There I was, stood on a platform 40ft in the air, supported by nothing more than a swaying pole and a harnessed rope, thinking to myself “welcome to GRA”.

My name is Richard Herd and I’m a Sales Executive at Grahame Robb Associates. I have recently completed my first year with the company and wanted to share my experiences with you from my very first day at ‘Leading Change’ up on that platform to a rather unusual way to celebrate a work anniversary!

So, it was my very first day at the company and already I had been persuaded to face my life-long fear of heights by climbing up to the top of the 40ft Powerfan and then rather alarmingly, stepping off the edge. In hindsight, it was a lovely view from the top - as you can see for miles across the Berkshire countryside - however, at the time, I had more pressing matters on my mind, primarily “do they really expect me to just step off this thing!?”

I paused for a few moments at the top, clinging to my harness. I then heard the calming voice of one of GRA’s outdoor training facilitators, Fraser Edmond, who at that point quickly became my new best friend as he was incredibly reassuring and simply said; “No pressure Rich, now when you’re ready, step off the platform”. He saw, and probably heard, what I thought of that idea, so he added, “Think about what you wanted to achieve before you went up and how good it will feel once you’ve done it.” With that in mind, I plucked up the courage and cautiously walked to the end of the platform, looked straight ahead and stepped off into the unknown; and it felt great.

Attending our ‘Leading Change’ event on my first day was a great way to start my career with the company as it provides clients (and myself on that occasion) with a chance to meet our delivery teams and find out about what we offer. However, on a personal level it was great to have the opportunity to conquer my fear of heights – I’ve since been up the vertical climbing wall (blindfolded) and jumped off the double trapeze.

In my role at GRA, I primarily focus on supporting the needs of individuals, teams and organisations interested in utilising the VitalSmarts culture and behaviour change programmes. At GRA, our shared belief is that you can’t adequately support these needs without experiencing the programmes for yourself; and that’s exactly what I’ve done for each of the four VitalSmarts programmes: Crucial Conversations, Crucial Accountability, Influencer and Change Anything.

Within my first month, I attended a Crucial Conversations public programme which introduces skills for holding difficult conversations and gives people the ability and confidence to speak up. This was an enlightening experience as it opened my eyes to the fact that personally I would move to ‘silence’ if a conversation turned crucial.

One of the key skills that has stayed with me is ‘Master My Stories’. I, like many others, used to tell myself stories and reach ill-informed conclusions, instead of considering the facts. Thanks to ‘Master My Stories’, I’m now far more aware when a conversation is turning crucial, enabling me to focus on dealing in facts not stories and remember people are generally reasonable and rational; rather than the villains we sometimes create in our stories!

After attending the programme myself, my first taste of introducing Crucial Conversations to a room full of people unfamiliar with the course was at an Executive Briefing in London. Being able to talk about my own experiences of the programme was a real benefit as then I was able to say with conviction – “this programme can really make a difference!”

In July, we opened our new Outdoor Leadership Centre at St. George’s Park, the FA’s National Football Centre. As a football fan myself, I was blown away by the facilities that the site can offer and it is great to be a part of that. The site is designed to support team and leadership development for sports teams and corporate groups alike, but due to my sporting interests it has been very exciting on a personal level to have a number of professional men’s and women’s football teams use the Outdoor Leadership Centre already.

I completed my first full year on Saturday 25th October 2014, a day in fact which was again very memorable. This time, I wasn’t stood on top of the Powerfan wondering how I managed to get myself in that situation, but instead waist-deep in mud with my fellow colleagues, competing in Tough Mudder and again wondering what possessed me to agree to this! This time I only jumped off a 15 ft platform, albeit into icy water, and undertook other challenges such as crawling under barbed wire, scaling over vertical walls and running through a stretch of live electrical wires. We had a great time and more importantly raised over £850 for two very worthy charities, Myeloma UK and Diabetes UK, so it was a very meaningful experience.

That is what GRA is all about though - pushing and stretching your own comfort zone to help you achieve your desired goals as an individual or team. 


If you'd like to contact Richard, please call on 01962 779911 or email 

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