Brett Wilson

Chief Information Officer, MJH Group
AGSM MBAX (Technology) 2018

Tell us about your current role?

The MJH Group is NSW's number one home builder and in the top four nationally. MJH Group has evolved to offer a range of building services, catering to diverse goals and budgets, including architecturally designed first-homes, finance options, multi-residential projects as well as investment properties covering NSW, SA, TAS, the greater Canberra Region and QLD. We operate eight different businesses across these regions, and employee over 850 staff.

As Chief Information Officer, my responsibilities include reviewing new and disruptive technologies to create a competitive advantage, working with our suppliers to improve the transparency in our supply chain, bolstering a seamless digital workplace to ensure employees are connected at all times and working with our customers to improve data and provide up-to-date information to enhance the customer experience.

In 2019, I was privileged to be recognised as one of the CIO Top 50 people in Australia for innovation and leadership. This award was centred around my team creating a product that uses AI to provide greater insight into our customers.

How have you responded, adapted or innovated as a result of this new world reality?

Construction is, in most cases, slow to adopt new technologies. The industry relies on face-to-face selling of homes and with the current environment, our sales process has been turned upside down. Lockdown restrictions meant customers were not able to visit a display home to speak to a sales consultant. Customer information nights were paused, due to restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather, and we weren't sure how long this 'new normal' would exist.

Very quickly I realised I would need to look at how we could meet the immediate requirements of virtualising the sales function, allowing potential customers to gather the information they needed, at a safe distance, while developing a connection with our sales team. The first week of April saw us launch our Virtual Sales Office - developed around Zoom connections with customers and sales consultants and webinars to deliver our Information Nights.

How would you describe what you do (what you 'make'), your specialist skill?

Through the use of technology and a really incredible team, I like to think of my role as a conduit - between the business and what technology has on offer to support the goals of the organisation.

How has your leadership style changed or pivoted in the midst of the unprecedented uncertainty we are now facing?

My style of leadership has always been open and transparent. My door is always open and my team knows that I will stand behind them 100%. However, with the current uncertainty we are facing, my leadership style has pivoted more towards making sure the team continues to be motivated with shorter term goals.

The aim is to inspire them to continue to work at their best level and celebrate the achievements as a collective. It's an uncertain time, so reinforcing our team culture and clearly showing support with open lines of communication is more important than ever.

Larger scale, the way the business responds to the market has become fluid and the goal posts are being moved more frequently than usual. I've adapted my leadership style to ensure we continue to deliver towards the bigger picture without losing sight of the individual outcomes for the team. We'll get through this together if we focus on the same end goal.

What was the catalyst for your response?

The catalyst for this change really centred around the need to make sure we survived the new restrictions imposed on the industry. We needed to adapt and it needed to be fast and seamless. Buying a house is a big commitment and we wanted to make sure the process was as enjoyable for our customers as possible, even in this new landscape. It was important to us that our pivot and solution was usable in the longer-term when things start to return to normal.

What were you able to tap into from your AGSM qualification in this new world reality that's been most useful / impactful?

The frameworks and methodologies that I learnt during my degree helped me approach this situation in a calm and formulaic manner. This helped me reframe how I would have normally approached the situation and focus on outcomes and the way that it was marketed to the business on what we were going to deliver. My MBA enabled me to influence my team to adopt a much quicker pace and to lead them into the unknown with the understanding that they were supported.

When we were at the very beginning of COVID-19 restrictions, learning about how industries were going to be required to adapt a new way of working, at least in the short term, I remember reflecting on the skills I learned in one of the People and Performance courses as part of my MBA studies.

Everyone reacts differently in a crisis and you need to be very aware of that. The emotional intelligence (EQ) that we worked through during my time at AGSM helped me to think and approach things differently understanding how my own behaviour impacts my team. Looking at things from a different perspective made it possible for me to support my team through this difficult, emotional and uncertain time simply because I looked at this with this EQ perspective.

What are you most optimistic about over the next few months?

The next few months will continue to see changes in the way businesses operate and those who can adapt the quickest will return to whatever the new normal is much faster. I am excited to see how technology can play a part in what has been adopted in response to COVID-19. Hopefully it will include new ways of working with a more connected virtual workforce, adoption of output based working instead of the old '9-5' from your office desk and improve the level of flexibility for the broader workforce.