The Mistake That Made Me: Alfred Akibo-Betts

Man in suit with hand on his chest
Alfred Akibo-Betts, Deputy Commissioner, NRA

Alfred Akibo-Betts’s career profile is busy and varied. He has been a tax specialist for 14 years. He joined the National Revenue Authority (NRA) fresh out of university and today he is the Deputy Commissioner, overseeing the implementation of reform projects. His specialist expertise is often called upon by organisations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, for whom he provides consultancy services.

Added to this, he has been actively involved in the family business since his final year in university. He is an entrepreneur with several business ventures of his own. His most recent is the Freetown Business School.

“Freetown Business School was formed last year. It’s intended to give people the skills to elevate their professional performance and take them to the next level,” he explains. “We will eventually be accredited to offer courses such as MBAs.”

On lessons he has learned through his involvement in all of the above, Akibo-Betts places learning to delegate at the very top.

Learning to delegate:

Finding delegation difficult meant that Akibo-Betts became over-involved in the finer details of the projects he was responsible for. As a consequence, his workload became increasingly unmanageable and he had little time to allocate to strategy development.

Recognising that he was his own biggest barrier to effective delegation was an important stage in the process. “I would want to get involved in everything, especially if it was my idea,” he says.

He gives as an example his experience with revenue enhancement at the NRA, which was part of his portfolio. “I handled the paperwork, chaired meetings etc.” he recalls. “For the first two or three years, I even took on the task of personally phoning the top tax payers myself.”

Last year Akibo-Betts began to delegate more of the revenue enhancement process to his team, including the job of calling the country’s top tax-paying companies. They took it on, executed it effectively and even developed the confidence to extend it to other companies.

This taught him a great lesson about leadership.

“I learned that delegation isn’t just about stepping back; it also means empowering and providing guidance to the team. The result is that they have not just handled the revenue enhancement process effectively, they have actually improved on it,” he reflects.

An added benefit has been that his own time management has improved significantly.

He has more time to spend on strategic development, as well as an empowered team who are innovating, honing their initiative and developing new skills of their own. “I now see delegating as part of transforming into a leader,” he says.

In addition to his professional portfolio, Akibo-Betts is a husband and the father of two children. He and his wife – Binta, operate a ‘no-nannies after five’ policy.

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