Simon Grayson is Principal Consultant at 3GHR, an ILM endorsed consultancy specialising in management training, leadership programmes and executive coaching. We spoke to him about the importance of purpose, achieving potential and the West Indies cricket team.

Talk us through your journey to where you are now.

There’s a model that we use at 3GHR, called ‘ABC’, a model I first encountered 16 years ago when I met up with my Area Manager for my weekly appraisal. He challenged me to paint a vivid picture both of my life then and what I wanted to achieve in the next 5 years, then 3 years, and finally 1 year, both personally and professionally. A few years down the line, in another role, a director asked me what I was passionate about. As a manager in retail, I loved helping people progress, improve, and succeed whilst outside work I had a passion for sport and music. So I told him that my perfect job would be to help people develop and ideally in the world of music and sport. Within a few months I moved to the training department within that same company and then took on additional learning such as NLP and a degree in psychology.

After 4 years in a learning and development environment I ran a free session for people I knew in professional sport. That lead to me working with some of them on a one-to-one basis and running team workshops, one of which was with the Head Coach of Middlesex Cricket Club, Toby Radford, who then got a job working for the West Indies Cricket Team and offered me the opportunity to work with him on the psychology side. At that time (2010) they had no structure in place to develop talented young players through the system, so we set up a 6-month programme to improve players mentally, physically, tactically, technically, and in terms of health/lifestyle. We brought in the best 15 players aged 18-22 from across the Caribbean and worked with them to support their development. It was very holistic. One member of that initial cohort of players was Jason Holder, the current captain of the West Indies.

During my time there, we made lots of progress. The ladies got to the World Cup final, the U19s to the World Cup semi final and last year the West Indies achieved a clean sweep – so the men’s, ladies and U19s all won the World Cup, which was an amazing achievement.

What did you do when you got back to the UK?

That was 2013. I had 18 months to myself and ticked lots of things off my bucket list. I wanted to challenge myself to learn things to get myself into that mind-set of how it feels to be taught and the frustration of being on the learning curve. The first thing was golf. I had a handicap of 2 at the time, considering myself an expert in terms of knowledge/experience. I picked up a tennis racket for the first time in 20 years and had my first set of lessons – I considered myself to have decent knowledge/experience but definitely not an expert. Finally I started learning the guitar, at which time I was a complete novice and had to buy my first instrument.

What did you learn from that?

The toughest was the golf – how do you go from good to great? There wasn’t much I didn’t know about golf, and to be honest I didn’t put enough in to it to really improve. I had a brilliant coach, but my long-term aspiration just wasn’t there. The guitar and tennis improved considerably though. I found myself able to pick up a number of new songs quite quickly, and after about a year I plateaued, having learnt about 30 songs. My tennis really moved forward, in terms of my fitness and social networking. What was interesting was the way my coaches ‘coached’. Their styles were similar to Tim Galwey, the tennis coach from the 70s, who wrote a series of books called The Inner Game. He said you can’t just instruct people what to do, rather human beings have a natural ability to self-learn. How we learnt to walk is just one example of learning through observing and doing rather than being instructed how to balance, move your feet, arms, legs etc.

What were you able to take from that and apply to the rest of your life?

If I hadn’t sat down and consciously worked out my desires, goals, and dreams I doubt I’d have done any of those things. It’s all about having those horizon points. And by including feelings in my goals I was consciously aware what emotions I wanted to feel and which emotions I didn’t want to feel. For example I knew how amazing it was seeing a sportsman succeed and knowing I’d helped them to get there. Having that target has been a big learning point for me. It’s transformed my life and made me realise how you can take small realistic steps to fulfil your dreams. And I’ve noticed it affect people around me, as they notice these changes in me and think, ‘if he can do it…’.

It’s also helped me support those people I come into contact with through 3GHR. I find that so many people get stuck in a rut thinking ‘this is all there is’, rather than thinking ‘where do I want to be?’ or ‘what is it I want to do more of?’ Making time for yourself is so important. What I love about 3GHR is that we aim to help organisations reach better results by taking a very ‘human’ approach. Essentially what we do is help shape their mindset and that of their people. We regularly find ourselves working on the skills of the leadership/management population and talk through the opportunities to utilise their people. Once these two areas have been explored we work on the mindset, which is often the difference between success and mediocrity.

What do those who are good at self-management have in common?

A common theme is that they have leaders in their lives who have allowed them freedom to grow, freedom to explore, support to make mistakes. The young cricketers who were brought together appeared to have grown up being told what to do on the field and when to do it. They didn’t have to think or take responsibility. At the men’s level, certainly at international level, they had to think for themselves for the first time, solve problems, and decide on what actions to take. We had to change their mindset about coaching and let them know that we were there to support them.

Those who have good self-management tend to understand their purpose, what success is, and what their winning aspiration is. On the whole this occurs by reflecting on the past and exploring future desires…and then dare to start making steps towards them. It doesn’t take much to press pause and dedicate time to oneself to understand where we are and what we should be heading for. This can be made a lot easier if you have someone who asks you those difficult questions and is genuinely interested in the answers.

What would you recommend to someone who doesn’t have that figure in their life?

Dare to dream. Write down what it is you’re looking for, how would you like to feel, how you wouldn’t like to feel, who you want to be with. Put it on paper. That allows you to free your mind to see what the next step might be towards it.

Sometimes that next step might be a difficult one. What we do in 3GHR is give people a chance to practise courageous conversations, to have the courage to talk to that peer, boss, direct report because you need them to do something. What we want to do is empower more people to take action, to move towards the goal. People tend to have even more motivation when they can understand how their own work aligns to the exec board and the organisation’s objectives. So if you have worked out the purpose of your department and the end goal, it’s far easier to understand your own role and objectives.

CentreStage provides experiential learning to a number of 3GHR programmes. How does that add to what you offer?

We find it’s a really powerful experience for delegates. It’s something that helps shape them, an experience that really affects behaviour. It brings the real world into the training room, and I’m really keen that everything we do relates to the real world. Using actors allows participants to see situations from different perspectives. They gain insights into the impact they have and understand the importance of preparing these conversations. Experiencing it and doing it is far more powerful than watching a video for example.

What’s left for you to achieve?

I still want to learn Tai Chi and better understand wellbeing and nutrition. And I’m seriously toying with taking up the electric guitar. I became friends with a chap in the West Indies, Kevan Sahai. He’s a singer songwriter who stayed with me for 6 months making new songs and recording a demo. I’ve done some work with him, and it will be interesting to see where that goes.

If you could live the life of any musician, who would it be?

It would have to be the unique Gregory Porter or Stereophonics front man, Kelly Jones; top quality and they both do everything so can’t get bored…!