Lessons from the top: a graduate’s perspective

"The values of an organisation are built from the top, and we can learn a lot from who’s at the helm. They serve as the foundation, offering a guide on how we make decisions and shape the culture."

In my short career, I’ve had the privilege of working and learning from some amazing leaders and role models. But the Chief Executive Officer of one of Australia’s big banks is someone I had not had the opportunity to learn from yet. So, when the chance emerged to do so, naturally I jumped at the opportunity.


As someone who’s only been at the bank for 9 months, it’s safe to say I’m very fresh to the sector and what happens in the day-to-day operations. Compare that to a CEO with more 30 years’ experience leading complex projects and large teams with confidence and clarity. What they do can often be second nature. At the apex, they set the standard for how it should be done.


You can learn a lot from observation and what better way to learn than to step behind the curtain to see exactly what goes on in a CEO’s day. To learn directly from the top.


So when I was tapped on the shoulder to shadow our CEO, Shayne Elliott, on a number of engagements inside and outside the bank I was certainly along for the ride!

Here is what I took away:


No two days are the same


Each day is different, with a mix of internal and external engagements. One of the events I attended with Shayne was the launch of Dylan Alcott’s Shift20 initiative. Shift20 works to shift the dial on abilities representation in the media and advertising.


Something that stood out to me was Shayne’s passion and the level of importance he placed on important societal issues, like these, that affect our community. This event was a great example of the commitment to diversity, inclusivity and accessibility for all.


In an era in which social responsibility is paramount, it’s increasingly critical to carry with you those values to become a catalyst for positive change inside and outside your organisation.


It was amazing to see support for such an important initiative and for Shayne to endorse it and speak at the event, which is something I’d like to do in my career.  


Relationships and loyalty


It’s no secret the key to most successful businesses is cultivating great customer relationships. Whether that involves hitting the road to meet with customers or connecting with them via social media – building connections and developing trust is key. This is something that I saw first-hand.


I learnt when chatting with Shayne the importance of relationship building and loyalty within banking. It is critical to be inspired by the passion and resilience of customers and the importance of working with them collaboratively, rather than just providing banking services.


In these reflections, the significance of customer engagement resonates strongly. In the world of business, fostering customer relationships is a vital lesson to learn.


As business guru Peter Drucker observed “the purpose of business is to create a customer”.


Cultivating a great culture within


The values of an organisation are built from the top, and we can learn a lot from who’s at the helm. They serve as the foundation, offering a guide on how we make decisions and shape the culture.


Just as important, is spending time within the business and connecting with our people. It’s critical to building a cohesive team and culture and it’s something I’m passionate about as a part of my role within Talent and Culture. That is why I was very much looking forward to visiting our Customer Contact Centre with Shayne.


I really admired how Shayne was always willing to go out of his way to meet our people, make them feel a part of the team and acknowledge the importance of their work. This truly helps build a great sense of community.


It served as an important reminder of the value of time invested in personal connections and recognition cannot be overstated, no matter where you sit on the corporate ladder.


And for me, possibly the most important lesson of all was how significant our purpose is. It can sometimes feel cheesy or like a cliché but whether it’s the organisations or your own, it’s important to take personal values and a clear sense of purpose with you throughout your career.


As a graduate, witnessing leadership from the top paints a vivid picture of what the future may look like. Offering a unique insight into valuable lessons we can all use – from understanding the importance of relationship building to the critical role values play in shaping a business.


It was an amazing experience shadowing Shayne and I hope to take some of these lessons forward with me as my career develops.


Ella Grainger is a Graduate within Talent and Culture at ANZ

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