early years in any endeavour are usually fraught with challenges. As you carved your path in your chosen field, how did you overcome the teething problems and persevere towards your goal?
CAK: I would say unquestionably that my faith in God has and continues to play a very vital role in overcoming adversities and various hardships and obstacles on my path toward high achievement. The minute anybody makes a public declaration to the universe that they intend to achieve, accomplish or become anything of significance, they must also be ready for the universe to throw obstacles in their path. The obstacles are not meant to stop them, rather the obstacles are meant to test them to see if they are worthy, prepared or deserving to have what they have declared.
For me, a combination of things assisted me in the early days. A focus on becoming a master of my craft, which required developing mastery in my areas of expertise. The use of mentors was vitally important too, somebody or people I could turn to for advice. I am constantly studying, and I focus on inspirational figures who have achieved similar things to what I am after. The ability to self-talk and motivate myself was also critical. Being unstoppable and developing intestinal fortitude and never accepting no as an answer!
ADM: What would you regard as your biggest source of motivation?
CAK: My biggest source of motivation, I would say, is the determination to leave behind a powerful legacy and also to demonstrate how brilliant we can be as black people, bursting every false and negative stereotype by embodying my message.
ADM: To young people at the edge of decision, yet to take their first step into entrepreneurship, what piece of advice would you give them?
CAK: For young people looking to venture into entrepreneurship, I say first determine if you have the temperament or mentality because it will test and task everything you have got to succeed as an entrepreneur. There is a high price to pay to work for yourself; first find out if there is a gap or something of value you want to bring to the market. Don’t just focus on the rarefied attraction of becoming an entrepreneur, first determine if you have something you want to give to the world, then determine to give the world the beauty of your dreams.
If you do not believe you can handle the uncertainties of business because it is fraught with very many and repeated failures, then strive to get a very good job, as you can also make it as a professional. Nothing, however, beats the satisfaction of working for yourself and taking your dreams to the world.
ADM: To the African diaspora community in the UK, what advice would you give them to become empowered and successful communities as well as effective agents of development in Africa?
CAK: The African diaspora is already on the rise, there are many exciting people from the diaspora doing great things. We should complain less, and lead more. We must focus on building wealth, as that is the only currency of true power. For us to be able to influence and impact Africa, we must first be trailblazers abroad. There are many people back home in Africa creating history and changing lives. The fact that we live abroad does not mean we know it all or that we are superior, that is a misnomer.
We must push to break forth into the mainstream and move out of our tiny communities, so we can influence and become people of worth and power to be reckoned with. We must strive to raise the game and be game changers in our businesses or professions. One of the best ways to do that is by releasing our potential. It is no good for everyone to keep saying you have potential. The question is, when are you going to show or demonstrate that potential? Potential is untapped abilities within you, underutilised capabilities within you, or reserved power within you. What is within you that requires further expression? That is in essence – potential!
We must pursue excellence as low-level performance won’t get us anywhere. We must believe in ourselves that we are people of high worth and intrinsically brilliant. We must show it and perform more and scream less. We must draw from other powerful diaspora communities who are shattering records. We must work on our diction and communication, we must work more on our EQ (emotional quotient) if we want to succeed in the West! Only as we perform out here can we then export the best back to Africa.
ADM: Your work means lots of travel across borders and overseas; how do you balance your busy schedule with family life?
CAK: It is tough sometimes to balance my family life with work. My oldest just turned 16 and my youngest is 11, fortunately we only have two children; however, my time is still very much required at home. Balancing is not always easy as I am on the move a lot. However, I manage to spend solid time at home too. I am fortunate to have a very strong wife who steps in to correct any deficit and so far, it has worked.
ADM: And lastly, when you’re chilling from your labours, how do you like to spend your time?
CAK: Fortunately, relaxation is something I have strived to master. I am a very intense person by nature, so it does not come easy to me. As I get older, I am learning more how to relax. I enjoy very much watching movies as it makes me travel mentally; I read quite a lot. I tried golf but just could not get into it; I enjoy my morning runs as I kept missing the gym because of time. So, I have stuck to my running which works for me as I get it out of the way early. I guess I am a very regular guy but driven entirely by purpose and eternity.