‘I hope she got a sense of the breadth of a leader’s role’
Kester Scrope, CEO of Odgers Berndtson, on his day with Isabelle Mettan-Ure.
At Odgers Berndtson we are very privileged to have extraordinary relationships with business leaders across the world. We had this firmly in mind when we launched the CEOx1Day initiative around a decade ago. Put simply, this is a way for us to use our networks in a very personal way to help young people about to leave full time education and go to work.
We have 61 offices across the world and have run the programme internationally for many years—a genuinely global initiative. We are hugely grateful to hundreds of the world’s top business leaders for getting involved. In the UK this year the participating leaders were from a diverse range of businesses, including the CEOs of Visa, Sainsbury’s, ITV, Domino’s Pizza Group, Barnardo’s and The Royal Mint.
For me, I suspect like other participating CEOs, taking part in CEOx1Day is a refreshing opportunity to see our businesses and roles through new eyes from a different perspective.
From the moment Isabelle arrived I was struck by the honesty, enthusiasm, curiosity and openness that a day like this can bring. Also, her confidence. Isabelle was very ready to participate and offer her views—in no sense was she cowed by the new environment she found herself in.
Our day was not scripted, if anything it was too full, allowing less time to brief and debrief than I would have liked.
Our first meeting was with Jeremy Gilley, the founder of Peace One Day, which is an extraordinary charity that strives for a world without violence. He had generously offered his time to talk to our people in London about both his charitable work and contribute to our inclusion festival that was running (where we celebrate the diversity within our people here). Isabelle’s engagement with the subject and what he was saying was a clear reminder of the importance all leaders have to engage with a sense of mission and purpose beyond the purely commercial if we are to motivate and engage people to do great things.
Our ethos here is recognising that our work makes a difference, directly impacting on the lives of people and the health of our client’s organisations. This sense of mission is clearly something that Isabelle could relate to.
CEOx1Day has a strong sense of purpose. In the UK and globally we enjoy a leading position in the education sector, working with a wide range of universities—from the Russell Group and beyond. Our students reflect this diversity too, in terms of academic institution, background, sex, ethnicity etc.
My student for the day, Isabelle, is studying at Lincoln University, (coincidentally the university’s vice chancellor, Professor Mary Stuart, is one of the participating CEOs).
I’d like to think Isabelle was struck by the variety of tasks in a leadership role but that a unifying purpose means that all activities make a collective sense. In our case activity ranged from a management meeting with the MD of our Asia-Pacific business to staff meetings, meetings with business heads and even the agony of a photo shoot on the roof.
If nothing else, I hope she went away with a sense of the challenges, variety and breadth of a leader’s role. I also hope she saw the importance of the individual and people in an organisation—that businesses are made up of individuals, and that there is a human scale however large or broad the business.
I would like thank Isabelle for helping me look at my job in a different way for the day and realise how lucky I am to do what I do with the people I do it with.
‘Everything comes back to how you communicate with others’
Isabelle Mettan-Ure, product design student at the University of Lincoln, on her day with Kester Scrope, CEO of Odgers Berndtson.
Leadership takes more than just the will to succeed, it’s takes an individual who has the understanding and trust of the people around them to guide the way.
If only I could get there! The tubes go down, panic, fire alert at Morden and the Northern Line suspended; it seemed not even the extra hour of time I allocated could save me. I may not be able to rely on the underground network but there was no doubt that I was a good source of quality entertainment for the early morning commuters, a spectacular sight of The Apprentice meets sweaty London Marathon day.
A quick breather and brush down in the lift and I was ready to go, greeted warmly by an expectant Kester Scope, CEO of Odgers Berndtson. Straight in and the day began with a briefing of the exciting, chock-a-block schedule that lay ahead of us. It was this point that the enormity of what I was experiencing sank in: such a privilege to be in this beautiful office adjacent to Saint Paul’s, let alone at the side of Kester. It really was an opportunity which I never expected to gain when submitting my application six months prior.
The first of the morning meetings set the tone for the rest of what was an incredible day: breakfast with Jeremy Gilley, founder and creator of Peace One Day, which is a fixed calendar date of “global ceasefire and non-violence”. From the outset, Kester drove direction but with consideration, praise and interest in both Jeremy as an individual and what he had accomplished. Even I was given the time to contribute, to speak passionately about my own core values and my vision for a future of shared experiences, harmony and sustainability.
It is largely Kester’s strong respect for others that will stay with me. One of the reasons I applied for the CEOx1day opportunity in the first place was the hope to see this very trait in action. And, with such personal views on the importance of showcasing ideas within a leadership role I was certainly not disappointed. Without collaboration, without views that evolve with time, we cannot help innovate the traditional workplace or create an atmosphere where everyone feels they have a role to play.
After Jeremy completed his presentation to a wider audience of Odgers employees, we dived straight into a collective of back-to-back meetings including those with all the practice leaders and Asia-Pacific management teams. For me, it was a brilliant opportunity to see Kester in action, as well as understand how Odgers Berndtson operates in a vast range of different faculties and on such a detailed level.
Despite the busy schedule, Kester still made time and effort to connect with his colleagues both personally and professionally. This surprised me from someone of his position and taught me that everything comes back to how you communicate with others.
It seems CEOs don’t even have time for lunch, Kester poring over his emails as we both tuck into a tasty sandwich; it was a masterclass of multitasking, his dedication on full display. My appetite for asking questions didn’t seem to disrupt the flow either—I was amazed but also incredibly grateful that he took the time to answer, reflect and then even respond with an interest in my own career ambitions.
Some rather exciting PR shots later and after another detailed meeting, I got to oversee the work of one very remarkable lady: Baroness Virginia Bottomley, chair of the Odgers Berndtson board and CEO practice. Conducting searches for some of highest positions in public and private organisations, Virginia demonstrates how companies would simply fall apart it wasn’t for the dedication of individuals on every single level. Businesses are a complex puzzle of people and both Virginia and Kester are those critical corner pieces. It is their wealth of experience that forms the foundation to build upon. In short, leadership is exactly that; linkage, communication and direction.
Before I knew it this amazing day had drawn to a close and I couldn’t quite believe the pace at which it had flown by. I had learnt so much and yet there were still so many aspects of the CEO role left to explore.
My personal ambition is to lead the way in making memorable moments the key feature in our everyday lives as well as bring innovation into a workplace. In all, my CEOx1day has taught me that this is really is possible if you are able to lead with passion and responsibility.
Thank you to Kester Scrope and Odgers Berndtson for making this happen. It really was a remarkable insight and one that I would totally recommend. I hope this is the first of many fantastic experiences to come for myself and many others.
For more information about the scheme visit www.odgersberndtson.com/en-gb/ceox1day