My day with a CEO

2019s CEOx1Day event matched five masters students from across the Netherlands with five of the nation’s finest CEOs from both private and public sectors. We sat with Anne van den Heuvel, who spent a day with Daphne de Kluis from ABN AMRO Bank, and asked her a few questions about her experience.

How did you experience CEOX1DAY in its entirety?

The assessment was of course very exciting. It was set up professionally, with many different activities. At the end of the day you had got to know the other candidates quite well, the Odgers Berndtson consultants were very closely involved. It was a lot of fun, there was lunch and some free time and drinks. However, you still had the feeling that you were fighting for something cool.

There were three weeks between the assessment day at Odgers Berndtson and the day I spent with the CEO. After the assessment we would receive a personal message as to whether we had won or not, so I kept an eye on my phone. It turned out to be a super fun personal approach; a video had been made to inform me with which CEO I would be spending a day. Odgers Berndtson prepared me for the day, telling me what kind of organization I was going to see from the inside and what kind of person the CEO was. You do your own research, of course, but it was really nice to get that preparation.

Tell us about the day with the CEO?

The day itself was super informative. I spent the day with Daphne de Kluis from ABN AMRO, who was very open and authentic from the start, that is why I felt I could be the same. You already proved yourself being the best fit for this day and therefore a burden falls off your shoulders and you are there to learn and watch. I was allowed to ask many questions and sometimes it was nice not to ask questions but to listen. Throughout the day I got a different representation than what I had first anticipated, this was mainly due to how I experienced the company’s culture. They are always looking for a range of people for different positions, which showed that even without any financial background I could potentially find a job there. In the end, I was encouraged to apply; it was suggested that it would be a good match.

Have you felt challenged by the selection process of Odgers Berndtson?

Yes. As you do a leadership assessment online you have the feeling that the data of your results will play a role because they always let you know how many students are still in the running. After the resume and motivation letter I was in the top 30, and after the online assessment there were 10 left. This made me appreciate that I must have delivered a great performance.

What was your most striking moment during the day with the CEO?

I think that is perhaps unique compared to what the other four students might have experienced. There was an hour of the day that Daphne de Kluis could not be present while she attended a supervisory board meeting that I could not attend. I was taken by her business manager to a meeting where a certain change process was being communicated to her employees. There I was being introduced as ‘the new CEO for today’, in front of some 50 people and put on the spot to introduce myself.

Afterwards there was a training session about the changes that were going to take place and I was called on stage again to share my thoughts. Mind you, that this is about real people with real jobs who are to undergo a serious change. I had to share my opinion, having only joined the meeting 45 minutes ago. Thankfully it was very well received by everyone and I enjoyed the challenge to give my opinion.

What are your key take-aways of the day with the CEO?

That was definitely the quality and depth of Odgers Berndtson's selection. For example, Daphne has a psychology background and has now become the CEO of Commercial Banking at ABN AMRO. I saw that a great deal of leadership is not the hard skills or substantive knowledge that you have but really the relationship management with your colleagues and employees. Ensuring that they know you support them and will give your opinion but are also equal to them. That was nicely confirmed by her and the culture that prevails there. That’s why I think it’s very good that part of Odgers Berndtson's assessment is about leadership potential and not a cognitive capacity test for example.

What did you learn about yourself through the CEOX1DAY event?

One of the components of the leadership assessment was the learning approach. Do you learn by being very theoretical or by being very practical? I had a very low score, therefore I am very practical but that says nothing about how well you will function as a leader. It was nice for me to confirm that as I felt that the 9 other candidates were all very strong contenders. They had all performed well in school and done many extra-curricular activities but that is not the only thing that’s important to be a good leader.

At one point I was asked by the cameraman "why do you think you have the potential to be a good leader"? I answered what came to mind at the time. Then Daphne said to me; "Do you know why I think you're going to be a good leader? Because you are very authentic, and you are not pretending at this time to be someone else to prove something.” That was a very nice compliment.

Do you have tips for students who are starting the process and want to qualify for CEOx1Day?

If you pass the assessment day, it is important to look around you, not be too competitive and show who you are. If there is a good match in that regard then it is much more important than that you come across as the smartest or the most direct. Some people don't always show their best side because they take it too seriously, so enjoy it a bit. It is also just such a great experience, even if I hadn't won I would have been very happy with that day and experience.