Human on the Inside with Brave Group’s Melissa Hamilton

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5 min read

We’re big believers in the power of human skills. But don’t just take our word for it – the evidence for excellence powered by human (‘soft’) skills is everywhere! In this engaging, ever-enlightening series, we speak with industry leaders, innovators and game-changers to learn a little about their personal career journeys, and how human-led strategies, philosophies and cultures are proving a force for good in their working worlds …

Welcome Melissa, and thanks for stepping into the #SuccessIsHuman Spotlight! You’re the Founder of the Brave Feminine Leadership podcast series & broader Brave Group – both of which exist to support and build brave, courageous leaders across the community. In 1 sentence (ok, we’ll give you 3), what does your role entail?

I have the best role in the world – one that I created purpose-fit for me! I spend my time interviewing incredible leaders to soak up the learnings about what drives them, what fears and self doubts they have and I then ask all of them what Brave Feminine Leadership means and does it need to change.

The other side of my role is such a gift. I mentor groups and individuals who want to step up and be authentic, confident leaders with clarity on how to drive their careers forward.

Alongside your work with Brave Group, you’re a Non Executive Director for Navy Health & Right Road Finance, and an Executive Mentor with Merryck & Co. Prior to all this, your impressive career spanned Aged Care, Healthcare, Telecommunications, Energy & Travel, including 21 years with leading customer experience consultancy Stellar; 9 years of which you were CEO, Asia-Pac. How does all this work speak to your personal purpose and what drives you as an individual?

My top 5 strengths (Gallup) are Learner; Self-Assurance, Activator, Maximiser and Futuristic. I am excellent at engaging large teams, building engaging cultures and bringing about change. I love the energy of people. I am also very down to earth and often people comment you are not a “normal CEO”. I have always understood this to be a great compliment.

I am driven by fairness of opportunity, and increasingly as I get older I notice so many female leaders feeling alone, struggling with feelings of self-doubt and self-rejecting from opportunities. I feel a great sense of responsibility as a successful female leader to help others navigate their career.

This phase of my career is so exciting as I can feel such a strong momentum and energy around diversity. I am driven to keep stimulating conversations and break down myths of leadership. There is a CEO in everyone.

Tell us a little about your personal education pathway/s – what led you to where you are now? How closely do your formal qualifications match your current career?

I completed a BA (Politics & French) at Monash University and then started a Graduate degree in Communications thinking about the possibility of Public Relations. It was at this stage that I started working for Telstra and quickly decided the lure of a great income, coupled with the incredible learning curve I was on, was far more attractive than continuing my education. A BA provides a strong background in analysis and critical thinking and this has served me extremely well in my career. Politics and French, not so much.

If you could share one piece of career advice to your 21 year old self it would be …

Find leaders you love working for and cultures worth engaging in. Then when you get the chance to lead – be one of those leaders.

Maximising the potential of individuals, communities and businesses through the power of human skills is the reason Maxme exists. Can you tell us a little about the role and / or value of human skills in your workplace right now?

Wow – it’s the reason I do what I do at The Brave Group

We believe that the world gets better when the incredible privilege and responsibility of leadership is equally shared.

I believe that the skills that got us here won’t get us to where we need to go in the future. Progressive, modern workplaces recognize that ‘command and control’ leadership serves no purpose and the rise of skills seen as traditionally feminine; empathy, compassion, listening, and building trust all need to rise.

One of the first steps in this is creating workplaces where people feel they truly belong, where they are accepted as their authentic selves. The Brave Group is founded on the cultural principles of the Great Game of Business. It is a culture that underpinned the success of my time as a CEO leading Stellar, an organisation of over 5,000 people internationally. Stellar was recognised as the market leader an unprecedented 7 years in a row in my tenure, with industry leading employee and client retention. 

There is a better way to run a business, and courageous businesses are all focussed on using the privilege and skill of open, transparent leadership to shape their future.

Self Awareness sets the critical foundation for all Maxme learning experiences. With that said … what’s your strongest trait / personal super power?

Can I have two?

The first is asking fabulous questions. I am endlessly curious and nothing fulfils me more than watching someone solve their own problem as we explore it together. Leaders can be too quick to solve problems, everyone gains when you ask one more question, then one more.

The second one is helping people get clarity on their path forward. I help people shift from a start of procrastinating or inertia and hold them accountable for taking the action, taking the next step to reach their ultimate potential. Executives I mentor all comment that it is the accountability I provide that helps them stretch for their ultimate potential. Accountability is key.

And on the flip side, what’s one human / ‘soft’ skill you’ve had to really work on improving over the course of your career?

Patience.

A lifelong journey. I am always driven to “Act NOW”. This shows up in projects in my personal and professional life. Two pieces of advice helped me along the way. The first came early as a young brash leader who always had to be right and physically “sighed” in meetings when others didn’t get it as quickly as me – yep, obnoxious! It took a wise leader to call it out.

Secondly, as I stepped into my first CEO role, someone who knew me well said “you will look around and see so many things you want to change or fix. Pick 3 otherwise you will exhaust everyone”. Both have stayed with me to this day.

If you could share one piece of career advice with recent tertiary graduates or other individuals keen to work for a company like Brave Group, what would it be?

Always find out as much as you can about the CEO and leadership team. Do they walk the talk? Do their values align with yours? Is it a cause worth fighting for?

You’ve been granted approval to add one University graduate to your team, but have 100 applicants, all with outstanding academic results. How do you find your perfect candidate – what are you looking for?

Curious, challenging, resilient person who has a demonstrated track record of showing leadership qualities and has the hallmarks of a humble leader. Humility, a team-first mindset, a big smile and someone who is self-aware.

In the words of John Dewey, “education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.”
What’s next on your #learning agenda?

I’m diving deep into how to help leaders transform by becoming more self-aware.

It is the absolute key to unlocking potential and there are not enough leaders in the world who are prepared to have the honest, respectful and necessary conversations to set people up to be their best.

Leadership truly is a privilege and a great responsibility, I am always learning.