Rhonda Brighton-Hall offers nine different job titles when asked about her role and organisation.
It’s a sign of just how seriously she treats her passion for changing the game of work to make it as human as possible — something she also drives as CEO of an organisation by a similar name, Making Work Absolutely Human (mwah).
Rhonda’s also the Chair of FlexCareers, a director of the Australian Human Rights Institute, an ambassador with Rare Birds and a director with Feel the Magic.
And she’s a mum, wife, Carlton Football Club fanatic and ocean sailor.
The former HR Leader and Telstra Businesswoman of the Year has had an extensive career across major corporates. She is now pushing to see more organisations managing and including their people better — and consequently to become more profitable and sustainable in the process.
She’s the latest to answer our ‘Game-changing Women’ Q&A, and offers insights into why she’s doing what she does and how she’s found happiness and satisfaction in her own career.
See all our Game-Changing women here.
Who or what do you lead?
My key leadership role is as CEO of Making Work Absolutely Human (mwah, pronounced like a kiss).
We’re technically in the ‘tech entrepreneurial sector’, but we’re actually a very human business leading the rethink of ‘work’!
What matters most at work is purpose, relationships, flexibility, culture, wellness and a bit of freedom to get some great work done.
We’re an online toolkit that helps you get this stuff right. Rethinking work. Helping leaders lead well. Allowing individuals to own their own human capital with confidence.
We support this with a Think Tank and boutique consultancy, working with the best to make work absolutely human.
How did you get here?
I come from entrepreneurs and small businesses, but I spent 25 years in big Corporate trying to rethink how we lead, how we design work, and how employees experience work. During that time, I lived and worked in Europe, Asia and the USA, and had the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest thinkers in the ‘people’ space. I’ve always applied these ideas as an intrapreneur, but at the end of the day, I decided we needed to rethink everything – work and leadership – and you can only do that from outside a big company and a big brand.
So, we built a new company, aimed at getting everyone to rethink work and how we work together. We call it mwah. Making Work Absolutely Human. www.mwah.live
What ‘game’ are you changing?
Work and Leadership starts from the either Economics – Work versus Leisure – or from the Legal side – Who has power and how to we fight for our rights.
In reality, work is quite simply our contribution to society and our communities. Whether we own and run a business, or work for one, its just our route to roll up our sleeves, make a difference, and achieve financial independence and autonomy, and everyone – everyone – should have that opportunity, that human right. At the moment, we’re wrapped up in who’s in control, rather than trying to work out the best way to work together and get some great work done.
Who or what inspired you to do this?
The first answer to that, without sounding hokey, is thousands of people, from the day I started work until today.
There are so many good people, working hard, and we need to appreciate that, and concentrate on what we’re achieving together. There’s just a better way to lead, to include, and to work together.
The second answer is the day I realised all the debates were wrong. Merit is a myth, so tweaking it won’t help.
Work Life Balance is silly. Work is part of life, not a counter-balance.
Human capital can’t be owned by anyone other than the individual who actually owns it.
Leadership is not a one character story. The people who work with you are not supporting characters. Their stories are just as important as yours.
What skills do you have to help your game-changing abilities?
Everyone has a couple of things that make them them. My three are:-
Thinking – It’s a combo of Systems Thinking (I love the whole picture and how it all connects) and Process Thinking (if we do X, then what happens to Y, Z and even M).
Empathy – By God, I love the human condition and all its potential. I love to listen. I love to learn. I’m obsessed with making things better, fairer, more inclusive.
Realness – I live facade-free. I seek out genuinely honest dialogue and actions to make a difference …today would be great, Now would be even better
What does an average day look like for you?
I’m an early bird (a farmer’s constitution J inherited from my Mum).
Up at 5.30am, breakfast (porridge always). I love it when the girls are up early as well and we share breakfast and pyjama-clad empassioned debate on whatever news has happened overnight. Otherwise, I read three newspapers, (yep, news junkie). Off to the train. In the office before 8am, work pretty fast and hard, but love what I do and laugh a lot, so it’s fun. Head home about 6.30pm. Dinner with the family, and then a walk or a lazy exercise bike ride, a chat or some bad TV, then off to bed about 10pm/10.30pm.
What key things have helped drive your career to date?
Hard work. If you’re going to do something, do it the best you can. I hate half-arsed-ness.
Great leaders (all bar one), great sponsors, great teachers, great people and great girlfriends around me. And even that one really bad leader, taught me heaps about what really bad leadership looks like – fragile and worried about themselves, rather than the team or the work to be done.
Genuine Passion for What I Do – Cannot be faked. It gives drive and energy in the toughest times.
What are some of the best things you’ve learnt about leadership?
Its simply a relationship between you and the people you’re working with, aimed at achieving something worthwhile for others. Work really hard at those relationships, and make sure you’re achieving something worthwhile. Leadership is not about you, its about your impact on everyone else. Measure your success by what you helped others achieve. Besides, Leadership without making a difference to others is lonely.
How do you look after your wellbeing and health outside of work?
Probably not as well as I should but I am very happy and I do have great perspective and love to laugh. I’m super clear on what matters, so I put family, friends and team first, and I don’t take myself too seriously (and if I do, keep me real).
What makes you angry?
Very little. Dishonest people. Narcissistic people. People who live behind a facade of perfection, that make everyone else feel inadequate. I avoid all three, so I’m rarely angry.
What do you do to get away from your work and business?
Ocean sailing. The ocean is my great meditation. Reminds me how small I really am, and reminds me that I’m part of something so huge, powerful and beautiful that I’d better play my part well. I’m joint to the world. And I love that Michael and the girls love it too. Its our space.
Friends. Love the circle of people (including a gazillion cousins) who share my life.
Gardening. It’s the farmer thing. I grow stuff.
Read. Anything. Everything. Welcome recommendations.
Maths Puzzles. Suduko. Monster Suduko. At speed and timed. Beating my personal best. Weird, I know J
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
Lifelong passion, so I wrote a book. Then realised it was a good idea for a business, so I wrote a business model. I’ll publish the book one day soon too. As soon as I stop editing.
What advice would you like to tell your 18-year-old self?
Be brave (own every opportunity, be it tiny or daunting).
Be creative (there is always another way or a better way).
Your uniqueness is your greatest strength.
Have those stripey socks ready (for the times when the BHP pants don’t make it to your workboots).