Monique “Mo” Matheson, Chief Human Resources Officer at Nike Inc., talks to Brunswick about the shift in employee experience, HR’s role, the power of teams and what it means to be uniquely Nike.
Since joining Nike in 1998, Mo has worked across Nike’s HR function, including VP, Chief Talent and Diversity Officer, VP and Human Resources Business Partner for North America, Global Product Creation (Footwear, Apparel and Equipment), and Global Functions and Nike Inc. Affiliates.
In her role as CHRO, Matheson drives the global Human Resources strategy for Nike and leads business growth and transformation through the lens of people—managing functions including total rewards; talent acquisition & management; culture; diversity, equity and inclusion; leadership development; learning; organizational effectiveness and employee engagement. A former college tennis player, she’s a strong believer in the power of teams on and off the court.
Coming from an employment law background, Matheson saw the opportunity in working with employers to create systemic change in the workplace and advocate for employees. With this as her North Star, she leads with a people-first mentality and is constantly chasing ways to create positive employee experiences and environments where people can be their best, authentic selves.
Matheson is a proud alum of the University of Washington and Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, the wife of an Oregon State Senator, and mother to two young adults. As with many at Nike, sport is very much part of Mo’s day-to-day life: She enjoys both watching and playing sports but equally enjoys long walks with her dog and traveling.
As a former college tennis player-turned-employment lawyer, you appear to hold the perfect position: Chief Human Resources Officer at a company that’s synonymous with athletics. What drew you so early to HR?
I attribute that to strong personal values set around equity that were grounded in me at a young age. Both of my parents were in public education. To me, education is the ultimate equalizer.
Through school, whether it was undergrad or law school, the things I was most interested in talking about were equality or equity-based, gender equity in particular.
Pursuing employment law was a natural path for me. I chose to work with employers because I believe you can drive more change from within than from the outside.
When looking back, it makes all the sense in the world. If you are me, there’s no place you’d rather apply your craft, energy, and passion than Nike. Because the alignment is so deep across equity and sport, and I can speak with real authenticity around my passion for sport and how it makes the world a better place.
What lessons and disciplines have you brought to business from athletics?
The importance of working as a team. Put simply, I’ve always loved the fact that we’re better together. I’m not a go-it-alone kind of person, so, the camaraderie and the idea of being part of a team is as important, if not more important, than my individual success. Of course, I’m driven and care a lot about my success, but for me, it’s always “team first.”
The other mentality that I live by is that you can always be better—there’s always room for improvement. I was a strong tennis player in the US Northwest, and I played number one on scholarship at University of Washington. During my time at college, I competed in some early professional European tournaments and immediately realized that other players were better than I ever dreamed I’d be. I got beat a lot, but with this I recognized there are always going to be 100,000 people who are better than me. It gave me perspective.
Humility is so important. Understanding that there is constantly something to learn, something you can improve, there is always someone who’s better than you out there, so that you don’t get sucked into thinking you’ve got it all, you’ve nailed it.
Sports open doors for what’s next.