My brilliant career – Rhonda Brighton

by 11 Nov 2008

What is your current role?

I’m Group General Manager of HR for Luxottica, covering Australia, NZ, Asia and South Africa. I report to the CEO, as part of the Exec Team, and together we design and execute the business strategy and, as one critical component of that, the people strategy.

What qualification do you hold?

I have an undergraduate degree, with a double major in Organisational Psychology and Industrial Relations, and a postgraduate degree in Employee Relations. Plus, some post-grad in business logistics and supply chain.

How did you get into HR?

Originally, I planned to be an accountant or economist and, opportunistically, met a recruiter for BHP who told me that there were careers where you could combine a love of business AND a love of people. Applied, got it; still love them both!

Why did you get into HR?

Because, just maybe, you can build a brilliantly successful company that’s a great place to come to every day. Because, just maybe, while you’re growing a top line and a bottom line, you can also develop all the people in the middle, who made them both happen.

Because I believe that those “maybes”are worth my best effort to see if we can do it in our lifetime.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

Hopefully, doing HR more creatively, more strategically and with more impact than I do now, but still surrounded by a great team, supported by a great boss and aligned to a company that completely understands that getting the people equation right is the real engine room of any organisation.

What has been your biggest career high so far?

Hmm … Too many to mention, but they would all relate to great people I’ve worked alongside, great people I’ve had a chance to develop (who, in return, gave me great optimism about the future), great academics who taught me different ways to think, and opportunities I’ve had to live in and visit some amazing places around the planet that influenced how I think.

What do you think it takes to succeed in HR?

Know the business. Know your numbers. Know the people. Know what makes a difference.

Think strategically. Plan thoughtfully. Execute beautifully, with impact, and at a speed faster than you promised.

How do you manage relationships with senior executives?

The same way you manage all your best relationships: with honesty; loyalty; support; a sense of a humour; time for each other; and a great appreciation that we’re all interdependent.

Who is your biggest professional inspiration?

• Quentin Bryce – who I was lucky enough to meet in my 20s – for showing me that women can do anything while still wearing high heels.

• Lynda Gratton from London Business School – the core people processes are critical foundations, but allowing people to creatively contribute and connect to each other is where businesses really come to life.

• Jack Wood from IMD – for his incredible knowledge and thoughtfulness about what makes leaders tick and how to make them better.

• David Dotlich from Mercer Delta – for showing me you can have fun at the same time.

• Andrea Guerra – CEO of Luxottica – for showing me it’s possible to lead a successful, growing global company so that it remains agile, entrepreneurial, focused, fun and relevant.

What advice would you give to graduates considering a career in HR?

HR will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make!

Only go into HR if you like people and their potential; Learn something from everyone; Never burn bridges; Own your space; Understand interdependency.

Describe yourself in three words?

Energetic, authentic, challenging

Rhonda joined Luxottica (which operates OPSM, Laubman & Pank, Budget Eyewear, Bright Eyes Sunglasses and Sunglass Hut) in late 2006 from Sara Lee in Chicago, where she was vice president of organisational development. In addition, Rhonda has worked in Holland for international coffee company Douwe Egbert, where she was director of employee relations and organisational development.