Friday 19 April 2019

Meet the man who helps CEOs with their inner 'Gollum' - following his own battle with depression

Shane Craddock
Shane Craddock
Shane Craddock
Shane Craddock
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Surviving the financial crash for many firms was a challenge - but this entrepreneur's business actually flourished as a result of the downturn.

In 2008, Shane Cradock's experience in providing performance and development strategies for businesses became a much sought after service.

Himself and his partner at the time split the activities of their existing firm that year and Shane became a 'solo-preneur', setting up on his own in Ashford, Co Wicklow.

Lifestyle changes had led Shane to this change of pace, but it was very much personal experience - and a desire to share what he had learned about the mind - that laid the groundwork for his career trajectory.

And a leadership and development coach was exactly what CEOs were looking for right then.

"All hell had broken loose but it was brilliant for me as, one by one, everyone I had been working with that had thought it was B.S. to talk about the mind and stress were asking: 'Can we talk about that now?'

"That was the game changer for me."

Originally from Kilkenny, Shane said he "was in the system in terms of the way most people are" while growing up.

"Go to school, get reasonably good grades, assuming you do that, go to college and get a good degree; assuming you do that, then get out and you've a higher chance of getting a job," he said.

After starting out in the New Business Development unit set up by Eddy O’Connor in Bord Na Mona, Shane then moved to Pepsi-Cola International where he gained "fantastic experience". 

He was about seven months into the role in Pepsi when he had what he describes as a breakdown.

"When I'm talking about Shane then, it's a drastically different Shane. It was a week before my 24th birthday. At that time, my strategy was to take every hour as it comes.

"As a reward for completing tasks, I'd take a break, go to one of the toilets and close the door, and then I'd just bang my head against the wall and say 'ok another hour'. Looking back, that was my coping mechanism."

The signs that something was amiss were there - anxiety, bad sleep, low self confidence, crying for no reason, extremely negative internal dialogue, weight loss - but Shane said that he was functioning day-to-day and that no-one would have really known until he made one call to his parent's house.

"I woke up one morning in July and I thought 'that's it game over, I'm out'. I knew what I was going to do, I was going to get through work and then ring my mother just to hear her voice.

"None of it makes any sense but to me it did. But then my dad answered the phone - it was 2.30pm on a Friday and he shouldn't have been there - and that turned everything around."

Shane's father realised that there was something seriously wrong and refused to get off the phone until his son opened up to him. He gave Shane the details of a friend of his, a councillor named Morris, and that contact started a long road to recovery for the young man.

"He was genuinely brilliant and he was the first ever person who told me I had a mind. I didn't even know what that meant," said Shane.

"All I wanted to know if he could make the pain stop. I was very lucky that my dad just knew this guy and he was the right guy."

After six months of working with Morris, Shane was told by the councillor that he needed to go so "I wouldn't use him as a crutch, I needed to learn to be self reliant".

He then embarked on a voyage of self education, reading books, attending courses, learning about assertiveness and communication. 

"I realised my values were different from the business [I was in at the time] and I knew then that I had to leave the business. I knew I learned a lot of quality stuff from the multinational I worked for in terms of strategic thinking so I thought that I could package that for entrepreneur and business owners."

After receiving positive feedback from an initial workshop, "I was making something that was wishy washy tangible", it all evolved from there.

Over the last decade, Shane has coached high level business leaders and CEO's including Colm Kennedy, former CEO of Vayu which was sold in 2016, Joanne O'Hagan, CEO, Jameson International Film Festival and previous EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalists.

"I've been lucky enough over the last few years that I've been able to pick my clients; I have my own criteria - no more than any business would," he said.

"If I don't think I can help you or if I don't think that you won't make the effort I won't take you on."

Shane believes that the biggest problem that any business leader has is that they are consumed with their problems.

"They will tell you 'this is my problem' - it is generally not them but there is some problem that they are consumed with. I can explain that to them in a way that they can relate to and get them to clear their minds," he said.

"When your mind tries to take you out I find it hard to trust it completely, so I jokingly call my inner voice Gollum. [The CEOs'] state of mind and energy drops when they are consumed with a problem. That's when Gollum makes his presence known.

"Being aware that you have an inner voice that comments on everything sometimes solves the problem.  The best business people I know push on regardless of the limitations the inner critic can have.

"For many it’s a revelation to realise that their inner voice is not the really them - that was one of the biggest things I learned through my breakdown."

Shane relaunched his bestselling book 'Inspire Me' on November 15, a collection of stories, insights and real life experiences that are aimed at inspiring the reader to take actions in their lives, overcome fear and realise their potential. 

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article please contact the Samaritans on 116123 for support or visit the website on

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