Shayne Elliott had only been in the role of CEO of ANZ for less than a year when the Royal Commission into banking was announced, and he was called to respond to complaints from many years before.

Looking back now, he can recognise that although it was an incredibly stressful time, he decided to turn it into a brilliant learning opportunity. Not only was Elliott able to learn from what had gone wrong in the past, but he was also able to use these mistakes to build a very strong case for a purpose-led organisation which is something that he is passionate about. 

He “believes we have a responsibility to shape a world in which people and communities thrive” he told me in our interview on The Caring CEO podcast. That’s where caring comes in, but what is it about caring that makes it a requirement for the companies of the future?

Duty of Care

All of us in business have a responsibility to our colleagues and our employees to provide an environment in which they can thrive. We have a duty of care to our people and our customers. It’s part of the reason customers choose any one company over any other.

Elliot says, “We’ve got a lot of employees, and what we do as a bank is relatively commoditized. Because of that, our customers are buying into our people as much as they’re buying into our products. It’s an integral part of our business model.”

Elliot has been working for thirty years, but when he looks back on his career, it’s not dividends and metrics that he’s proud of. He’s proud of embodying his purpose to have a positive impact on the community.

Providing the Right Environment

A thriving community needs a healthy physical environment. Elliot says, “Therefore, that shapes our policy around things like climate change. We don’t have a big footprint ourselves, but our customers do, so we have to talk to our customers and ask if they’re aligned with the transition. And then we, as a bank, provide services to help nudge them and to enable them to make that transition faster and more efficient.”

Of course, conveying complex messages about subjects like climate change isn’t easy, and so it falls to us as leaders to simplify them as much as possible.  Simple messages are ideal because the reality is that people are busy and they have a lot of things going on in their life. In our conversation with Elliot, we talked about making things so simple that even a five-year-old could understand them.

The Search for Meaning

The ideas that Elliot espouses are nothing new. In many ways, they reflect the seminal work of Viktor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. While reflecting on his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War, Frankl argued that we don’t create our purposes: we uncover them.

COVID provides a notable example of this. Because banking is a global industry, there’s always something happening, whether it’s a financial crisis, a natural disaster, a political scandal or a global pandemic.

Elliot says, “In times of crisis, people generally revert back to their core values to solve problems. When people are overwhelmed with information and there are no right or wrong answers, they revert back to their fundamental beliefs.”

Of course, this is just a snippet of what we talked to Shayne Elliot about, so be sure to check out the full podcast episode for more. We’ll be back soon with another special guest!

#mentalhealth #resilience #leadership #culture

Graeme Cowan is a mental health author and speaker. He is also a Board Director of R U OK?, and how of The Caring CEO podcast which is sponsored by WeCARE365 – simple and scalable learning programs to prevent mental health issues and build a culture of care.

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